Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

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tyrannosaurus mark
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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by tyrannosaurus mark » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:30 pm

Woah, thanks so much for taking the time to share this with everyone, AWESOME sounding synthesiser!!!
Moog LP + Casio SK1 and MT-75 + tube amp = good tone.

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:44 pm

tyrannosaurus mark wrote:Woah, thanks so much for taking the time to share this with everyone, AWESOME sounding synthesiser!!!
Many Thanks, please just bare in mind that the super lush string ensemble on this track is making use of one of our new sample programs and although it is Novachord 346's raw audio meticulously sampled it has been layered in octaves in Kontakt and washed through effects. I state this because although the Novachord sounds amazing through effects you'd probably need at least two of them to result in a sound as big as this... and that's 326 tubes worth of raw vintage synth power..... not to mention electrical power!! :)

If you want to hear what this 70 year old 1/4 ton monster sounds like playing various timbres simply recorded directly from it's line output into a multi-effects processor then the following recording I made shortly after restoration will give you some idea in all of it's albeit slightly out of tune glory:

http://www.last.fm/music/D.A.Wilson/_/N ... ?autostart

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by wiss » Fri Feb 12, 2010 9:48 pm

WOW !!!!
"All we used was the explosion and the orchestra hit. The Fairlight was a $100,000 waste of space."

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Sat Feb 13, 2010 3:46 pm

NOVACHORD #346 THREAD: SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO NOW....??

I started up this thread on 10 October 2009 with a burnt out monster and now I have a restored and sampled beauty which has clearly generated quite a following. I love the VSE forum, it's simply one of the best around, and I'm going to ask all of you who regularly follow this thread if you'd like me to continue or to put an end to this thread. I ask because frankly I've no idea if I'm starting to become tiring or whether the interest is still there - the only thing I've got to go by on this one is that the number of views is now past 8000 with well over 300 postings with surprisingly little repetition and it is still climbing rapidly.

I've got a ton of things still to do and report on the Novachord Restoration and Sampling project and so I can continue reporting progress - the question to all of you on VSE though.. is do you want me to!! :?:

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by hangarjoe » Sat Feb 13, 2010 5:25 pm

Dan -

So far, this thread has provided more information on the Novachord than I have been able to find anywhere else, with your exceptional detail and explanations second to none. I have a vested interest in your continuing to post here (or somewhere), as my son and I have decided to restore one of the beasts ourselves. You don't seem to mind at all if we go off topic (#346 specifically) and pursue general Novachord-related history and conjecture. This has, IMHO, served to increase the recognition of the public to this unique piece of history, and with the sample library you and Steve have produced, I believe the awareness of the Novachord so far is just the tip of the (500 pound) iceburg. Now that I've actually seen a Novachord in person, my respect for your mammoth undertaking is even greater than before.

Cast my vote for continued postings, in exquisite detail, with more photos and movies.

- Joe :-)

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by tyrannosaurus mark » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:05 pm

Continue sir! Personally I've not been inundated with people wanting to tell me about Novachords. I vote more novachord threads and less Mac vs PC, analogue vs digital, etc!

This thread is amazing! Keep it up :)
Moog LP + Casio SK1 and MT-75 + tube amp = good tone.

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by wiss » Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:14 pm

Reading your updates is the best thing on VSE.
"All we used was the explosion and the orchestra hit. The Fairlight was a $100,000 waste of space."

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by 3rdConstruction » Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:38 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:I've got a ton of things still to do...
please continue...
what's next in store for 346?
...speaking at length about something is no guarantee that understanding is advanced.

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Sun Feb 14, 2010 12:01 am

As ever - thanks for all your kind comments... then I will continue :)
3rdConstruction wrote:
HideawayStudio wrote:I've got a ton of things still to do...
please continue...
what's next in store for 346?
Three Cheers for Marco Bacigalupo!!!

