Color Coding of Knobs, Inputs and Outputs

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AAG
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Color Coding of Knobs, Inputs and Outputs

Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 9:34 am

First post, so I'll start with an extremely brief introduction: I'm a Swede and I'm new to modular synthesis but not to synthesizers and music recording.

I am putting together an all-Doepfer 9U system, and I'm thinking about color coding the knobs and in- and outputs. The most obvious way would be one color for audio and one for control voltage, but I'm afraid that wouldn't be nearly colorful enough. One way to go about it would be one color for audio in, one for audio out, one for CV in, one for CV out... I'm also considering one color for knobs adjusting frequencies (but you do that on both control signals and audio signals, so it quickly becomes rather complicated), and one color for knobs adjusting amplitude or "amounts". The possibilities are endless, but having 10-15 different colors on my knobs would just be confusing, albeit pleasing to the eye.

Any thoughts on this? Or examples of successful application? Pictures would be lovely.

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Post by tony d » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:17 am

Hi AAG, The Serge system uses colored jacks to represent different ins and outs.Here is a quote from the faq section of the Serge-fans.com page:

Q: What is the color coding on the banana jacks?
A. Red is used for trigger signals, Blue for DC coupled signals, Black for AC coupled signals, and purple is used for sync.

Also Buchla uses a color coding and different types of jacks for audio and cv.Here is a quote from a Sound on sound article i found about the 200e:

On the 200e, the CV and timing sockets are colour-coded as follows: the CV inputs are black and grey, and the CV outputs are blue, violet, and green. The pulse inputs are orange, and the pulse outputs are red. There seem to be no differences between the colours used for CV inputs, and between those used for CV outputs, so I suspect that the multiple colours were chosen for nothing more than aesthetic reasons.

Hopefully these will give you some ideas

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:38 am

Thank you for the reply!

The Serge and Buchla systems are quite inspiring.

The hard part is where to draw the line in distinguishing between different kinds of signals when categorizing. There are LFO's that reach the audible, VCAs and mixers that we use for both audio and control etc. That's why I've been trying to think along the lines of frequency and amplitude/amount for knobs and in or out for sockets. It feels like any decision has to be a compromise, though.

The Buchla distinction of pulsed control signals makes some sense, by the way.

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Post by sduck » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:08 am

Here's neandrewthal's take on this - not knobs, but jacks and such:

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:16 am

The result is visually stunning. Where can I order colored socket nuts, or whatever they're called? Have been browsing around a bit to no avail. Not knowing what they are called makes it difficult...

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Post by sduck » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:20 am

neandrewthal himself will discover this thread soon enough, but I believe he painted them himself.
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a scanner darkly

Post by a scanner darkly » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:12 pm

BugBrand uses the following colour scheme:
Most signals can be thought of as either Audio (a sound source) or Control (a modulation source) - noting, of course, the bendable rules. For example, the output of VCO modules may be at a sub-audio frequency, or an envelope generator may run at audible rates. Banana connections are coloured and positioned to aid subconcious recogonition as follows:
Blue = Control Signal Input
Red = Control Signal Output
Yellow = Audio Signal Input
Green = Audio Signal Output
Can't post a pic as I'm on ipad right now but you can see examples on the web-site http://www.bugbrand.co.uk/index.php?mai ... ex&cPath=2 and in this thread: viewtopic.php?t=67037

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:20 pm

Thanks! That looks amazing.

I could use 4 colors for in/outs and the same color code on knobs somehow related to these in-/outputs. And perhaps a fifth color for knobs not directly concerning a specific in- or output.

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Post by Stereotactixxx » Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:52 pm

Hello fellow Swede. While I can certainly see the point of your vision, especially if you are in to the appearance, I also think it goes against some of the greatness of modulars in a way. You are about to discover that an output signal can be used in several ways in a system. I think it can therefore be mentally limiting to label an output as either audio, CV or trig. Some inputs are quite straight forward, like sync inputs (although you can certainly trigger it with a signal from a noise module). Others, like most mixer inputs, are made to work with any signal. Some modules have bidirectional inputs/outputs.

I'm not saying you shouldn't go through with your plan. I do think though that it would be wise to really explore all the possibilities of your modular and its components before committing to a color code.

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:10 pm

Hi there!

I totally agree with your concerns, and mentioned something along those lines in my reply to Tony D. The main reason that I want to change knobs and in- and outputs is aesthetic, I admit that. However, there could be a functional gain to it. The main reason is not to distinguish between audio and control, though - it just goes against the nerdy way I'm wired to change the colors in an arbitrary way.

One way to go about it is one color for "more or less"-knobs (input level, output level, volume, amount...) and one color for frequency related knobs (pitch, LFO frequency, cutoff) etc.

Sockets could be color coded three ways, I just realized: input, output, bidirectional. That's a good idea.

When it comes to knobs it's harder.

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Post by strettara » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:11 pm

Just buy loads of different coloured knobs and randomly stick them all over the machine.
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Post by 6.4 Billion » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:16 pm

I think it makes sense to keep it simple: one color for input, one for output.

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 08, 2014 4:35 pm

I agree with you on that. And one color for bi-directional stuff (multiples for example).

The knob bit is just so much harder to figure out. What strettara suggests might actually look pretty good, but I'm a bit too obsessive to take that route.

