Modern Tape Echo Made Easy

Modern popular music increasingly relies on more and more complicated and intricate equipment and algorithms to generate catchy tunes, but even decades ago this was still the case. The only difference between then and now was that most of the equipment in the past was analog instead of digital. For example, the humble tape echo was originally made by running a loop of magnetic tape over a recording head and then immediately playing it back. Old analog machines from that era are getting harder and harder to find, so [Adam Paul] decided to make his own.

At first, [Adam] planned to use standard cassette tapes in various configurations in order to achieve the desired effect, but this proved to be too cumbersome and he eventually switched his design to using the cassette internals in a custom tape deck. The final design includes a small loop of tape inside of the enclosure with a motor driving a spindle. The tape is passed over a record head, then a read head, and then an erase head in order to achieve the echo sound. All of this is done from inside of the device itself, with 1/4″ jacks provided so that the musician can plug in their instrument of choice just like a standard effects pedal would be configured.

The entire build is designed to be buildable and repairable using readily-available parts as well, which solves the problem of maintaining (or even finding) parts from dedicated tape echo machines from decades ago. We like the sound from the analog device, as well as the fact that it’s still an analog device in a world of otherwise digital substitutes. Much like this magnetic tape-based synthesizer we featured about a year ago.

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DIY Vactrols Give MIDI-Controlled Video Distortion

It’s one thing to assemble your own circuits from scratch using off the shelf components. It’s quite another to build the components first, and then build the circuit.

That’s the path [Joris Wegner] took with this video distortion effects box, dubbed PHOSPHOR. One might wonder why you’d want a box that makes a video stream look like playback from a 1980s VHS player with tracking problems, but then again, audio distortion for artistic effect is a thing, so why not video? PHOSPHOR is a USB MIDI device, and therein lies the need for custom components. [Joris] had a tough time finding resistive optoisolators, commonly known as Vactrols and which are used to control the distortion effects. He needed something with a wide dynamic range, so he paired up a bright white LED and a cadmium sulfide photoresistor inside a piece of heat shrink tubing. A total of 20 Vactrols were fabricated and installed on a PCB with one of the coolest silkscreens we’ve ever seen, along with the Sparkfun Pro Micro that takes care of MIDI chores. Now, distortions of the video can be saved as presets and played back in sync with music for artistic effects.

This isn’t the first time Vactrols have made an appearance here, of course. We saw them a while back with this Arduinofied electric guitar, and more recently with a triple-555 timer synth.

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Folding Mass Effect Pistol!

Video game props require a dedicated maker with a repertoire of skills to create. When those props are pulled from the Mass-Effect universe, a little more technological mastery is needed. Bringing those talents to bear,  [Optimistic Geometry] has built a motorized, folding M-3 Predator Pistol!

The gun was modeled in Fusion 360 and 3D printed on an Ultimaker 2 at the  MAKLab Glasgow. [Optimistic Geometry] felt constrained by the laws of our reality, so opted for the smaller firearm thinking it would be an appropriate entry-level challenge. I’m sure you can guess how that went.

There wound up being three main build phases as well as a spring-loaded version to testing purposes. Throughout, [Optimistic Geometry] struggled with getting the parts to latch fully open or closed, as well as working with the small form factor. However, overhauling the motor design — and including some limiters lest it deconstruct itself — a custom latching circuit, and — obviously — a few LEDs for effect, produced a magnificent prop.

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NES Light Gun Fires Awesome Laser Effect

[Seb Lee-Delisle]’s NES lightgun gave us pause as the effect is so cool we couldn’t quite figure out how he was doing it at first. When he pulls the trigger there erupts the beam of light Sci Fi has trained us to expect, then it explodes in a precision sunburst of laserlight at the other end as smoke gently trails from the end of the barrel. This is a masterpiece of hardware and trickery.

Demo video posted by @seb_ly

The gun itself is a gutted Nintendo accessory. It looks like gun’s added bits consist of two LED strips, a laser module (cleverly centered with two round heatsinks), a vape module from an e-cigarette, a tiny blower, and a Teensy.  When he pulls the trigger a cascade happens: green light runs down the side using the LEDs and the vape module forms a cloud of smoke in a burst pushed by the motor. Finally the laser fires as the LEDs finish their travel, creating the illusion.

More impressively, a camera, computer, and 4W Laser are waiting and watching. When they see the gun fire they estimate its position and angle. Then they draw a laser sunburst on the wall where the laser hits. Very cool! [Seb] is well known for doing incredible things with high-powered lasers. He gave a fantastic talk on his work during the Hackaday Belgrade conference in April. Check that out after the break.

So what does he have planned for this laser zapper? Laser Duck Hunt anyone? He has a show in a month called Hacked On Classics where this build will be featured as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.

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Guitar Effect Shield For Maple

[Okie] designed this audio effect shield for Maple. You’ll remember that Maple is a prototyping system built around an ARM processor, so there’s plenty of power and speed under the hood. First and foremost, the shield provides input and output filters to keep noise out of the system. From there a set of potentiometers let you change the effect, with the manipulation like echo, distortion, and ring modulation happening in the firmware.