An Open Source Toy Synth

If you thought the future of electronic musical instruments was massive Emerson-class modular synths, giant MPCs with pads the size of Dance Dance Revolution machines, or hilariously expensive polysynths, you couldn’t be more wrong. The future is, effectively, toys. Those tiny little Korgs you can stuff in your pocket are selling like hot cakes, and Pocket Operators are king of the hill. One of the more interesting musical toys is the Organelle, an aluminum enclosure with maple buttons laid out in a keyboard configuration. It’s a synth, it’s a sound engine, and it does produce some interesting noises. All the software is Open Source, but the hardware isn’t. That leaves it up to someone else to make the hardware for the rest of us. That’s exactly what [mitchell] is doing for his Hackaday Prize entry.

The core of this build is a Nanopi Neo Core, or basically an Allwinner H3 breakout board with 256 MB of RAM running at 1.2 GHz. This runs the basic Organelle scripts, and has all the drivers to become a MIDI device. Added to that, there’s a DAC, a small TFT screen, an STM32F103 for reading the buttons, encoders, and pots, a sound card, a USB hub IC, and a battery torn from a Kindle.

The idea for this project is to have something along the lines of the Teenage Engineering OP-1, another of the very fancy ‘toy’ synths, but also to build something that anyone else can build. [mitchell] is just about there, and the prototype PCB he made actually works. There’s still a lot more work to do, but this is an exceptionally interesting project we can’t wait to see hit prime time.

9 thoughts on “An Open Source Toy Synth

    1. I was thinking of selling a few, assembled and/or kits, on tindie, just to gauge interest. Also I’m not sure how the makers of the Organelle would feel about this. Right now the schematic and BOM, github repo for buildroot, and the bin for the mcu all technically work. I could do kits, but soldering the 20qfn package isn’t exactly friendly or nice. I don’t expect everyone to have a heat gun.

  1. A ‘TOY’ does not cost a static $1000. A Toy is something that makes it’s ability, enticing to a larger audience which is only accomplished by making it as available as possible. You hit the nail on the head, the bit on the bang, Brian Benchoff.

    “That leaves it up to someone else to make the hardware for the rest of us.”

    I’m so proud of you dude. Maybe once you get the synth doped out it will allow you the time to manifest all of your other, more widely, applicable ideas.

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