Permission to Tweak Freely

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

Sometimes the simplest upgrades are the most satisfying. Vintage Synths author Mark Vail replaced the knobs on his Teenage Engineering OP-1 synth with four vintage chicken head knobs We had to file down the “beaks” for clearance, but the knobs are now easier to turn and easier to read (see Figure 1). Teenage Engineering goes further with Bender, a rubber band-equipped arm that converts one knob into a springy modulation lever. Swapping knobs is an easy way to give mass-produced instruments personality, and often a better feel.


Fig. 2
We love the Akai Miniak a lot more since We gave its keyboard and display a tweak. This otherwise beefy synth has an extremely light keyboard action We’d always found uninspiring. After We packed some modeling clay and a 1/4-inch steel nut under the tips of the white keys, they gained a satisfying heft. We’ll probably replace the clay with more durable epoxy when We open the case to modify the black keys. After you start modding, it’s hard to stop!


The Miniak is also notorious for its awkward LCD. Figure 2 shows how We use a prism and a small mirror to make the display visible from playing position.


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