Circuit Bent SAW III Memo Recorder

On August 8th, at the Handmade Music Austin #10 we will be circuit bending the SAW III Memo Recorder. Since I spend the event helping participants with the project du jour, I thought I should do one first. Here it is:

Dr. Bleep did the design for the project, which is based on a 2008 post on GetLoFi. I recommend you read their documents. I won’t repeat it all here, since my own embellishments are limited to:

  • Mounting the LED differently, so that it sits flush against the case
  • Adding an audio input jack, just because
  • Adding trigger and pitch resistor jacks, so that I can plug in my photocell-in-a-plug and hook it up to the Bender Sequencer, both of which can be seen in the video
  • Putting vinyl stickers on the case, so it has a finished look and because I love to play with the digital cutter

This is the unmodified unit.

SAW II Memo Recorder

This is what it looked like after modding and before reinserting the guts.

This is the finished unit.
Bent Saw III Memo Recorder Top

This is the back of the unit showing the jacks. Uh, yeah, I meant to space them unevenly.
Bent Saw III Memo Recorder Back

For anyone attempting this project, I have some thoughts. Be careful de-soldering the surface mount timing resistor. I guess there is a first time for everything. This wasn’t the first time I de-soldered an SMT part, but it is the first time I ripped a trace off in the process. Good thing I had two of the recorders. The wires that connect the mic, speaker and battery holder to the board are not well soldered. I can almost guarantee they will come off during the operation. No worries though, just strip them and solder them back on. It is a lot easier to work with the board if you remove the mic from its little hole. However, they use a lot of glue, so it may take a bit of scraping to get it off. I had to use an X-Acto knife and tweezers. I actually created some unintentional touch points. Because the jacks I used are metal and are grounded, touching the trigger jack plus either the speaker or mic jack plays the recording. The SAW III Memo Recorders come from All Electronics for $2 each. They have had them for a few years now. They must have bought a truckload of them.

Lots of people across the Web have bent these things, so there are plenty of other mods and advice out there. The sound quality is pretty low, but who cares. Next time I perform at Carnegie Hall, I’ll probably leave it at home. However, it is a great noise-music instrument, and a fun project.