Music Box Is Still Alive With Wavetable Synthesis

For all the wonder of dulcet tones coming from a century-old music box, we’ve got to admit that [Markus]’ wavetable synthesis build is still pretty impressive. Of course, the Internet cred gained by doing a demo of Still Alive helps too.

Wavetable synthesis stores a one cycle long waveform in RAM that can be played on a loop at varying frequencies. This technique has been around since the late 70s and can be found in a lot of the classic synths of the 80s and serves as the basis for Atari MOD music and the Game Boy chiptunes produced with Little Sound DJ

[Markus] found a pair of battery-powered laptop speakers and decided a music box would be a wonderful project. Inspired by [ChaN]’s ATtiny wavetable synthesizer, [Markus] decided to up the ante and use a PIC32 microcontroller to make the programming a little more digestable. The entire project (with an awesome dead bug soldering job) is nearly as large as the PIC itself.

[Markus] threw up the source code along with some Python scripts to convert waveforms and MIDI files into something the chip can understand. Before you check that out, be sure to look at the Still Alive demo.


20 thoughts on “Music Box Is Still Alive With Wavetable Synthesis

    1. Indeed correct. The Atari 8-bit micros used Pokey chips for sound and the 16-bit ST used an AY chip (same as the Speccy). It was possible to play sampled sound on an ST with a lot of work, but primarily it was just a 3-square oscillator (and 1 noise) chip. Amiga, on the other hand, had the ability to play back 4 channels of sound simultaneously.

      (I can’t say much, I grew up on an Apple //e which was capable of really painful noisy sounds at best, though DAC522 made that a little more awesome but long after that platform was viable in the marketplace)

  1. I am a big fan of the multi vendor ARM Cortex-M3 architecture, but I have to say it’s awesome that Microchip has a DIP packaged version of the PIC32!

    I’ve made lots of PCBs with SMD microcontrollers, but there are many times when you need to do a quick hack and through-hole DIP chip is the answer.

    1. Yes, I’m really surprised that Atmel, who has the support of the massive Arduino community, isn’t capitalizing on it further by releasing more MCUs in prototype-friendly DIP format. Microchip has always had them beat in this department, and is now improving in other critical areas too. I wonder if we’ll see PIC-based Arduinos soon.

      1. But this one still needs a third party programmer? :D The main problem with LPCs so far. Why they can’t use a simple well-documented serial approach like in their P89C* or Atmel’s AVR…

      2. The LPC actually have a built-in serial or USB bootloader in firmware, but you would certainly want to use the external programmer because you can debug. But unlike many of the AVRs the LPC isn’t specced for 40mA of current per pin.

  2. @ColinB: Well, Atari’s had MODs, too. The STE and above had decent-enough sound hardware to play MODs (i.e., digi playback).

    (But sure, Amiga was where the MOD was really at :)

  3. About the hack, though, I’m quite impressed with the sound quality of such a player! I was expecting a mono-channel player but there’s actually nice mixing going on there. Bravo!

  4. Very nice sound!

    Looking at the schematic, I first thought that LDO was a cartoony drawing of a SPDT slide switch… I was like… “uhhh, no. it’s shorting the battery to ground”… But then I saw the part number mcp1825s-3302e and was like… “ohhh, that makes much more sense”. ;-)

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