bcbox

The making of a Midibox64

83 posts in this topic

OK I have decided to put all my effort in to design and build a Midibox64. It is the best solution I have found by far to use as a controller for Ableton Live.

I thought it would be nice to document the design, build, and testing of a Midibox as it goes on over the next few months. I am going to post updates here

as I go and hopefully I will have a beautiful Midibox in a couple months time.

The purpose of my Midibox will be as a live controller for Ableton. It will not be the most original Midibox around but it will be very functional for the way I work.

The specs of the box are as follows:

1. 55 rotary pots

2. 9 slide pots

3. 64 buttons

4. 46 LED's (16 of these 30 are on full-time, no DOUT)

5. Blue 16x2 LCD

Obviously this requires:

1. (1) Core Module

2. (2) AIN Modules

3. (2) DIN Modules

4. (1) DOUT Modules

I purchased these from SmashTV's place late last week.

I did a little rendering of the layout of box and it will look like this:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/midibox10sm.gif

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/midibox10.gif

here's a link to a bigger pic

I am an audio engineer and I have a lot of resources available at work. This will hopefully help me realize my goals.

The first major decision I made was that I decided to protoype pcb's that will be modular parts that will hold the components.

1.The "4 pot board"

Since my layout works around rows of 8 pots will re-use about 12 of these 4-pot pcb's. I am using 9mm panasonic panel mount pots.

here is the board layout:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pot-board.gif

2. The "4 switch board"

This will hold ITT/Cannon PHA (Alps SPUJ) type momentary push-buttons. It will also hold 4 leds that will indicate the state of each button.

I haven't finished the layout of this one yet. This pcb will piggyback on the pot pcb using plastic standoffs. This will allow me to align the switch

board correctly with the front panel (which the pot board is already connected to by use of the panel-mount pots).

As far as the layout of the panel itself it is fairly staright-forward. There are 6 "clip" channels and 2 effects return channels (a "clip track" is just ableton-speak for an audio channel in Ableton's session view).

Each clip track has....

1. 8 pots - 4 for insert effects parameters, 2 for effects send levels and 2 for hi and low EQ

2. 8 buttons - 4 for insert effect parameters, one each for play, stop, cue, and A/B select

3. 60mm fader (for level of course)

Each of the 2 FX tracks has...

1. 4 pots - 3 for send effect parameters and one for send level

2. 6 buttons - 4 for send effect parameters, one for cue and one for A/B select

3. 60mm fader for send level

Globally there is:

1. Crossfader - fades between outputs A and B

2. Clip Up and Down buttons (the two red square buttons). These will be used a lot. These are used to select the clip you want to play.

3. Record button (to record the set into Ableton while it's going on)

4. Tempo dial - I have this cool led light-pipe dial I used on a project at work that I am giong to use as a dial that controls tempo in Ableton. It will only

stick out slightly above the surface of the panel to avoid accidental movement.

5. Headphone cue level knob

6. The Midibox will have an M-Audio Firewire Audiophile built into it. There will just be a couple sets of audio outs and and IEC jack on the back of the unit.

OK that's it for now. I will update soon when parts come in and pcb's are made this week...

Brian.

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Here are some of the parts I have so far.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/large_switch.jpg

Large Push Switch. Alps part# SPUN191000. This is used for 15 of the push buttons, including all the square-cap ones and the

illuminated push button at the bottom left of the front panel

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/small_switch.jpg

Small Push Switch. ITT/Cannon Part# PHA2UOA. This is used for the 30 small push buttons that are accompanied by LED's.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/small_button_caps.jpg

Small switch caps. These are the black caps used on the small switch above

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/illum_dial.jpg

Illuminated Dial. This is an LED illuminated dial that will be used for the tempo control. This is a custom part some guys designed at work for one of my projects

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/illum_button.jpg

Illuminated button. This is an led light-pipe that lights up a ring around a button using 4 led's. This is for the Record button that will be in the lower left of the front panel. This

is another part that was custom designed for some other project.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/tact_switch.jpg

keypad switch with surface mount green LED. This is a part I have tentatively decided to use for the 8 sets of green switches alongside each channel. These are those pcb keypad type switches that have small very bright surface mount led's mounted in the middle. The button is that typical round rubbery stuff you usually get with this type of switch (think tv remote controls etc..) This part is a keypad from one of those custom in-house A/V room management systems you see around these days. I haven't decided 100% whether I will use this yet because I'm worried about reliabity over the long term. I'm going to play around with it for a week or two and see what's up...