We can start off with a really big Thank You to my Novachordist friend, Marco Bacigalupo, in Italy for sending the most generous of donations I could possibly ask for towards the project. Marco has very kindly sent me many hundred original Novachord resistors from his instrument after replacing his with new ones. These will prove absolutely invaluable during the next phase of my restoration which, in answer to 3rdContruction's question, is to perform a full divider calibration. This will hopefully bring to life many of the keys that are currently not working in the bottom two octaves. Despite 346 sounding so nice, it will be really great to hear the bottom octave in all it's glory as the Novachord is known for it's wonderful deep growl.

A Sea of Delightfully Colourful Novachord Resistors:
NC346_ResistorSea.jpg
Incidentally, it's hard to determine the scale in the picture above - each of these resistors is huge by today's standards - the equivalent power modern thick film surface mount resistor is around 5mm long - these things are pressed carbon and an inch long by 1/4 inch in diameter!

The Novachord, quite unlike later divide down instruments, is based on a multitude of analog monostable circuits triggered by discrete top note oscillators rather than the later single oscillator logic based bistable architectures as found in the Solina and ARP String synths for example. This, especially being tube based, gives a significantly more organic sound as it's not entirely repeatable and subject to mistriggering and resulting harmonics. The disadvantage is that it's much more prone to effects of miscalibration due to component values drifting with age. This is made worse by the fact that the original oil impregnated wax paper foil caps, despite being of unusually high quality, are prone to the effects of moisture ingress. The capacitor values can be as much as 40% high and the resistor values can go several 10% high too. Amazingly, Novachord 346 is not too bad on the calibration front considering that she's running on near 100% original components in the generator chassis. This is literally 1000's of 70 year old passives! Having gone to the trouble of cutting open some of these components and determining that, despite their value having changed with age, they really are in amazing physical condition, I've decided to go against the grain and retain them.

It has to be said that even many of those engineers who had insisted that all the passives must be replaced in Novachords have admitted that this is due to likely instability issues rather than these components being prone to dramatically failing. That said, as I've explained earlier, I've not retained original capacitors in any circuit that is in a direct low impedance path with a supply rail for obvious reasons. Since the Novachord is an extremely low power design, where the quiescent currents are set at around 0.2mA per tube (some 10 times lower than in many tube designs!), although the voltages are high, there is very little energy in these circuits as the associated resistances in these circuits are quite high in value.

The major issue with the stable operation of the Novachord was that the effects of mis-calibration are cumulative as each like note from octave to octave is triggered from that of the previous one. If a divider is mistriggering, and this is often on alternative cycles, the instrument will produce a note with a characteristic rasping sound that is so typical of the Novachord. If too many like notes are exhibiting this anomaly then there is little chance that the lower octaves will work properly, if at all. In th case of 346 the full top 4 octaves are operational but some notes are much more raspy than others. The bottom octave on 346 is currently a real mess and it's almost 100% certain this is due to the effects of mis-calibration.

The process of recalibration is fairly trivial but must be performed in a very methodical manner otherwise huge amounts of time will be wasted. It's essential that, before any calibration work is undertaken, the operation of the 12 oscillators is verified first. Since the Novachord is monostable based it is essential that the oscillators are producing the correct waveforms and, most importantly, sufficient amplitude. This is important because the better each stage is triggered, the more likely the following stage will properly trigger too.

So why is the Novachord so very full of capacitors? Well this is where it all gets a bit hairy. I have described in detail how the dividers work earlier in this thread but for those who are new I will try and briefly explain.

The dividers in the Novachord are not really dividers - in fact they are better thought of as pulse skippers or lengtheners. They work by tube monostable circuits triggering on an incoming waveform ie. the rising edge of a sawtooth and are timed such that they don't reset and permit another retrigger until the second incoming waveform has passed by thus triggering on the third waveform. The clever bit is that the pulses that eminate from this circuit are used to effectively create a waveform that joins the resultant trigger points thus creating a waveform of twice the period, or half the frequency ie. one octave lower. The problem is that the input filtering, the trigger reset circuit and the waveform shaper sub-circuits are all very analog in nature. They rely entirely on carefully determined RC time constants for each and every note (hence the crazy capacitor values!!). Worse still, since the original components are far from stable modern passives, they are very prone to drifting with age, humidity and temperature. It's for these reasons the Novachord's schematics are shown in generic blocks as each note utilises a different set of component values!

