Neon Indian’s mini synth and competition

We managed to get hold of one of chillwave pioneer Neon Indian’s mini analog synths a while back. It was so exciting, but the PAL198X came in bits and we wimped out of putting it together for far too long. The synth was designed by Neon AKA Alan Palomo and the wonderful Bleep Labs, and Alan held a competition for PAL sounds. A rainy Sunday afternoon in London and we set to work.



We interview plenty of people who circuit bend, make things and take things to bits, but hands up - we’re not such dab hands at electronics ourselves. Feeling brave and a bit weather-bound we got our screwdriver out.

First we slotted in two of the potentiometers (with knobs) and screwed them in. Potentiometers or ‘pots’ are voltage dividers that control electronic devices. The synth comes with three photocells (light sensors), three potentiometers and three slots. You can use different combinations. There are two oscillators (circuits that produce repetitive electronic signals) and two switches. Whatever you put in the third slot affects both the oscillators.

It was easy to clip in the 9 volt battery.

Next you have to add a 1/4” mono jack to make the synth switch on. We used a guitar cable into a vintage Carlsbro (read beaten up) guitar amp. It may not be the chillwave way but we’re sure Neon would approve of our can-do attitude!

We were amazed at the range of sounds. From a fat bass type growl, through to high pitched squeals and spacey echoes.

Next we changed the potentiometers for the three photocells. And made the synth play London daylight. Well greylight. Eventually sunlight. Bending the cells in different directions gave a wider range of tones when we moved the synth in and out of the light, and we waved our arms around like crazy. Here’s a little taste.

We found out there’s a ribbon controller add on, and it’s next on our shopping list. There’s more info on hooking up other controls at Bleep Labs.

Neon Indian ran a competition for PAL198X users - the best track was pressed up on limited edition 7” vinyl.

You can read our interview with Neon Indian and more about his kit here.