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How long till magic smoke? A diary of MB builds.

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It's been a while since I've been able to work on any electronics projects, and while I've been I've been so slammed that I I've not been able to finish my last touches. (Filter pots, mix out, power LED... stuff like that)

Starting next Tuesday, I'll have at least one recording session every week in my studio until sometime around mid 2014. Being that I'm already so slammed, my life, as far as my "hobby" projects go, will be over, for all practical purposes, until then. Therefore, I thought I'd try to get these last few touches installed before the onslaught of work starts.

I'll admit I've been dragging my feet a little on this. My box never really worked that well. Notes would stick, cores would randomly go offline (especially if I had more than 2 cores installed) I could use it in the studio, (if it did something freaky, I'd just re-record) but it wasn't reliable to use in a live performance...which was my original inspiration to build this. It was suggested that a nice new linear power supply would be the fix. I don't have the chops at the moment to design and build one of those, and with my new job, I feel I won't have the time to learn... so I figured I'd just have to live with a MB-6582 with some intense personality quirks (much like it's owner) and not use it in a live performance situation. I've certainly learned a lot and had a blast building it, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

Last night as I was preparing to cut some ribbon cable for the remaining filter pots, I noticed that the J1_SID1 and J2_SID2 jumpers were set for 12V. I'm rockin' 8580's! I had a really good feeling that I had found the problem!

Initial testing proves correct. It seems to be working better than ever. I still need to test with a full load of 8 SID chips in it, but it's working great with four chips now. Hopefully the fact that I've been using it for the last 6 months or so with the incorrect voltage on SID1 hasn't damaged the first two SIDs. I don't typically leave it on for very long at a time (the longer it was left on, the more quirky it used to act) so, maybe I'm cool.

This was yet another somewhat embarrassing oversight on my part. (This blog and my posts are chunk full of those.) Well, maybe my willingness to publish my mistakes will help someone troubleshooting in the future.

I will eventually replace the old C64 power supply by building a linear power supply. I want my SIDs to last. But there is no way I'll have the time to get the expertise and do the build any time soon. However, as the old axiom goes: When you've got the time, you don't have the money...and when you've got the money, you don't have the time. Anyone feel like building me a power supply? :tongue:


I'm sure you've all been waiting in bated breath to hear how things are going with my MB6582.

Well, after some annoying setbacks that were pretty much all my fault I've gotten the box to work.

Then, a big new job came in, which is great news! However, it pretty much takes away all my spare time to be midiboxing. :( Hence the reason I've not been around too much.

I still have a couple last steps to complete my box.

I've ordered some knobs, albeit somewhat boring ones for now, and just need to add the mix out and the last 3 pots for the filters in the back. Once that's all installed, I'll post pictures.

I was visiting LA last week where I found some cheap, low profile heat sinks at All Electronics. It was cool to be actually in that store, which I've perused the website many times. I think they will fit on the SIDs nicely, and aren't too tall. I'll get back to you on that when I've had a chance to try putting them in.

I've already incorporated the MB6582 into some of my work. So far, so good.

Again, I'll post pictures and mp3s when I get a chance to come up for air...



It's taken a considerable amount of time due to life/work getting in the way, but I finally got my MB-6582 to the point where it should power up and go.

I attached the control board to the enclosure. All good there.

I made all my cables. I ended up scrapping the original idea of making them removable on both sides, the plugs didn't fit inside the case. (Just as you had thought, Hawkeye) Maybe I'll find another use for those parts one day. I soldered the base PCB side of the cables to the headers like the tutorial, and have some heat shrink tubing on them ready to go.

When all my cables were attached, I powered up. Sadly nothing really happened. I just got the same screen I originally got when the LCD started working. No lights, no fanfare... I just get a nice copyright notice from TK, and the awfully positive seeming, "READY." I moved pots, and hit buttons. Nada. I double checked my cables and it seems they are attached ok. Those PIC chips on the base PCB are already all set up to go, right? The operating system just doesn't seem to be doing anything. Or did I perhaps not hook something up correctly. I only have two SID chips in for testing, (why fry them all, right?) but that shouldn't matter, right? Did I miss some insanely obvious header connection or something? Any ideas?

