Homebrew guitar tuner also includes MIDI out

A few years ago, [Frédéric]‘s brother in law wanted a guitar tuner for Christmas. Instead of going out and buying one, [Frédéric] broke out the soldering iron and built one from scratch.

[Frédéric]‘s tuner is built around an ATMega168 uC on a Real Bare-Bones Board with an LM386 amplifier. The display is a standard 20×2 LCD character display, and the interface is torn from the pages of stomp box schematics with a very hefty foot switch.

Detecting the frequency of a note played into [Frédéric]‘s tuner involves a fair bit of math. To measure the frequency, the Arduino samples the waveform coming from the input jack. This signal is delayed for a fraction of a second and the area underneath the real and delayed waveforms is measured. This delay slides across the original waveform until the area between the real and delayed samples are minimized. At that point, delayed wave form will be exactly one cycle behind the real signal, and the cycles per second can be calculated. It’s called the YIN algorithm, and you can read more about it here.

Since [Frédéric] already knew the exact frequency being played into the tuner, he figured it would be trivial to add a small analog audio to MIDI converter. This feature (as shown in the video after the break) turns the sounds from a guitar into MIDI notes. It’s monophonic and probably a little superfluous, but still very cool.

[Read more...]

Digital TV converter reverse engineering

Back when broadcast television was first switching over from analog to digital most people needed to get a converter box to watch DTV broadcasts. Remember that abomination that was “HD-Ready”? Those TVs could display an HD signal, but didn’t actually have a digital tuner in them. Nowadays all TVs come with one, so [Craig] found his old converter box was just gathering dust. So he cracked it open and reverse engineered how the DTV hardware works.

The hardware includes a Thompson TV tuner, IR receiver for the remote control, and the supporting components for an LGDT1111 SoC. This is an LG chip and after a little searching [Craig] got his hands on a block diagram that gave him a starting place for his exploration. The maker of the converter box was also nice enough to include a pin header for the UART. It’s populated and even has the pins labeled on the silk screen. We wish all hardware producers could be so kind. He proceeds to pull all the information he can through the terminal. This includes a dump of the bootloader, readout of the IR codes, and much more.

Oscilloscope Piano Tuning 101

fft on scope

[Todd Harrison] recently wrote in to tip us off on his submission to the Tektronix oscilloscope contest – using a scope to tune a piano. In his video he demonstrates how a Fast Fourier Transform can be used to determine the fundamental frequency of the note being played. This is a quick and easy way to determine if that key is in tune, and if not, how far off it is from the desired frequency and in which direction.

He goes on to explain that a scope can only be used as a starting reference point since “mathematically correct” tuning on a piano doesn’t sound right to the human ear. It turns out that when struck, the stretched wires in the piano behave less than ideally. In the case of a piano, the overtones (the other peaks shown on the scope higher in frequency than the fundamental) are actually slightly sharper (higher in frequency) than the expected harmonic whole-number multiple of the fundamental frequency.  As a result, the frequency ranges of each octave must be “stretched” in order to accommodate this and sound correct when multiple notes are played together across octaves.

Typically, only the A4 key is actually tuned to its correct frequency of 440Hz and all of the other keys are manually tuned off of this baseline. The amount of necessary stretch applied to each octave increases as you get further away from this initial reference point in either direction and is unique to each and every individual instrument – thus there is no universal device capable of perfect tuning. Although [Todd] admits that he won’t attempt to tune the entire piano himself using this technique, he finds it a convenient way to keep the most heavily played center sections of the piano closer to true between professional tunings.

If you have any interesting or unique uses for your Techtronix scope, you can enter the contest here. Just don’t forget to tip us off too!  Thanks [Todd]!

RGB stroboscopic guitar tuning

This is [Michael Ossmann's] RGB LED stroboscopic guitar tuner. If his name is familiar that’s because we mentioned he’d be giving a talk with [Travis Goodspeed] at ToorCon. But he went to DefCon as well and spent the weekend in his hotel room trying to win the badge hacking contest.

Despite adversity he did get his tuner working. It’s built into a toy guitar that he takes on road trips with him. By adding a row of RGB LEDs between two of the frets he can use the vibration frequency of an in-tune string to flash the three different colors. If the string is not in tune the three colors will dance around but matching it with the LED frequency produces a stable color. He then uses that big yellow button to advance to the next string. See his demonstration after the break.

This is basically a built-in plectrum tuner that uses one LED package instead of two.

[Read more...]

Intel: High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection cracked

Intel says that HDCP has been cracked, but they also say that it’s unlikely this information will be used to unlock the copying of anything. Their reasoning for the second statement is that for someone to make this work they would need to produce a computer chip, not something that is worth the effort.

We question that logic. Not so much for Blu-Ray, which is the commonly associated media format that uses HDCP, but for HD digital cable programming. There are folks out there who would like to have the option of recording their HD television shows without renting a DVR from the cable company. CableCard tuners have been mostly absent from the market, making this type of recording difficult or impossible. Now that there’s a proven way to get the encryption key for HDCP how hard would it really be to create a man-in-the-middle device that uses that key to authenticate, decrypt, and funnel the audio and video to another encoder card? We know next-to-nothing about the protocol but why couldn’t any powerful processor, like an ARM, or even an FPGA (both rather inexpensive and readily available) be programmed for this task?

Leave a comment to let us know what you think about HDCP, and what the availability of the master-key really means.

[Thanks Dave]

Audible tuner for the blind

[Lain Sharp] modified this guitar tuner so it can be used by his blind friend. In the picture above you can make out a small white project box that houses the additional electronics. Inside is another battery and an ATmega168 providing a connection for an earphone. The AVR chip connects to each LED on the tuner and converts the visual tuning meter to an audio cue. Check out the demonstration clip after the break to see how it works.

Now if we could just figure out how to get our strings in tune with our built-in keyboard.

[Read more...]

Resurrecting ISA hardware

[Alex] had an old FM radio tuner card come his way. It used an ISA connector, a standard that went the way of the dodo in the mid-nineties. With the challenge of implementing an ISA-bus to configure the card he set out on his mission. What he came up with is a working radio using the ISA card and driven by a PIC 16F877. Join us after the break for schematic, code, and a few details. [Read more...]

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