I need someone to explain this to me.

Your first Digital to Analog Converter build

Have you ever built a Digital to Analog Converter before? This is a circuit that can take the 0 or 5V coming off of several digital logic pins, combine them together, and spit out one analog voltage that represents that value. If you’ve never made one, here’s your chance. [Collin Cunningham] over at Make put together another lab video about DACs which we’ve embedded after the break.

The circuit above uses an R-2R resistor network – often called a resistor ladder – which you can learn much more about from the reference page that [Collin] links to. Although a DAC in an IC package is by far the most commonly found application, we do see these R-2R networks in audio hacks from time to time.

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Halloween Props: Voice-changing Daft Punk costume

[Dr. West] shared his Halloween costume with us; a Daft Punk inspired voice-changing helmet. He stared with a motorcycle helmet, cutting out a hole in the back for a sub-woofer speaker. Inside there’s an old computer mic and the amp circuitry for a portable stereo system. An Arduino is used to pick up the wearer’s voice from the microphone and perform the digital signal processing. Once the alterations have been made the signal is sent to an R-2R resistor ladder to perform the digital to analog conversion, and onto the amp for broadcast. Hear the result in the video after the break.

The rest of the helmet is window dressing. He found some kind of auto-body repair product called flex-edging to use as metallic hair. Those fins are accented with strings of red and blue LEDs. The faceplate finishes the look using speakers from the stereo system and a tinted visor.

He wan’t going for a replica, but we think his creation would be right at home with the look of the original.

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PIC programmable power supply

This programmable power supply is the perfect addition to your bench tools. [Debraj Deb], who previously built a whole house power monitor, designed this build around a PIC 18F4520 microcontroller. The desired voltage is set with an attached keypad, resulting in a digital output on the 8-bits of port D. The port connects to another protoboard with an R-2R digital-to-analog converter resulting in the target voltage. A set of transistors amplifies the current and a power transistor then takes care of the final output. After the break you’ll find two videos, the first walks us through the hardware and the second demonstrates the device in action, along with measurements of its performance. This certainly provides a lot more functionality than an ATX power-supply conversion.

Update: A big thanks to [Debraj] who sent us a code package as well as the schematic (PDF) used during testing. We’re having trouble getting the code package up for download right now. Check back later, hopefully we’ll have it up soon.

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Atari 2600 recreated in an FPGA

Behold [Retromaster's] field programmable gate array implementation of an Atari 2600. The processor and video chip have both been built in the 100,000 gate Spartan-3E FPGA, with connectors for audio, video, and a Sega controller. The output signals are generated using two DACs made from R-2R resistor ladders, much like the project we saw in August. [Retromaster] included functionality for the system switches (difficulty and select) in the controller itself. There is VHDL code and board details available if you want to make one of your own. To help in making that decision we’ve embedded video of it after the break. [Read more...]

Building a discrete digital-analog-converter

Want to take back control of how your digital audio files become sound? One thing you can do is to build your own digital to analog converter. This one is made from discrete components, centered around a resistive ladder. Yes, there are a couple of integrated circuits in there which are used for demultiplexing the incoming signal but the magic happens in that R-2R network. The project is an interesting read and makes a point of looking at the issues raised when trying to precision match resistors. Apparently it can be done with 0.1% components if you have a lot of them and a multimeter that can measure down to seven decimal places.

[Thanks Bigbob]