The Small And Silly Synth Now Even Smaller (But Just As Silly)

What do you do when you’ve carved out a niche for yourself as a builder of small and useless synthesizers? Why, build an even smaller and less useful synthesizer, of course!

If you’ve been paying even a minimal amount of attention you’ll know right away that this comes to use from [mitxela], who while not playing with volumetric POV displays is often found building smaller and smaller synthesizers, including putting them in DIN plug shells. The current synth is based on his “Silly Synth,” which puts all the guts for the synth inside a USB connector. This time around, though, it’s USB-C, and rather than fitting everything inside the connector shell, the entire synth sits on a PCB that’s smaller than a tiny piezo speaker. The whole thing runs on a CH32V003 microcontroller, and aside from a few support components and the right-angle USB-C plug, not much else.

The PCB is what really shines in [mitxela]’s design, especially the routing. He’s got a 20-pin QFN chip on one side of the board and the USB plug right behind it on the other side to deal with, plus the big through-holes for the speaker and the physical connections on the plug. It’s quite a crowded design, but it gets the job done. What’s more, he panelized the design so that mass production is possible; the reason for this is revealed at the end of the video below.

Pretty much every time we see one of these “smallest synth” videos we’re convinced that we’re seeing the lower limit of what’s possible, but every time, [mitxela] goes ahead and proves us wrong. That’s fine, of course — we don’t mind being wrong about something like this.

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It’s A Microphone And A Spring Reverb All In One

We’re so used to reverb effects being simply another software plugin that it’s easy to forget the electromechanical roots of the effect. Decades ago, a reverb would have been a metal spring fed at one end with a speaker and attached at the other to a microphone. You may not see them often in the 2020s, which is probably why [Ham-made] has produced one. It’s not the type with a speaker providing the sound, though. Instead, this is a microphone in its own right with a built-in spring line.

Perhaps it’s not the best microphone possible, with a somewhat heavy diaphragm and 3D printed body. But the hand-wound spring transmits the sound down to a piezo disk which serves as the electrical element, and the whole thing screws together into quite the usable unit. There are a selection of sample MP3 files that provide an interesting set of effect-laden sounds, so if you fancy building one yourself, you can judge the results.

We think this may be the first reverb microphone we’ve seen, but we’re certainly no stranger to reverb projects. More common by far, though, are plate reverbs, in which the physical element in the system is a metal plate rather than a spring. We like it when the sound source is a Commodore 64.

Spooky Noise Box Plays War Drums

What do you have cooked up to scare trick-or-treaters this Halloween? We humbly suggest adding in some type of noise box, especially one like this offering from [Paisley Computer] that uses reverb and other effects to achieve chilling, thrilling sounds.

As you can see, this instrument is essentially a bunch of doodads affixed to and through a cigar box. And as you’ll hear in the first video after the break, the various rubber bands make great drum sounds. The springs are nice, too, but our personal favorite has to be the head massager thing. Shhhing!

Inside the box you’ll find a guitar jack and some piezos glued to the underside of the top surface, but you’ll also find springs mounted across the inside that add to the resonance of the cigar box.

You can use either an interface and DAW or an effects pedal chain to really make things freaky, and [Paisley Computer] does a showdown between Focusrite interface versus various stomp pedals in the second video. In the third video, we learn how to make one of our own.

Do you like the idea of a spring reverb? How about a really big one that sounds sort of Satanic?

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Spooky Noise Box Has Post-Halloween Potential

There’s more than one way to scare people on Halloween. Sure, there’s always the low-brow jump scare, but that will generally just annoy the person and possibly cause a heart attack. No, what you need is a sustained soundscape of hellish audio. And where does one find hellish audio? Well, you make your own with a spooky-sounds noise box.

