XK-System (community project) > General Discussion

Question to all forum members - project direction (participation requested!)

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Artur D'AssumpÁ„o:
Hi guys,

I am addressing to all of you asking for your comment on the following subject. I can't stress enough the importance of your contribution since we've reached a critical stage of the project and have to make crucial decisions, some with no returning point.


As you may well know from recent news we have finally concluded our Beta 2 version for the VCA consoles. We're are still testing it on a real console, but we are very confident we've finally reached a very good & high quality hardware design, which, after much testing in a real production environment,  will eventually be tagged as the final 1.0 version. The next phase, starting in the following weeks, will port this same architecture into the Ultimation systems. 

Through the several beta versions we've worked on we were able to try out several architecture approaches, some less complex in terms of hardware but which didn't delivered the performance and features we were hoping for. This latest design is the best of what we could achieve being restricted to trough-hole technology. Despite this limitation, no corners were cut and it fully accomplishes our initial goals, meeting all the hardware/feature requirements we've planned. Unfortunately this comes at the expense of a slightly higher component count and real-state usage (card size), when comparing with the earlier simpler designs or if we've opted instead for SMD technology.


- please refer to the images attached below -


The VCA I/O card ended up with a component number close to 210 (including connectors). It may seem much, but in our experience it's a very easy and straight forward card to assemble, since most components are very simply laid down (next to each other), and many of them are ICs anyway. Despite this, they are a total of 210 and if you have a system with 8 of these cards we are talking of assembling 1680 components just for the I/O section.

Although much much simpler, there will be also the Total Recall+Keyboard+Transport card (this one is also much smaller) and the Motherboard (which is more like a back-plane connector with a few components) to assemble. The Ultimation I/O card will be also a bit simpler (less components) than the VCA I/O card, but similar in terms of complexity.

Now that we are finally able to show you how a final through-hole card is going to be, it's much easier to assess the complexity of the entire DIY project, considering the complete set of cards a system will need and the effort necessary to assembly it.

Knowing this information, we believe that at this stage it's an obligation to ask the entire community how they feel about this. Is this a project you, as future clients, will be willing to handle as a DIY project? Or, would you instead prefer we abandon the DIY goal and do it as a ready-made system (using SMD technology)?

I know this goes out of the initial project motivation, but we believe it's paramount to reach out to you all and hear what you have to say about it before we pursuit any further. This way we can decide knowing that whatever decision we take will meet the overall forum opinion.

For us eventually moving to an SMD route will have a big impact in terms of business model, capital investment and commitment. So it's very important to get this right from start.

Please be as complete as possible in your comments and reasons behind your opinion. Also lets not be shy to rise questions and start a discussion if necessary. Anything that help us steer in the right direction is welcome.

Thank you,

Project Manager

Artur

sintech:
My opinion, itís always going to lean towards the original workflow, ha:

From a commercial stand point, SMD is the way forward. Trough hole is great from a DIY point of view, and that only helps a very small amount of people. (DIY, like DIY computers appeals to one kind of person)

If you consider it as a product, itís ability to run the original G 4.10 software and act as a modern 1:1  plug and play replacement, will only go in itís favour... people like CLA, Clearmountain, just want to run in auto pilot., and they have to be your target customers

Iím customer number 1

A lot of new people donít get the G software, and how it makes records.. itís about feeling the music, and reacting whilst in the zone, and not tinkering with a mouse!, to looking for a fader in PT, that breaks you out of the zone!

Lot of alternatives solutions, seem to loose features to the original, which is vast.

Itís ability to be open source is a bonus., and new software will be attractive to new users and maybe people that donít have a computer.

I do wonder how well other solutions are doing commercially? (hereís the competition)

Pelleís I liked, but it lacked Recall at the time.

The Tangerine system, is VCA controlled via midi, they didnít put up a convincing video, showing the interface in actionÖ itís very similar to the a Wizzer system offered in the late 90ís that did banks of 8 VCAís to midi, scalable. I wonder how many studios bought that?

