A Modular Game Boy Synthesizer

Euro

Synth heads and electronic music aficionados the world over love a good rackmount synth. These days, though, synthesis tends more toward small, digital, and ‘retro’ rather than the monstrous hulking behemoths of the 60s and 70s. [gieskes] might be ahead of the curve, here, as he’s built a Game Boy module for his eurorack synthesizer.

The software running on [gieskes]‘s Game Boy is the venerable Little Sound DJ (LSDJ), the last word in creating chiptunes on everyone’s favorite 8-bit handheld. As with any proper Game Boy used in chiptunes, there are a few modifications to the 1980s era hardware. [gieskes] tapped into the cartridge connector with a ‘repeat’ signal that provides slowed down, noisy signals for LSDJ. There’s also pitch control via CV, and the audio output is brought up to 10Vpp

In the video below, you can see [gieskes]‘ euroboy in action with a few Doepfer synth modules. There’s also a very cool pulse generator made from an old hard drive in there, so it’s certainly worth the watch.

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Time-lapse synthesizer build will blow your mind

diySynth
[themonkeybars] recently uploaded a time-lapse video of his DIY synthesizer build. First off the video itself is a pretty neat hack. An iPhone time-lapse app was used to capture one frame every 5 seconds. By the time the build was complete, approximately 46,000 frames had been snapped. This boiled down to over 43 minutes of youtube footage. [themonkeybars] didn’t work full time on the project, so the video covers about a year’s worth of work which we think makes it even cooler. The synth is also featured in much of the video’s soundtrack.

The synthesizer itself would be classified as an analog modular synth, a type we’ve seen before. Modular synthesizers are one of the earlier forms of electronic music. The synthesizer is composed of discrete modules such as oscillators, modulators, and filters. The modules may be housed in the same box, but they are not internally connected. All connections are made via front panel patch cables. This is where the term “Patch” came from. [Read more...]

Making a real instrument out of a Kaoss pad and ribbon controllers

swinger

MIDI guitars have been around since the 80s, and nearly without exception they are designed as direct, one-to-one copies of their acoustic and electric brethren. [Michael] has been working on turning this convention on its head with the Misa Tri-Bass, a MIDI guitar designed to be the perfect guitar-shaped synthesizer interface.

The tri-bass doesn’t produce any sound itself; instead, it’s a polyphonic MIDI controller with three channels controlled by three ribbon controllers on the neck. The body contains a huge touch screen divided into four MIDI channels, essentially turning this guitar into an instrument designed for electronic music first, and not an acoustic instrument kludged into filling an electronic role.

Unlike a whole lot of other digital guitar-shaped MIDI controllers, the tri-bass is actually made out of wood. Yes, the neck is made out of maple (inlaid with the three ribbon controllers, of course), and the body comes directly from a tree, with the styling inspired by a forgotten retro-modern design. It’s an impressive piece of kit, and we can’t wait to see [Michael]‘s handiwork in the hands of digital guitarists the world over.

You can check out a video of [Michael] rockin out below.

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Building a synth on a breadboard

synth

Building an analog synth is a challenge, but with the [Tymkrs] protosynth, it’s easier than ever. It’s a 25-key keyboard attached to a stack of solderless breadboards to make analog synth prototyping a snap.

Earlier, [Tymkrs] acquired a whole bunch of solderless breadboards and decided to put them to use by making a component-level modular synth. The earlier incarnation tied each key on the keyboard to a few wires behind the breadboard and tied them in to a shift register so they could be read with a Propeller dev board loaded up with a Commodore SID emulator. The new version keeps the very clean through-the-back keyboard connector, but this time the [Tymkrs] are adding a few more components that add a sequencer setup and a rotary encoder.

The eventual goal for this really cool breadboard synth is to explore the world of Moogs, Arps, and other analog synths easily on a breadbaord. The [Tymkrs] have already put together a breadboard-compatible low pass and high pass filter. While there’s still a lot of work to be done to make an analog synth a reality, the [Tymkrs] are off to a great start.

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Raspberry Pi synth gives a softsynth dedicated hardware

For all the musicians out there, here’s a great use for your Raspberry Pi. All the features you would expect from a nice analog synth are implemented in a Raspberry Pi-based polysynth – dual oscillators, LFOs, and phasers – and it looks like there will be a few more features added before the Raspi synth is released.

Even though the ‘synthesis’ part of the Raspi synth already sounds wonderful, getting MIDI on the Rasberry Pi leaves much to be desired. The creator of the Raspi synth thought about using the GPIO pins as a MIDI interface, but because the GPIO pins cannot run natively at 31250 bps (the MIDI spec), the Raspberry Pi has to waste most of its CPU cycles just listening for MIDI traffic.

Right now the Raspberry Pi synth is controlled by a USB-connected MIDI interface, and as you can hear after the break, sounds wonderful. We can’t wait to hear what this synth will be able to do in a few months’ time.

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Open source synth sounds awesome

A little bird sent in a tip about a really cool MIDI synth. It’s called the Ambika, and it seems like just the thing to introduce a synth head to the world of soldering.

Compared to an entry-level synthesizer like the microKorg or its ilk, the Ambika is packed full of really cool features that just happen to sound awesome. In addition to the basic saw, square, and sine waves, there is also FM, and wavetable synthesis along with a noise generator, rudimentary voice synth, and a bitcrushed sawtooth wave voice. Really, the sound demos (available after the break) speak for themselves.

The hardware is based on the ATMega644p, a fairly high-powered 8-bit microprocessor notably used in the Sanguino. This synth supports up to 6 voices, each individual voice is contained on a separate circuit board attached to the motherboard.

Of course, the schematics/board files/firmware for the Ambika are freely available along with a pretty amazing set of technical notes. There’s no word on how much the Ambika will cost, but having it available as a kit should make it palatable if you don’t mind spending a Saturday holding an iron.

Tip ‘o the hat to an anon for sending this one in.

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Why wasn’t this magnetic cello made in the 70′s?

[magnetovore] made himself an electronic cello. Instead of pulling a few cello samples off of an SD card, he did it the old school analog way. The finished build is really impressive and leaves us wondering why we haven’t seen anything like this before.

[magnetovore] uses a permanent magnet to play each ‘string’. A lot of details are in this post and [magnetovore]‘s provisional patent (PDF warning). From what we can gather, each string is a resistive ribbon sensor connected to a voltage controlled oscillator. The output of the VCO is sent to a variable gain amplifier that is controlled by a coil of wire and the magnetic ‘bow’.

From the video (after the break), [magnetovore] already has an amazing reproduction of the cello sound. It’s a bit electronic on the lowest parts of the C string, but with a little bit of processing it could definitely pass for an acoustic instrument. We’re left wondering why we haven’t seen anything like this cello before. VCOs and VGAs were the bread and butter of the old Moogs and even the ancient ondes martenot. Ribbon controllers were being attached to electronic instruments back in the 50′s, so we’re really at a loss on why a magnetic cello is new to us. If any Hack A Day readers have seen anything like this before, leave a message in the comments.

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