And no, we’re not talking about a soundboard that goes ‘boo’ and ‘ooo-OOO-oooh’ and whatnot. This is a full-on DIY instrument that has potential beyond Halloween. Essentially, the wooden box takes input vibrations from various doodads, and these vibrations are picked up by a piezo disk or two glued to the underside of the lid. The piezos are wired up to a 3.5 mm jack, which runs out to the PC and [SvartalfarQc]’s favorite Digital Audio Workstation (DAW). From there, it’s just a matter of playing around with the sounds — looping them, running them through various instrument voices, adding effects, and so on.

We love the the things that [SvartalfarQc] came up with, including a wind-up walking heart thing, a retractable badge holder, and that noise box mainstay, a sproingy doorstop.

We all know piezos are awesome, but have you ever considered that they can be used to digitize old wax cylinder recordings?

Tiny PCB PiezoPiano Plays Just One Octave

Grand pianos are beautiful instruments, but take up altogether too much space. Upright pianos are smaller, but still fairly hefty. When it comes to the PiezoPiano, though, we suspect nobody could complain about its diminutive size. It’s a tiny thing with just one buzzy little octave for your playing pleasure.

The PiezoPiano is a single PCB device with a ATmega4809 running the show. It has eight buttons and eight piezo transducers that give you just one octave’s range on the keyboard. Truth be told, that’s only in one scale; you’re not getting the whole twelve tones of flats and sharps included. And, when we say keyboard, we really mean “tactile buttons.” You get the drift. It’s all assembled in a cute enclosure mimicking the shape of a real grand piano.

Fundamentally, it’s a cute little musical desktoy that reminds us greatly of the Stylophone. Impressively, though, those eight buzzers mean it has eight-note polyphony. That’s nothing to sniff at compared to all the monophonic synths out there. It’s also available on Tindie if you’d like to buy a kit off the shelf. Video after the break.

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Lo-Fi Fun: Beer Can Microphones

Sometimes, you just need an easy win, right? This is one of those projects. A couple months back, I was looking at my guitars and guitar accessories and thought, it is finally time to do something with the neck I’ve had lying around for years. In trying to decide a suitable body for the slapdash guitar I was about to build, I found myself at a tractor supply store for LEGO-related reasons. (Where else are you going to get a bunch of egg cartons without eating a bunch of eggs?) I  noticed that they happened to also stock ammo boxes. Bam! It’s sturdy, it opens easily, and it’s (very) roughly guitar body shaped. I happily picked one up and started scheming on the way home.

Having never built a cigar box guitar before and being of a certain vintage, I’m inclined to turn to books instead of the Internet, so I stocked up from the library. Among my early choices was Making Poor Man’s Guitars by Shane Speal, who is widely considered to be the guru on the subject. In flipping through the book, I noticed the beer can microphone project and was immediately taken by the aesthetic of some cool old 70s beer can with a 1/4″ instrument jack on the bottom, just asking for some dirty blues to be belted into it. I had to build one. Or twelve.

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Hackaday Prize 2022: Ultratower Is A Powerful Gardening Vertical

The more people we have on this planet, the more food we need. Naturally, this extends to water, another precious resource that generally plays a part in farming and food production. And honestly, we’d probably all eat a little better if it were really easy to grow healthy things like spinach. Well, that excuse doesn’t work anymore, thanks to [J Gleyzes]’ Ultratower. It’s a simple-to-use hydroponic tower that uses recycled mist to water plants, ultimately saving water in the process.

The ‘ultra’ part is a function of the way mist is created. In this case, it’s done with three piezoelectric disks mounted under a tank in the top of the PVC tube. Stick up to twelve plants in the little cubbies, and their roots will grow down the inside, where they’ll receive a fine shower of water at your command. Water that runs off the roots collects in a small tank at the bottom, where a pump starts the process over again.

At first, [J Gleyzes] had trouble with the piezo disks — using 1.7MHz disks created too much heat, warming the water up to nearly 40°C (104°F). Since cooking the spinach prematurely would be bad, they experimented with other values, finally landing on 108KHz. Be sure to check out the video after the break.

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