HUROLURA

ASX based MidiBox Synth Project

47 posts in this topic

Following discussion in this post:

Some people among whom Maniac, Shuriken and I have in mind a project to build up a device using:

- a Use-Audio ASX/X-synth board as a low cost (150 €) flexible DSP VA sound source

- a Core32 based Midibox to enhance the direct control user interface provided by the Plugiator solution

Main idea would be to setupo something providing the fusion of the Creamware/SonicCore ASB features to provide hardware mean of controlling the correpsonding plug-in whether they are hosted by an ASX board, NOAH or Scope.

Alternatively such a device should be flexible enough to remote control some other kind of VA synth ...

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Here is a picture of what use I could imagine of such a box.

I will try to work on a first view of what a standalone unit could be...

post-6970-127385376111_thumb.jpg

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Details on the Use Audio Plugiator ASX board:

Technical:

CPU - ATMega32

DPS - Analog Devices SHARC 21363

Internal Connections:

9 Volt DC Powerconnector

Midi IN

External Connections:

USB - B

MIC IN

Headphone Out

Line Out Left

Line Out Right

Physical Dimensions:

95 x 130 mm

Here is a closeup of the internal powerconnector:

gallery_6528_21_101462.png

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It would be good to build it for both internal ASX board or external device (more flexible).

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It would be good to build it for both internal ASX board or external device (more flexible).

I totally agree. It basically would be a synth control surface. If we make it programmable, people could alter the key/knob bindings for their own needs. As i said in the other topic we are basically taking the concept of the Midibox UC and recreate it for Core32. Hopefully we can improve on the design, which isn't ideal.

In the meanwhile i started building my Core32 yesterday. But didn't get passed the stage of placing the 12 Mhz Crystal. I found out i forgot to order the two caps required :pinch:

Update: With a little bit if scavaging i managed to find all the parts.

Edited by Shuriken

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I am OK. Midibox UC is not intuitive/synth oriented enough for me.

I would rather set back something more inspired by the CreamWare/SonicCore ASB sound modules but merging them alltogether.

I just spent some time counting the number of parameter to map for the main ASX plugs:

- LightWave: 114 parameters

- Pro-12 : 86 parameters

- Prodyssey: 80 parameters

- Minimax: 60 parameters

The total is then 340 parameters but I already reduced this large amount to 228 as some are obviously similar from one plug to the other (EG ADSR parameters, Osc freq coarse/fine, ...)

Looking at the common features ...

Osc Noise Ext RM Filter EG LFO

LightWave: 2 0 0 0 2 3 2

Pro-12: 2 1 1 0 1 2 1

Prodyssey: 2 1 1 1 2 2 1

Minimax: 3 1 1 0 1 2 0

More parameter fusion could be achieved by merging:

- LightWave Osc Grunge with Pro12/Prodyssey Osc Pulse Width

- LightWave LFO2 with Prodyssey S&H

- LightWave Vcf2 with Prodyssey HPF

Edited by HUROLURA

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Here is an attempt to show the common parts and differences between Minimax/Pro12/Prodyssey/LightWave plug-in architecture.

post-6970-127393501786_thumb.jpg

Edited by HUROLURA

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A few questions I am wondering about merging control:

- Merge Minimax Osc 3 and other plug-ins LFO 1 ?

- Merge Prodyssey S&H and LightWave LFO 2 or Free EG ?

I see 3 types of thing among these plugs:

- Audio flow control elements: Osc/Mix/Filter/Amp/Pan + FX (Chorus+Delay)

- "Fixed" control elements including enveloppe generator, LFO and keyboard note

- "RealTime" control elements including Velocity, AfterTouch, Modulation Wheel

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I am OK. Midibox UC is not intuitive/synth oriented enough for me.

I would rather set back something more inspired by the CreamWare/SonicCore ASB sound modules but merging them alltogether.

As i said its only the concept. The design isn't to my liking either.

A few questions I am wondering about merging control:

- Merge Minimax Osc 3 and other plug-ins LFO 1 ?

- Merge Prodyssey S&H and LightWave LFO 2 or Free EG ?

