Neutral Labs ELMYRA - DIY Build
As we bring in the new year, we took a look back to see what we were missing in our studio. We were looking for something unique, something with guts, something to kick a little more ass in the upcoming year.
The neutral labs Elmyra was our answer. This synth was going to be a new type of build for us since this synth was a standalone and not a modular one. We were up for the challenge. In case you were looking for our previous build of the NL NERMAL, it can be found here.
We picked up our white paneled Elmyra kit from our friends over at Synthcube, who also offer the black paneled version as well. It runs on USB power which gives the synth a lot of flexibility. Beginners can rejoice too, its a fairly simple build that took a little over an hour to complete. With that being said, let’s jump into the build.
What is the Elmyra?
With our love for the SOMA Lyra-8, think of the Elmyra as a “smaller” version of it. According to the neutral labs website, the Elmyra is “a digital/analog hybrid drone synthesizer and platform for sonic exploration inspired by the widely beloved Lyra-8”. It is played in the similar fashion as the Lyra-8 as well with its 6 metal finger pads. With a 10-bit audio resolution, its oscillators gives it a gnarly gritty soundscape…. just right for our tastes.
As with our previous neutral lab build (the NERMAL), the documentation is clear and concise. It is available via the neutral labs website, along with a user manual and schematics. Another cool thing about the way the kit is packaged is that all of the components are grouped into bags so that all of them can be identified without having to look up resistor codes. Talk about a considerate thing to do for the builder!
Panel Prep ... the beginning
Although it might seem odd starting with the panel first, it is an important first step in the build. To start, place the 4 LED sockets into their positions and secure each of them with a nut on the back. Now put in the 6 touchpads and make sure to use the supplied plastic washers on the topside of the of the panel. You can just tighten down the nuts on the bottom side, ensuring the nut is in contact with the metal film below.
Next up, solder the 4 pin SMD header to the back of the panel so that the pints point toward the bottom edge. A quick and easy way to do this, is to place a dab of solder on one of the pads on the back of the panel and then heat it up, as you place the header into place.
Once this done, you can knock out the other pads and call it done. Do not place any pots or switches at this time as it is now time to move onto the main PCB.
The PCB Bottom Side
Begin by soldering all of the resistors, diodes and IC socket. Make sure you pay attention to the polarity of the diodes as well as the IC socket 1-pin. Next solder the male header and all capacitors except for the 3 large ones (C1, C2, C3).
Once again, polarity matters, except for C7! When this is complete, place C1, C2 and C3 into their appropriate places and tack them down watching polarity.
Next, break and solder the male headers to the ItsyBitsy board on the bottom (unpopulated) side. You will then break the long female header strip apart by making a small cut on both sides with a sharp knife and then snapping it along the edge. Put the headers onto the PCB and push in the completed ItsyBitsy board to hold the headers in place. Flip the PCB over and tack down the header pins, and then remove the ItsyBitsy from the PCB, completing the backside of the build. You can now plug in the MCP6002 IC and begin work on the top side.
Neutral Labs Elmyra - Time Lapse Build
Welcome to the topside..
First up, place all of the pots, switches and LEDs into their relative positions. Make sure you place the LEDs accordingly due to polarity. Once everything has been placed, lower the panel onto the PCB and wiggle it around until everything sits flush.
You might have to toggle the switches to get the panel to go on easily. When this is done, slap some washers on everything and hand tighten the nuts to hold the panel to the PCB. Carefully push the LEDs into their sockets, making sure you don’t bend the legs. Flip the board over and solder everything down.
To align the switches, only solder the middle pin first. Next, heat the switch lug you just soldered and align the panel. After the panel and switches are all aligned, solder the other two pins on the switches and call it done. Grab the ItsyBitsy you previously removed and place it into its final resting position (hang in there, we are almost done)
Bringing it all together…
You can now connect the panel and PCB with the provided 4 pin Dupont cable. Use the cable that has Dupont connectors on both sides. The one that has open wires on one end will be needed later to connect the input and output jacks.
Check the panel and PCB and connect as follows:
- panel pin 4 to PCB pin 5
- panel pin 3 to PCB pin 6
- panel pin 2 to PCB pin 7
- panel pin 1 to PCB pin 8
Cut the single wire in 2 and solder it to the jacks as shown below. This is for the ground (GND) connection between the jacks. When soldering 2 pieces of wire to a single lug, it can help to make the solder connections in 2 different places on the lug to avoid the first wire coming loose when soldering the second one.
Next up, solder the remaining Dupont cable to the 3 solder lugs as shown in the photo below. Making sure that there is no accidental solder connection between the lugs. This could cause a short and a botched synth by doing so.
Which one is the ground (GND)?
If you are confused by what is what on the jacks, the GND lug on the power jack is pin 2 in the photo and the 5v lug is pin 1 (left photo). (thank you to neutral labs for clarifying this!). Also for reference, the GND lug on the audio jacks are the ones that connect to the sleeve of the plug and the signal lug connects to the tip (right photo).
The Dupont cable connects to the male header J1 on the PCB according to the following:
- audio out tip to PCB pin 1
- power jack pin 1 (+5V) to PCB pin 2
- power jack pin 2 (GND) to PCB pin 3
- audio in tip to PCB pin 4
As this can be confusing, it is important that you connect this cable in the right way. Using colors from the image above, the black wire will go to the top (J1 pin 1) and the yellow one will go to the bottom (J1 pin 4). Please note that your cable might have a different color scheme.
Elmyra Build Gallery
Testing and Completing the Build
At this point, you are done with the assembly of the neutral labs Elmyra. You can now plug in the USB power supply and test the synth by flipping the power switch down. If everything is working correctly, go ahead and place the washers and nuts on the switches and remaining pots. Throw on the knobs and use the 4 tiny black screws to attach the panel to the case and pat yourself on the back… you have completed the build of the neutral labs Elmyra!
Neutral Labs Elmyra - Final Thoughts...
First off, we LOVE this little machine! The aesthetics are beautiful and it is akin to the Lyra-8 in many different ways. Although, it is not as big and beefy as the Lyra, it packs a hell of a punch in a small size. We ended up getting rid of the USB power supply in favor of a power adapter, but be weary of this if you do not know voltage ratings and what to use or what not to use. Ours easily fits along side our big studio rack and is integrated in with a DC toggle switch, making it quick and easy to access.
What else do we love about this machine? Drones, drones and more drones. The Elmyra oscillators are gritty and rich making this synth a go to for background noise and meditation practices. Our only wish is that neutral labs would have made this Eurorack compatible so that we didn’t have to have an external machine sitting around. When partnered with its brother module, the NERMAL, these two machines by neutral labs are hands down some of the most brutal on the market today.
We cannot wait for the next module or synth NL releases… and you can guarantee that we will be picking it up and putting it to work immediately! 5 out of 5 stars on this one neutral labs… You nailed it.