I will fully detail the process of recalibrating the Novachord with pictures in due course. As you must have seen in every picture of a Novachord's innards on the net, there are a series of large metal flaps that cover up the sea of tubes. Each flap covers an octave's worth of divider and VCA tubes. In the corner of each tube pair is a resistor mounted in a spring clip. These resistors have tightly cropped legs like the ones seen in the foreground of the picture above. The idea is that the resistors are removed one at a time starting from the top octave divider and a resistance box wired in its place.

Some of the Divider Calibration Resistors in Situ:
NC346_Divider_Cal_Resistors.jpg
With the Novachord running the resistance is changed until the note sounds clean due to reliable triggering. Provided the required resistance to do this is within acceptable limits given in a table in the service manual then a resistor of the correct value is fitted in the clip. The engineer then moves down to the same note an octave lower and repeats the procedure. This carries down to the lowest octave and then repeated for another note. It is vital that the top octave dividers are calbrated first as otherwise any calibration performed in the lower octaves could easily be knocked out by tweaking the higher octave dividers.

The Divider Circuit Showing the Calibration Resistor:
Divider Circuit.JPG
One thing I will say is that personally I rather like the sound of a Novachord that's actually slightly out of cal. To my ears it sounds more interesting as there are more musically related harmonics being produced than an instrument producing very pure tones. That said, the dividers can become so maladjusted that the results are anything but musical and some of my bottom octave notes sound comically bad at the moment!

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by I12 » Tue Feb 16, 2010 7:07 am

Great Thread !!!!!

Gives us tinkerers inspiration to try more
and excellent technical info

Wonderful sound to hear

You could have easily blogged this to a site of your own and collected some well deserved ad $
Dont bother its not worth it!

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:54 pm

I12 wrote:Great Thread !!!!!

Gives us tinkerers inspiration to try more
and excellent technical info

Wonderful sound to hear

You could have easily blogged this to a site of your own and collected some well deserved ad $
Many thanks.... and interesting idea... but I chose to blog this here mainly because I love VSE and it's forum, and the people on it.

I was starting to wonder if I was losing readers but seeing the feedback and that views have jumped to nearly 1000 views in such a short time.... maybe not?? It won't be long before this thread hits 10,000 views :)

I have a few experiments lined up. Prior to taking the plunge and doing a full calibration on the beast I'm going to have a play with my resistance box and make some recordings of notes going in and out then really out of cal to demonstrate the effect in real time. I will hopefully post the recordings and waveforms this weekend. I will also record my really bad bottom octave notes to demonstrate what the Novachord's infamous calibration issues are all about.

About 1/3rd of NC346's Generator Underchassis:
NC346_Underchassis.jpg

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by madtheory » Fri Feb 19, 2010 8:22 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:[ I will also record my really bad bottom
I think they did that already for the Emulator 1 demo record! ;)

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by ensoniqphreak » Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:37 am

what an *awesome* thread. Talk about a Vintage synth.... the Novachord is all over the soundtrack to Hitchcocks 1940 movie Rebecca. Every time they refer to the late Mrs. Dewinter (Rebecca) you can hear the Novachord.... it adds an ominous atmosphere to an already creepy film. Hideaway, I have to ask: has your power bill gone up since you started running the Novachord from your AC mains? I would think that it would with such an old, tube driven monster..... :?:
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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Sun Feb 21, 2010 12:01 pm

ensoniqphreak wrote:what an *awesome* thread. Talk about a Vintage synth.... the Novachord is all over the soundtrack to Hitchcocks 1940 movie Rebecca. Every time they refer to the late Mrs. Dewinter (Rebecca) you can hear the Novachord.... it adds an ominous atmosphere to an already creepy film. Hideaway, I have to ask: has your power bill gone up since you started running the Novachord from your AC mains? I would think that it would with such an old, tube driven monster..... :?:
Many thanks... it keeps me amused too :)