I see 3 types of thing among these plugs:

- Audio flow control elements: Osc/Mix/Filter/Amp/Pan + FX (Chorus+Delay)

- "Fixed" control elements including enveloppe generator, LFO and keyboard note

- "RealTime" control elements including Velocity, AfterTouch, Modulation Wheel

Here is a wild idea. Consider making a fixed number of controls which are common for all the synths. The variable ones could be the knobs around the display area. The label will be shown in the display as you switch profiles.

I had a bit of fiddling with the front panel designer. The DOGXL display is just big enough to fit 4 knobs on a side. So 8 knobs or 16 if you also choose to populate bottom en top.

Edited by Shuriken

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I thought the LCD should be "context sensitive": if you move an env poti, automatically display the enveloppe on the LCD.

So here is a first rough list of common elements through the 4 synth:

2 Rotary encoder for waveform selection on each of the first 2 Osc with Waveform Display on the LCD

OSC 8 POT

- Coarse/Fine/Pitch Mod/PulseWidth-Grunge for 1st oscillator

- Coarse/Fine/Pitch Mod/PulseWidth-Grunge for 2nd oscillator

4 sound sources Audio Mixer: 4 POT

- Osc/Vco 1/A

- Osc/Vco 2/A

- Minimax-Pro12-Prodyssey Noise and Osc 1 Bal for LightWave

- Minimax-Pro12-Prodyssey External and Osc 2 Bal for LightWave

Filter: 4 POT

- Cutoff, Resonance, Env Depth, KeyFollow (the 2 switches on the Minimax could be replaced by the pot, the Keyb control on the Prodyssey could be altered by the Keyb/S&H Filter control switch but still using the same Pot) => 4 Pot

Env: 10 POT

- FILTER ADSR ENV + VEL (still no R on Minimax, AR env on Prodyssey) => 5 Pot

- AMP ADSR ENV + VEL(no R on Minimax though, ADSR env on Prodyssey) => 5 Pot

The shape of the enveloppe could be displayed on the LCD ...

Regarding the context sensitive display:

- the upper part of it could display the common parameter values while the lower part could be used for specific/extra parameter adjustment depending on the one displayed at the upper side of display. Then 4 Rotary encoder+push could be welcome under the display

post-6970-127463272458_thumb.jpg

Edited by HUROLURA

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Regarding the effect size:

- a set of 4 POT + 1 Chorus/Flang switch for the modulation effect (same on the ASX and NOAH though different messages)

- a set of 8 POT + 3 switches for the delay effect (same effect, called sunth delay, available among the NOAH delay effects)

- 2 extra pot for dry/wet balance on each effect.

For this set of control elements, maybe a 2 row set would be the most easy ...

post-6970-127463034482_thumb.jpg

Edited by HUROLURA

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So here is a rough idea of what the front panel could be.

Now I will try to check how it could be used for the different type of plugins...

post-6970-127464732595_thumb.jpg

Edited by HUROLURA

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And the same fully equipped ...

post-6970-127465906867_thumb.jpg

post-6970-127465972253_thumb.jpg

post-6970-127466003785_thumb.jpg

post-6970-127466008653_thumb.jpg

Edited by HUROLURA

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And the same fully equipped ...

Guys, what I see here is a massive change from what you originally proposed. In effect rather than creating an interface for the ASX board you're now basically proposing a generic midi synth control surface with programmable knobs. The idea in principle is a very good one. However......

First of all please bear in mind that the following is a personal opinion, and just my gut instinct as to what the fairly major pitfalls are. If somebody brought this to me as a commercial project, I'd say exactly the same thing.

I can see some distinct problems with it. The front panel of the control surface that you're proposing already falls over when it comes to useability with Creamware synths in the ASB.... you're already short of controls for the Pro-12 and the MiniMax on that surface, not to mention the difficulty of translating the controls of the Prodyssey to what basically appears to be an almost Pro 5 interface (with a lot of switches missing) front panel....

This is quite often where generic synth controllers fall over, because you end up with a ton of buttons or switches that you won't need for every synth and can end up short of switches or buttons on other synths.

