For some time now I’ve heard the name Barton Musical Circuits in relation to the DIY modular synthesizer scene. The trouble is that there is so much stuff out there I find myself inundated with a wide variety of vendors, products and technologies that I sometimes hear something then forget about it a short time afterwards having moved on to something else.
Fortunately the other day while surfing I came across a site which I had never found before. It is a vendor called Modular Addict. Intrigued by the name I began to check out their site. Modular Addict officer a substantial number of DIY kits in multiple formats. Under their Multiple / None format I found the Barton line of PCBs. These boards were designed for the Eurorack format, however, it was my intention to modify them for the Moog Unit (MU) / Dotcom format. The boards can operate at 12 or 15 volts which is perfect as Dotcom utilizes + / – 15 volts. The boards even support an MOTM style power connector.
I purchased three types of PCBs; The BMC018 Analog Drum module, the BMC030 Guitar Interface module and the BMC034 Switched Resistor Voltage Controlled Filter module. I figured this was a good place to start.
The boards arrived quickly and were packaged very well. The cost of the boards was very reasonable which is great for something you’ve never tried out before. I looked up some videos on the modules on YouTube and liked the sounds and functions the modules produced.
Documentation for the boards is available for download and is clear and easy to follow for the most part. A bit more detail on the flying wires could be helpful but overall I was able to determine how to wire the jacks from the photos provided.
In order to accommodate the MU format I did have to wire the potentiometers with flying wires rather than using the PCB mounted potentiometers indicated in the documentation. This required an added level of complexity to the build but in reality is wasn’t difficult at all.
One thing I did notice from the photos was that the Ground (Earth) pins on the input / output jacks were not connected. Personally I like my gear to be Grounded so when I wired up my modules I connected the Ground pins together and then to a ground point on the PCB.
I started by building the BMC030 Guitar Interface. The build went quickly and easily and after a couple of hours I was testing the board with my modular. It worked very well allowing me to change the sound of my bass guitar with the filters and other toys in my modular.
For my build, though, I had to design a panel suitable for my Dotcom style cabinet and modules. I chose a 2U panel so that I could use the large knobs associated with MU / Dotcom style builds as well as having the components spaced out comfortably. Once I had a design I used corrugated cardboard and a printout of the panel to create a mock-up. This allowed me to test my layout and ensure things would fit. As it turned out this test showed me that a couple of items needed to be moved a couple of millimetres one way or other. I have made those changes and the panel is now ready to be sent to my silk screen guy to have a screen made.
I did take the liberty of slightly modifying the name of the module from Guitar Interface to Instrument Interface as I plan to plug things other than guitars into it. Just for fun!
Next I moved on to the BMC018 Analog Drum module. This is a cool little module which allows you to create some really cool bass drum and tom sounds. Coupled with some noise you can also create some interesting snare drum sounds.
Once again the build went quickly and smoothly. The module tested out perfectly and I can definitely see adding a few more of these to my modular for some cool electronic drum sounds.
I created a 1U panel for this module which I mocked-up out of cardboard like the first module. This time no adjustments were necessary.
One question that did arise was Barton’s use of 10 Ohm resistors in place of Ferrite Beads to reduce power supply noise. An interesting discussion sprung up from this subject on MuffWiggler’s Forum but in the end, for this first build at least, I decided to stick with the documentation and go with the resistors. So far they seem just fine.
Next up will be the BMC034 Switched Resistor VCF. I have several filters now and I’m very excited to try out another. The different flavours filters give a modular make for a wildly varying sonic experience and I plan to add a large number to my setup.
Once I complete the next build I’ll post a write-up.
So in a nutshell; modules by Barton Musical Circuits, in my opinion, are quite a nice addition to my modular rig. I really like them in the MU format I have modified them for but even as Eurorack modules they are a great add-on. I would also highly recommend them for beginner DIY builders as you get an easy build with some excellent features when you’re done. Oh, and Modular Addict….. excellent place to deal with!