This Bits and Pieces post is about mixers. There is nothing inherently new or exciting in my system, which isn’t complete yet, but it’s building up to something more interesting in the latter stages.
The part I’ve been working on is the section for mono instruments, which works like this:
First of all I started with a small 4-channel mono in-mono out Soundlab Micromixer for £6 or £7 on eBay.
Fortunately, this came with a circuit diagram, so it was easy to add 4 more identical input channels. These are housed in the ‘Red Dragon’, a Stylophone case from which the innards had been removed (for use, I think, in The Gemini, which is two Stylophone circuits in one body).
The Red Dragon feeds the Micromixer with 9v power as well as the 4 extra input channels (the ones with red caps). But I like working in stereo, so the 4 extra inputs are switchable from mono to stereo: the stereo side of the switch sends the input via a passive mixer (a 10k resistor on each channel) into the input of a pseudo-stereo circuit, and from there to a stereo output socket.
I’ve lost the circuit diagram and explanation of the pseudo-stereo circuit, but it was published in an electronics magazine in the 1980’s, and I bought and made up a kit version from them. It may even have been the work of the amazingly prolific RA Penfold. At the time I used it to listen to mono cassette tapes on my Walkman, and it improved them no end. An empty cassette box was just big enough for the circuit board, headphone socket and PP3 battery; it was still in this box when I recently found it, and needed only a replacement 741 op-amp, which had evidently been scavenged at some point in the past.
I don’t remember precisely how it works, but it seems to be some sort of frequency-dependent phase-shifter, whereby some frequencies are sent to the left ear, some to the right, spreading a single mono signal throughout the stereo field: perfect for sounds with a rich harmonic content – like the Stylophone, for example. (Mono instruments The Alien and The Hedgehog are ideal candidates for this treatment). Which one of the channels is ‘left’ and which is ‘right’ using this system seemed entirely arbitrary to me, so I added a switch to reverse the output channels, according to taste.
In fact, there was room for two more input channel pots on the top of the Stylophone case, but no room for the switches and circuitry beneath, so these two channels (the ones with blue caps) go directly into the passive mixer and pseudo-stereo.
While the stereo signal currently goes directly to a stereo in-stereo out mixer, the mono output goes to a 6-channel mono in-stereo out mixer (a Realistic 32-1210, £10 off eBay) . This has a balance control on each channel, so the intention is that the section described here will be the centre channel, and there will be further sub-sections for left and right parts of the stereo field. Later posts will indicate how this works out.
The stereo in-stereo out mixer (£6 off eBay) is a Hama SM502. Although the inputs of this mixer are marked ‘Microphone’, ‘Magnetic/Ceramic cartridge’, ‘Phono’ and ‘Tape’ (i.e. it’s a mixer intended for a domestic hi-fi!) experiments have shown that they work fine with the signal levels involved here.