Personally I've just never found any generic controller intuitive to use with synths. Mostly because all synths are so different from each other, and it's like trying to squeeze the functionality of 50 different devices onto one surface.

As the use of each knob or switch changes entirely depending on which other piece of hardware or software it is that you're controlling. It tends to get very confusing, because you end up not remembering which knob it is that carries out which function in relation to which synth.

This is exactly why, when Creamware released them as semi hardware versions, they built a specific control interface for each replica synth... It actually makes them more difficult to program if you don't have the original interface or an interface specific to whichever synth it is.

You can get away with this with a MIDI Mixer type generic controller, because pretty much all mixers follow the same layout and way of doing things. But that's not the case with synths.

As a suggestion, Maybe you could get around some of this by using panel overlays that show the function of each knob or switch when you have the box controlling a specific device?? But even then there's a learning and memory curve involved for each separate device.

Please understand that I'm not saying this to run down your project!! Far from it... I think you do have some good ideas. But please think about the implementation of it, before you rush into it. To create and invent something useful to the world, you need to be clear that there is actually a need for it to begin with. AND need to be very clear what that need actually is. Otherwise you could end up trying to create a solution for a problem that doesn't exist to begin with. It's a trap that a lot of people inventing things fall into.

The question you guys need to think about is: Does the world need a synth controler that trys to be a "jack of all trades" but in doing that ends up mastering none of those trades.

On top of that, it looks to me like everything you're proposing in this (except display of envelopes, which could be written in) is already available in MidiBox 64 or 64E. Re-inventing the wheel a bit.

Here is a wild idea. Consider making a fixed number of controls which are common for all the synths. The variable ones could be the knobs around the display area. The label will be shown in the display as you switch profiles.

Called the Palm Audio PPG Realizer (1986).....

post-7173-12752727082_thumb.jpg

the Realizer features an analog model, an FM model, wavetable synthesis, and a sampler. (starting to sound very like the ASX board and the Plugiator isn't it) They were designed to show an image of a Minimoog, or other synth on their built-in monitor. Then you could control the Minimoog knobs with the controls around the screen of the Realizer. Cost $65,000.00 in 1986. This was the last product designed by PPG before they went out of business. I'm not even sure if a working one of these ever made it out into the real world. The only pictures I've ever found of them are the publicity shots.

Actually, when the Realizer was first announced (April 1985), we sat around the control room laughing at the idea of virtual synths like that. We actually thought it was an April Fool joke... It was that close to Science Fiction at the time.

It's still a great idea guys..... But you'd really have to work on the implementation and figure out if it's at all what people actually want. Or what it actually is you're creating in software that we don't already have in Midibox64.

Best Regards,

Julian (Fozzy The Bear)

Edited by Fozzy The Bear

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At this point the front panel design is something which comes from Hurolola. As it is, it doesn't justify using a Core32. A bunch of knobs can be realized with the use of a Midibox64 as Alexk has so elegantly showed us with his

I agree that with compromising on all fronts you end up with something that excel at nothing. The controller keyboard i have at the moment has the same problem you mentioned. It has a bunch of knobs, but i can never remember which one is for what :frantics: , especially when trying to control different synths with it.

My idea was to create a control interface something looking more like the Arturia Origin. Less knobs and more flexible.

sl_arturia_origin.jpg

It would be nice though to create something that would appeal to a lot of people. So any input is appreciated.

Edited by Shuriken

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Thanks for your feedback Julian.

My main purpose was to through away a starting basis for further discussion.

The idea was to catch up what was common to the main plug-in of the ASX (Minimax, Pro12, Prodyssey and part of LightWave).

Most of synth have oscillators mixed into a filter section going through an amplifier stage.

The effect setup is really similar for all synth plug-in inside the ASX (chorus/flanger + dual delay).

We need to find a clever trick to manage different synth modmatrix ...

I also thought the screen could be used to implement more plug-in specific functions to each synth.

The idea I wanted to keep in mind was also not to have to delve into cryptic menu trees to find some feature.

The Origin Layout seems also quite well designed.

