Teardown: Franz Crystal Metronome

I wish I could tell you that there’s some complex decision tree at play when I select a piece of hardware to take apart for this series, but ultimately it boils down two just two factors: either the gadget was something I was personally interested in, or it was cheap. An ideal candidate would check both boxes, but that’s not always the case. This time around however, I can confidently say our subject doesn’t fall into either category.

Now don’t get me wrong, at first glance I found the Franz Crystal Metronome to be intriguing in its own way. With that vintage look, how could you not? But I’m about as far from a musician as one can get, so you’d hardly find a metronome on my wish list. As for the cost, a check on eBay seems to show there’s something of a following for these old school Franz models, with ones in good condition going for $50 to $80. Admittedly not breaking the bank, but still more than I’d like to pay for something that usually ends up as a pile of parts.

That being the case, why are you currently reading about it on Hackaday? Because it exploits something of a loophole in the selection process: it doesn’t work, and somebody gave it to me to try and figure out why. So without further ado let’s find out what literally makes a Franz Crystal Metronome tick, and see if we can’t get it doing so gain.

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Why Pendulums Sync Up, And Other Mysteries Explained

If you’ve ever seen fireflies flashing together at night, you’ve witnessed the glory of synchronisation. In a new video, [Veritasium] examines some of the mechanisms in nature that help create order out of chaos. 

The story begins back in 1665, when [Christiaan Huygens] discovered that two pendulum clocks hanging from the same wooden beam would spontaneously synchronise over a period of time. The same principle is then demonstrated with metronomes – an experiment readily recreated in the home. Other systems that show this same eerie coordiation are then explored – from tidally locked moons orbiting around planets (like ours!), to chemical oscillators discovered by Soviet scientists during the cold war. There’s also a great explanation of the problems faced by the London Millennium Bridge, which swayed wildly under heavy foot traffic as it induced pedestrians to walk in sync.

Overall, it’s a look at some of the action behind the scenes that ties seemingly independent systems together. Learning about such things can prove useful too – it might even help you solve real world problems in your machine shop! Video after the break.

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Your Own Electronic Drum Kit

[Jake_Of_All_Trades] wanted to take up a new drumming hobby, but he didn’t want to punish his neighbors in the process. He started considering an electric drum kit which would allow him to practice silently but still get some semblance of the real drumming experience.

Unfortunately, electric drum kits are pretty expensive compared to their acoustic counterparts, so buying an electric kit was a bit out of the question. So, like any good hacker, he decided to make his own.

He found a pretty cheap acoustic drum kit on Craigslist and decided to convert it to electric. He thought this would be a perfect opportunity to learn more about electric drum kits in general and would allow him to do as much tweaking as he wanted to in order to personalize his experience. He also figured this would be a great way to get the best of both worlds. He could get an electric kit to practice whenever he wanted without disturbing neighbors and he could easily convert back to acoustic when needed.

First, he had to do a bit of restorative work with the cheap acoustic kit he found on eBay since it was pretty worn. Then, he decided to convert the drum heads to electric using two-ply mesh drum heads made from heavy-duty fiberglass screen mesh. The fiberglass screen mesh was cheap and easy to replace in the event he needed to make repairs. He added drum and cymbal triggers with his own DIY mechanism using a piezoelectric element, similar to another hack we’ve seen. These little sensors are great for converting mechanical to electrical energy and can feed directly into a GPIO to detect when the drum or cymbal was struck. The electrical signal is then interpreted by an on-board signal processing module.

All he needed were some headphones or a small amplifier and he was good to go! Cool hack [Jake_Of_All_Trades]!

While you’re here, check out some of our best DIY musical projects over the years.

15-digit Nixie Clock Contains Mostly Non-useful Information

[Jarek Lupinski] is at it again, this time building a clock using 15 Nixie tubes. Just look at the time…. wait, how do you read this now? It’s not seconds since the epoch, but an homage to a very expensive New York City art piece. [Jarek] took his inspiration from the Metronome art installation in Union Square.

We hadn’t heard of it before and were shocked to learn that this art was commissioned at $4.2 million. It belches steam and confuses passersby with its cryptic fifteen digits. It seems that the eight digits on the left mark the current time – two digits for hours, two for minutes, two for seconds, and the final digit for hundreths of a second. The seven remaining digits count down the time left in the day. So when you watch it, you see the significant digits of the display increasing, and the insignificant half decreasing.

The Nixie version rests snuggly on a 15″x4″ PCB. We’re sure it doesn’t number in the millions, but that couldn’t have been cheap to have manufactured. Each tube has its own driver chip, removing the need for multiplexing. An ATmega168 controls the clock (along with some shift registers to expand the I/O count), reading time from a DS1307 RTC chip. It looks fancy, but where’s the belching smoke on this version?

Tap-controlled Metronome

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[Adam] and his buddy [Matthew] sent in their tap-controlled metronome, or as they prefer, “metronome with an attitude.” Using the piezo speaker you can tap patterns and rhythm into the memory and it will repeat it back to you in loop. The two buttons allow you to speed up or slow down the beat which is indicated by an led array. As per their request, we mention its entirely on a PIC 16F, not an Arduino. Perhaps the most interesting part we found that’s definitely worth checking out was their amazingly detailed build process. Check out a quick video of the metronome in action after the break.

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