Audio Builders Workshop "Learn to Solder" Kits Now Available at CrowdSupply

July 22 2020, 02:10
We received a notice from audioXpress author and good friend Brewster LaMacchia that the two learn-to-solder kits designed by the Audio Builders Workshop (ABW is an offshoot of the Boston Audio Engineering Society section) are now available for purchase online at CrowdSupply - a crowdfunding organization and website helping creators fund and launch products that people can build themselves and customize at will. CrowdSupply and their parent company, Mouser have been great supporters of ABW, and it was just natural that the entities would team up to offer the kits.

In October 2019, AWB launched the kits at the AES Convention in New York (see a report by Gary Galo here) where a packed workshop of people from high schoolers to seasoned pros built the metronomes. Now everyone has a chance to build their own metronome and low pass filter from these kits at home. The expertise of the Audio Builders Workshop educators and designers also means that these kits come with comprehensive documentation, allowing anyone to start with and finish with a working circuit!

The ABW Metronome Kit and Low Pass Filter Kit were designed specifically with education in mind. Basic audio gear is a great vessel for hands-on solder education because builders can see and hear the results.
The Audio Builders Workshop booth at the 2019 AES NY show. Pictured is Brewster LaMacchia (left), from the Audio Builders Workshop and founder of Clockworks, the company that designed these two learn-to-solder kits.  

Learn to Solder by Building Audio Gear
The Audio Builders Workshop (ABW) is a program that works to provide educational opportunities for anyone to learn more about audio. To encourage musicians and audio engineers to build their own gear, ABW started to run build sessions for everything from microphones to guitar effects pedals. The promoters quickly realized that while people were interested in building their own audio gear, many were intimidated by the cost and/or complexity of the projects.

That’s when they developed these low-cost, simple kits based on audio - to allow people to gain confidence to tackle commercial DIY audio kits. The kits work well for individuals as well as in group build environments.

The Metronome Kit is the easier of the two and the one suggested for group builds with people who have never soldered before. The final result produces a steady beat with a wide range of tempos. The kit offers a LED (flashes), speaker and 1/4" phone jack as output methods. The switch allows the speaker to be shut off, allowing use of the LED or line out for cases where the speaker noise would be problematic. The circuit is powered by a 9 V battery. The PCB is a single-sided board, which means that if the builder makes an assembly error, unsoldering components is easier than with the typical two-sided board.

An experienced person can build the kit in under 20 minutes. During group build sessions, most people finish in 90 minutes, with a few going to two hours.
The metronome kit on top and the low-pass filter kit underneath (not at scale).
The Low-pass Filter Kit includes all the components needed to create an analog audio effect capable of processing audio in real time. The analog audio effect in the spotlight is an adjustable resonant low-pass filter. Similar to what we would hear from a synthesizer or a DJ, the filter adds texture to existing sound, instruments, music, microphones, and more. With a bit more experimental effort, this kit can be an avenue to explore other filter shapes or even a self-oscillating voice, producing its own audio to pull users into the crafty world of making electronic music.

The knob (potentiometer) controls the cutoff frequency of the filter. This controls the range of high frequencies allowed to pass to the output with a narrow boost at the end of this range.

The Audio Builders Workshop included an instructor guide to be used to lead classes and group builds, when that is possible to happen again. Quantity multi-kit packages are available for those group build initiatives. 

The Audio Builders Workshop (ABW) is part of the Boston section of the Audio Engineering Society and works to provide educational opportunities for anyone to learn more about audio. While nominally many of those activities take place in the Boston area, ABW volunteers are found worldwide and ABW has supported events in Boston, across the US, and most recently in Europe, during the Prolight+Sound show in Frankfurt.

CrowdSupply now handles procuring the parts for the kits and all sales and distribution.
Clockworks offers source files for these kits - available here.
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