Polyphonic FM Synthesizer uses ARM

There seems to be a direct correlation between musicians and people who can program. Even programmers who don’t play an instrument often have a profound appreciation of music and so we see quite a few musical projects pop up. [Ihsan Kehribar’s] latest project is a good example. He married an STM32F031 ARM development board, an audio codec, and a simple op amp filter to make a playable MIDI instrument. Of course, it is hard to appreciate a music project from a picture, but if you want to listen to the results, there’s always Soundcloud.

He’d started the project using an 8-bit micro, but ran into some limitations. He switched to an STM32F031, which is a low-end ARM Cortex M0 chip. [Ihsan] mentions that he could have used the DSP instructions built into larger ARM chips, but he wanted to keep the project done on minimal hardware. The audio CODEC chip is from Cirrus Logic (a WM8524), and it produces two output channels at 192 kHz. As an unexpected benefit, the CODEC uses a charge pump to generate a negative voltage (much like a MAX232 does) and [Ihsan] was able to tap that voltage to provide the op-amps in the audio filter with a negative supply rail.

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Gitaar van Schroot – The Scrap Metal Guitar

Sheet metal. Beer cans. Pieces of chain. Not items you’ll typically find on the BOM for a custom guitar. But nobody told [Maarten van Halderen] that, and so he threw them all together into a gitaar van schroot, or scrap guitar for the Dutch impaired (YouTube link).

The video shows the build process, starting with plasma cutting and welding sheet steel for the body. The neck is fabricated from rectangular steel tube, with nails serving as frets. Overall it looks like a Les Paul, except for the sink strainer basket mounted in the sound hole and the crushed beer and soda cans tacked to the body for decoration. The chains are a nice touch too. And this doesn’t appear to be [Maarten]’s first attempt at scrapyard lutherie  – toward the end of the video we see that the beer can axe joins a very steam-punk looking older brother. They’re both good-looking builds, and the video after the break proves they can sound pretty good too.

For a more classical take on the building of string instruments, check out this post on mandolins and violas. Or maybe you can just 3D print your next guitar?

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A Sound and LED-tastic Tricycle Shopping Cart

What do you get when you take a massive number of LEDs and combine them with a shopping cart and a bicycle? An awesome rave-mobile created by [kramerr]. He’s even taking it one step further by making the electronics solar powered.

[Kramerr] controls the LEDs with multiple WS2803 LED drivers. Three PIC18F4550s control the WS2803s over SPI. He devised a neat way of exciting the LEDs from music by using a pair of graphic equalizer display filter chips, MSGEQ7s, to drive the PICs to create patterns. A USB input also allows the PICs to display song titles or other information.

leds and boards

The mechanical design is as impressive as the electronics. The rear half of a bicycle is welded to the frame of the shopping cart with the cart’s handle used for steering. The shopping cart’s rear wheels are replaced by small bicycle wheels.

But [Kramerr] wasn’t done. He built his own solar panel since he couldn’t find one to fit the size requirements. The panel consists of 26 cells connected in series to provide 1A at 13V on a sunny day. A solar charge controller keeps a standard 12v lead acid battery ready to power the tricycle cart.

And there is still more! There is a sound system driven by a Raspberry Pi. The Pi also drives the USB inputs when [Krameer] wants to display song titles or artists instead of the audio patterns.

There are at least four hacks in this project each worthy of applause. [Karmeer] deserves an ovation for doing all of them in one project. If you are looking for less bling and less pedaling may we direct you to this powered, riding shopping cart.

Some rave music and lights via video after the break.

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1Wamp, An Open Hardware Guitar Amplifier

The folks at [ElectroSmash] recently released 1Wamp – a one watt, open hardware, Guitar amplifier packed with features. It consists of a JFET based pre-amplifier, a Big Muff Pi a.k.a BMP based Tone control and an LM386 power amplifier. The dual JFET pre-amp provides tube-like sound, the BMP provides a nice tonal range while the LM386 can drive various types of output’s ranging from headphones to speaker cabinets.

