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blue - embedded PC synth

Guest cem3340

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Guest cem3340

I'd like to take this opportunity to announce a birth.

Conceived through frustration and financial pain.

Born to the kitchen table after long, often fruitless days.

She has a heart that some would say is old.

She has a heritage of many colours.

She is simply beautiful, looks that could kill yet a voice so

sweet it as though from heaven.

My wife calls her an abomination!!

I simply call her......


Watch this space

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Guest cem3340

Read here for a bit of back ground


A few more renders


The above is a trial render...the area around the keyboard, pitchbend etc is still being thought about ???



and finally a few mp3 recordings of the output. These were recorded directly from the output with no post processing. All of what you hear is being generated by my prototype hardware all in realtime. This includes the drum and other samples.




Any interest in this project?  ;D

BTW..anyone know of a good free file dumpsite...my webspace is a shocker so for me to provide more details/files etc I will be looking for a place to dump it.

Another BTW...I have plans to detail a 3U rack version of this but using a 40 character LCD and a matrix editing system using definable encoders...but its a bit of a way off, unless others would like to help out?

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wow :D, stunning design!! - which kicks of my first bout of Q's. What app(s) are u using to create such renders? Autocad? 3dsmax? I take it all the components in the image are the same dimensions of the ones ur gonna actually use too...? With such a design, are u able to take a dxf/cad file format to get the panel cut to the exact same dimensions etc? I really want to be able to transfer my ideas into realworld renders such as these which I can then take further and build too!!

2nd, are you using a mbhp core for the keyboard key scanning with the MIOS code already written to handle the input notes? I've tried to make use of an old 5 octave commadore kb but with no success based on another project using a PIC. If it can be done with MBHP core and some dins then great! :)...

Inspiring stuff fella!

Congrats :)


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Looks and sounds wicked, great concept also! Well done.

Using PC hardware in embedded form such as this has a huge future.

I'm no expert at all but I understand linux has embeddable flavours,  so that there may be ongoing device driver support and community involvement in the OS side of things into the future...

I just did a google search and got >2M hits, so there seems to be a lot of activity in this area.

Anyhow, what youve done should raise a lot of interest because it's very much ahead of it's time.


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Guest cem3340

In answer of the question on design software used the app in question is Rhinoceros. It is by far the best 3d modelling app available. I use a number of renderers though to generate the output images. The type of image I'm after determins the renderer I use. These images are rendered with Povray 3.0 at a resolution of 2048 x 1536 then I reduce the image size as neccessary post render.

I do all my modelling at 1:1 scale. I normally either buy sample knobs, switches etc or get a sample sent to me and take dimensional info using digital calipers from them. I then use this data to create 3d models. All models then go into a folder for use in future projects. Thus everything you see is readily available. Also it enables me to produce DXF files etc for laser cutting or machining and artwork production, again everything you see can be replicated quite easily. I dont do product design for a living...I fix industrial robots.. :D its just something I enjoy doing. This current version of blue is the result of 3 or 4 previous concepts and is currently (according to my soft) on its 40th revision. The data file for the design is about 75meg in size and contains approx 500k polygons. All text and graphics are also part of the 3d model, they are not textures applied during the rendering. I do this as I find it gives me better results. It takes a lot longer to model and render but for me its just the way I do things. The graphic layout was the result of trying many concepts to provide a clear yet low cost option (if you look, there are only 3 colors used in total. In terms of getting it professionaly silk screened, this is a great benefit) It takes around 3-4 hours to render a high quality hires image. In all, the design work has taken probably around 80-100 hrs so far.

The keyboard scanner is based on a design I found on the web. If I can find some file dump space, I am happy to make it all available to forum members.

I'm glad I dont have a digital camera, the prototype is a treat to look at...a big pile of wire and veroboard spread out over a sheat of partical board...pretty sad. When all the bugs are ironed out of the control hardware, i intend to design and get professionaly manufactured PCB's done. I'm lucky that due to my work, I have a lot of contacts in a lot of places, so getting all the metal work, artwork etc done wont cost me the earth..(a few people owe me some big favours.. ;D)

Yes, for those of you who haven't read the info txt, this thing is actually PC based but using embedded software techniques. It boots from flash ROM to MSDOS then immediately starts the synth engine (running AXS 3.0 softsynth) all this takes around 12 seconds. In the info I mentioned the fact there is a matrox millenium graphics card under the hood. Its there only because of the fact AXS looks for a VESA complient card or it wont start. One nice side of this is that If I choose to, I can extend the VGA connector to the rear of the keyboard, thus I could attached a monitor and make use of the internal Sequencing of AXS as well....

As to being ahead of its time...I just had all this stuff sitting around doing nothing, it made sense to me to put it all to good use. Ther is also a company developing a similar commercial keyboard based around a PC that will load and run VSTi and DXi softsynths stand alone...I've seen a prototype and its actually pretty good though I dont think it would stand up to be lugged around too much. Much more of a studio instrument in my opinion. I have designed blue to be solid. Internally there are no fragile harddrives, no moving parts at all apart from front panel and all internals will be well bracketed.

Really, the AXS softsynth is a killer.

