Building a synth on a breadboard


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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Synkie: the modular synth for video

The folks at [anyma] have been working on an analog video processor called Synkie for a while now, and we’re amazed a project this awesome has passed us by for so long.

Like a Moog or Doepfer synth, the Synkie was developed with modularity in mind. So far, [anyma] has built modules to split and combine the sync and video signals, and modules to invert, add, subtract, mix, filter and amplify those signals. The end result of all this video processing produces an output that can look like a glitched Atari, art installation, and scrambled cable station all at the same time.

The Synkie’s output reminds us of the original Doctor Who title sequence, and actually this idea isn’t far off the mark – both use video feedback that will produce anything from a phantasmagoric ‘flying through space’ aesthetic to a fractal Droste effect visualization. We’re impressed with Synkie’s capabilities, but we’re astounded by the [anyma] crew’s ability to control a video signal in real time to get what they want.

Check out a video of the Synkie after the jump. There’s also more footage of the Synkie in action on the Synkie Vimeo channel.

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A 555 Synthesizer

Inspired by the memory of a childhood electronics kit, [Frank] decided to make a new 555 Synthesizer and enter it into the 555 contest. [Frank’s] remake is played with a stylus, and sports an attack and release envelope circuit, housed in a quick but effective acrylic case.

Using a single 555 timer, a hand full of capacitors, two transistors, and a healthy dose of resistors and potentiometers, the sound is quite impressive thanks to optional filtering, enveloping, and a lot of fine tuning. Full schematics, bill of materials, formulas, and board files are all available along with sources for some of the more specialized potentiometers.

Join us after the break for a ~13 minute long video, which is pretty cool, as it shows the device from prototype, and does some fast forward action though to the final product pictured above, though if you just want a demo of the 555 synth fast forward to 10:44

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Fun slide whistle synth toy


[Dino] recently sent us some info on his latest project, a 555 timer-based slider synthesizer. The synth was built to emulate the sound made by playing a slide whistle, and also as an entry into the 555 Design Contest, which is quickly coming to a close. If you’re not familiar with a slide whistle, just spend a few minutes on YouTube looking for clips of Sideshow Bob – it’s ok, we’ll wait.

The circuit is pretty simple, though the implementation is quite clever. While traditional slide whistles require the user to blow in one end, this electronic version operates using a LED and photo cell. When the main switch is closed, the 555 timer is activated, and a tone is produced. The pitch of the tone is controlled by the LED as it slides in and out of the tube. The more light that hits the photo cell, the higher the pitch, and vice versa.

Continue reading to see a quick demonstration of [Dino’s] slide synth, and be sure to check out his other 555 contest entry we featured a short while back.

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