Chiptune instrument from NES

[Jarek Lupinski] wanted an instrument that would let him play chiptunes live, without a need for pre-programming a cartridge for playback during a concert. His preferred hardware is an original Nintendo Entertainment System because of its familiar nostalgic sound. After picking up a lot of 5 broken NES units he set out to build a midi-compliant device.

The five NES units he bought had nothing wrong with them other than the 70-pin cartridge connector. He fixed them all, then de-populated the board on one and tried to build out a circuit on a breadboard. After much trial and error, forum searching, and conversations with others who were familiar with the hardware he got the circuit working. He’s posted a schematic and had a board fabricated which takes the transplanted chips and transforms them into an instrument. Check out the test notes being played by an Arduino Mega after the break.

Comments

  1. IX says:

    Gah! I was working on pretty much the same thing.

  2. embedded says:

    aha.. 2A03 Nintendo chip :)

  3. Dan says:

    A nice start, but I want to see the finished project back in the NES case. A good goal: MIDI-in right next to the mono audio-out with no other connections required. That’d almost be something you could sell to people…

  4. zool says:

    this is great news

    but i’m wondering why he would use the 2A03
    but then wants to make a cart with it?
    i thought it was going to be it’s own thing

    wonderings: if you can just make something like that that accepts midi
    or something like that where you can change the parameters of the sound
    do you have to use arduinomega

    i want to do this
    i’m glad he’s documenting everything and making it open source

  5. jarek says:

    i started with the 2A03 because the original idea was to stuff the entire thing into an electric keyboard to have a synthesizer you can play anywhere. It was only after discovering that 2A03 chips were scarce, and people don’t like tearing open their beloved NES’s that I decided to port it to a cart form factor.

    I only used an Arduino Mega for the proof of concept, the final will probably use an STM32 with multiplexers.

    Have fun! The underlying theory is really complex XD but with a bit of reading at nesdev.com you can figure it out too.

  6. blue carbuncle says:

    dejavu. I was at http://www.wayfar.net/0xf00000_overview.php They have midilines but a possible 8 week wait lol. Neat item though.

  7. zool says:

    @jerek i remember seeing a high res image of the midines board somewhere
    i can’t remember where but i’ll keep looking
    dunno if it would help at all though

  8. P says:

    Time to combine this with my Midibox SID…

  9. R4 says:

    This is just great! While you can “emulate” a chip tune sounding instrument or istruments, there’s nothing quite like the real thing!! Hats off to you buddy!

  10. Conner says:

    It seems that the lower the pitch, the higher the distortion.

  11. TechnoirBard says:

    Would it be possible to use an NES Powerglove as the instrument keys for a chip-tune NES? I think that would be perfect. The Hexadecimal buttons and full nes pad, right on your arm. I love the Powerglove, it’s s… oh nevermind.

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