I will post again when I get more parts in and when I start making the pcb's!..

Brian.

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I got the LCD today from Crystalfontz.com - as recommended by SuperBad.

It appears to be a very nice part. It was right about $16...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/lcd1.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/lcd2.jpg

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...about those round green illuminated switches beside the faders I have decided I am not going to use those keypad style ones as I was talking about in the original post

I found the North American distributor for the MEC switches and I am going to use the illuminated ones they have. I'll get the same result but with much better push action and reliablity (see the parts archive section of the forum for my post about MEC in the US)..

The switch looks like this...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/42255289.jpg

...and the clear/diffuse round cap looks like this...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/mec-cap.jpg

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I finished the layout for the "4-switch pcb" I will be making these on Thursday or Friday. I also changed the "4-pot pcb" somewhat. I've marked several thru-holes on the boards where they can line up and piggyback...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pot-pcb2.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/switch-pcb.jpg

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helo bcbox,

You have a nice project going on, but you don´t want to use the motor faders? at least you would have an updated fader position,

I´m also working on a midi controller for Cubase SX-3, it is really a great sequencer (i did buy it, there is nothing beter to have something you did pay for) I live in Spain, and in my city there is not much of the parts i need, so it will take me longer to get every thing together,

greetings and hope soon to hear more from your project,

Juan,

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You have a nice project going on, but you don´t want to use the motor faders? at least you would have an updated fader position

Hi Jaun, I'm not using the motorized faders becuase I'm strictly using the controller as a live controller - there will never be input from the computer (mouse etc...)

It wouldn't hurt to have them there though but they're very expensive and I decided I wouldn't use the feature.

I didn't have time to make the pcb's today but i did get a bunch of parts in!

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/button1.jpg

Black button: E-Switch part# TA2800BLK

Knob: Rean Part# P-300-S-06CS-D6-E

Red button: Not sure what part# this is...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/fader.jpg

Slide pot: Panasonic Part# PNE060SB

This is an awesome fader. Very smooth and very high quality. They're about $5 each - not too bad.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pot1.jpg

Rotary pot: Panasonic Part# EVU-E2JFK4B14

I ordered the MEC led switches and clear switch caps. The switches were quite expensive ($2.50 each) but since I was able to buy only the 20 I needed with no lead time I am content. The switch is part# 3FTL620. The cap is part# 1S11-16.

I updated the panel layout. I'm triple checking the dimensions and I will be sending it out on Monday.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/panel2.jpg

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helo,

there is a big chance i can get motorfaders from Behringer, the ones from BCF2000, i don´t know the price yet, but it should be not expenssive, i´m also able to get the encoders, would be great. In my city it is really hard to get the parts i need, we will see if this time i´m lucky.

I did buy really cool push buttons, when i have a photo from some things mounted y will put it here,

Greetings,

Juan,

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looks great.

are you planing to use a custom  pcb?

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there is a big chance i can get motorfaders from Behringer, the ones from BCF2000, i don´t know the price yet, but it should be not expenssive

you mean you will get a hold of behringer customer service department and buy them through them - or do you know who makes them? good luck, sounds good.

i´m also able to get the encoders, would be great. In my city it is really hard to get the parts i need, we will see if this time i´m lucky.

I did buy really cool push buttons, when i have a photo from some things mounted y will put it here

sounds good. I'd love to see pics. It's really hard to get parts no matter where you live - so it must be especially hard for you. Luckily I work for an audio company so I can pretend I'm sampling for some fictitious project and get most of this stuff  :-\  otherwise it's very difficult to get oem parts.

If there's a part I can help you with I'd have no problem trying to help you out..

are you planing to use a custom  pcb?

for the guts I'm using all the custom pcb's from smash tv. For mounting parts and stuff I'm doing custom pcb's but just prototype ones (basic tone transfer on copper board stuff) - I'm not actually sending them out to get "real" pcb's, it's much too expensive.

