Tiny-TS: Just How Small Can A Playable Synethesiser Get?

The early electronic synthesizers were huge machines, racks of electronic modules that filled entire rooms. Integration of electronics over time successively reduced them, first to the size of a large piece of furniture, then to  tabletop consoles, to standalone keyboards, and to small MIDI black boxes taking their instructions from another instrument or a computer. The original mass of discrete electronics had been reduced to a pile of ICs, then chipsets, then finally single ICs and software implementations on microcomputers.

It’s thus possible to make a synthesizer these days that is pretty small. If you can fit a microcontroller in it, you can fit a synth into it. But how about a playable synthesizer? One with a keyboard, on which you can give a recital? How small can you make one of those? [Jan Ostman] has a contender for the smallest playable synthesizer prize with his Tiny-TS, a credit-card synthesiser with a one-octave capacitive keyboard and analog controls for synthesis parameters.

The heart of the synth is an ATMega328, for which he provides the software. The parameters adjustable by a series of pots are listed as DCO: Coarse pitch and Double, DCF: Filter peak and ENVmod, and ENV: Attack and Release affecting amplitude. You can build your own, or he tells us that he has the project up as a Kickstarter campaign if you fancy the chance of buying one ready-made.

In case you are wondering, it doesn’t sound too bad. Some minimalist synths sacrifice the breadth of sounds they can create, but not this one. He takes it through its paces in a YouTube video which we’ve put below the break.

Electronic music has featured here many times before, but in particular, we’ve brought you a few tiny synthesizers. The ones that stick out are previous projects from [Jan], his MIDI synth in a MIDI plug, and his single-chip Roland 808 drum machine.

32 thoughts on “Tiny-TS: Just How Small Can A Playable Synethesiser Get?

    1. Is it? I’m sure there’s a bit where he plays more than one tone. And it has a decent range of sounds, much more than a simple square-wave beep. Not bad “DSP” from something meant to control washing machines.

        1. Maybe not, but it’s small. If you want to play it live the keys have to be a certain minimum size, especially for touch pads.

          It is what it is, it’s probably not supposed to replace a full keyboard.

  1. Neat! And unlike some of the other synth projects that show up here, this one has public source code!

    (I don’t necessarily think people should /have/ to open up their source to be on HaD but it sure is annoying to think ‘cool! I could hack on that’ but you can’t, because it’s some proprietary thing that they’re selling on preprogrammed chips you can’t dump)

  2. Someone made a post with a bet about the synth being better than 22KHz sample rate and a CV out with better than 8 bit resolution.

    I think I won the bet?
    Sample rate is 33.5KHz and the CV out is 12 bit.

  3. Feature request. The ability to daisy chain several of them with automatic pitch adjustment, with the ability to override the adjustment on each section. Ie, have 5 linked with the pitch adjusted across them all, then disable pitch adjustment on the middle (or any of them) one while still having the adjustment on the other for the same as if it was spread across all 5.

    1. Pushing back cuticles is a demented “beauty” habit and isn’t really good for you. I suppose it won’t kill you but it’s not the healthy thing to do with cuticles. Dude can still trim his nails though.

    2. Yes I got psoriasis and you dont cut your fingernails everyday if you have it.
      But I wont do a demo again with my fingers in picture.

      My point is that every time someone does make a synth based on AVR it’s some grainy shit that doesn’t deserve being called an instrument.

      What I do are called instruments.
      And do deserve some honour.

  4. It’s probably good to be aware that Jan is pretty bad about fulfilling his promises, at least with regards to his Kickstarter. There are still a lot of really disappointed people, and it’s like pulling teeth to get any kind of communication with him. I wouldn’t suggest doing business with him until he makes it right. It’s really unprofessional, and I would think he would be embarrassed by it. Instead, he seems to be dodging it.


  5. As a kickstarter backer for the tiny synth who has payed for a full kit but never received anything, I second DG’s sentiment. Don’t dump money on this or any other product of Jan Ostman.

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