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School of Engineering

Students create analog synthesizer

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
In the course Music and the Art of Engineering, two students used new skills to build a complex instrument.
A synthesizer
Engineering students Zev Pogrebin and Sam Cohen created an analog synthesizer in an engineering course.

For Zev Pogrebin and Sam Cohen, both E22, working at the intersection of the arts and engineering was a natural fit. The students took EN-1: Music and the Art of Engineering and created an analog synthesizer from the ground up as their final project. 

The synthesizer was designed with the capabilities of digital devices and the sonic qualities of analog synthesizers. The final product, the DMASS synthesizer, is composed of three subsystems: a microcontroller that receives and processes input from the keyboard, and sends commands to the voltage controlled oscillator (VCO), which uses circuits to create a musical effect, and an output stage that amplifies the sound to an unbalanced line level.

To conceive of and finish the synthesizer, Cohen and Pogrebin utilized the novel engineering approach taken by Professor Jeff Hopwood. In the course, students were encouraged to design their instruments and implement those designs through hands-on learning. Using coding knowledge, circuit building skills, and audio concepts, the team created a device that illustrates their shared interests in music and electronics.