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Synth Controls

Page history last edited by Noah Vawter 4 years, 4 months ago




      Complete Instruments      Instrument Bodies


Generators    Generator Electronics     Switching Power Supply


Synthesizers   Synthesizer Controls 


Amplifiers       Loudspeakers        Resonances        Horns




Synthesizer Keyboards and Knobs



If you're after quiet switches, my recommendation would be to pick up Zilents. The stems come with mini rubber dampeners that reduce the upstroke and downstroke noise when typing. They are tactile switches though, so there's a bump in the middle of the keystroke. We haven't released silent linear switches yet, but it is on the roadmap.


If you're willing to take the time to disassemble every switch, lubing the sliders and housing further dampens the switch sound.


If you prefer linear switches, we do offer Tealios that are a medium weight linear. Without any modifications, it should be a lot smoother than the Cherry MX Reds you have. If you pair Zealencios with Cherry profile keycaps, then the upstroke and downstroke will be silenced. If you're using other profiles, Zealencios will only be able to dampen the upstroke due to the way the keycaps are made. You could however add o-rings underneath the keycap and pair it with Zealencios to form a very short throw keyswitch while keeping the sound as quiet as possible. Most keyboard enthusiasts tend to dislike short throw switches as it affects the feel too much.


Regarding the single Zealencio in the bundle sampler -- most users would just remove the clip and test it out on the other weights. Zilents are already our silent model switches, so adding the clip is redundant.





Cherry MX switches



Extra Silencing



Cherry MX Switches   


Cherry MX Keycaps 


Cherry MX Keycap Machine Drawings


Super Cool, Inspiring Artisan Keycaps


Different Models of Cherry MX Switch

After trying out the MX1A-11NN and the MX1A-C1NN, the winner is the MX1A-11NN.  It has the smallest, lightest touch.  I would still like to try out the MX1A-L1NN since it is called "Soft" linear, but it is not available at digikey nor mouser.  Nor is it listed in the spec sheet.


Cherry MX Red Silent






MX1A-L1NN = "Soft Linear"



Cherry MX Switch "Colors" 

  • You probably want Red or Brown Cherry MX switches.

  • They are both quiet and low-force.
  • Red is linear and smoother than Brown
  • Brown lets you feel it just before it makes contact.
  • You have to choose which one you like.


Cherry MX Switch Keyboard Sampler 


KeyCap Information

Other switches


Connecting Keyboards to Your Instrument


Keyboard Chromatic for Electric Eels

As used on Electric Eels, MarkII


Large Keyboards (16 or more buttons)

Large keyboards such as two or more octaves require more sophisticated multiplexing techniques .  Here, I've balanced scalability, signal quality/emissions with number of GPIOs.  Cost is of less important in this design.  This design offers a scalable keyboard from 1/2 to 10 octaves (8 to 120 keyboard switches) in half-octave steps.  It uses three digital pins and four analog inputs.  The analog inputs allow it to read 20 or more knobs.


These are the parts it's based on:


Example Schematics

These are some example schematics of people multiplexing digital inputs using the 74HC165:


multiplexer architecture







lowest, electrical








num sections

low note







to low note

to note numbers


note on, off



load segment


Small Keyboards (up to 15 buttons)

Small keyboards of up to 15 buttons can be connected directly to any microcontroller's digital GPIO through row/column multiplexing with no extra components if there are internal pull-ups, e.g. in a 3x5 matrix.




Connecting Synthesizer Knobs to Your Instrument


Some knob types under consideration

Just Kidding


Small number of knobs (up to 7)

Connecting a small number of synthesizer knobs to a microcontroller is easy if the chip has analog to digital inputs. 


Large numbers of knobs (8 or more)

However, if you decide to connect more knobs than there are analog inputs, you will need some type of multiplexing or external analog to digital conversion.  


Here is one commercially available analog mux:




Small Keyboard Examples 






















Violin Keyboard








Keyboard Schematic





Also, you can customize the layout of the keys and the pitches they make.  To do this, try the instructions over at Updating Keyboard






Electric Eel Synthesizer Knobs




Possible Knobs to Use







Electricl Eel Synthesizer Knob Schematic





Electric Eel Synthesizer Knob Board Layout




(right-click to see larger)


Bare Board printed on laser cutter


Design Files


This is a design file for a simple rack of 6 knobs that can be plugged into the Expansion Ports of the Synthesizer:


 knobrack.eps  - Laser Cutter file for a board to use with this knob rack.


20K Trimmer - The inexpensive (10-15 cents apiece) knobs to use with this board









Ports on Synthesizer











   Rectifiers                  Amplifiers







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