DIY Raspberry Pi Multi FX Stomp Box

From building your own analog effects pedal to processing audio through micro controllers, a lot of musicians love building their own boxes of sound modification. In his entry for the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Craig Hissett] has a project to build an all-in-one multi-effects stomp box.

At the center of the box is a Raspberry Pi with an AudioInjector stereo sound card.  The card takes care of stereo in and out, and passing the signal to the Pi. The software is Modep, an open source audio processor that allows the setup of a chain of digital effects plugins to be run on the Pi. After finding some foot switches, [Craig] connected them to an Arduino Pro Micro which he set up as a MIDI device that sends MIDI messages to the Modep software running on the Pi.

There are still a few steps to go, but [Craig] has the basic layout covered. Next up is wiring it up and building a proper case for it, as well as working on latency. A few years ago, another multi-effects stomp box was featured in the Hackaday Prize, and last year, this multi-effects controller was featured.

 

Exquisite Craftsmanship Elevate Vic’s Creations Above The Rest

This booth was easy to miss at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 amidst tall professional conference signage erected by adjacent exhibitors. It showcased the work of [Dr. Victor Chaney] who enjoys his day job as a dentist and thus feels no desire to commercialize his inventions — he’s building fun projects for the sake of personal enjoyment which he simply calls Vic’s Creations. Each project is built to his own standards, which are evidently quite high judging by the perfect glossy finish on every custom wood enclosure.

Some of these creations were aligned with his musical interests. The Backpacking Banjo was built around a (well cleaned) cat food can to satisfy the desire for a lightweight instrument he can take camping. His Musical Laser Rainbow Machine (fully documented in Nuts & Volts) was created so little bands formed by independent artists like himself can have a visual light show to go with their live performances. The Music Kaleidoscope is another execution along similar lines, with an LED array whose colors are dictated by music. Venturing outside the world of music, we see a magnetically levitated Castle In The Clouds which also receives power wirelessly to illuminate LEDs

The largest and most complex work on display is an epic electromechanical masterpiece. Par One is a rolling ball sculpture featuring the most convoluted golf course ever. Several more rolling ball sculptures (also called marble machines or marble runs) are on display at Dr. Chaney’s office which must make it the coolest dentist’s lobby ever. The lifelike motions he was able to get from the automatons he built into the sculpture are breathtaking, as you can see below.

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Magic Record Stand Can Play Your Records For You

Vinyl remains a popular format, despite taking a huge hit in popularity for a couple decades while CDs ruled the roost. It has a charm that keeps it relevant, and likely will continue to do so until everyone who grew up with a record player dies out. In the meantime, [sp_cecamp] has come up with a great way to experience your collection, with the magic of modern technology. It goes by the name of Plynth.

Fundamentally, it’s a small record stand with an excellent party trick. The prototype consists of a 3D-printed body, which holds a record sleeve at an attractive angle for display. A camera built into the base then images the artwork. The first image taken is run through the Google Vision API, and further images are then run through OpenCV to identify the record. This data is then passed to the Spotify API to play the track. The whole process takes a couple of seconds, and the music is then pumped out of whatever streaming device is connected to the rig.

It’s a fun way to play your old records, and would be a welcome change to those tired of screaming at Siri to play Weezer (Blue Album), not Weezer (Green Album). For those interested, [sp_cecamp] has thrown up a site to gauge interest in the project, and may make a limited production run in future.

Of course, you could instead just go about building your own turntable. To each their own!

Mechanical Tremolo Does Things The Old-School Way

The word “tremolo” has a wide variety of meanings in the musical lexicon. A tremolo effect, in the guitar community at least, refers to a periodic variation in amplitude. This is often achieved with solid state electronics, but also recalls the sounds created by Hammond organs of years past with their rotating Leslie speakers. [HackaweekTV] decided to do things the old fashioned way, building a mechanical tremolo effect of his own (Youtube link, embedded below).

Electronically, the signal is simply passed through a linear audio potentiometer. The effect is generated by rapidly cycling this potentiometer up and down. The motion is achieved through a geared motor salvaged from a Roomba, which turns a cam. A sprung follower sits on top of the cam, and is attached to the potentiometer.

There were some challenges in development. Rigidity of the frame was an issue, and the follower had issues with snagging on the cam. However, with some careful iteration they were able to get everything up and running. The final project sounds great, and with the amplifier turned up, there’s no need to worry about the sound of the moving parts.

Naturally, you can always build a tremolo with a 555 instead. Video after the break.