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Hi Bcbox,

I´m using prototype pcb´s and once i have something working i can use custom pcb´s to make the final product,  i wil know the price for the motor faders on wensday,  it is a spare parts shop for, the ones that you go when your TV is not working,  and since they had also acces for Behringer parts from barcelana, after all it would be great to get those faders and encoders, but also the buttons with the small led inside,

greetings,

Juan,

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I´m using prototype pcb´s and once i have something working i can use custom pcb´s to make the final product

if they're designed well and come out good you probalbly wouldn't have to send out for real parts ;)

i wil know the price for the motor faders on wensday, it is a spare parts shop for, the ones that you go when your TV is not working, and since they had also acces for Behringer parts from barcelana, after all it would be great to get those faders and encoders, but also the buttons with the small led inside

nice. you have to use what you can get. Search the internet at 3am for switches and whatnot!

I made most of the two main pcb's today. Here's a shot of a 3-pack of the switch-boards after etching and cleaning...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pcb-proto.jpg

Here are shots of the switch board and the pot boards after I've finished them and soldered in the main component...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pot4-nocap.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/pot4-cap.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/switch4-nocap.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/switch4-cap.jpg

I also sent out the final panel to be made. I should have it in a week and a half...the final one came out like this

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/panel-final.jpg

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:o its getting good looking!!!! lets see more when you have!! Good work! :) :) :)

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The parts from SmashTV came in the mail today :)

Excellent packaging. I would recommend to anyone to just buy the PCB's along with the parts kits and PIC. His prices are very fair and you couldn't get the parts cheaper

from Mouser/Digikey, etc...after shipping is said and done. I'm very happy. PCB's are good quality.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/parts.jpg

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I'm really liking what you're doing here with this thread! Excellent documentation for us novices. I have a few questions...one which i know you'd probably get to eventually, but here it is.  About those switch boards you made, it looks like they'll be mounted vertically right? (i have a vestax mixer that has pots mounted like this)  I know it's possible to use a nut from the top of the panel to hold the pot and board in place if you've left the clearance to do this. Actually I can't tell from the pics if the pots have threads for nuts.  On the other hand how do you plan to fasten the board with the switches to the panel? For those I see no nuts which could hold them.

And about the Illuminated dial, That looks really cool. Is the plan to use it to scroll from bpm to bpm?

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Thanks from me too - I find this very interesting. I'm building a SID, but I still find this stuff very helpful. This is exactly what I want to do with my blog (see my sig). Even though I trust Smash TV to deliver top quality goods, it's nice to see pics of the kits anyway.

Can I ask how you did the designs for the pots and switch boards? Did you use schematics software or something? Please tell you used a freeware program that converts schematics to pcb layouts...  ;D

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Hi , MikeB. You got it exactly. The pots are threaded so they will panel mount...the pcb's will be perpendicular to the panel. The switch-board simply piggybacks under the pot-board using 1/4" standoff's. There are concentric holes marked on both the pot-board and the swtich-board so I can line this up properly. I also got the courage to take this route from scoping out my allen & heath xone:32 mixer, which has vertical/perpendicular mounted modular boards with pots and pusbutton switches. The xone:32 looks like this inside:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/xone32-back.jpg

about the lightpipe dial thing I just think it's cool and I realized it would work well for tempo control since the dial is so big it'll take a good amount of movement at the dial to move the pots shaft a certain small amount. Also it sits so low it can't accidentally be touched. And of course it lights up all blue and stuff!

Afro88 - for the pcb design I used the freeware version of Eagle from http://www.cadsoft.de When I'm done with a board layout I export it as a black & white bitmap image and transfer it into an image editing/layout program (I use Paint Shop Pro). Once I get all the pcb's laid out how I want them I print the image on laserjet onto blue transfer paper. I find the blue transfer paper the best. when using the heat transfer method. I use an iron to iron it onto piecs of 1oz copper board....and so on from there...

My girlfriends out of town so I couldn't help but build up all those parts! I stuffed all the boards and I have just started doing some of the interconnects. I'm calling it quits for tonight. It looks like this so far....

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/mbhp.jpg

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Ahhh, Eagle, cool thanks man.