See below:


Here's a couple peeks inside:





It's been a while since I posted, as it's been a while since I've been able to work on the MB6582. I've been waiting for parts to come in (namely the LCDs from China.) In the meantime, I replaced all the SMD capacitors on the logic board of an old, non working Mac Classic II I had bought on ebay for a song. It actually works now! I'm gaining a little confidence. (Look out!)

So, I took all your helpful suggestions to heart. I made a new LCD cable, attached the connector, and tested all the connections. I twisted and tinned the ends of the wires, fluxed the pads on the LCD and added some solder. Once I did all that, soldering all the connections was a breeze.


Then, the moment of truth (er, again) I turned it on. Nothing. Turned it off. I thought it might be a good idea to try switching pins 15 and 16, as I had completely followed Hawkeye's tutorial being that I had the same part that he used (er, but mine was in blue) So, it seems that the pads were labeled correctly on my part, as when I turned it on a second time, and adjusted the contrast, I got this:


What an amazing thrill it was to see THAT! I celebrated in a 12oz fashion afterwards. Seriously, I'm so happy that it worked.

So, I guess I move on... I've already started crimping cables to connect the base PCB to the control board with my new crimping tool. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. I'm feelin' like I'm gonna start cookin' with gas here.

...but I don't want to jinx it...


My next job was to tackle the LCD.

I think I made a few mistakes, the first being the fact that I didn't take enough pictures.

I made my cable. I crimped on the 10 pin connector to the ribbon cable, no problem. I did my tests and it seemed ok.

When I started soldering the ribbon cable to the LCD, I think I did them upside down. It was odd, because I was trying to match the picture (photo 7 on step 12) on the tutorial, but I noticed the little arrow on the connector that I thought was supposed to point to pin 1. I assumed that's what I shoudl do as opposed to just copying the picture. Doing it that way made it seem that the connector was upside down compared to the picture, though it's not easy to see. Looking back, that was pretty flawed thinking. (One of my specialties!)

Being that I had the same LCD from China (in blue) that Hawkeye used for his, I figured the pins would match, even the mis labeled pins.

The soldering was a little difficult. I had strands of wire that kept wanting to short to the pin next to it. I probably should twist the ends better next time.

So, either my two bad assumptions or my messy soldering could have been the culprit...

I plugged in the LCD like I saw on the tutorial (with the ribbon going towards the PIC chip), and turned on the power. Nothing. I tried moving the contrast pot on the control board. Nothing. Then I smelled something. Ooops. I quickly unplugged it. After inspection, one of the rubber circles on the LCD was REALLY hot, and some of the rubber looked like it may have been a wee bit melted.

I thought about how I may had put the ribbon cable on backwards (due to my thoughts about the arrow on the connector) and I figured I'd try to plug in the LCD the other way, just very quickly, to see what happened. Sure enough, I got something on the LCD screen, but no words or anything. It sorta lit up and then went out. After subsequent tries, continuity tests, and some cleaning up my soldering job, I think I possibly fried the LCD. :( Or maybe the polarity isn't labeled correctly? How do I test that? Just switch the two and test and pray there's no magic smoke?

So... a PSU and an LCD I've fried. Damn. I'm a piece of work. I have my doubts if I am advanced enough to be really doing this project. I have no testing instincts, nor do I really know how to test everything.

I might just order another LCD (or two.) At least they're cheap.

...but I won't have this thing finished for the concert, for sure. I'll be playing Hardsid instead...



It's been a minute since I posted... I'm sure you've missed me.

I made some progress... then I hit a bump in the road. Then, some work came in, and thank goodness for that, but it's eaten into the time I'd rather be spending getting this synth project finished.

Anyhoo... the progress. (I'll put the bump in the road on the next post)

Here is the front panel with the tactile switches:


I made a mask with the cardboard that came with my front panel:


Here's the control board with the glue gunned hex spacers:


The front panel after sanding:


And the control board under a big pile of books:


Then I put on the machined socket strips and the filter capacitors, which was basically the last step I needed to do for the base PCB before putting in the ICs:


Then added the pots and 3 colors of LEDS: (I know man, I'm friggin' CRAZY.) Planning the colors and putting in the LEDs was probably one of the most fun parts of this project so far IMHO. I have no idea what that says about me.


And the look of it with the front panel on and the LEDS!


Woo hoo! More to come.


Patience was never a strong trait of mine, at least when I'm obsessing on something. This MB-6582 project is certainly my main obsession right now, and I've run into another snag that I can only blame myself for.

