Review of “Mecca” –

“The reviewer listened to signalsundertests first at the live-looping festival in Antwerp in 2010. They are 2 people, 1 guitar/effects/computer, 1 misc/chaos pad/computer, whereat the second one probably also had, besides the own sources, the output of the 7-string-guitar as an additional source for the editing available. Back then signalsundertests provided as number 1 an atmospheric, fragile and extremely exciting set which immediately enthused (or inspired) the reviewer. “Mecca” is now the first release and with the expectation to get this experimental cocoon from Antwerp on CD the first listening almost hits you like a shock: already the title track “mecca” advances with programmed beats. The sound spectrum is even extended by vocals (#3 “Pushpull“, #7 “Glisten“), beset with instrumental, ambient tracks without rhythm including a cutting from the Antwerp set.

In the majority of comparable cases this is (or can be) usually like the death sentence for an intrinsic and cohesive release. In the case of signals undertests it is indeed very surprising (if one like the reviewer previously only knew the performance from Antwerp) but completely harmonious. The central theme is on the one hand the atmosphere of the tracks, dark, rainy, almost a little bit alarmist, even in the warmer moments (by the sounds and applied harmonies) not without (tension), not rarely as a soundtrack for a conceptional science fiction or horror movie. On the other hand, there is a focus on soundaesthetics, actually on specific sounds, which appear in all of the 7 tracks and thus blur the boundaries between the single tracks which thereby finally merge in a large stream. And these sounds actually base upon the fragile cocoon which could be heard in Antwerp, which probably arises because of Ricky Graham, the man behind the collaboration project signalsundertests, who is editing his guitar in real time instead of using a conventional setup. It is a perfect tightrope walk between song/track/experiment/soundtrack/etc. released as a digipack CD with a fancy cover (the motif is also available on t-shirts). Highly recommended; Comprehensive listening on the website and video platforms, so no excuses possible.”

Translation by Uwe Lorenz

Original Review by N


Break Out Box DIY Kits – The Septar Board

The Septar Board – in collaboration with John Harding (Technician, University of Ulster).


The “Septar” board functions as a break out box for polyphonic audio pick-up systems for electric guitar (including those designed solely for MIDI application) to allow audio for each string. The following prototype has been developed with a newly designed circuit to improve audio output of piezo-based pickup systems (notably, the Hexpander by Graphtech Guitar Labs).

The Kits

The kits will be made available for purchase as a DIY kit, without housing, at a very affordable price. You can source housing on Ebay. Polyphonic audio software is under development in PureData and will be made available for free.


The Software

The software is a work in progress. Any suggestions or contributions welcome. Drop me an email at info   at rickygraham dot net.


Technical Specification by John Harding (j.harding at

The board features 7 independent channels, each channel consists of an independent circuit, based on vintage vacuum tube topology, which provides impedance matching by employing low noise and spectrally accurate Junction Field Effect Transistors (JFet’s).

JFets are well renowned in audiophile circles for their sonic qualities, low noise and graceful overload characteristics, similar in many respects to the more well known vacuum tubes. JFets provide solid bass reproduction whilst maintaining extremely high resolution, bringing out more details, sounding cleaner, clearer, and more natural than the best bipolar transistors, and even the best Telefunken tubes. Passive High Pass filtering and ac coupling is present and individual to each channel and the JFets are Biased as Class A devices to achieve maximum performance figures. It produces high impedance input of 2MegOhm allowing us to boost even the weakest signal. The result is a very clean, no gain, low noise output, with very low output impedance, essentially maintaining the low frequency content of Piezo Pickups, even when driving the signal over long cable lengths:


Each of the seven channels achieves a flat frequency response (+/-0.05dB) from 10Hz to 20kHz and minimal phase shift over approximately 10Hz to 30kHz.


 Since the entire circuit draws approx. 7 mA of current it can easily run on a single battery. Therefore you can expect two things: long battery life, and very low noise.



Price will vary with user specification. If you are interested in our proposed polyphonic audio break out kits, please send your name and email address to: info at rickygraham dot net and we will add you to our mailing list. You will receive notification when the kits become available.

For Posterity: Pure Data to Live – Phase 3

Pure Data to Live – Phase 3 from Ricky Graham on Vimeo.

The objective of this patch is to reflect a balance between salient musical cues, such as pitch, timbre, space, and time, during real-time music performance. This patch is still a work in progress. Pitch tracking is utilised in PureData to obtain string class data. The data is converted to MIDI note data (pitch and velocity). MIDI data is then recorded into a [coll]. In direct MIDI mapping mode, the user can simply associate MIDI notes with automation processes in Live. In random MIDI mapping mode, the recorded notes and associated DSP are recalled at random to allow an element of improvisation. The note sequence algorithm allows faster note sequences to cease DSP in Live, foregrounding pitch. The interval algorithm allows certain interval relationships to trigger CC messages. In this example, the CC’s are mapped to a variation of spatial gestures.

signalsundertests – “Mecca”

“Mecca” is the debut studio album by signalsundertests. It features seven tracks recorded throughout 2010, and feature contributions from artists from all over the world, including Japan, USA, Germany, UK, Ireland and Finland.

The limited edition CD is now available for order via Bandcamp, and will also be available at up and coming gigs in 2010 and 2011.


We also have a series of limited edition t-shirts available for order via Bandcamp.


We would like to thank the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for their support.


signalsundertests are also on MySpace and Facebook.