Better Car Audio With Guitar Effects

Automotive sound is a huge deal; for many people, it’s the place to listen to music. Back in the 80s, you were lucky to get anything more than two door speakers in the front of the car. Fast forward to today, and you can expect a 10-speaker system in an up-spec’d family sedan.

[Josh] has a car, and wanted to improve the sound. In particular, the aim was to improve the sense of space felt when listening. A car is a relatively small space, and the driver sits in close proximity to the front speakers, so it’s difficult to get a good soundstage.

[Josh]’s approach was to create a “surround” effect for the car stereo, by feeding a left/right difference signal to the rear speakers. This was achieved by the use of a series of op-amps that buffer and then generate a mono signal that represents the difference between the left and right channel. For optimum results, [Josh] wanted to delay the signal being sent to the rear speakers, with a longer delay making the soundstage feel bigger, as if reflections are coming from farther away in a bigger room. To do this, [Josh] simply hooked up the signal to a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay guitar pedal – an off-the-shelf solution to an otherwise sticky problem. The DD-3 gives [Josh] a variable delay time with reasonably high fidelity, so it’s a perfect way to get the project done quickly.

The final piece of the puzzle is a filter. The difference signal doesn’t actually sound all that pleasant to the ears by itself, especially when it comes to transient high-pitched sounds like cymbals, so a lowpass filter is implemented to cut these higher frequencies down.

[Josh] made everything adjustable, from the filter to the delay, so it’s simple to dial things in until they’re just right, rather than relying on calculation or guesswork. The general idea is to feed the difference signal into the rear speakers at a low enough volume and with a subtle delay so that it adds to a general feeling of being in a larger room with the sound coming from all around, as opposed to listening to very loud point sources of audio.

It’s a cool project that we imagine would be very satisfying to dial in and enjoy on the road. What’s more, it’s a fairly straightforward build if you want to experiment with it yourself on your own car. Perhaps your problem is that you need an auxiliary input to your head unit, though – in that case, check out this Subaru project.

Microcassette Recorders Become A Tape Delay

Long before audio engineers had fancy digital delays, or even crappy analog delays, there were tape delays. Running a tape around in a loop with a record and play head is the basis of the Echoplex and Space Echo, and both of these machines are incredible pieces of engineering.

Microcassette recorders are not, in general, incredible pieces of engineering. They do, however, have a strip of magnetic tape, a record head, and a play head. Put two of them together, and you can build your own tape delay.

The basic principle of a tape delay is simple enough – just run a loop of tape round in a circle, through a record and playback head, record some audio, and send the output to an amplifier. In practice, it’s not that simple. [dogenigt] had to manufacture his own tape loop from microcassettes, a process that took far too long and was far too finicky.

For a control circuit, [dogenigt] is using four audio pots and one linear pot for speed control. The audio pots are responsible for input gain, feedback, the amplitude of the clean signal, and the output of the signal after it’s been run through the delay.

Apart from being one of those builds that’s very dependent on the mechanical skill of the builder, it’s a pretty simple delay unit, with all the electronics already designed for a stripboard layout. You can hear an example of what it sounds like below.

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Making a digital delay from a simple microcontroller

If you’d like to start experimenting in DSP, or just want to build a guitar pedal, here’s the project for you. It’s an audio echo using just a microcontroller from the fruitful workshop of [Vinod].

For his circuit, [Vinod] fed the output of a small electret microphone into a small amplifier, and then into the ADC of an ATMega32. Inside the microcontroller, [Vinod] set up a circular array which writes the voltage from the microphone and sends it out to a speaker. Because the array is circular (i.e. it loops around when it gets to the end), [Vinod] has a digital version of a loop of magnetic tape, perfect for recording sounds and playing back echos.

Because [Vinod] is using an ATMega32, he only has a limited amount of RAM to record audio samples. The delay time could be lengthened with a more capable microcontroller, or even the addition of a large RAM chip. With his setup, [Vinod] can do some really interesting experiments with audio and DSP, so we wouldn’t be surprised if an enterprising musician used this project as the basis for a digital delay stomp box.

You can check out [Vinod]’s demo of his echo machine after the break.

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Flash trigger with programmable delay

Here’s a flash trigger with a programmable delay. These triggers are often used to capture quick events like a balloon popping. The technique takes place in a dark room with the shutter open. When the event is triggered the flash illuminates the scene and an image is captured. Because these require precise timing it has typically been a chore to synchronize the event, hence solutions like using a pressure plate.

This build, which centers around a PICAXE 08M, allows the photographer to use any trigger they desire, but adds a delay. The box above shows the apparatus set up for a 42 millisecond delay. So if you’re using the sound of the balloon pop as a trigger, you can hold the flash off until the event really gets going.

[Thanks Two Part Epoxy]

Tape delay made from recycled cassette decks

Professional tape delay units are great fun, but often expensive. You’d think that with so many derelict cassette decks filling the world’s dumpsters someone must have figured out a way to make a cheap tape delay… not only in the interest of saving money (sometimes quality is worth paying for) but also in the interest of re-using otherwise wasted resources.

Forosdeelectronica forum user [Dano] has made just such a device from used cassette decks and miscellaneous parts (translated). First he investigated the operation of the playback, erase, and record mechanisms and broke out the tape heads. The playback head is on a plastic rail so that the delay time can be changed, while the record head is fixed. [Dano] encountered some difficulties in ensuring good quality for the recording and erasure, which is an important consideration when working with magnetic tape.

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