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The Pianist Octopus

MIDI has been around for nearly forty years, but what do you do if you have an old ‘toy’ keyboard without MIDI? Or really any way to make it sound good? You could turn it into a player piano, and that’s exactly what [Alessandro] did with an old toy keyboard. It’s The Pianist Octopus, and it is perhaps the coolest, neatest pianist you’ve ever seen.

This build uses 24 individual 9 gram hobby servos, which of course means you need to drive those servos somehow. There are plenty of ways to attach a few servos to an Arduino board, but when you need to drive 24 servos, your options become somewhat limited. The electronics consist mostly of a Fishino Octopus, an Arduino shield that can drive sixteen individual servos. Slap two of these shields on an Arduino and you have something that will drive twenty four servos.

The mechanical part of the build consists of a 3D printed frame that allows the servos to be mounted across an arc, something like a harp. Metal rods connect the servos to tentacle-shaped actuators. These were designed in Google SketchUp and printed in PLA.

Attached to these servos and Arduino is a character LCD and a few buttons that allow the user to cycle through a few functions. The play button plays the current melody (based on old Nokia ringtones, by the way), a few more buttons adjust the position of the individual servos, and there’s another button to stop playing. Since this is a complete electronic-to-mechanical interface for a toy piano, a MIDI-in port isn’t out of the question; all a MIDI implementation would need to do is move a servo down on a note on event and move it back up on the note off event.

Hack My Wired Heart

Liner notes? Passé. In Berlin, the release of a special edition synth-wave record came with an accompanying experimental synthesizer called Wired Heart.

At the core of this adorable heart-shaped synth, designed by music technology enthusiast [tobi tubbutec], is the classic 74HCT14 chip with six Schmitt trigger oscillators. The bright red PCB has eight gold touch and humidity sensing pads that activate and modulate these oscillators. As well as changing the sounds by playing with pressure and conductive liquids you can use the six sets of header pins on board to plug in your own components for noisy experimentation. Wired Heart ships with LEDs, photoresistors and a potentiometer, but we’ve also plugged our own DIY fabric pressure sensors into this synth to make some excellent electronic sounds.

In the Hackaday.io post linked above, [tobi tubbutec] walks us through a number of the circuit design decisions he made while prototyping his “cardiotronic human-touch hexoscillatric stereo esoteric snythespacer”. We enjoyed his creative and sometimes unconventional designs, from his inclusion of non-functioning traces for aesthetic reasons to his chosen method of hard syncing — injecting a small pulse of one oscillator into the other. If you want to examine his layout in more detail, [tobi tubbutec] has helpfully included the KiCad schematic file in his write up.

This adorable, hackable synth caught our eye at this year’s SuperBooth — an annual indie electronic music conference in Berlin that’s well worth checking out if odd noises and handmade electronics are your thing —  but it’s recently been listed on Tindie too. To listen to the upbeat synth-wave record Wired Heart originally shipped with, visit the artist Hyboid’s bandcamp.

If you’re interested in experimental musical instruments and synthy chip tune you’ll also love [jarek319]’s Sega Genesis synthesiser.

Check out a demo of the Wired Heart synth in the video after the break.

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Vintage Speech Synthesizer Croons The Oldies

If you listened to the National Weather Service Weather Radio in the US about 25 years ago, you’ll no doubt remember [Perfect Paul], one of the synthesized voices used to read current conditions and weather forecasts. The voice came from a DECtalk DTC01, a not inexpensive voice synthesizer first made in 1984 that also gave voice to [Stephen Hawking] for many years.

Long obsolete, the DECtalk boxes have a devoted following with hobbyists who like to stretch what the device can do. Some even like to make it sing, after a fashion, and [Michael] decided that making a DECtalk sing “Xanadu”, the theme song from the 1980 [Olivia Newton-John] musical extravaganza, was a good idea. Whether it actually was is debatable, and we’ll take exception with having that particular ditty stuck in our head as a result, but we don’t judge except on the merits of the hack.

It’s actually easy if you have a DECtalk; the song is a straight ASCII file with remarkably concise instructions on which phonemes the box needs to generate. Along with inflection, tone, and timing instructions, the text file looks almost completely unlike English while still somehow being readable. The DECtalk accepts the file over RS-232, which would be easy enough to do with a modern computer, but [Michael] upped his game a bit by using a TRS-80 Model 100 computer as a serial terminal. The synthesized song is in the video below, with the original included for reference by those who didn’t experience endure the late disco-era glory days.

DECtalks seem pretty rare in the wild, so we appreciate this glimpse at what they can do. There are other retro speech synthesizer hacks, though: the simulated walnut goodness of the Votrax and the MicroVox come to mind, as does the venerable TI Speak and Spell.

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