Funnilly, John Bowen thought about the PPG realizer when he first saw the Origin.

The trick regarding the Origin is it uses a TFT quater VGA display and some reviews pointed out the screen to knob link was not that obvious ...

Something more flexible but probably out of range would be to get something similar to FeelTune Rhizome

What would you consider a reasonable number of knob (except what a midibox 64 would handle)?

Question also is what would be best: pot or endless rotary encoder ?

The reason why I choose the Core32 are:

- I am new to Midibox and wanted to use C rather than assembly.

- I have got one Core32 board here !!! ;)

- I wanted to be able to inherit a subset of MidiBoxSeq v4 to add internal phrase seq

- I wanted to be able to implement multiple task including:

=> synth edition (Midibox64 dedicated to ASX synth for a start)

=> step sequencing mode (alternate use of the 16 upper control elements for exemple).

=> patch translation (strangely the CC mapping is not consistent through the differents ASX plug-in though the effect setup seem to be)

=> patch interpolation mode / morph mode (rough idea: you upload 2 patches in the Core32 memory then use the control element to balance the value for each parameter between thoose two patches)

All this would be maybe out of what a Core8 would bear.

I made severall attempt to use standard MIDI controller (BCR 2000, X-station) to remote control the ASX and/or NOAH. BCR 2000 is more generic, X-station is one of the best synth oriented midi controller.

But I feel the direct edition provided by the ASB unit are the best for me though some of the control are missing (effects, aftertouch, Pitch bend, mmod wheel and other extra control).

So what I have in mind is to make an attempt to setup something mixing the best features of all thoose solution.

Edited by HUROLURA

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The idea was to catch up what was common to the main plug-in of the ASX (Minimax, Pro12, Prodyssey and part of LightWave).

The problem I have with them is that, they don't actually have much in common with each other. They are totally separate synths, with very different workflows. Especially when you look at the FMagia or Lightwave or the Vocodizer. and If it's a generic control surface that is able to actually control the other synths then speaking in the case of the Prophet you need a lot of switches as well as knobs in order to actually program sounds on it.

Most of synth have oscillators mixed into a filter section going through an amplifier stage.
That is the basic workflow of more or less all hardwired (non modular) synthesizers. But there are so many variations of control and choices that can be made within each of the sections that I'm struggling to see how you can implement access to all of them for each synth and keep access to each control obvious so that you know where it is on the front panel.

The only way I can see of doing it, is to incorporate a dedicated PC into the box and a TFT or LCD screen onto part of the front panel. But then you run into the brick wall that the cost is high and it defeats the point of using the ASX Card.

We need to find a clever trick to manage different synth modmatrix ...
Yes... that's exactly the problem that needs to be solved, and it's one that has defeated a lot of synth manufacturers.

I also thought the screen could be used to implement more plug-in specific functions to each synth.

Agreed but it'll need to be a much more capable display than the one you have on the panel design right now.

What would you consider a reasonable number of knob (except what a midibox 64 would handle)?

It's not just a question of Knobs... it's a question of switches as well. Most of the synths have switched functions as well as rotary or pot functions.

Question also is what would be best: pot or endless rotary encoder ?

No contest on this question.... I looked at this on the Prophet 5 project and originally intended to use rotary encoders, until I realised that they give you absolutely no visual feedback as to the position they're actually in. So the answer here is that unless the rotary control is for stepping through a menu or for stepping a digital value up and down then the controllers should be, without a doubt POT's.

CONTINUED BELOW.......

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The reason why I choose the Core32 are:

- I am new to Midibox and wanted to use C rather than assembly.

Ahhh!! That explains a lot them.... I think you may have got confused by some of the earlier documentation. The software for the 8 Bit Cores and 32 bit cores, Can both be written in C. Both types of core run their own version of MIOS. Which uses and interprets the compiled C language.

- I have got one Core32 board here !!! ;)
OK :thumbsup:

- I wanted to be able to inherit a subset of MidiBoxSeq v4 to add internal phrase seq

OUCH!!! :frantics: It's not too difficult to write a basic simple Midi Sequencer or an Arpegiator. However! a sequencer as capable and complex as MidiBoxSeq v4 is something entirely different. Picking apart the MidiBoxSeq v4 software in order to incorporate a few of its functions is probably not the easiest way to do that. In terms of programming that would actually be a bit of a nightmare.