Posted two pictures of the system I'm constructing: viewtopic.php?t=1135&start=7660

I'm figuring wood, steel, aluminum and some spots of bright color will be very pleasing to the eye.

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Post by a scanner darkly » Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:28 pm

I agree that there is danger in steering you towards specific patching but if you keep it in mind it's not a big problem. I found though that its very helpful to track the patch when something is not having the effect you expected.

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Post by oscillateur » Sat Feb 08, 2014 11:09 pm

For knobs, one useful thing that Makenoise does for example is to have a different color for knobs that are basically attenuators for an input and for knobs that directly control a parameter in the module.

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Post by andrewF » Sun Feb 09, 2014 12:04 am

6.4 Billion wrote:I think it makes sense to keep it simple: one color for input, one for output.
Me too

All my panels just have Blue for inputs and Red for outputs. Different coloured knobs are just to show different modules.

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Post by neandrewthal » Sun Feb 09, 2014 1:20 am

sduck wrote:Here's neandrewthal's take on this - not knobs, but jacks and such:
Actually all the Rean Soft Touch knobs are color coded too. From pics I've seen they are also a great replacement for the fugly Doepfer knobs.
AAG wrote:The result is visually stunning. Where can I order colored socket nuts, or whatever they're called? Have been browsing around a bit to no avail. Not knowing what they are called makes it difficult...
They are in fact just spray painted as sduck says.


Here's my color scheme for the jacks:


Purple - V/Oct input

Blue - Control Input
Pink - Control Output (defined as any continuous voltage intended to be used as control more than audio)

Red - Logic Input (defined as any input with a comparator)
Orange - Trigger Output (any digital output intended to be used as logic more than control or audio)

Green - Audio Input
Yellow - Audio Output

Grey - Universal Processing Input (Any input intended either for processing control voltages rather than being controlled by them or any processing input equally intended for audio or CV
White - Universal Output

Chrome/Standard - Passive Multiple or Bidirectional Switch Input/Output


The knobs are a little more simple.


Blue = CV attenuator
Green = Audio attenuator
Yellow - Audio output level
Orange - Anything that affects logic outputs, not used often
White or big black knobs - Anything else

a scanner darkly wrote:I agree that there is danger in steering you towards specific patching but if you keep it in mind it's not a big problem.
I strongly disagree, at least in my case. By the time I've patched two things together I've already decided what I want to do whether it's use an audio signal as control or use a control signal as logic etc... The color just helps me find the jack I'm looking for faster.
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Post by AAG » Mon Feb 10, 2014 1:23 am

Thanks for all the replies!

As of now, I'm leaning towards making a rather "neutral" color coding of jacks - red, yellow and blue for in, out, bidirectional. I just have to figure out where to get panel nuts of the right size for the Doepfer jacks (no luck so far). Anyone know where to find them?

As knobs are concerned, I'm planning to use primary colors as well, perhaps divided into these three categories: volume/amount knobs, pitch/fq/speed knobs, other knobs (and the point is mainly to get more color on my panels without doing something totally arbitrary).

Those Nonlinear panels look beautiful, by the way!

And Neandrethal! Your last statement carries some weight. Perhaps there's not much reason to worry about inspirational and creativity block due to color coding...

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:10 pm

So...

Knobs are easy to find. Where do I buy colored panel nuts fitting the Doepfer jacks?

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Post by sduck » Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:38 pm

rustoleum

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Post by 6.4 Billion » Sat Feb 15, 2014 4:42 pm

If your system is all Doepfer, you might consider replacing them with banana jacks. Will be more involved, but you might like them better.

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 15, 2014 5:56 pm

@sduck: spray painting? Judging from previous pictures in this thread, it seems to work.

@6.4 billion: that seems like a lot of work!

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Post by sduck » Sat Feb 15, 2014 7:32 pm

AAG wrote:@sduck: spray painting? Judging from previous pictures in this thread, it seems to work.
That's how Neandrewthal did it. I think the trick is more than one coat, and sufficient drying time between coats, and perhaps some kind of clear coat on top.
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Post by TheBradster » Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:56 pm

strettara wrote:Just buy loads of different coloured knobs and randomly stick them all over the machine.
:lol: Don't attach the knobs to anything either :lol:

I tried colour coding for all of 5 minutes and gave up. Finding the right colour and cable length just wasn't my bag.

Neandrewthal's rig does look very pretty and Serge Buchla blah blah. I'd be interested to see how you end up going with your system.

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Post by AAG » Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:33 pm

Tack!

I've made up my mind about the coding issue. However, unless I find sufficiently good looking knobs and panel nuts (I don't want to spray paint them myself), I might just stick with the Doepfer knobs.

Input jacks: blue (roughly 100 of them)
Output jacks: red (roughly 100)
bistatic jacks: yellow (10 or something at most)

Frequency control knobs: red (about 30)
Amplitude/amount control knobs: yellow (about 100)
other knobs: blue (just one or two)

In the end, the system will have around 100 blue spots, 130 red spots and 110 yellow spots. Not primarily to make patching and turning easier, but to cheer me up and look nice without being totally arbitrary.

Lately I've been thinking of aluminum knobs as a more industrial looking alternative, though.

Have now spent hours trying to find where to buy panel nuts, but it seems impossible.

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