Bill and Will's Synth
MOTM 420 Construction
"MOTM-420 Voltage-Controlled Filter"


February 2009 -

We turned our attention to the MOTM 420 next for our recording of the "One Mad Track" album this winter.

We built our 420 from an old-style Synthesis Technology kit. For those of you who are building this as of "MOTM 2.0," see our notes below, and our 2.0 page here.

Table of Contents

This page has become really long, so here's a table of contents that we hope will make it easier to traverse:

Background - presents an explanation and Paul Schrieber's initial description of the Module with a photo

Parts - presents a Bill of Materials for "two-dot-oh" builders and notes about it

Panel - presents the MOTM format panel

Construction Phase 1 - Resistors, Capacitors, IC Sockets, Power Plugs, MTA headers

Construction Phase 2 - Trimmers, Panel connections

Set up / Testing

Use notes


Paul Writes:

The MOTM-420 is a switch-selectable LP/NF/HP (lowpass/notch/highpass) voltage-controlled filter. Using the same filter structure as the MS-20, the MOTM-420 has a unique "cutting" sound that is perfect for techno, acid, house, and other dance music. The VCF will over-drive/distort in all modes, and the resonance can be cranked into self-oscillation. The LP/HP slopes are -12dB/oct and the NF is -6dB/oct.

The MOTM-420 includes 2 on-board 3-channel mixers: one for audio and one for control voltages. This eliminates the need for a separate mixer module in most patches. Multiple MOTM-420's can be chained in series to exactly emulate the MS-20 filter (a HP followed by a LP).

Unlike the more common 4-pole LP filters, the MOTM-420 has a brighter, "glassy" sound. This is due to the selection of parts used, and the filter design. The VCF will alter it's resonance as the input amplitude varies. This was a "flaw" in the original design, but is the main reason for the sound!

The MOTM-420 has 3 separate audio inputs, that can take audio signals from any other synth, drum machine or sampler. By using a "direct box", you can run a guitar or bass through it. Use a voltage-out pedal for sweeps as you play.


OK - so - In 2008 (or about that time), Synthesis Technology stopped producing full-blown kits, and moved toward what Paul calls "2.0" (two-dot-oh) DIY. This assumes the builder will buy certain parts from Synthesis Technology - PCB, Panel, and in some cases a Special Parts Kit of the particularly hard to find parts - and will get the rest of the parts from Mouser or Digikey or - well - wherever.

For those who are building this as a "two-dot-oh" project, Will and I, with feedback and review from others, have developed a parts-list / bill-of-materials in the form of an XL spreadsheet (as usual).

Please don't take it as gospel. We've been over and over it and are relatively confident in our specifications - and we hear that several people have used it successfully so you should be good.  The BOM assumes that you get the "extra parts kit" from Synthesis Tech.  Synthesis Technology offers some parts like pots and knobs at particularly good prices... these options are offered in the BOM.

Click here to download our XL spreadsheet Parts List


If you're building this as a "two-dot-oh" project, we also assume you get the panel from Synthesis Technology:

Construction Phase 1

All the stuff in Phase 1 gets soldered using "Organic" Solder.  At every break in the action, we wash the board off to get rid of the flux.


After we've sorted and counted the resistors (part of the first step in building a kit is to account for the parts), we bag them separately to make them easy to find.  To see our handy-dandy Resistor Color Coding Chart, Click here.

resistors are in

Capacitors - ICs - Misc

Via Holes

Misc, ICs, and poly caps are in.  A note - we solder one contact of the ICs first. Then we make sure it's down on the pcb correctly and solder the diagonal contact and finish the other contacts up.
Construction 1 done.

Snack - Roast Leg of Lamb


Citrus Rosemary Marinade
1 cup white wine
2/3 cup OJ
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried Thyme
2 tbs chopped fresh Rosemary
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tbs olive oil

marinade over night - on rack in oven 425 degrees 15min then 350 degrees till done (thermometer 150f)

potatoes, brocs at the ready

roast done - smells amazing

grilling the potatoes - it's been snowing

cutting off the string

making gravy

served up!

Construction Phase 2

All the stuff in Phase 2 gets soldered using "No Clean" Solder.

Pots, Temco, Wires

the PCB mounted pots

time for the tempco resistor

just like that

so all the wires are in

Prepare the panel

ready for the jacks

the holes are a little too snug and the jacks won't fit so we're filing out the holes a bit

just like that


the mounting bracket

We start at the bottom corner nearest the bracket - the bottom right

Then we do the top one near the bracket - the top right

now the bottom-left

then the top-left

we put nuts onto the pots - just finger tight


slide the pots and bracket into place and screw down the bracket

nuts now go on the front of the pots

and the pcb gets tightened to the bracket

the nuts on the inside get tightened back against the panel where necessary

and the pot nuts get tightened
for more detail, click here

Wiring the switch


Panel mounted pots



wiring up the panel mounted pots

Mounting them to the panel

ta da!

Wiring the jacks

a bad jack - luckily, we've got spares


Construction Done


Set up / Testing

Use Notes


Bill and Will's Synth Main Page
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The fine Print:
Use this site at your own risk.
We are self-proclaimed idiots and any use of this site and any materials presented herein should be taken with a grain of Kosher salt. If the info is useful - more's the better.  Bill and Will

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