Dramastic, maybe showed the product doing just recall over three years ago.. and then nothing., I put this down to the magnitude of writing an automation system from scratch.

matt:
Hi Artur,

although I don't have a 4K (yet), if this all was for my 5K these are my thoughts on this :

I'd compare the time to spend for soldering, testing, debugging (my soldering) assembling and such against the cost of a SMD solution that could be manufactured by a machine in larger numbers more easily (?).
Although possible, I don't want to solder SMD.
So if I want to DIY, SMD is not an option.
But if the number of requested boards could be manufactured maybe in China or such for small(er) money at a good quality (althogh these two thigs might cut each other out), the price per I/O board would drop to a number where it doesn't make sense (to me) to DIY anymore.

What would be helpful in such a comparison are prices for eacch of the options.
Could you help with that ?

So finally, I'd opt for a machine manufactured I/O board (due to its complexity and number of boards needed) and have the rest of the boards as a DIY option.

Another question is how do I repair something if a board brakes ?
With SMD I'd probably have to replace the whole board whereas with the DIY board I could swap an IC easily especially if I chose a socketed IC layout.

So, for me personally, it finally comes down to a price discussion.
And it's hard for me to really value what you guys already put in in terms of time and money for your R&D ......

Regarding the larg(er) base of the 4K / 6K / 8K consoles and that every owner could use this computer, I think it's best to prepare for a larger amount of cards needed to get back some ROI for you developers. If the cards are not too expensive, they're accepted by more people and such more 'motivation' will be send back for further development.

Just my 2ct

Matt

marcmozart:
Hi Artur,

I very much like the work you guys have been doing. My vote is for through-hole, it's be easier to service and repair if anything ever breaks.

Also, I think most people who run an E/G-console have some DIY-skills, otherwise you can't keep them running economically.

The "market" for this product is non-existing. It's something enthusiasts are doing for and with enthusiasts.

Just my 2 cents...

Artur D'AssumpÁ„o:
Hi guys,

Thanks for all the replies so far. Just to clarify, this discussion is only to access what path should we take regarding the hardware format (throughole-DIY or SMD-non-DIY). Regarding the software our commitment is still the same, we intend to pursuit the same workflow of SSL so the transition to the new system is seamless to the user.

Here are the pros and cons of Throughole-vs-SMD for this project as I see it (in no particular order):

Throughole:

* It's intended only as a DIY solution;
* We won't be able to provide a fully assembled system due to assembling cost - assembling is the user responsibility or a third party that wishes to make some extra ÄÄÄ;
* Serviceable - easy to troubleshoot and replace any component;
* More real-state (cards are bigger) - PCB price point is higher, but the rack capacity is still the same size, either SMD or Throughole makes no difference;
* Higher price - DIP/through-hole components have a higher price. Due to more PCB real-state,  PCB size is also more expensive. Price ratio can potentially reach 2:1.
* lower packing, handling and exporting fees - in the limit we can provide only PCBs, microcontrollers and a few selected components, while the user purchases the rest of the BOM directly from electronic suppliers (ex: mouser or farnell). Exporting to US is as easy.
* lower investment necessary - We just need to manufacture the PCBs we need and provide the materials necessary (leaving the rest to the user). For SMD we need to rent a pick & place and build a minimum amount of fully assembled cards to make it viable.
* No competition - with this format we will not be competing with the other solutions.


SMD:

* Non-DIY solution - system sold as any other off-the-shelf product;
* lower component count - with SMD we can take advantage of more modern technologies which pack more features in one single IC, reducing the total number of components necessary;
* cheaper technology - taking advantage of newer IC technologies translates to a cheaper cost overall, we believe we can get a ratio of 2:1.
* smaller PCBs necessary - reduces price of PCB
* virtually non-serviceable - service is much more limited in SMD
* higher packing, handling and exporting fees - we need to ship the entire system, fully assembled and tested. Europe is not problem, US might be though.
* much higher investment - this means we need to commit to a minimum amount of fully assembled cards to make it viable.
* competition - we will be competing in the same league as the rest of the solutions, confined to similar business models, market risks, market rules and competing options.

I know much of this is from a business point of view. Although we didn't enter this project to get rich or make money, we also don't want to loose and at least pay for the personal investment, so we have to consider all these angles.

By the way, I am curious, how much would you be willing to pay for a full system? (consider also if it's DIY)

I would love to hear your thoughts... 

Cheers,

Artur



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