About FABModules

Welcome to our new website, FABModules.com —  brought to you by the same folks at FiveFish Audio!

What are FABModules?

FAB2010-TopViewFABModules (or FABs for short) are “FiveFish Audio Building Blocks.”  They are basically little electronic “widgets” that you can combine (like Lego blocks, or Erector sets)  in different ways to create your own audio signal processing unit.  Just like “Lego blocks”, they connect with one another easily, and lets you recreate proven designs (like preamps, equalizers, compressors, etc.) or build, invent or design-your-own thingamajig.

For example: Maybe you’ve dreamed of a preamp with parallel optical and VCA compressors, or  maybe you’re wondering what a preamp with a certain combination of Input Transformer, Amplifying unit and Output Transformer will sound like?

Or maybe you just want a simple gadget that will do one thing well or maybe you’re already racking or DIY’ing your own gear and just need a certain “module” to finish your project.

With FABModules, you can!

Audio Engineering… Then and Now

Back in the “golden age” of recording, we have people like Bill Putnam, considered “the father of modern recording.”  Bill was not only an accomplished songwriter, producer, businessman, he was also an audio engineer.  And by “audio engineer”, I don’t mean just a guy that sits behind the desk tweaking knobs – anybody can do that!  Bill, as an audio engineer, designed and built his own recording gear, echo chambers, the concept of “send and returns”, multi-band EQs, and world-famous 1176 compressors, etc.  He imagined, designed how these different components should function, and laid them out for use in audio recording.

We also have guys like Les Paul. Les Paul is not only an accomplished musician, but a great inventor and tweaker (or “modder” as it’s called now). He came up with a lot of many recording innovations,  like what we now call “overdubbing”, experimenting with delay effects, phasing, and multi-track recording.  Just to show you how brilliant Les Paul is, he tweaked (or modded) a commercially produced reel-to-reel tape recorder by adding an additional playback head before the built-in head that came with the machine, and this new feature allowed him to play along a previously recorded track.  Now, that’s audio engineering!

These guys didn’t just go to the nearest music store to buy the most expensive gear they could afford, or buy the gear that got the most favored reviews by their peer… nope… they built and designed their own gear! — for use in their own studios or recordings!

I think this is what is missing nowadays.  People nowadays just buy ready-made stuff. People nowadays are too quick to take out their credit card and buy the most expensive piece of gear they can afford that has the “fave-of-the-month” factor and given the most “thumbs up” reviews by anonymous forum posters.  It seems nowadays, the quality of your recordings/studio is judged by how “expensive” your signal chain is, you’re judged by wether you used so-and-so preamp, or used the latest AD converter designs from so-and-so.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying ready-made gear (After all, we do sell them at FiveFishAudio.com).  But I think modern engineers nowadays  should also have some idea or concept of how things work behind the scenes… or rather, how things work inside-the-box.  I think people should not just be content with buying ready-made gear, opening the box, removing the plastic and hooking up wires.

I think the joy and satisfaction in audio recording also comes from knowing that the audio passed through some gear/equipment that you built yourself (either as kits), or designed/invented yourself. If you need a certain kind of sound, you don’t immediately go out and buy another piece of gear, you modify/tweak/invent/build the gear that you need… to get the sound that you want… just like how Bill Putnam and Les Paul did back in the days.  To me, this is  “audio engineering.”  This is what Recording Engineers should be doing… not turning “virtual knobs” on “virtual instruments” on your computer screen.

FABModules – Hands-On Learning for Students, Recording Engineers, Hobbyists and DIY Tinkerers

And thus, the idea for FABModules was born.

FAB2010-FAB2110-SideWhat if there was an easy way for students, recording engineers, hobbyists to fiddle around, explore, play with audio on the circuit level?  What if people can build all sorts of gear they could imagine, or dream of — and make it as easy as combining “building blocks” as one does when playing Lego?  What if people can easily convert from a paper ‘block diagram’ to a real-world working prototype.  This is the goal of FABModules! I hope this could become a learning tool for today’s students, recording engineers, and even professionals, hobbyists and DIY modders.  And hopefully, not just a learning tool. I also hope people will use these FAB modules as building blocks in audio gear they design, build or invented.

The Road Ahead

We’re just in the “start up” phase, and I don’t know if this idea has any merit or will catch on.  But I’ll just plow ahead because personally, I think it’s a great idea.

My goal is to design at least (1) FAB Module a week (or two if it’s a bit more complex).  Each FAB Module will have a description, schematic diagram, block diagrams, and application notes on how you can use it in a project.  Schematics will be provided in PDF format on the site, along with PCB dimensions, hole locations and dimensions, etc.   I’ll also provide Application Notes, and example usage for our FAB Modules.

As our library and collection of FAB Modules grow bigger, the kind of  stuff we can build will also become more plentiful, and Application Notes and Example usage will also grow. Just visit this website for updates to see what’s new, or what’s cooking in the FABLab.

I also encourage Fabbers (i.e. people who use our FABs) to contribute, show, share designs you have built with our FABs. This will serve as an encouragement and inspiration for others wanting to build the same thing. You can answer questions, or ask questions from other users about your project.  I really hope this will become a community of Fabbers, with everyone learning and having fun.   I’ll setup a forum on this website for this purpose.

 Comments, Suggestions, Feedback

I love to hear your suggestions, comments, feedback.  Is this something you’d be interested in?  Is this something that can contribute to your personal growth and learning?

That’s all for now. Be FABulous!


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