If you haven’t heard any lo-fi music yet, it stands for low-fidelity music. Lofi music today is characterized by audio imperfections such as cable noise or tape hiss. To get a pleasantly warm imperfect sound, many artists turn to vintage equipment. [HAINBACH] found an excellent instrument, the obsolete classroom tool known as magnetic card audio recorders.
The basic mechanism of the device is that it reads and writes to the two tracks on the quarter-inch tape fed through it. One track is meant for the teacher and one track is meant for the student. Originally designed to assist language learners, we can see why it would be an ideal source of good lo-fi samples. The microphone and speaker need to be high quality to hear the nuances of the example sentence. [HAINBACH] also admires the general tone and timbre of the device as opposed to just using a cassette recorder.
The tape in question is glued to little plastic cards. With some modification, you can run the card backward, create a loop, or stitch sections together. With multiple machines, you can run the card from one machine directly into another. They were made by several companies and can be found relatively cheap on online auction houses. While we can’t credit [HAINBACH] for coming up with the idea as it was featured in the movie Baby Driver, it’s still an example of an awesome hack.
Magnetic tape has long been a fascination of musical instruments. This Crudman, which is a modern-day interpretation of the much older Mellotron from 1963, is a great example of that.
Video after the break.
Continue reading “Finding Lo-fi In All The Strange Places”
Sometimes we are vaguely aware of the inexorable march of technological progress. Other times it thrums steadily under the surface while we go about our lives. And sometimes, just sometimes, it smacks us right in the face.
Few projects can demonstrate the advancement and miniaturization of computing technology like putting an entire functional computer inside a storage medium that once only held mere kilobytes of data. And that’s exactly what [JamHamster] has done by stuffing a Raspberry Pi Zero W inside a cassette tape to run his ZX Spectrum emulator. It’s an impressive and clean build, and it pairs so well with a downright gorgeous, retro inspired, CRT-lookalike LCD monitor, which is another creation of his.
The Pi did have to undergo a bit of light surgery; though he managed to lose only four GPIO pins in the operation. He also put a ton of love into a literally-highly-polished aluminum heatsink, which is entirely hidden within the case but does keep the computer cool in its claustrophobic quarters. Of course, [JamHamster] isn’t new to these cassette builds. You may recognize his work from the TZXDuino, a virtual tape loader for the ZX Spectrum.
Honestly, sometimes we just have to sit back and be amazed at the kind of computer power that can be packed into such tiny packages. The Pi Zero isn’t the smallest or the most powerful of options, but it is far more capable than the computer it is emulating here. So whether they’re hiding inside outdated storage formats or powering a stock-looking sleeper PSP, we just can’t help but be impressed.
Digital delay pedals are pretty good nowadays and even the cheaper ones do a pretty good job at emulating the sound of old analog delay effects. And that’s good, because the original delay effects can run you a pretty penny. If you’re in to DIY electronics, though, analog delay effects can still be built without breaking the bank, and, as an example, [Matsound] has made a tape delay using an old tape deck and regular cassette tapes.
The core of the build is a portable 3-head cassette recorder, in this case a Marantz PMD430. The circuit has been around for a while – it was originally found in an issue of Stompboxology in the 90’s. The basic idea is that with a three-head recorder (erase, record, play) the distance between the record and play heads creates a delay and you increase this delay by slowing down the recorder’s motor. You combine the output from the recorder with the dry signal from your input and, viola, tape delay.
[Matsound] added a cool feature where you can control the speed of the motor with a control voltage, so if you connect it to a keyboard and produce different voltages from different keys, you get weird, spacey effects. The video gives an overview of the features and some details of the build process are in the video’s description.
A nice build built into a nice case and a great effect! Maybe you wouldn’t take it out gigging with you, but it sure sounds pretty good! Other delay pedals have been mentioned on the site before, like this digital delay pedal and here’s another take on the cassette tape delay.
Continue reading “DIY Cassette Tape Guitar Delay”
When you have an older vehicle there’s not a lot of options in the stock stereo department, often a CD player and tape deck is what you get. When you want to play your tunes from your mobile what do you do? Buying an adapter, or a new head unit for that matter, isn’t any fun. So why not hack it? This isn’t just a mechanical marriage of a Bluetooth dongle and an elderly stereo. Some real work went into convincing the stereo that the BT receiver was the stock tape deck.
Attacking the outdated Cassette deck [kolonelkadat] knew that inside the maze of gears and leavers, most of it is moving around actuating switches to let the radio know that there is a tape inside and that it can switch to that input and play. Tricking the radio into thinking there is a tape inserted is handled by an Arduino. Using a logic analyzer [kolonelkadat] figured out what logic signals the original unit put out and replicating that in his Arduino code.
Audio is handled by the guts of a bluetooth speaker with the output redirected into the radio where the signal coming off the tape head normally would have been directed. Join us after the break for a couple of videos with all of the details.
Continue reading “Tricking A Car Stereo To Think Your Cellphone Is A Tapedeck”
It’s common to see a DJ use a turntable as a musical instrument. Physically manipulating a record while its playing produces its own unique sound, but it takes some finesse and puts strain on the delicate workings of the player when you do it. With this in mind, [Jeremy Bell] has refreshed the notion of appropriating old technology to create new sound with his home-brewed scrubboard.
Making use of a cassette tape, [Jeremy] dissected samples from the reel and laid them out in horizontal strips over rails to hold their form. The pickup from the tape player has been hacked into a separate piece that glides smoothly over these rails, giving the user the ease of control. To produce the immediate cutting effect that is less easy to perform with his device than a record player, [Jeremy] created an on and off switch which is simply a close pin covered in foil that teeters over a metal contact (in this case a coin). The end product sounds exactly like scratching a record, but better because he’s doing it with hacker showmanship. One can only image the awesome potential for more elaborate setups having multiple tape samples and the like!
There are a few different videos of the scrubboard in use on [Jeremy’s] website. He is also running a Kickstarter right now in order to turn the project into a stand alone instrument with improved features.
Thanks Omar, for telling us about this cool re-envisionment!
Continue reading “Cassette Tape Hack Turns Scratching Into Sliding”