Dialogue / NVFAQs

An imaginary dialogue; or, not very frequently asked questions

“Instruments?” Like, scientific instruments?

No. Foxfield do not make lab grade hardware.

Think musical instruments. Yes, many of our products are somewhat dry – simple oscillators, comparators, clocks, utilities. But: these all have musical utilities. And when you build a modular synthesizer, you’re effectively building an instrument to your own specification.

To that end: these are music utilities. We make instruments, not electronics.

Do you sell assembled products?

Not currently, off-the-shelf. We sell DIY kits. (That may change in the future).

If you’re really interested in Foxfield Instruments products but aren’t able to build them yourselves, drop us a line. We might be able to make some suggestions.

Your kits all use surface-mount components? Isn’t that designed for robots?

Originally, yes.

But we design boards using surface-mount components that are designed to be assembled by humans, with tweezers and soldering irons. We use larger size SMD – Surface Mount Design – components – “SOIC” ICs, and “1206” capacitors/resistors, if that means anything to you – and we space them well and label them clearly.

Isn’t that hard?

It’s not quite as straightforward as through-hole. We certainly wouldn’t recommend surface-mount boards as your first DIY synth project – they’re a bit fiddly if you’re also learning to solder.

That said, if you’re comfortable with a soldering iron, then you shouldn’t find Foxfield projects too hard at all.

And SMD has its upsides.

Such as?

We use SMD so we can fit more onto small boards – especially the 1U tiles we make. You’ll also find as you get practiced that soldering up an SMD board can often end up being much faster than one covered in through-hole components. And removing misplaced components is simple – a quick brush with some heat and they’re gone.

Do I need any special tools?

You’ll need a regular soldering iron and a pair of angled tweezers.

You don’t need an especially fine-tipped iron; a small chisel tip will be fine. If anything, the thing that makes SMD easier is fine solder – 0.8mm is ideal. We recommend 60/40 tin/lead solder – yes, it’s not lead-free, but it flows so much better.

In addition to that, sponge or brass wire to clean your iron on, and some solder braid for desoldering come highly recommended.

Will Foxfield Tiles fit into my Intellijel 1U rack?

No. Foxfield Tiles are made to the “Pulp Logic”/”Erthenvar” standard: 1.7″ high front panels, using three-wire “tile tail” (Futaba J-type) power connectors.

Also, you probably won’t be able to mount a Foxfield Tile to a new, Intellijel-sized front panel: the PCBs are too large to fit between Intellijel tiles.

Yes, it’s annoying there are two 1U specs. We went with the slightly more established and flexible one.

What power connector do your modules use?

We use the Pulp-Logic style “tile tail” connector (a Futaba J-type servo connector).

We chose this for two reasons: firstly, it continues our affiliation to the Pulp Logic spec; secondly, it takes up less space than a ten-pin Eurorack connector.

Tile tails carry GND/+12V/-12V. The Futaba connector is keyed, meaning you can’t insert it backwards, which is always an added bonus.

If you don’t have a tile-tail solution yet, Foxfield make a Euro (10/16-pin) to 8x Tile Tail power adaptor.

Why are there two different 1U standards, then?

The difference is: how you measure the 1U.

Pulp Logic style tiles (such as Foxfield tiles) are designed for use with lipless rails, and measure 1U from the top of the top rail to the bottom of the bottom rail.

Intellijel 1U tiles are designed for lipped rails, and measure 1U from the top of the top lip to the bottom of the bottom lip. As such, the tile panel, and gap between the rails, is smaller than Pulp Logic.

Eurorack doesn’t really have any standards; it has conventions. This is a case where two conventions emerged separately, and they’re not quite compatible in both directions.