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17 October 2016

REVIEW: DIY Synth Kit

This synth is a cinch.

Remember earlier in the year when we built our own handheld game console? We loved that so much that we decided to check out another of the maker kits from Technology Will Save Us; this time to teach us the fundamentals of circuitry... and electronica! We test the DIY Synth Kit.



Whereas the DIY Gamer Kit was pretty full on, containing a full Arduino, the chance to solder the kit yourself, and tutorials on coding, the DIY Synth Kit is a much simpler affair. Inside the box is everything you need to build your musical instrument, with the exception of a 9V battery, and in fact the box itself will form part to the synth.


As with our previous foray into the world of Technology Will Save Us, you follow online instructions to build the project. For the synth, this is actually a pretty fiddly affair, as you need to carefully insert the ends of a couple dozen wires into the correct slots of the circuit breadboard. Fortunately all the wires are cut to an appropriate length, and the instructions take it nice and steady, explaining what everything means and what each kind of part does.

The kit is aimed at kids from 12 and up, and due to the delicate nature of the construction, we can see why they'd suggest that. However, with a grown up's help, we found that our dedicated six year old tester quite enjoyed plugging the various parts in, and then of course rocking out like an 80s electro legend.


For once all the bits are in, and the speaker and battery are connected, you have a bona fide musical instrument. Volume, pitch, and tone are all controlled by twisting the potentiometres (those big green knob things), and even the slightest touch can cause a change. Playing around with them is a lot of fun experimenting and seeing how they work together, and knocking out a weird tune takes just a few minutes.


As fun as it is, the making doesn't have to stop there. The DIY Synth Kit is actually three synths in one, letting you decide which of the three kinds of instrument you'd like to assemble. There is a Stutter, Atari-type, and Dub Siren, with all three following slightly different instructions to create slightly different sounds.


All, however, can be built into the product's box to provide a bit more stability while playing, and for giving the battery and speaker a proper home. Nothing is permanent though, and everything can be taken back apart to either create a different synth, or to start on a different electronics project – after all, the breadboard, wires, and circuitry can be used for lots of other things.

Just like the DIY Gamer Kit, the DIY Synth Kit is something that will keep on entertaining your little makers. Encouraging an interest in building and electronics is great, but this is also a fully blown instrument, one they can tinker with to make sound however they want. Big double thumbs up here.

£25



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