Modular Synthesizers have always been expensive and hard to find. Because of this, there is a rich history of makers heating up their soldering irons to build their own.
In fact, in 1961, years before his work on modular synths, Robert Moog wrote “Build Your Own Transistorized Theremin” for Electronics World magazine. It could easily be published in this very magazine today.
Putting together your own Eurorack modules can save you money and help you learn how they work. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself sketching ideas for your perfect module. The sheer number of Eurorack modules ties directly to makers solving their problems by creating new designs.
The SDIY community is incredibly giving and generous with their time. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or face challenges.
If you’re new to soldering, you’ll want to practice before attempting to conquer a synth module. Gain experience with simple electronics projects like Make’s Learn to Solder Skill Badges. Read Adafruit’s Guide to Excellent Soldering and watch soldering tutorials on YouTube.
Makers new to soldering should start with projects using through-hole components. Through-hole components have leads that go through the PCB and are simple to use. They also can be used to experiment with breadboarding circuits.
Compared to through-hole, SMD components are less expensive and more can fit on a single PCB. After all, those tiny surface-mount devices (SMD) are in nearly every modern piece of electronics.
Remember that SMD are designed to be mounted by robotic pick-and-place machines, then soldered in a reflow oven. But don’t let that scare you; with patience and tweezers, humans can do a robot’s work too.
Tools You’ll Need
- Eye protection
- Personal choice:
- Lead-free can create stronger connections but is finicky and requires a higher temperature.
- Leaded 60/40 or 63/37 solder flows more easily
- Regardless, wash your hands, wear nitrile gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area
- 0.031″ Diameter
- Kester is an SDIY favorite
- Personal choice:
- Soldering Iron with Digital Temperature Control
- Screwdriver tip, 25W+
- Hakko, Pinecil, and Weller are SDIY favorites
- try out soldering before you buy anything fancy
- Soldering Iron Stand
- Dry tip cleaner that has Brass wool/sponge to prevent oxidation
- Diagonal / Flush cutters to trim leads
Nice to have:
- “No clean” Flux pen or paste to help the solder flow
- Tip Tinner to help your soldering iron tip transfer heat and prevent oxidation
- Solder sucker/solder wick to rework mistakes
- Third Hand / Something to hold things in place
- Stickvise is a favorite
- Fan for soldering fumes
- ModWiggler’s Music Tech DIY
- Facebook’s Synth DIY
- Reddit’s r/synthdiy
- Electro Music DIY Hardware and Software
Introduction to Electronics
Great first kits:
Learn by building:
Great places to buy kits, panels, and PCBs:
Places to source parts:
Great YouTube channels: