A Passive Mixer’s Adventure Through Product Development

The year was 2014, and KORG’s volca line of pint-sized synthesizers were the latest craze in the music world. Cheap synths and drum machines were suddenly a reality, all in a backpack-friendly form factor. Now practically anyone could become an electronic music sensation!

I attended a jam with friends from my record label, and as was the style at the time, we all showed up with our latest and greatest gear. There was the microKORG, a MiniNova, and a couple of guitars, but all attention was on the volcas, which were just so much fun to pick up and play with.

There was just one problem. Like any game-changing low-cost hardware, sacrifices had been made. The volcas used 3.5mm jacks for audio and sync pulses, and the initial lineup came with a bassline, lead, and drum synth. Syncing was easy, by daisy chaining cables between the boxes, but if you wanted to record or mix, you’d generally need to stack adapters to get your signals in a more typical 6.5mm TS format used by other music hardware.

After mucking around, I did some research on what other people were doing. Most were suffering just like we were, trying to patch these little machines into full-sized mixing desks. It seemed like overkill — when you just want to muck around, it’s a bit much to drag out a 24 channel powered mixer. I wanted a way to hook up 3 of these machines to a single set of headphones and just groove out.

To solve this problem, we needed a mixer to match the philosophy of the volcas; simple, accessible, and compact. It didn’t need to be gold-plated or capable of amazing sonic feats, it just had to take a few 3.5mm audio sources, and mix them down for a pair of headphones.

I’d heard of people using headphone splitters with mixed results, and it got me thinking about passive mixing. Suddenly it all seemed so clear — I could probably get away with a bunch of potentiometers and some passives and call it a day! With a friend desperate to get their hands on a solution, I decided to mock up a prototype and took it round to the studio to try out.

Continue reading “A Passive Mixer’s Adventure Through Product Development”

Will It Sell?

Many of us develop things for one of two purposes: to hack something cool, or to sell something cool. When hacking something cool, your target market is yourself, and you already know you’ve made the sale. If your goal is to sell the thing you are making, then a lot more thought and effort is required. You could develop the coolest product in the world, but if your target market is too small, your price is too high, your lead time is too long, or any of a dozen other factors is not quite right, you’ll be spending a lot of time and effort on what will amount to a huge disappointment. The Hackaday Prize Best Product has many great examples which let us study some of these success factors, so let’s take a look. Continue reading “Will It Sell?”

Tindie Chat: All About Certifications

The chat functionality on Hackaday.io is quickly turning into the nexus of all things awesome. This Tuesday, February 28th, everyone’s favorite robotic dog is talking certifications. Everything from FCC to UL to OSH to CE and the other CE is on the table. If you want to build hardware, and especially if you want to build a product, this is the talk for you. Join us for the next Tindie Chat on Hackaday.io.

Every month or so, we round up Tindie sellers, buyers, and the Tindie curious to talk about the issues facing hardware creators. We meet up in the Tindie Dog Park to talk about all things Tindie and hardware creation. If you want to know anything about certifications — whether you’re selling on Tindie or not — this is the virtual meetup for you.

This chat is going down Tuesday, February 28th at 11:00 AM PST (or 19:00 GMT). Want to join in the chat? Head on over to the Tindie Dog Park and request to join the project. Then, just head over to the chat by clicking on the ‘Team Messaging’ button. If you have a question, we have a spreadsheet.

There are a lot of experienced product designers over on Tindie, and this is a prime opportunity to learn some of the hard lessons these Tindie sellers have already experienced. Don’t miss this, it’s going to be great.