Ouroboros Gemini DIY Q&A:
Q: Is the Gemini a good DIY project for beginners?
A: Yes! The Gemini is a simple and straightforward project with a low part count that will be approachable for beginners, but still a worthwhile build for more experienced builders.
Q: Around how much will the project end up costing?
A: Assuming you already have a soldering iron, solder and the basic tools required - the pcb/front panel set + all of the components required for the build will end up costing less than $100 total. Of course this will also depend on which exact components you buy (you can cut some costs by selecting cheaper components) and where you buy them from, plus shipping and tax, etc.
Q: Do I need to order the exact components listed in the BOM, or can I use other components of the same type and value? Can I choose other cheaper components to save money?
A: Aside from the ICs which must be the exact ones which are specified in the BOM - you can use different components with the same values. Just make sure the voltage rating is high enough and other specs are comparable, and the parts are roughly as small as or smaller than the parts specified so that they fit well on the PCB and in the enclosure.
Q: The knobs specified on the BOMs are pretty expensive, could I order some different ones to cut costs?
A; Definitely! The knobs are the second most expensive part after the PCB and panel itself. As far as cutting costs, you can save a significant amount of money by choosing different knobs than I specified, which will be very pricey if you are not buying in bulk. As far as selecting alternative knobs, just be sure to look at the datasheets and make sure that the knobs will fit onto the potentiometers.
Q: What do I need besides the PCB/front panel?
A: You will need to order all of the components listed in the BOM, as well as a soldering station (preferably with adjustable temperature). You can pick up a Weller soldering station at Home Depot for around $40 to get started. You will also need some lead-free solder, wire, wire snippers, needle nose pliers, and a 9v battery. Additionally, you may want an anti-static bracelet to use while handling the chips, and a solder sucker for any mistakes that happen while soldering. After you have finished building it, you will need two 3.5mm to 1/4" cables to connect the Gemini outputs to your mixer or audio interface. You do not need any banana patch cables to use the Gemini, but it makes it more fun! I'd recommend either making or buying three 6" banana patch cables to patch it with.
Q: Is the Alea thru-hole or are there surface mount components as well?
A: The Alea uses only surface mount components.
Q: I don’t know how to solder. Is there any hope for me?
A: Yes! Watch a couple of Youtube videos and buy yourself a soldering station and some solder. Practice soldering some with wire or old spare components, and then once you’re comfortable, you should be able to take on the Gemini.
Q: Where and how should I source the parts?
A: All necessary parts should be available via digikey.com. You can copy and paste the part numbers from the BOM (listed below) into the search and it should pull up the correct part, then you just have to enter the quanitity (specified by the BOM) and enter it into your cart!
Q: How to I know which way to insert the components into the PCB?
A: The components should all be inserted into the top side of the PCB - the side with the text and footprint of the component on it. Some components such as the electrolytic capacitor will have a ground symbol on one side of the footprint. You will want to insert the short leg of the component into the side with the ground symbol. There is usually a ground symbol on the correlating side of the capacitor itself to assure you that you’ve inserted it correctly.
The LED will need to be placed on the board following these same rules - with the short leg next to the ground symbol on the board. All of the other components are non-polar and do not need to be placed on the board with polarity in mind.
Q: How do I need to position the ICs on the PCB?
A: You will notice there is a notch in one side of the ICs on both the PCB footprint as well as the sockets and the ICs themselves. Make sure the notch in the socket matches up with the notch in the footprint, and make sure you insert the ICs into their sockets with the notch matching the notch in the socket, and they will be positioned correctly.
Q: Do I need to worry about the ICs being damaged via static shock from my touch?
A: Yes, an anti-static wristband and other anti-static precautions should be own while handling the chips to avoid damaging them.
Q: How do I connect the banana jacks?
A: You can connect them via wire going from the jack to the large circular holes/solder pads which each jack goes through, or you can bend the ends of the jacks down (once all of the jacks as well as PCB are all mounted in an enclosure) and solder the ends of the jacks directly to the circular holes/solder pads. I personally bend the ends of the jacks down and solder directly to the pads, but connecting all of the jacks to the pads via a short bit of wire can be a safer and easier route to go when it comes to disconnecting and reconnecting the jacks from the pcb for troubleshooting on the front side of the PCB (incase that happens to be necessary). The one exception to that is the pad next to "SQR OUT" that will need to be connected via wire to the banana jack on the top left for the square LFO output where the cutout in the board is (since that jack couldn't fit fully on the PCB).
Q: I finished building my Gemini, but something is wrong. How should I troubleshoot it?
A: If it doesn’t appear to be working at all, or something is significantly non-functional, then I recommend checking the polarity of the battery snap leads, then checking the orientation and individual legs and solder points of the ICs and IC sockets. Your ICs may have been damaged by static shock, and if so, then they will need to be removed and new ICs should be inserted using an anti-static wristband. If something minor, or one aspect of the synth seems not to be working, then I suggest checking over each solder joint and orientation of the components (making sure negative leads are inserter correctly, etc). Sometimes, after a long day of soldering, it’s best to just take a break and sleep on it, and it’ll be easier to evaluate everything and continue troubleshooting the next day. Please feel free to send me an email if you are having any problems and I will do my best to help out!