As for power... this one will surprise you all - the Novachord minus it's power amplifier, and mine is currently removed as I'm recording directly off the preamp output, only consumes 270 Watts. This is just amazing considering that, even with no amp, there are 156 tubes remaining!!

Some of the Many, Many, Tubes in Novachord 346:
NC346_TubeGlory.jpg
To put this into perspective - that is less than many large modern flat screen TVs! My old E-mu Emulator II sampler consumes 150 Watts - and it's nearly 50 years younger - that's wall to wall TTL logic for you!

Was The Novachord The World's First Electronic Piano?? AKA This one will please Automatic Gainsay!!

Some question whether the Novachord was actually a synth at all but rather a glorified organ. I have to say that the whole "is the Novachord a synth or an organ?" debate has become really tiring BUT having had to repair one of my oscillators this weekend, and found the opportunity to play it for a while. I eventually dialled up something remarkably piano like, especially in the lower registers. This lead me to think "here's an almost 100% electronic instrument from 1939 that's emulating a piano - that's got to be a first! - surely??" A 70 year old electronic piano - amazing!!

I think this will put a smile on Marc's face as it's a 100% unprocessed, dry mono, and totally authentic, recording I made yesterday evening of the Novachord Piano timbre in action - straight out of the balanced line output. There is no EQ or noise removal - you'd expect something from 1939 to sound like an AM radio with tons of mains hum and hiss - wouldn't you?? You can hardly call this realistic but there is a real beauty about it and the sustains are just amazing - there really is no reverb in this - it's just sustain pedal. The sound is thanks to the Novachord's massive 72 note polyphony. Excuse my playing - it's really just a demo of the timbre itself in action. I'm playing on the black notes here, and for those who have perfect pitch - yes the instrument is deliberately running approximately 1 semitone flat. Why the black notes? - well it's not because my playing skills are a total and utter joke but because, for some bizarre reason, almost all of my black notes are working!! hmm.. maybe the previous owner liked playing Chopsticks! :)

http://www.last.fm/music/D.A.Wilson/_/1 ... ?autostart
IF ANYBODY OUT THERE CAN FIND ME AN "ORGAN" THAT SOUNDS LIKE THAT FROM 1939...
I WILL EAT MY HAT!!!

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Re: Novachord #346 Inspection & Initial Wakeup

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon Feb 22, 2010 10:28 pm

Novachord... A 70 Year Old Synth Emulating a Piano!!... Continued...

OK... this evening has left me amazed. After deciding that the above demo was too bright in the upper registers and I really don't think a piano should have a vibrato!!, I had another play and I think I might have stumbled on what the infamous Bright/Mellow control was aimed at. Using the same resonator settings but with Bright/Mellow set to Mellow and vibrato off really does produce something piano like. At this point I revisited the piano samples in our new sound set. I'm currently working on Booster Pack II, another 10 programs for next month's free update, and came up with this little beauty. What has really impressed me here is that this is simply around 30Mb of raw piano multisamples from Novachord 346 through no more than a delay and a touch of reverb. This proves I made a better attempt at emulating a piano on the Novachord a couple of months ago when we captured the raw sample data! :)

I called the program "NC346: Dark Tube Piano". Here is a quick demo:

http://www.last.fm/music/D.A.Wilson/_/H ... ?autostart

It really is impressive to think it's possible to traverse from sustained string sounds to piano on an instrument of this age.... again - try doing this on an organ!!

Hmm... This is Somehow Fitting!..
Pedro_Morquecho_EP_Cover.jpg

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