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Dreadbox Lil' Erebus

Dreadbox Lil' Erebus

4 4 out of 5, based on 1 Review

A brief writeup of my build experience, and first impressions of the Li'l Erebus, an awesome little synth kit from Dreadbox.

11th May 2018

Dreadbox Lil' Erebus by supertwang

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Dreadbox Lil' Erebus

I just bought and built a (Desktop version) Li'l Erebus and can try to answer any questions. It is my first Dreadbox synth. I -love- the sound of it - it has a lot of character! The delay is especially gorgeous.

This is my first synth with any kind of modular patching, so I'm kind of flying blind on how that all actually works. Case in point, not entirely clear what is an input, vs what is an output, and what the format (trigger vs cv) each is generating or expecting, and most-importantly, can I damage the thing by connecting it wrongly? I can figure out some of it from the front panel, but some is still mysterious to me. If anyone out there who is more familiar with modular, or with the Li'l Erebus could enumerate all of the modular patch points with their expected polarities (in/out), and formats (cv/gate), it'd be a service to (me and) all the others building this kit.

As far as I've seen there is still no operational manual, just construction manual(s). I've seen it written that some have assembled the thing in 4 hours, but it took me about 8-10, over two nights. I am not new to soldering, but was also being pretty casual about pace.

A couple of caveats/recommendations:

1) The construction manual is very good, as are the PCB labels, but I did find two cases (I forget which offhand, one cap and one resistor if I remember correctly) of their stated part counts being off by one. Instead there seemed to be extra parts in the kit, BUT also the places to put them on the board. I just plopped them into place and everything seems to work fine. So, if you find extra parts, make sure there isn't a spot for them on the board, before omitting them.

2) The envelope allows for different capacitor values that determine how quick it is. Instead of soldering in the capacitor directly, I'd recommend soldering 2pins of header sockets, and attaching your cap by pushing it into the sockets. That way you can swap in different values without resoldering (pretty easily - just remove front panel) to try out different envelope speeds. I put mine on the top of the board, but I'd recommend the bottom, that way you wouldn't have to remove the faceplate to swap out the caps. If you want to get fancy, I supposed you could put a switch engaging the different cap values right on the faceplate.

3) I have to admit, soldering the ICs was a little stressful -- knowing that I could fry them if I took too long. For pure peace of mind it might be worth extra IC sockets for those ICs where they aren't provided. [Check the build manual for what those are]. In my case, I just lowered my soldering kit to ten degrees under the approved max temperature, and worked as quickly as I could, allowing time to cool between solders if things took longer than expected. It all worked out fine.

I still haven't done the calibration steps. These are not explained well in the construction manual. I'm really not quite sure how to do them. If anyone could explain, I'd really welcome it. (Probably as a result) I am finding it quite hard to tune the Li'l Erebus to my other synths, and also the square oscillator to the saw internally. I also find that the tuning can be affected when I crank the filter, or the delay to certain ranges. Hopefully this isn't an issue with my build, but rather with my lack of calibration (thus fixable), or due to the "Joys" of analog -- quirky, but characterful audio circuit behavior. Does anyone have a guess? Also probably as a result, my Li'l Erebus is still a little "Clicky" at certain settings.

Here's a sonic exploration of the sound of the synth:
Lil' 'Rebus Sings [First sonic impressions of the Dreadbox Li'l Erebus] by lumin8 | Lumin8 | Free Listening on SoundCloud

I hope this helps anyone else out there interested in the Li'l Erebus. I'd rank this kit and synth as a solid "A", especially for anyone who wants a boutique analog synth voice with a lot of character for a low-ish (for analog) entry price and is willing to put in some solid hours soldering. If you'd rather not do the soldering, I hear great things about the Behringer Model D at a similarly low price point.

My only dilemma with this awesome little synth after Superbooth 2018, is that I love it so much that I might need to sell it, lol, and buy the full Erebus 3! I'd love to have those full filter+vca envelopes, and the (seemingly easier, pre-calibrated) tuning.

  • 3

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