Ken MacBeth Interview

I just read an interview with Ken MacBeth in the new Future Music. The whole article is really competitive-sounding, just shy of trash talking the others coming out with new synths. But the comment that really got to me was when he said that through-hole construction is superior to surface mount technology. He says it gives the synths a “rounded and bold sound - that has its nuances and to a small degree, unpredicability.”

Please, someone clue me in. Isn’t a resistor a resistor whether it’s really really big or really really small? Does the roundness of wire really translate into the roundness of sound? WTF?

This is like Joe Satriani or whomever saying that the prefer the sound of lithium 9V batteries in their stompboxes.

It’s well known, through-hole gives a more 3-dimensional soundstage, more contour and liveliness, and more musically pleasing high-end. Especially when coupled with those clever little clocks.

Even super classic synth companies (Oberheim, Moog, Buchla, DSI) are using surface-mount parts…

I don’t know whether this guy believes in it or is just trying to hype his stuff. I just find it unhealthy to spread such myths about audio/engineering/electronics. There’s little room for magic in audio electronics - there are tricks, “good finds”, but things behave according to the law of physics.

The whole through hole versus SMD debate really has the DIY community in flux.

I don’t think the MIDIPal sounds as good as the Shruthi-1, so there must be something in it :slight_smile:

Whenever I see that clever little clock page I am filled with a certain foreboding sense of dread, like staring into a black hole.

There must be a reason why Rupert Neve skipped Integrated OpAmps and replaced them by single Sided PCBs (although SMT) or SSL uses 120V Rails single Sided PCBs. I must admit the last SSL console i saw and heard sounded significant better than my MX-8000 ;). Theoretically the shape, material, size and routing of a Trace on the PCB has an effect on sound ask Olivier for exotic Ground Plane Problems. A piece of Copper is always a Resistor and a Capacitor and influenced by the various Parts around all happily oscillating and generating Electromagnetic Fields… But i doubt if i could measure it (say Hello to old Mr. Hameg…) or even hear it (Hi Mr. & Mrs 1030a…).

So the roundness of Sound from round wires has something to do with Electrons being Spheres, hence they better travel thru Curved rather thru Edges - logical, huh? And don’t forget to use PCBs made if layered Ebony, coated with Copper refined from Meteorites found in the Arktis (guess what this 4-Pole Mission Station is for…), Polished with virgin Fairies Pubic Hair at Full Moon. And don’t forget to paint your CDs edges with a Spechíal 65€ Marker, i can sell one to you…

SMT must squeeze the electrons and make them misshapen whereas the big round wires in through-hole allows the electrons to pass freely without affecting their size or shape.

Now you got it - its the same reason Surfers wear these Bermudas.

@fcd72 Great minds… I couldn’t type it fast enough.

I’m never buying anything from him because of this. I’m serious. The whole article is a boatload of bullshit.

It’s like these people who use mega expensive audio cables, gold connectors etc when the chips inside are connected with lead and etched copper LOL.

I believe it’s Moore’s law that states that eventually we will run out of electronics because you can only squeeze an electron so much before it explodes. We are nearing that point.

BTW Titus - is there any Link to that Interview?


I can’t find a copy Googling and there isn’t a copy on the DVD. :frowning:

Maybe you should subscribe and then you can pay for your monthly load of lies and pretty pictures just like I do?

I wonder if it was taken out of context, or if it was just a simple error. Perhaps he meant discrete vs integrated? That would make more sense perhaps. I should track down a copy and read it all…

Either way, he’s making some top notch analogue synth hardware these days. There must be some sense in the man somewhere.

And hey, it could be worse… I’ve seen people swear blind that different brands/blends of solder alloy can sound different to each other too. Crap like that you can find on the GS forums nigh on every day!

Or hard drives having a different sound. Or some piece of software having better sounding summing than another one.

Ahh but Olivier, this is where you are wrong.
Proof that different drives sound different to each other.

That 5 1/4" floppy cranks out da mean bass, yo!

To be honest, it’s not just the music business. I have heard “expert” testimony in open court that data on unplugged hard drives will move around by themselves. It’s as though when you turn off your computer, the bits have a party and the hungover ones may not return to their former places in time…

There is no end to expert bullshit or bullshit experts I’m afraid.

I’m going to type the question and answer in so you don’t have to worry about ME quoting out of context at least:

Q: Any features borrowed from your bigger synths?

A: All the synth designs that I do are based around this idea: if you use the same parts that were used in the vintage machines, there is a high chance that the sound will be extremely similar! And what I mean by this is the actual way the equipment is put together.

The use of surface-mount parts is widespread in all forms of electronics these days. Surface-mount parts are tiny precise components that fit on the surface of the printed circuit board. I still have my equipment built using the old method, known as ‘through-hole’. the resistors, capacitors, diodes, transistors and integrated circuits are through-hole technology. I do believe the sound that MacBeth synths have is down to the use of through-hole parts.

All this gives a rounded and bold sound - that has its unances and to a small degree, unpredictability.