So our Fenix IV is out! We presented our prototype at Superbooth and opened up a waiting list (more info).
For us presenting our prototype at Superbooth was a go/no go point. To see if designwise we could be ready with a production prototype or at least a functioning prototype AND to see how people respond to it.
During Superbooth many of you have played with our Fenix IV and your responses were beautiful – which is exactly what we needed to continue. One of the best comments was that the speed and scope of this project was “Inhuman” and Robin of Molten Music calling our Fenix a “magical playground” perfectly describes what we are aiming for. Divkid, GearSlutz, Perfect Circuit Audio, SynthAnatomy and others made demo videos and interviews (see our Fenix playlist). We were also still exploring our own instrument and sometimes happily surprised with what other people made of it. A very important benchmark for us it that those who touched it, liked it. During and after Superbooth you have said YES to our Fenix – at this moment there are almost 100 on our waiting list. With your blessing, we continue.
Unfortunately, we did not manage to get fully production ready but the prototype we had was functional and is almost exactly what we are going to produce. Lots of parts like our metal casing, new intermediate size knobs and the bamboo sides arrived only a few days before Superbooth. In the last 48 hours we blew out one of the circuits on the big board and had a change of heart about the setup of one of the filters, changing some things around Frankenstein-style. The beauty and horror of a deadline really focuses the mind and the work. Some rearranging on the inside is going to require at least one more prototype – which will hopefully be our production version. Close.
On the current prototype are some areas that require improvement:
1) The multiband filter is going to change. The original plan was to have a triple Jupiter filter but we have decided against this as it is not “Formanty” enough. So now the plan is to replace this with a digitally controlled analog Formant filter with 3 or 4 bands, which we are still designing.
2) Overall layout improvements. Some rearranging of a few knobs, LEDs and jacks. Of course keeping the Fenix-flow throughout, and the current clustering of modules.
3) Some extra knobs. One more for the digital oscillator to make more of the inside controllable on the outside and one more knob on the noise box for similair reasons.
4) New power delivery for better stability and lower noise floor. At some points on the board the 3.3Volt line dipped to 2.7Volt – we are not having that.
5) Part optimization: replacing the parts we use with their best possible package of price, performance and availability. We currently have 255 different parts, which is a bit much for most pick-and-place setups, we hope to halve this number.
6) We’ve done another round of fine-tuning with master builder Bert Vermeulen which has lead to many improvements in sound by showing us his calibrating of his Fenix II circuits. This gets rather complicated with 50 trimpots. Ordering and ranges have been established. We also talked through the consequences of our Fenix IV having a lower system voltage than the Fenix II. We further optimized some of the circuits to improve patching between the modules on the Fenix IV and between our Fenix and outside eurorack modules.
7) Revisiting the circuit routing and rerouting and improving this.
After testing new circuits on small boards we are going to do another Big Board (always, always test changes in hardware in the actual setup). Which means another two-weeks of hardcore soldering by Stijn. We are now aiming to have all this ready and poured into a production prototype before Dutch Modular Fest at the end of September.
Almost all of our Fenix is known and we can start ordering parts and rearranging our basement to make room for what is going to come. With great bunches of knobs per Fenix we can now order podmeters made to spec, for all the jacks we are looking at coloured rings and we can get stacks of chips made. Soon we will be visiting our friendly metalworkers to discuss some optimization of the case – these are the same guys that made the cases for Fenix I, II and III.