The mp3's dont do it justice. Once in its complete form, blue will give Nord and Virus a real run for their money and cost a damn site less to build as well (depending on what junk you already have lying around of course ;))

As I pointed out above, if I can get some file dump space, I'd love to put up full design's, files, verbal rantings etc so others can share in building one. I also am short of time so some of the interface coding (which is rough at the moment) may be a little while off yet. I would be happy if others wish to become involved in getting blue and its brothers and sisters up and running (ie working on a rack version)...this is a forum of open hardware design, by the people, for the people. This is what blue is about, getting a commercial quality synth

that is buildable by the average punter!! Imagine peoples faces when they see this sitting in with your gear and they ask, "where can I get one"...you reply " I built it myself"...such a sweet feeling it is.



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Hey cem...

Thanks for infos :)....

In regards to web space for ur files...how about the portal? Isnt that one of the purposes for it? Failing that, i'll stick it on my space - even knock up a simple page if need be, or have u got one sorted alread?



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A very nice presentation and impressing sounds of your upcoming baby! :)

I remember AXS very well, this was one of the first virtual synths I tried in the 90s. Due to lack of multitasking capabilities under DOS I sampled the sounds and loaded them into Fasttracker II - an intricate workflow, but it worked.

In the meantime I prefer the full integration of a virtual synth into the sequencer (for a simplified automation), or - like you - a synth with it's own control surface for best ergonomic use (-> MIDIbox SID of course :-)).

Best Regards, Thorsten.

P.S.: Disc space isn't an issue on the midibox.org server, so just send the files to Ian. The realization and the sources of such a project is a great inspiration source.

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Guest cem3340

I've been working on finalising the case design and I'm pretty happy with the result. I'll do a couple of renders

during the night and post them up for comment. Apart

from a few cosmetic details I have acheived a case that could be drilled, cut, bent by most local sheet metal shops. I have also come up with a few ideas on how to get the graphics done and that should be reasonably easy to do as well.

So all going well, I'll put up the pics tomorrow and let me know what you think...any suggestions as to changes will be welcomed. With the case design committed, I'll then work on tidying up the control side of things whilst I see about getting the sheet metal work done.

Sorry to those who are waiting for more details but as you can imagine, a project like this has lots of little problems to sort. I really dont want to stuff people around by posting up half finished info. Once the basics are all working, I'll do up a package of stuff and send it for inclusion at the portal. At that stage, I hope others might join me in this quest and help out with some coding to get all the functions working right.

A couple of ideas I am toying with are based around the multi-timbral side of AXS. I  have an idea to make available various modes of operation using the 8 multi's

available. Remember that AXS can play up to 32 notes at a time spread over 8 different programs (voices, multi's..what ever you want to call them) My idea is to allow you to stack from 2 to 8 of the multi's thus enabling very full patches made up of different sounds. Also a mode to allow key splits would be nice.

AXS is programmed to allocate midi channels 1 thru 8 to each of the multi's. To achieve the above, you simply code the core to redirect data from one incoming midi channel to channels 1 thru 8 as set up in your stack or split...(I hope I explained that right :))

Another nicety would be an arpegiator. Again this would require a bit of midi key data manipulation, but it is not something unacheivable...(in my head anyway.. ;D)

till tomorrow


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Guest cem3340

Here's a couple of final case renders.

Let me know what you think. I'm happy with the look of

it and unless I get some feedback as to layout etc, I'll commit the design and generate the sheet metal work

drawings. From there, I'll be getting the case cut and bent etc.




these have had to be reduced in size but if anyone

would like a bigger version (more detail) just PM me

hmmm...why aren't the pics showing?.... on my list

to fix asap..if someone will tell me how... ::)

Whats the maximum pic size allowable?

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  • 3 weeks later...

That looks cool. But one downside is that there is already an open source synthesis ap out there called Blue. Dunno if you're concerned, but I thought I should mention that. It's a csound front end by Steven Yi. Cool program too.


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Guest cem3340

The SBLive stuff looks good. I have used the Live and to be honest, it is a pretty underated card. This is primarily due to creatives "under-utilisation" of the 10K1 chip.

If you look at the overall picture, you can undestand this was probably a commercial decision by creative. EMU

which is a subsiduary of Creative marketed the APS card which in itself was built around the 10K1 dsp. The APS was marketed toward the middle to high end audio user where as the Live was directed soley at the general PC user. So in effect I can understand creatives "hesitation" in their 10K1 application.

As to the opensource front end, no I was unaware that it existed. I dont see it as an issue though really as I dont intend to market this commercially and this is a combination of hardware and software. I dont wish to step on any toes though so I will keep an eye on things and if it appears to be a problem to anyone, a colour and name change may be in order.  ;)

As to how things are going with it, a bit slow at the moment. My better half has got me to paint our house and stuff (something I've been promising foe a long time) so its all on hold for about the next 4 to 8 weeks but I will be back into it as a priority straight after the Xmas period. I am slowly working on a variation on the case design to simplify manufacture.



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  • 2 months later...
Guest cjlargear

Great work. But how about putting in there and a screen.I don't know to much about electronics but can we connect a graphical lcd to the vga output of the graphics card? Just imagine that... a full workstation with synth, sampler's capabillity only limited by the amount of storage device's GB ?!? and of course a pattern sequencer.Not bad for let's say...300 euros!!!

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