I was not expecting to be able to get any work done last night, but the opportunity came up. So, I started putting in the tactile switches into the CS PSB. When working on the CS, I'm following Hawkeye's amazing thread. I rocked step 6 while in a zone of meticulousness and awareness.

I hit step 7, which just involved popping in the remaining switches without having to snip off any leads, and I got impatient. Maybe I was tired. I didn't re-read Hawkeye's instructions. I put in the switches and soldered them in record time. While I'll admit my soldering technique is getting pretty efficient, I didn't solder them on while my front panel was attached. The front panel will go on after about 40sec to a minute of fiddling. Hmmmmm. I don't think that will work for the JB-Weld step (I believe step 9 in the tutorial.)

So, let this be a lesson to you so that you don't make the mistakes I did here.

Read and follow directions.

Do not rush.

Have patience.

At 41 years old, you'd think I'd know by now. This is the price of being a still very excitable kid at heart, I suppose.

So, I have two options at this point.

  1. I could just go for broke and take a chance on mucking up my beautiful obnoxious new front panel. If I do this, every time I have to remove and replace the front panel from the CS board, it'll be a pain in the butt. However, once I finish this (assuming that me and my front panel survive the gluing stage) I shouldn't be needing to remove the front panel very much. I'll be too busy rocking out. (Famous last words)
  2. I could get a new CS board. I wouldn't need to order any new parts, as I have enough diodes and switches to populate another board. This option will pretty much ruin any chances of finishing this project in time for the concert.

I'm leaning towards #2. I sent an email to SmashTV to see if he can hook me up with just a CS board. We'll see.

Hawkeye, have you any words of wisdom?


My electronics "lab" has now been moved out of the laundry room and minimally set up in another nook in the basement. Still yet to see if the landlord approves... :ahappy:

I got it set up in time to put a couple hours of work on the base PCB. I had picked up some 1K resistors at Radio Shack to replace the ones I destroyed. I picked up 1/2 watt resistors, thinking that was the right rating. However, bringing them home, I see they are much bigger than my original resistors were. I'm assuming that if the originals were 1/4 watt, it's no big deal to use 1/2 watt ones, as long as the resistance is the same, correct? :question:

They look kinda big and old school on the board. I like. Now I've just got to get the machined pin socket strips for the filter capacitors, and I'll be ready to put in the ICs and test!


My obnoxious front and back panels came in! :drool: I plopped my logo on the LED grid, as well as other customizations you can see. I haven't decided what I'm going to do with the back panel pots yet, though I'll probably go with the feedback pots. That being the case, I just put a big BLAT on it in case I change my mind once I get to that point. I also put the larger hole for the 1/4" jack for the mix out.



and finally, a shot of the new lab...


And there you have it, there it is. I'll keep ye posted, whether you like it or not. :wink:


Lab frustrations

So, a little background:

I have been doing my work a temporary lab I had set up down the basement of the building I live in. It's actually in the laundry room. I get in the way of the landlord trying to do his laundry, and I'm ducking under drying jeans just to get to the table. I know the moisture in the room isn't ideal, but it's what I got. If you know anything about living in NYC, space is at a total premium, and just to have access to a basement (esp without owning the bldg) is a serious luxury.

My upstairs neighbor and I, with the landlord's blessing, cleared a bunch of junk out of the basement this weekend and cleared an area for me to have a more permanent setup. Again, not ideal as the ventilation isn't stellar, however, it's out of the way and my own space in an incredibly raw and rustic alcove. I'll be right by the electrical mains and meters, so I can really fry myself if I choose!

I need a desk or a workbench, as the table I was using in the laundry room is too wide for this new electronics nook. I took my studio apart getting all my spare Ikea IVAR shelving, made measurements, and put a plan together to use that old stuff. This would be great, as it's just taking up valuable space in the studio. After destroying my studio to get this stuff out, I realized I couldn't find the stupid little Ikea pins to put it all together. The last time I touched these shelves was probably 2005 or something. I checked the house, and the studio again for the pins, to no avail, wasting the night. Of course this is the only night this week I've got off until Friday, and I should probably spend some time with my wife at some point... *ahem* so I think Friday night's out, too.

I was hoping to be back in working shape with the new electronics nook but alas, I'm screwed for tonight at least. It's a bit of a setback... I'm hoping to finish this box by the end of the month, so I have a couple weeks to work it into the act for the concert in mid May. I'm not so sure it'll work out. I knew going into it that kind of a deadline would be a stretch for someone of my experience level.

