MIDI Synth Arduino Shield

There’s a million and one ways to play around with MIDI and an Arduino. It’s trivial to have a ‘duino spit out a scale to a MIDI keyboard, or even respond to SysEx messages to change a lighting or effects rig. There’s one thing that has eluded MIDI-duino builders, though: implementing a MIDI synthesizer with a DIY shield. It’s a good thing, then, that [Keith] put up a Kickstarter for his AvecSynth project.

[Keith]’s AvecSynth is based around the Dream.fr SAM2195 single chip MIDI synthesizer. It’s a neat little IC that takes in MIDI messages from a sequencer or keyboard and spits out stereo audio. The AvecSynth takes this IC and puts it in a standard Arduino-sized package so building a gigantic light-up, foot-operated piano is now well within the purview of the weekend solder junkie.

While the SAM2195 and AvecSynth doesn’t have fancy subtractive or FM synthesis, it does have the full set of 128 voices in the General MIDI spec. It’s a great project to play around with MIDI, and the price for the DIY kit is right up our alley.

EDIT: [Keith] changed the $20 reward for his Kickstarter to PCB or two SAM2195 chips

23 thoughts on “MIDI Synth Arduino Shield

    1. Gigavolt,

      It is quite similar-both make music/sound through MIDI commands via the Arduino interface. However, the AvecSynth also has a standard MIDI so it can be played via another music keyboard or MIDI capable computer. Biggest difference is that they are designed around different chips with different capabilities, though.

      The link for the chip used on the AvecSynth is listed in the HAD article. You can compare it directly with the chip on the Sparkfun board to see which best suites your needs.

      What I do know is that the first time I pushed a MIDI stream through the AvecSynth, I was blown away with the sound quality from the little chip.

      1. Keith, thanks for the info. I got the sparkfun board a few weeks ago for a project, but haven’t used it yet. If the sound quality is not good (as it is implied in the comments), I now have an alternative! Thanks!

    1. lol, was thinking the same thing, I thought people normally rotated the chip 45 degrees with designs like this.

      Just wondering but how is this even a shield? Its a surface mount chip on a board all by itself. This thing is only a “shield” for a breadboard, not a audrino, and even then it is missing all the required passive components.

      1. The picture is of the prototype. The odd looking adapter was bought from a company in Canada….neat little kit: came with PCB, header pins, a solder paste stencil, and solder paste for around $40.

        The actual shield has been designed/routed and is waiting to be released to the FAB at the conclusion of the kickstarter campaign.

        The recording on the kickstarter page is actually running off of that prototype.

        The photo has also been cropped as the Uno that is hooked to the prototype was out of focus.


  1. awesome product, sounds great for students or kids on a budget! but us (broke) hardware hackers will go for something a little less creditcard/paypal -y-ish …

    open up a keyboard and see if the main chip (black-epoxy-blob) is on a daughterboard… then just (desolder 1st) solder on pins and you got the same thing for free (from the curb) and it comes with 10 LEDs, audio jacks, midi jacks (and the opto-isolator) and an audio amp, and speakers. all free. XD

    PS: (insert “hacking” troll here)

    1. 42,

      The photo is of part of the prototype. A board has been designed (you can see a ‘plot’ of it on one of the update pages on the kickstarter project page). The kickstarter project goals are to 1) enable a purchase of the synth chips (they have fairly high minimums) and 2) to purchase the first lot of circuit boards.

      Also, if you look at the same update page that has a plot picture of the PCB, there is a full picture of the prototype showing an Arduino in the background and also the MIDI interface.


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