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The Prototype Synthesizer

29 May 2023

Prototype Synthesizer Roger Arrick Click images for larger view

Over 2 decades of I put together this giant 110-space studio system from various parts I had laying around, including hand-built prototypes and factory seconds.

History of the Prototype Modular Synthesizer

Since the beginning of in the late 90s I've had a system that I used for testing modules during the R&D process. This system gradually got built up from prototypes, factory seconds and various other parts I had laying around. The system has always been kept in my home office near my desk where all products are designed. Here is the first picture of the system back in 2001 or so in my Colleyville home office -



Initially the first studio cabinets were made by Mike Jones, a wood-worker who had a shop in the chicken coops on Glade Rd in Colleyville Texas, not too far from where I lived. That location is now a Target shopping center. Those initial cabinets were made out of mahogany and had a slight redish tint - a 44-space tilted cabinet and a 22-space top cabinet, and possibly a garage and keyboard enclosure. Those were sold to Paul Schreiber before I moved to Tyler in 2004. I think he resold them to one of his customers. Paul lived in my hometown of North Richland Hills back then.

After that I used our standard solid walnut cabinets and ultimately put together a full 110-space system consisting of:

2) 44-space tilted cabinets
1) 22-space top cabinet
1) keyboard garage
1) crown piece
2) keyboard controllers

These cabinets were all bolted together with stock aluminum brackets. Some of them were factory seconds or for some reason I didn't think they were worthy of selling.


Power Supply

There is a single giant International Power (like Power One) open-frame linear power supply in the bottom cabinet that powers the other cabinets using QIC cables on the back. This is called a QPS3 in production. Rock solid and heavy.

qps3 power supply


The modules are not a standard configuration that we offered but pretty close with multiple oscillators, a batch of envelope generators, filters, VCA's, sequencers and utility modules.

The newest module is probably the Q173 MIDI interface which dates to around 2013. It has a paper face and I signed it on the back. Many of the newer modules from the ++ era of dense designs are not present in this system.

The oldest module I found has a sticker on it from 2001 but I'm pretty sure there are older modules in there. I only pulled out a few to check. Some of the modules have prototype circuit boards without a green silkscreen so they are sort of yellowish in color.

There is a Q104 MIDI interface module in this system which is one of the few modules that got retired from production when it was replaced by the Q173.



This system has a Q146 Normalization module which routes Pitch CV to most of the Q106 oscillators first input jack. And the gate goes to the envelope generators. These normalizations can be bypassed by simply inserting a plug into the jack.


Some of these modules are so old they have the original open-frame jacks. There are several different versions of those open frame jacks and you can kinda tell by looking at the nuts on the front side. Others have Switchcraft jacks with black plastic enclosures, and some might even be various suppliers we tested but never used in production.

Pots too, most of them are stock 25mm but some are 16mm or something else.


These are the first types of keyboard controllers we made and we sold them for many years. They have Yamaha mechanisms we bought straight from the Yamaha parts department. They had pallets of them and we bought them all eventually over years many years. The velocity control voltage never worked right on these for some reason. It's the only software in the entire product line I didn't write myself so I don't know.


Wheel Controller

You can see on the left of the keyboards a wheel controller with large acrylic wheels. This is non-functioning unit, just a 1-off mock-up which didn't get turned into a product, instead we went with a BOX1,4,11 cabinet and the Q180-series wheel controllers were on module panels.

Wheel Controller

ELP Panel

I etched this ELP Brain Salad Surgery panel on my laser cutter.

ELP module

Q964 Module

The Q964 module is an Aid module for the Q960 sequencer. It takes gate outputs from each stage and lets you route them to one of two outputs, or neither, controlled by a 3-position switch for each stage. I decided not to put this module intro production. This one, like many in this system, I built myself.

q964 module



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