Probably the best way to get started is to read the AE Modular Technical Guide and then try building a 5V circuit on a breadboard. Once you know it works properly transfer it to a soldered stripboard.
What you will need for prototyping
- Multimeter (for checking for short circuits)
- Power - you could use +5V/GND from AE ribbon, but perhaps easier to use a 5V supply like this 5V breadboard supply
- See the shopping list over on the Forum
Many also like to have a cheap oscilloscope like the DSO138.
If you have a scope and 5V supply you can test the circuit before plugging into your AEM.
What to try first?
I’d recommend a simple oscillator, based on the CD40106, there is a great youtube video on this, that’s easy to adapt to AEM.
So build this on a breadboard, most important things to do before powering on is checking for short circuits, using the conductivity test/resistance on your multimeter.
Once your happy its ok, power it up and connect the output to any patch point on the AE. I’d recommend the mixer module, and turn the volume up SLOWLY, in case its making a horrible screech).
TIP: if you are using a separate power supply, you will need to have a common ground, so connect ground on the power supply and to the AE modular ribbon.
Once your prototype is done, you can now make it more permanent.
What you will need for building a module
- Simple tools (screwdrivers)
- Stripboard to relevant size 100mm x (25mm X # HP)
- Soldering Iron & Solder - nothing special
- Standoffs/hex spacers (see “DIY module considerations”)
- Ribbon connector (see “DIY module considerations”)
- Components (IC, Pots, Switches)
So you now need to transfer the breadboard contents onto a stripboard and solder in some components (hint: lots of video on soldering technical on youtube!)
I’ve learnt the hard way… planning is the most important/difficult step to this !
First you’ll need the components, including spacers (see “DIY module considerations” for planning this). You will probably need to cut your stripboard to size. You should also drill the holes in the PCB for the mounting points
Next you need to decide on the layout of the components such that They make sense on the front panel You have enough space to get all the connections
Take your time over this, all I’ve learnt (again the hard way), it’s better to make the module one or two U bigger, than to spend hours struggling to get wires into place due to lack of space (rack space is ‘relatively cheap’ in AEM).
Once you have planned where the components are going to be you need to place them on the PCB, and then mark the front panel for where the holes need to be (in fact it’s probably best to solder on components, as if things move, they tend to become misaligned).
From there the fun bit, solder all your components on.
Once done, test for short circuits, then give it a go!
There is also a very detailed guide over the Forum. Please read through that for more details: http://forum.aemodular.com/thread/357/beginner-guide-modular-synth-diy