In other, more uplifting news, I heard from Front Panel Express today and my custom panel will be arriving later this week. Just wait till you see it. It's awesomely obnoxious and self-serving, and I've no qualms about admitting it!

Sorry to bitch and complain about stupid non-fun non-MidiBox stuff. Thanks for reading and I'll keep ye posted.


So... After a morning session, a 5 hour rehearsal and 2 hours working in my studio, I was able to sneak into the basement lab to do some work for a short spell.

Here's the board yesterday after I yanked... uh, carefully took out those resistors I had installed incorrectly... It's the R4_SIDx and R24_SIDx series that I had put into the C3_SIDx/C23_SIDx spot. (I stole, er, borrowed my wife's nice camera, so these pics are a little more detailed)


There was still leftover solder in some of the holes as you can see here:


So, I tried using solder wick. It worked out really good sometimes for me, and took forever sometimes. Sometimes the solder sucker completely cleared out the holes too... it was a pretty imperfect science for me, and I don't feel I have quite the hang of it yet, but I more or less got the holes cleared, and only singed the board a little:


So, tonight I added some more capacitors to the SID modules:


But I ran out of time before I could finish, so here's where I stand now:


I wont have time tomorrow to work on it :cry: , so I'll hopefully find some time over the weekend...

I'm movin' forward again, and it feels good!


First Week Recap

Here's a recap of my first week building my MB-6582. Pics were taken on an iPad. I love my iPad for a lot of things, and it's camera is definitely not one of them.

I got my parts (so shiny) right before I had to split town a couple weeks. Once I got back, I was rarin to go.

Everything started off pretty smoothly. I was being vigilant about following the construction guide. So I started with resistors, diodes, and caps that were inside of IC sockets. Although I didn't notice this at the time, I missed a few, and I mad a pretty horrible error with the resistors, which you can see here if you see it. I'll go there later...


Then I added the sockets, resistor networks, and headers:


Then, as the construction guide says, I needed to make my decision as to what type of power supply to have. I'm going for option B. I have 8 8580 SIDs that I plan on using, but I also have a couple of 6581s, and want to have the ability to use those if needed. I figure SIDs are just going to get more scarce as time marches on, so it's good to have options. So, I put on option B:


So, I figure I'm ready to test, like the construction guide says. I scan a bunch of threads on the forum. I read somewhere that testing the power supply first to be sure it works is a good error checking policy. Sadly I'm still new enough that I shouldn't be sticking probes from my DVM onto the pins of a hot power supply. Even though I thought I did my research, I fried the PSU before I even tested my board! Not only that, all I had to do was turn on my C64 to see if the PSU was working. So, I felt like an idiot, but, it's not the first time I've felt like an idiot, and it won't be the last. Reading about how wonky those old C64 bricks are anyway, it got me thinking that I will probably either build my own linear PSU, or find some other way to avoid using the vintage one. But, to solve the immediate problem I had at hand, I was able to find a PSU here on the Midibox forums pretty quickly, which was awesome.

Since I couldn't work on the Base PCB anymore, I figured I'd work on the control surface until the PSU came in. I'm following Hawkeye's to do this. He also gives links to parts online, which helps sourcing incredibly. So, Here's the first few steps covered on the control surface:


And then, the new PSU came in today, much quicker than I thought possible. This is great, as the next step on the control board would require the front panel, which hasn't been completed yet. I tested the PSU on my C64 and it worked fine. So, I went through all the tests I was supposed to do on the base pcb, and everything checked out great. Awesome! So now I can start building the rest of the core and sid modules. I start to do this, then notice that I had put a whole row of resistors in holes meant for capacitors! Ugh.

I'm not the best at removing components yet. So, it took a lot of time, but I took the resistors out (ruining a lot of them, so I'll have to order some more.) First I used a solder sucker to get some of the solder out and then I put the iron on, one pin at a time, and gently tried to take the resistor out w/my needle nosed pliers. I'm sure there are better ways to do this, but I didn't seem to destroy any pads. Getting the solder out of the holes was a pain. Luckily I had some solder wick, and I figured this would be a good time to try it. I watched a couple vids on youtube (specifically this one) and gave it a go. It took longer than I liked, and I singed the board a little, but I was able to start getting the hang of it and clearing the holes. I didn't quite finish though. I'll start with that tomorrow.

