MIDI And Vintage FM Synthesis

FM

Before the days when computers could play and record audio that far surpassed the quality of CDs, sound cards were very, very cool. Most audio chips from the 80s, from the Commodore SID is pretty much a synth on a chip, but you can also find similar setups in ancient ISA sound cards. [Emilio] pulled one of these cards with an ADLIB OPL2 chip on it, and used a PIC micro to create his very own FM synthesis synth (IT, translatatron, although Google is screwing up the formatting).

The Yamaha YM3812 chip, otherwise known as the OPL2, was a fairly complete synthesizer in a very tiny package using FM synthesis for some very unique sounds. Once [Emilio] had the PIC sending commands to the sound chip, he added MIDI support, allowing him to play this vintage ‘synth on a chip’ with a keyboard instead of a tracker.

Judging from the video below, it sounds great, and that’s with [Emilio] mashing the keys for a simple demo.

[Read more...]

An Audio Based USB Oscilloscope and Signal Generator for $20

SoundScope

Are you interested in building a 20kHz 2-channel oscilloscope and a 2-channel signal generator for only $20 with minimal effort? Be sure to check out [Jan_Henrik's] Instructable that goes over how to build this awesome tool from a cheap USB audio card.

We have featured tons and tons of DIY oscilloscopes in the past, but this effort resulted in something very well put together while remaining very simple to understand and easy to build. You don’t even need to modify the USB audio card at all. One of the coolest parts of this build is that you can unplug your probe assembly from your USB audio card, and bring it wherever your hacking takes you. After the build, all you need is [Christian Zeitnitz's] Soundcard Oscilloscope program and you are good to go. One of the major downsides that is often overlooked when using an audio based oscilloscope, is that it is “AC coupled”. This means you cannot measure low-frequencies (including DC signals) using a sound card. Be sure to heed [Jan_Henrik's] advice and do not use your built in audio card as an oscilloscope. With no protection circuitry, it is a sure fire way to fry your computer.

What analog projects have you built around an audio interface? We have seen such an interface used for many different applications, including a few fun medical related hacks (be sure to keep safety your first priority). Write in and let us know!

From reference design to USB sound card

[Entropia] decided to try his hand at rolling is own sound card. He picked out a DAC chip, started his prototyping by studying the reference design from the datasheet, then went through several iterations to arrive at this working model.

He chose to base the board around the PCM2706. It’s a digital to analog converter that has built-in USB support; perfect for his needs. It’s got a headphone amplifier, but is also capable of putting out S/PDIF signals for a digital amplifier to pick up and use. Not bad for a part that can be had for right around eight bucks.

The first PCB he designed had a few electrical and footprint errors. But he was able to get it to run by adding some point-to-point jumpers, and bending the legs of his capacitors to fit the board area. With those issued accounted for he ordered a second batch of boards. These went together nicely, but the headphone output was incredibly loud. Turns out the filtering circuit had the wrong resistor and capacitor values. Changing them around, and swapping the audio output so that the correct channels were patched to the audio jack brings it to the first release version seen above.

Sound card driven servo motor

[Darrell] is using a sound card to drive this servo motor. The motor draws power from a cellphone battery with the control signal coming from one of the audio channels. It’s not too surprising that this works since the motor just needs a PWM signal to operate and that’s what is used to create the different frequencies of sound on electronic speakers. We’re not sure what [Darrell's] got planned for this system but he mentions that two servos can be used, one on each audio channel. If you’re not using your sound card this would be a way to stop using the Arduino for that mail checker and just use a little flag attached to a servo. When mail comes in the appropriately engineered sound raises the flag.

Lucid dreaming

When we saw [merkz] use of an Arduino to produce lucid dreaming we were quite shocked. Unlike typical setups that just flash a light through sleep, his system monitors eye movement through electrodes and is able to send the data to a computer for graphing and analyzing.  The only problem being we couldn’t find a circuit diagram or code.

Not ones to be shot down so quickly, a Google revealed this thread on making ‘Dream Goggles’, which was really a Brain-Wave Machine based on the parallel port. Some modifications of an ECG collector’s electrodes using sound cards, and you could have your own lucid dreaming.

[Thanks Phil]

Collect and analyze ECG data

ecg

Although we’ve covered DIY ECGs before, [Scott Harden] sent in his version that gives an in-depth explanation of what to do with the collected data. He built a basic battery-powered op-amp-based ECG for under $1. The circuit just amplifies the signal from the chest leads and feeds it into a computer via the microphone port. He then used GoldWave to record, filter, and save the signal. From there, he used python to analyze the heartbeat and calculate his heart rate and further manipulate the data. His previous blog posts go into more detail on how the python code works and why he chose software over hardware filters.

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