It would be much easier to just build a MidiBoxSeq v4 as a separate unit or incorporate it into the same box or to write your own basic sequence and arpegiator functions.

- I wanted to be able to implement multiple task including:

=> synth edition (Midibox64 dedicated to ASX synth for a start)

Yes synth editing is the main object here I guess..

=> patch translation (strangely the CC mapping is not consistent through the differents ASX plug-in though the effect setup seem to be)
That's an easy one to implement... you just create a different, Midibox bank, for each synth with the correct assignments in it.The reason they're so different from each other in their CC allocations, is because they started life as individual Creamware emulations rather than an integrated system, and they obviously never put much thought into making them totally compatible.

I hope that I understood what you were saying correctly and that you were not actually suggesting translating a patch from say the Pro-12 so that it works on Minimax. You'd have to view them as entirely different synthesizers. In that they do despite having similarly named controls have entirely different (virtual / physical) architecture.

=> patch interpolation mode / morph mode (rough idea: you upload 2 patches in the Core32 memory then use the control element to balance the value for each parameter between thoose two patches)
OUCH!! Almost vector synthesis... That's much more complex a proposition than you can imagine right now.... Let me give you an example... Lets say you have a switched function that is OFF in one patch and ON in the other... which of those settings would be correct in your merged patch and how is the core going to know which one is correct.

What you're actually talking about there is entirely re-writing the synth engine.. and not using the ASX... merging patches like you suggested is not actually possible with the ASX Hardware. It's not a limitation of Midibox it's a limitation of the emulations in ASX.

All this would be maybe out of what a Core8 would bear.
Actually no.... everything you suggested so far can be achieved on a Core8. Except the last one of course, but that can't be achieved on a core32 either. Everything will be faster and have less latency on a Core32, but it's not impossible on a Core8.

I made severall attempt to use standard MIDI controller (BCR 2000, X-station) to remote control the ASX and/or NOAH. BCR 2000 is more generic, X-station is one of the best synth oriented midi controller.

But I feel the direct edition provided by the ASB unit are the best for me though some of the control are missing (effects, aftertouch, Pitch bend, mmod wheel and other extra control).

So what I have in mind is to make an attempt to setup something mixing the best features of all thoose solution.

Agreed... that is the way to go.... :D Good luck with it... If there's anything I can do to help you just yell me.

My idea was to create a control interface something looking more like the Arturia Origin. Less knobs and more flexible.

sl_arturia_origin.jpg

It would be nice though to create something that would appeal to a lot of people. So any input is appreciated.

Also agreed.. I like the interface on the Origin. It's very intuitive, I was using one last week.

Like we both said, trying to do too much in the one interface would dilute the capability of each part. I think the one thing that HUROLURA might need to do, is to get away from this box that does, everything in one, idea. Because it could get way too complex a project to ever be finished and it probably isn't what everybody wants.

Best Regards,

Julian (Fozzy The Bear)

Edited by Fozzy The Bear

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OK Guys, I hope the above proves useful....

Here's a list of things I think are needed to move this project forwards now.

1) A translation of Midibox 64E (in C) to run on the 32 Bit Core.

2) Some new sections of software to drive the main display.

3) Maybe some more new sections of software for Arpegiator or Phrase Seq.. although personally I think these functions are better served by SEQ V4. or other external hardware.

All you need is somebody with the time and experience to do that.... No I'm not offering to do it. I'm afraid I have too much going on right now to start writing something else.

Good Luck!

Best Regards,

Julian (Fozzy The Bear)

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The problem I have with them is that, they don't actually have much in common with each other. They are totally separate synths, with very different workflows. Especially when you look at the FMagia or Lightwave or the Vocodizer. and If it's a generic control surface that is able to actually control the other synths then speaking in the case of the Prophet you need a lot of switches as well as knobs in order to actually program sounds on it.