1Wamp had controls for Tone, Volume and Gain, a Speaker/Cabinet output, a headphone output with an integrated attenuator switch and an aux. input. The aux. input is handy as it adds any line level input signal to the guitar sound, allowing you to practice with metronome or MP3 backing tracks or drum bases. It runs off either a 9V battery or can be powered via an external power source. [ElectroSmash] have released all the native KiCad design files. If you’d like a quick look at the design, check out the Schematic PDF and the Bill of Materials. There’s also a handy assembly manual [PDF] that shows how to build it in five easy steps.

Their blog post provides extremely detailed circuit analysis of every part of the design, starting from the power supply filter to remove mains “hum” all the way through to PCB layout considerations for noise reduction. Oscilloscope screen shots provide signal analysis showing bias points and signal levels throughout the circuit. The choice of value for every component is explained, along with the consequences of changing those values. This makes it easy to customise the 1Wamp to suit individual tastes. We also noticed SPICE models for the recommended and alternative JFET transistors, in case you need to customise the design by changing component values.

There’s also a lot of audio amplifier trivia, references and links shared in their post. This includes a detailed analysis of the LM386 op-amp. Want to add some bling to your 1Wamp build? There are a lot of handy tips on how to add cool LED lighting to the amplifier if it is mounted in a standard metal enclosure. However, the PCB has some really nice graphics, so an acrylic-sandwich-type enclosures look best. Check out the video that walks through the features of the 1Wamp and shows off its performance. And while on the subject of Audio electronics, here’s one of their earlier projects – an open source Arduino guitar pedal.

Documentation to this level proves several things, most notably a love for this design and deep consideration for those who will use and modify this amplifier. It’s a great pattern to follow with your own Open Source designs.

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This VU Meter is Built Into the Speaker

Depending on the music you’re listening to, watching a VU meter bounce to the music is always a good time. So why not integrate the VU meter right into the audio source? That’s what [Matikas] did, and it’s pretty fantastic.

He started with a pair of speakers he had and picked up some NeoPixel LED strips. Carefully wrapping the LED strips around the inside circumference of each speaker, the LEDs fit behind the speaker grills, giving it a cool effect when they’re on.

To control the LEDs, he’s using an Arduino Uno (Atmega328p) which measures the audio level in order to modulate the LED output. A bit of software later (shared on GitHub if you’re interested!) and the VU meters were ready for action — check it out!

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Start Gaming Early with IKEA High (Score) Chair

If you want your kid to be really great at something, you have to start them out early. [Phil Tucker] must want his kid to be a video gamer pretty badly. [Phil’s] build starts with a $20 IKEA high chair. He likes these chairs because at that price point, tearing into them isn’t a big risk. What’s more is you can buy extra trays so you can use it as a modular project with different trays serving different purposes.

The chair has two joysticks and two buttons, looking suspiciously like a video game controller. The current incarnation (see video, below) uses an Arduino Uno to trigger an Akai MPC1000 synthesizer via the MIDI interface.

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Turntable Sequencer Keeps the Techno Beat

We’ve got to admit, we don’t have any idea what to call this hack. Artist [Graham Dunning] refers to it somewhat dryly as the “Mechanical Techno method”, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. We’re thinking “Turntable-sequencer-synthesizer-beat-box-dub-stepper thingy. With cowbell.”

Call it what you will, but [Graham] has really gone the distance in extracting as much sound as possible from the humble turntable, which is used as more of a synchronizer than a sound source. Although it does play records too – at least part of them; [Graham] masks the grooves and anchors the tone arm so that only part of a track is played. Other records are masked with conductive film over which wiper contacts are placed, providing triggers for various synthesizers. Particularly clever is the mechanical percussion section; a record is cut radially to form cams that mechanical followers trip over periodically to hit either the cone of a woofer for bass notes, or a cowbell for – well,  cowbell.

It may not appeal to everyone, but you’ve got to admit there’s something mesmerizing about watching this rig in action. The beat is pretty catchy, and as you can see in the live performance video after the break, there’s a lot of room for [Graham] to express himself with this instrument. We wouldn’t mind seeing how Compressorhead would put this rig to work in their performances either.

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