Mystic Circuits 0hp Builds

I got my hands on a trio of these lovely little kits this week. I’m not an experienced electronics DIYer. This was my first eurorack DIY endeavor, something which I’ve finally entered into after much trepidation. Here’s how it went…

Each kit is simple and complete. The most difficult is the VCA/AND Gate. And the simplest the OR Gate. I went in order from easiest to hardest. Eli has a video for each module, to demonstrate the build . They are perfect for someone who’s totally inexperienced. It worked out so that I was able to follow along in real time to complete each build.

Before we get started, lets talk about tools. You’ll need:

  1. A soldering Iron. Get one with adjustable heat, you won’t regret it.
  2. A nice pair of snips, they cost about $5 and make the job much easier.
  3. Solder. Don’t get solder that’s too thick. We’re doing relatively fine work. I used 21g for these and it served me really well.
  4. A 0hp kit. It’s silly to melt a pile of solder onto your desk and snip away at it. It’s much more productive to have a circuit board and parts to work with.

First, the OR Gate. Following Eli’s video was a cake-walk. The biggest challenge is a pair of diodes, which have to be lined up correctly on the board. The video walks you right through it. If you screw it up, it’s on you. The directions are very clear. The OR Gate is not a densely populated board, it gives you room to work on your soldering skills. This build came together easily and, by the end of the instructional video, I was ready to hook it up for some synthy fun-times!

Next, the Vactrol VCA/LPG module. The two vactrol modules (VCA and LPG) are both built using the same board. There is one part difference between the two. I opted for the LPG. There’s one cautionary note here. The vactrol module uses one 10k resistor, which is not properly marked on the board. The 10k resistor goes in the 1k resistor space at the bottom left corner of the board. Eli will take you through it in the video. Other noteworthy components are the LED and the vactrol which must be properly oriented for your module to work. Again the video walks you right through the process. There isn’t any question about what your doing. When the video was over I had a sweet new vactrol LPG ready to roll!

Finally the VCA/AND gate, the most difficult of the bunch, with a densely populated board. I really messed this one up. The video is fine. But I decided to go it alone placing the resistors. (This module also has a 10k resistor which is incorrectly marked on the board, though this wasn’t my problem). So, I paused the video and had at it. I wound up placing a 1k resistor in one of the 1M spots on the board. Then I broke the board trying to fix it. Bummer and a half, but it taught me some great lessons:

  1. Stop soldering when you start to feel tired. This was the beginning of the downfall of my final build. Be alert, or take a break.
  2. Keep your work-space really clear. I got thinking about the 1M resistors on my desk when I was placing my last 1k resistor and the 1k wound up in a 1M space on the board.
  3. Check twice (or three times if necessary) solder once. De-soldering is a kafkaesque nightmare. Seriously. I think I spent half my day as a cockroach.
  4. If you do something wrong, get help. My efforts to do de-solder without any sort of guidance ruined a board.
  5. No reason not to finish a broken board. We’re learning! Don’t waste the opportunity to gain more experience. (It’s not like you’ll screw it up more.)
  6. Eli is super helpful. In his videos he says you can ask him for help. You can. He’s great! It’s awesome!

Conclusions:  If you are new to electronic DIY and want a place to start, the 0hp modules are excellent. Eli guides you through the videos so you can do the job and do it right. Don’t forget to watch his video on soldering basics too! The kits are simple, but they give you a feel for what you’re getting yourself into. It’s ok if something doesn’t work. I hate that my VCA/AND didn’t come together, but it’s not a financial disaster, and I will be giving it another go. I’ve really enjoyed the experience, and I’m excited to try my hand at more DIY projects. Oh, and you get these sweet little utilities when you’re done?

What are you waiting for? Grab a 0hp kit and get your DIY on! They’re a lot of fun!

 

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Honorable Mentions
Mystic Circuits Build Tutorials
Mystic Circuits 0hp Modules
Hakko FX888D Soldering Station
Hakko CHP-170 Wire Cutters
MG Chemicals Lead Free Solder

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