Martin Molin Modulin – origins and anatomy of the DIY tool / Blog of the company Pult.ru / SurprizingFacts

In several videos of the legendary creators of the devil-device with balls, the group Wintergatan, no less interesting tool – Modulin. As in the case of other DIY experiments of the team, the creator of the device is Martin Moulin.

The unusual brutal appearance of the "sensory violin" of Mulina: the neck attached to the panel with a large number of knobs, connectors and wires – Impressive. The technique of sound extraction and the sound capabilities of the device are somewhat unusual. In fact, this is a full-fledged odnokolosy analog synthesizer with a wide enough sound palette, where instead of a standard keyboard used a kind of "sensory" neck (Ribbon controller). Looking under the cut, you can learn more about the tool, its components and its analogues in the past.
(PS material does not contain news, so I ask people who are vigilant about Wintergatan to dispense with comments from the cycle "Etshbayan." Thank you in advance ")


The first time I saw this impressive unit, I thought that Martin independently created all the blocks and killed a lot of time. Everything turned out to be simpler. He just compiled the modules released by Doepfer to get the ergonomics and functionality he needed. Ie, if it's fair to approach the question of authorship, Moulin appears more as a developer of the layout scheme (in my opinion, very successful and interesting) and the designer of his brainchild.


We can safely say that the closest ancestor of modulina is the electronic cello of the legendary Leo Thurmen. It is known that Termen created a griffineless instrumentless electronic instrument in the early 30's, working in the US. The sounds from the cello were extracted by touching the fingerboard with their fingers, and the special lever acted as a pedal of loudness.
Later, in 1965, already working at the Laboratory of Musical Acoustics of the Moscow Conservatory, Termen developed the concept of his invention and proposed to equip the "griffin electronic instrument" with the possibility of harmonic accompaniment of the basic tone using a special keyboard. This function was planned to be implemented using an additional generator that controls the voltage.

Unfortunately, in the distant 1965th instrument, Termen was not destined to appear in the form of serial samples. Fatal for the inventor of the article in Western publications that he is alive, deplorably affected his work in the conservatory, from where the legendary engineer was fired without a twinge of conscience.

In addition, in different years of the past and this century there appeared a rather large number of instruments, which to some extent can be considered predecessors of Modulin. Almost all these developments are related to the application of the control interface, and accordingly, the main method and methods of sound extraction. This interface has become the so-called ribbon controller.

The device, in many respects similar to the "touch" grip of Termen, was used in such instruments as Trautonium, Tannerin, Dewanatron (Swarmatron ). The reason for the relatively wide use of the Ribbon controller was the ability to simplify the reception of the glide path, as well as the possibility of more convenient creation of some effects.


In place of the archaic tape controllers, new midi instruments came with the same advantages. For Modulin, the Ribbon controller Doepfer R 2M was used, which can be used for both analog (CV / Gate) and digital (Midi) control. It should be noted that all the modules used in the instrument are made by Doepferr.

There is an assumption that Mulin uses precisely their devices not only because of the notorious German quality, but also in connection With the fact that this company is the official continuer of the great Friedrich Thrauwain and Oscar Sal (fathers of trautonium).

The controller consists of two parts, in fact, a "touch" resistive fretboard and a control unit that receives Data on the position of the fingers of the neck and transforms them In the Midi and CV / Gate signal.

It is interesting that in the controller (on the fretboard) pressure sensors (pressure) are installed, which allow to obtain additional possibilities in performance.
The dynamics of performance is realized thanks to the block with two modulation wheels. One wheel is responsible for frequency modulation, the other for amplitude, similar to the lever in the cello of Termen. In the original Moulin instrument, the Doepfer A-174-2 block was used.

The core of the instrument is a voltage controlled oscillator, in many respects similar to those used for synthesizers of the 60s-70s -x. In the original design, this is Doepfer A-110-1 Standard VCO. The device generates signals in the frequency range 7 octaves from 15 Hz to 8 kHz and allows the use of 4 waveforms: square, sawtooth, triangular and sinusoidal.

To control the duration of sound – standard Parameters ADSR, attack, decay, support and attenuation, the corresponding envelope generator (A-140 ADSR Envelope Generator) is used, which accordingly has 4 regulators (Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release).

Juicy, rich sounding of the instrument and the possibility of its modification achieved b By using the A-120 24dB Low Pass filter, with which you can determine the cutoff frequency. On the official website Doepfer published a proud message that in the A-120 they were able to completely repeat the sound and capabilities of the original filter synthesizers Moog.

The tool allows you to adjust the speed of vibrato, used Doepfer A-145 LFO Modulation Generator. Generation of control signals with five waveforms is available: sawtooth, inverted sawtooth, triangle, sine and meander.

Realistic portamento, almost like a real violin, is provided using a limiter (speed limiter Of the output voltage increase) A-171-1 Voltage Controlled Slew Limiter.

Precision voltage summator A-185-2 Precision CV Adder was used to adjust the modulation depth, change its polarity, fine-tune and octave switch.


All these blocks are fixed on a piece of plywood and are appropriately commutated. For convenient retention of the tool, a handle is attached to the plywood, allowing you to hold modulin like a violin while controlling amplitude modulation and pitch. Next – power, amplification and forward to experiments!

The cost of the instrument

Among the modules and materials used, the most expensive costs about 280 Euros (ribbon controller), the cheapest is 40 Euro. According to my not very accurate calculations, without taking into account the time and effort spent, the assembly of the tool cost Martin no more than 1300 Euro. If, of course, all the modules that interested him were not provided by Doepfer for free as a promo or as a great love to electronic music.

The result

To tell how the instrument works and how his instrument sounds, Martin Moulin recorded a special video, which describes the techniques and practical use of various blocks.

Unfortunately, there were no circuit diagrams of the instrument in open access, but I believe that minimal knowledge of the principles of operation of analog synthesizers and manufacturers' datasheets will help not to be mistaken when connecting the units. As a mass DIY concept, the device is certainly expensive, but using a midi controller opens up ample opportunities for using digital emulators instead of analogue iron.

It's also worth noting that tape controllers are quite popular among music experimenters, especially in Japan and the US, But Martin Moulin is one of those not many who are able to interest not only the experiment itself with an unusual instrument, but also the quality of the created works.

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