Alright. Progress report concluded. Carry on...


Greetings. I'm starting this blog as a record for myself, and also to keep from pestering everyone constantly on the MB Forum over all the details of what I'm doing. Even though I think it's incredibly exciting, I'm still in an orbit deep within the galaxy of Noob, you dig. It's probably not that interesting to you kids out there with mad electronikz skillz. Perhaps my experiences will be of some use to someone else taking the plunge into this world, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm probably just gassing myself here.

I'm a professional musician in New York City. I play trombone and ukulele, mostly in acoustic jazz type situations of varying degrees. I do a lot of composing music for television...mostly cartoons... Work's been a little slow the last coupla years, so I've allowed myself to embrace some of my vintage-tech related obsessions at a higher obsessionary amplitude (er, my term) than I had allowed myself in the past.

If this sounds odd coming from a jazz musician that plays mostly 20's and 30's stuff... it's not like I grew up in the depression. I grew up in the 70s and 80s. I considered myself quite the synth nut when I was in jr. high and high school. I was also a computer enthusiast (NERD) on my C64. I programmed a decent bit and dabbled in hacking. While going to music school, I completed a minor in computer science as well.

While most the composing I've done (for hire) has been for acoustic bands or even orchestras, I've always tried to find a way to rock some SID somewhere. My first attempt at this was for an animated short by my incredibly talented sister-in-law, Ariel Martian. I wanted the music to be half played by a live orchestra and half played by SID.

Buffalo Head was a science project in a half. I wasn't aware of some of the hardware options that were out there like Hardsid...nor did I have the budget for that at the time. I ended up using an SX64 and a MIDI interface through the cartridge port. Some of the music I composed and inputted with the old Sidplayer/Sideditor from Compute! like I did in high school...entering the music with a joystick. Some of it I played "live" via MIDI using M64. Transferring files from the internet to the SX was a bitch. I remember I had to send M64 as a SYSEX dump via Logic on my Mac (!) just to get the application into the SX64 from the internetz. Crazy.

After that I found Hardsid (at a time when I was gainly employed) and I thought my problems were solved. I ended up doing a series of shorts with Ariel for Cartoon Network in 2005. I used Hardsid...mostly.

Here's one of those:

I enjoyed working with Hardsid in a recording environment, and it did the job well, all things considered. This being said, my studio runs on Macs, and Hardsid is Windows only. I've worked on Windows machines for years, so I've no problem with that technically. However, it was a big pain to have to get a second computer hooked up via MIDI from the Mac, then piping the audio from the Hardsid audio back into the Mac. And face it, I'm pretty sure that the majority of music production is done on Macs in the US. (If not a majority, a very hefty non majority percentage, and certainly worthy of support. )

Lately, in the last year, I've been playing some SID, via Hardsid, live in concert in a duo. Musically speaking, the duo is totally outside of what I normally play around these parts, and I'm having a ball. Playing Hardsid in a live situation isn't great though. They've not been too good with updates, the software interface is not wonderful, and they promised a Mac plug that they never delivered on. (That's what I get for buying early...) Granted these guys don't do this full time, and they are very clear about that, so I really can't give them too much hell. However, Hardsid is not the technology that fulfills my needs. ("needs" may be a bit of a strong term for this, I suppose...hehe) Once you start using it live, not only do I have the delay from the Hardsid to deal with, but also I have to deal with a laptop on stage, running XP, being finicky about hardware being plugged in the exact same USB port as last time. (grumblegrumble)

I have a small project studio that I do my composing and recording work in. Since I've had no real work recently, my budget for repairs is pretty much non-existant. So, I've been dabbling in electronics ever since I fixed an old RX17 drum machine. I've repaired a few other pieces of gear in the last year that has saved me hundreds of dollars.

Then, one day, as I was trying to find new options for playing SID live (I was even looking at emulators! The horror!!!) I came across Midibox, and I completely freaked out. I had just finished building a Micro-KIM and I was rarin' for some other projects. I just wasn't expecting to run into something like the MB-6582. Man. What a machine.

Therefore, I'm going to document my build. I've been working on it for about a week now, so I have a little catching up to do... but I have all my images and I'll be writing more as I get time.

As I do this, if anyone sees any glaring errors or has suggestions, I'm open.

Thanks for reading...


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