My main target were the Minimax/Pro12/Prodyssey and maybe also the LightWave if I can use the LCD-encoders combination to achieve something easy to use.

The B3000, Drum'N'Bass, FMagia and Vocodizer(except the synth and FX) were out of my target (much to different)

That is the basic workflow of more or less all hardwired (non modular) synthesizers. But there are so many variations of control and choices that can be made within each of the sections that I'm struggling to see how you can implement access to all of them for each synth and keep access to each control obvious so that you know where it is on the front panel.

The only way I can see of doing it, is to incorporate a dedicated PC into the box and a TFT or LCD screen onto part of the front panel. But then you run into the brick wall that the cost is high and it defeats the point of using the ASX Card.

I already did this to achieve a Scope based dedicated PC much more flexible but still severall elements (PC Rack + LCD) and miss the control part.

Yes... that's exactly the problem that needs to be solved, and it's one that has defeated a lot of synth manufacturers.

Agreed but it'll need to be a much more capable display than the one you have on the panel design right now.

Regarding the modmatrix, that is where we have to figure out how to use the LCD + encoder set to achieve something efficient.

The most flexible and easy to use modmatrix I ever seen was the one used by EMS for exampel in the VCS3.

It's not just a question of Knobs... it's a question of switches as well. Most of the synths have switched functions as well as rotary or pot functions.

Most of the switch used in thoose synth are used by ... the ModMatrix

No contest on this question.... I looked at this on the Prophet 5 project and originally intended to use rotary encoders, until I realised that they give you absolutely no visual feedback as to the position they're actually in. So the answer here is that unless the rotary control is for stepping through a menu or for stepping a digital value up and down then the controllers should be, without a doubt POT's.

CONTINUED BELOW.......

Edited by HUROLURA

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Regarding the step seq part, I do not intend to have something as flexible and elaborate as the MIDIBOXSeq v4. More or less just what is provided in my favourite NOAH instead ;)

I hope that I understood what you were saying correctly and that you were not actually suggesting translating a patch from say the Pro-12 so that it works on Minimax. You'd have to view them as entirely different synthesizers. In that they do despite having similarly named controls have entirely different (virtual / physical) architecture.

Could also be an interesting idea by adding some noise during the translation could be fun to get a kind of randomising mode ...

That's a trick I already used by sending some MINIMAX on NOAH patch to a plugiator which generate some change because of different CC assignment and then starting from this raw result and fine tuning could lead you to interesting result.

Would never provide a One to One translation as the synth are much to different but ...

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I think you should put these extra features on a nice-to-have list. And focus on the main concept. This will be hard enough to realize.

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I think you should put these extra features on a nice-to-have list. And focus on the main concept. This will be hard enough to realize.

I have to agree with Shuriken here.... You need to get the basic box working first. When you've done that you can look at the further development of your other ideas.

This is a huge project for someone who has not built a Midibox at all, yet. It's an ambitious project. But at the moment it doesn't even have the basic control software in place. Do that first and you stand a good chance of achieving the rest of it afterwards.

Best Regards,

Julian (Fozzy The bear)

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These extra features are already on a nice to have list.

- The interpolation mode shouldn't require much hardware but only ... a lot of software (I just wanted to add or remap a few switches with leds and use the LCD for the rest).

- For the simple seq, similary, my idea was to had 1 switch+led for direct access to this mode and then re-use the upper 16 rows of pot with only extra label on the front panel or to add 16 in a row push-encoders + leds for this special feature.

So my first idea was indeed to focus on the basic box first.

The idea was to bring up a smarter user interface to the ASX board with a few more extras.

Regarding the display part, I am also wondering if an additionnal board dedicated to it wouldn't be the right solution ...

This was just somethings I thought about while waiting for some components ... :tongue:

Edited by HUROLURA

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So here is a new update for my reflexion about this ASX host: the screen should then be a quater VGA 2.8' TFT LCD with 4 rotary encoders above and 4 below for context dependant use. The 4 below being expandable to the 16 in a row at the bottom of the interface.

Here is a picture about it:

post-6970-067610900 1278871104_thumb.jpg

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