FAQ and Design Philosophy

The Walking Stick's Design Philosophy

The motivation behind the Walking Stick was to create a simple yet elegant control voltage (CV) ribbon controller that feels and responds like an inspiring musical instrument.  It was important that the design remain small and self-contained, and be equally at home with both portable (fixed-architecture) and modular analog synthesizers.


Technology Questions

Q1:  Does the Walking Stick require the use of a power adapter?

Yes.  Previous models used TRS connectors and could receive power from certain synths via the ring connection.  This alternative power option was not retained in the present design, mainly because the CV processing in the controller interface is optimized to work best with a 12VDC power source.

All three CV outputs on the latest Walking Stick incorporate 3.5mm TS jacks.

Q2:  Why is the gate output activated by a momentary switch and not via the ribbon surface itself?

Inspired by the expressive nature of stringed instruments, the design offers the ability to control note articulation with one hand and pitch and inflections (pressure, bends, vibrato, etc...) with the other.  In some ways, this is similar to the early ribbon controllers of the 1960s-70s - which used a capacitive touch-plate running adjacent to the ribbon to manually assert the trigger signal.  

The Walking Stick's gate is activated via a high-quality, low-bounce pushbutton and/or "latch" toggle switch... but it also offers the option of using the ribbon's pressure sensor to generate a gate signal directly from the ribbon surface if desired.  In addition, the various slew settings can be applied to the pressure sensor to create delayed gate effects - providing even more flexibility in triggering musical events.

Q3:  Why doesn't the Walking Stick incorporate track-and-hold on the ribbon sensor, to "remember" the CV upon release?

The gate implementation described above enables manual control of an envelope release cycle.  When the gate pushbutton is released (signaling note-off), the performer's other hand can still hold the ribbon position at pitch until the envelope cycle completes, adding subtle vibrato, a glissando, etc...  In other words, the Walking Stick responds in a manner similar to that of a stringed instrument (most of which also lack track-and-hold-like behavior), and this affords a level of expression not as easily achieved with ribbon controllers that are designed to respond more like a synthesizer keyboard.

This design approach also has the ancillary benefits of reducing cost, complexity and size/footprint of the controller.

Q4:  What are the implications of the Walking Stick's passive design?

The Walking Stick is geared to be simple and effective, and as such the CV interface is a passive, proven design with roots back to my early controllers.

The interface is optimized for the typical high impedance load presented by the CV inputs of a synthesizer.  Whether connecting directly to a portable synth or daisy-chaining the CV outs to multiple destinations in a modular synth, the Walking Stick performs flawlessly.

When using the controller with a modular synth, any aggregate voltage drop that may result from chaining a CV output to multiple destinations can either be compensated by (re)adjusting the built-in attenuators, or simply leveraging devices within the modular (active multiples, CV processors, DC-enabled mixers, etc...) to buffer the outgoing CV prior to routing.

The high impedance load also helps keep the power solution simple.  Unregulated DC adapters work just fine with the Walking Stick due to the low current demands.  

In unregulated power adapters, the DC output is typically processed through a full wave rectifier and filter capacitor.  That filter cap gets charged in short bursts and discharges into whatever circuit load is attached.  Due to the low current draw of synth CV inputs, the cap does not discharge as fully as it would under heavy load, and the resulting voltage drop between charging pulses is negligible.  This equates to an insignificant amount of power ripple, and stable CV outputs from the ribbon's interface.

Of course, switched-mode regulated wall-wart supplies can be easily obtained and used as desired... but these are by no means mandatory.

Sales and Service Questions

Q5:  Why are Walking Sticks priced such as they are?

The price reflects cost of materials, labor (upwards of 3+ hours per unit for enclosure builds, finishing, assembly, testing and logistics - packing, shipping, customs forms, etc...), taxes, and operational costs (website, hosting, payment processing fees, auction site fees, and so on...).

Q6:  Why do you not offer DIY kits?

Psionic Soundworks is a single-person operation, and simply not equipped to provide adequate support for the complexities of the build process. Offering kits complicates the ability to provide consistent product support.

Psionic has chosen to focus efforts on providing excellent quality turnkey products, and exceptional customer support for these products.

Q7:  May I pre-pay for a unit in an upcoming batch?

Generally, no.  Psionic will fund and finish the build cycle of an entire batch, test, and prepare the units for shipment prior to making any inventory available for sale.

If you wish to express interest in an upcoming batch, please register and use the site's "wish list" feature to be notified of new stock as it becomes available.

Q8:  May I order a Walking Stick with customizations?

For the most part, Psionic is not equipped to support customizations.  Builds are typically done in small batches, and managing custom orders complicates and slows down this (already slow) process.

Custom finish options are sometimes possible (assuming unfinished enclosures are available in the batch). Cost varies depending on the time and materials involved, and so please inquire for specifics.  Note that this is the only circumstance in which advance payment may be required.

The electronics implementation is PC board-based, and the front panels are already machined in bulk; therefore, customizations to the Walking Stick's interface circuitry cannot be easily entertained.

Q9:  Are earlier versions of the Walking Sticks able to be retrofitted with new electronics/features?

The earlier units had a very economical space and route for the control surface and cavity, and will not accommodate the current electronics or front panel.

The new design attempts to be a bit more "future proof", in that the new controllers have a large route for the electronics.  Being that the panels are machined consistently, it may be feasible to offer a retrofit service in the future if/when new versions of the interface circuitry become available.

Shipping Questions

Q10:  Are there shipping costs, and what specifically do these cover?

Yes.  Shipping costs are calculated upon checkout based on your location, and on the size of the parcel - typically a 3x30" shipping tube for ribbon controllers.  Please note that it has become extremely expensive to ship to most International destinations.

The cost covers materials (shipping tubes, packing material, etc) and carrier costs.  USPS Priority Services will be used for both domestic and (when purchased direct - not via Ebay) International shipping, as this service provides adequate levels of tracking and insurance.  In some cases, UPS may be used for shipments within the CONUS.

Q11:  Will you under-declare or not declare the value of the item when shipping abroad, so that I can avoid paying import duties?

Sorry, no.  The practice of falsifying customs forms is illegal... it exposes Psionic to risk, and prevents insuring the shipment for its actual value - for protection against loss or damage.

Please be aware of any duties your Country's Customs Department may levy on imported goods - as these are solely the responsibility of the buyer.