Nebulophone Microcontroller Synthesizer Project Sounds Great

Judging from the video (found after the break) the Nebulophone is one of the best sounding DIY synthesizers we’ve seen. Especially when you consider the simplicity of the hardware design. It uses an AVR chip and an OpAmp. The rest of the parts are just a few handfuls of inexpensive components.

The device was developed by Bleep Labs, and they sell the synthesizer kit seen on the left. But since it’s an open source project you can follow their design to fabricate your own, which is what [BlinkyBlinky] did with his offering seen to the right.

An ATmega328 drives the device, which is the chip often used in the Arduino Duemilanove. The keyboard is a set of traces hooked to the microcontroller. These are tinned pads on the kit PCB, but the DIY version simply uses some adhesive copper foil with a jumper wire soldered to it. The keys are played with a probe that makes the electrical connection, a common practice on these stylophone type designs. Chances are you have everything on hand to make this happen so keep it in mind for that next cold winter weekend that’s making everyone a bit stir crazy.

[Thanks Wybren]

11 thoughts on “Nebulophone Microcontroller Synthesizer Project Sounds Great

  1. While I can appreciate the build, I really doubt I’ll ever appreciate the output. Perhaps if there’s a video of it being used to play what could be recognized as a melody of some sort…

    1. it would do well as sound effects for any self respecting space opera!!

      that said any synth properly played can be used for music that at least fits into a genre, something nonmusical noise shouldnt be able to.

    2. This thing sounds like an old-school analog synth to me.

      Need just a few examples of good sounding songs that used synths more primitive than this?

      Edgar Winter Group – Frankenstein (ARP 2600)
      Pink Floyd – Any Colour You Like (VCS 3)
      Led Zeppelin – No Quarter (VCS 3)
      Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygène IV (VCS 3 & ARP 2600)
      Jan Hammer – Miami Vice Theme (Minimoog)

      On a microcontroller, a 3 oscillator synth would likely be implemented as 3 pins doing PWM and maybe some adjustable RC filtering or some other basic analog stuff for effects like slew rate at the back end.

      Everything else, such as envelope, delay, sequencing, etc. could be done in software and tweaked with controls they could only dream of back then (all they had were pots and switches!).

      Not just that, but there’s nothing stopping anyone from hooking this up to the rest of their gear to pull off some insane sounding stuff.

      Relatively speaking, there are few limits on homebrew “analog-style” synths made from microcontrollers. In fact, one may argue that it’s a waste of processing power. Micros are cheap, though, so whatever.

  2. I’ve had one of these for about two weeks and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough! The build quality and detailed instructions on make it incredibly easy to assemble with very little experience (this is my first such project). I use it in my set up for bleepy siren type noises at the moment (sounds amazing with a touch of delay/reverb), but I intend to sequence in loops and noises using my sampler. I really do love it!

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