Turning The Deep Note Into A Game

One of the most famous pieces of computer-generated music is the Deep Note, the audio trademark for THX. It begins with a dozen or so voices, randomly tuned between 200 and 400 Hz, then glissandos to a frequency spread of three octaves. Put that through a few thousand watts of a speaker system, play it before Jedi, and the audience will be listening.

The original THX Deep Note was created on hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware running 20,000 lines of code, but that was in 1983. Now we have cheap microcontrollers, so of course, you can now fit the Deep Note in your pocket. You can even make it a game. That’s exactly what [Bob] did with his Deep Synth. It’s the Deep Note, in a Game Boy-ish format.

The hardware for this build is the 1Bitsy 1UP, a retro-inspired handheld game console from [Bob]’s friend [Pitor]. Onboard the 1Bitsy is an STM32 F4 running at 168 MHz with a 2.8″ LCD, SD card reader, and the traditional Game Boy control scheme. All the games are up to you.

[Bob] wrote an audio driver for the 1UP, but needed a good audio demo. Since the Deep Note was a good enough demo for Lucasfilms, it would obviously be a good enough demo for a microcontroller. In far less than 20,000 lines of code, [Bob] made the 1UP polyphonic, and it was surprisingly fast enough to synthesize around thirty oscillators. It actually sounds like the Deep Note, too. You can check out a video (and audio) of that after the break.

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Recreating The THX Deep Note

THX logo

Few sounds are as recognizable as the THX Deep Note. [Batuhan] did some research, and set about recreating the sound. The original Deep Note (mp3 link) was created in 1982 by [Dr. James A. Moorer]. [Dr. Moorer] used the Audio Signal Processor (ASP) (AKA SoundDroid) to create the sound. The ASP was a complex machine to program. The Deep Note took about 20,000 lines of C code to program. The C code was compiled to about 250,000 discrete statements to command the ASP.

Only one ASP was ever built, and LucasFilm owned it. Instead of recreating the hardware, [Batuhan] used SuperCollider to recreate the sound. Just like the ASP, SuperCollider is a tool for real-time audio synthesis. The difference is that SuperCollider is open source and runs on modern computers. [Batuhan] used his research and ears to perform an analysis of the Deep Note. He created two re-creations. The first is carefully constructed to replicate the sound. The second is a Twitter worthy 140 character version. Both versions are reasonable facsimiles of the original Deep Note, though they’re not quite perfect to our ears.

[Batuhan] isn’t the only person working on recreations. Deep Note in 1KB of JavaScript can be heard at  http://thx.onekb.net/. We’d love to hear other versions created by Hackaday readers!

[Via Reddit]