Those boards are looking nice too :)

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I got some work done today. Mostly just making the pcb's. It takes a lot of time from start to finish.

I started laying out the componenets. I cut out a piece of wood the size the panel and I'm laying things out in similar way as they will be in the final midibox. This is the layout for testing everything and making sure everything works so when the panel comes back from silkscreening everything will be ready to pop right in.

You can see I still have a lot of proto-pcb's to stuff with the pots, switches, and led's. Then I need to interface the pots/switches/leds to the various modules.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/proto-layout1.jpg

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I finished most of the pcb's for now. I'm expecting the panel to come in from front panel express (schaffer) by the end of the week. The chassis should also be here by the end of the week. When the front panel comes in I need to double check everything and make sure it's all right, then I will try to finish the printing layout as soon as possible. I want to do a two color silkscreen. I'm still not sure who I'm going to have do it, but hopefully my connections at work will help me get it done cheaper than usual (it's expensive for just one piece!).

I'm also waiting for the MEC illuminated switches to come in. They should be here the week of June 6. Also the fader caps will be here that week.

In the meantime I will be making pcb's for mounting the remaining components including the final two rows of pots, switches, and led's. I will making little pcb's for mounting the slide pots - so I can use a connector to make it easier to hook them up (they'll just plug in).

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/proto-layout2.jpg

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I got a lot done today. So much so that I don't yet have time to take a look at and post the pics of what I did (it's 1:30am and I need to go to bed :-\). I finished most of the remaining prototype pcb's including.......

1. pcb x 9 for each fader

2. pcb for the dual illuminated buttons (ones that go lower left)

3. pcb for the illuminated dial

4. pcb for the bottom row of 12 switches that have the black square caps on them

5. pcb for the up and down switches (the red square buttons)

6. pcb's for the last two rows of pots, leds, and switches

The only pcb's I have left to do are the one for the 16 mec switches and the one for the 4 mec switches below the LCD.

The reason I did all these pcb's was that it makes it MUCH easier to hook everything up once I'm ready to plug in and go. Simply put, each component (or section of components) resides on a pcb along with a connector which will simply interface with the midibox modules by plugging them in. This will be easier to see once I get to that part.

I got home at 1:00am tonight and got a surprise. The MEC switches and caps came in :) I was expecting them mext Tuesday.

This is what they look like...

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/mec-switch-real.jpg

These feel perfect for the application I wanted. The are more of a tact switch with LED and cap type of a thing. Very nice. I also confirmed today the panel is delayed until after the weekend. It's coming Monday. The Chassis should be coming tomorrow. Once those parts come in all I really have left is to get the panel done up (painted and silkscreened) and finish up the rest of the wiring..

bye for now,

Brian

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It's been a couple days since I posted. I've been busy and didn't want to stop to take the time to do an update - shame on me.

The panel and chassis are coming tommorrow and I still have a lot of wiring to do. Just the crazy number of connections takes a lot of time and effort. I'm working slow deliberately so I don't make mistakes. A few interesting things have come about.

- The first is the power supply. I realized that with potentially 54 led's and the backlight for the LCD being on at the same time I need at least 1.0A. I calculated the current draw would be less than 1.5A max at any time. I also realized (and more on this below) I've got a blue backlight LCD with white/yellow characters so it has a negative contrast voltage, so I need -5V as well as +5V. Considering all this I scrapped the 7805 voltage regulator on the Core Module . I built a basic linear power supply using the higher current TO-93 packaged 7805 and 7905 regulators. If you want a more efficient power supply or have limited space you might want to consider a switching power supply for this job, although I decided on an old-school linear supply. The layout and finished piece look like this:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/power-supply-pcb.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/power-supply.jpg

- The second problem I've been having is that LCD. Since it needs -5v for the contrast voltage I had to tap this from my power supply. The problem I came accross is that the 5V available on the core module travels along in a more serial fashion, so when I cut in to disrupt the +5V going to Vd of the LCD I realized I had to place a lot of jumpers around to make sure everything else that is still supposed to get +5V still get's it! Also variable resistor P2 on the core module needs to be referenced to -5V and not +5V when using a negative contrast LCD. It actually turned out to be a time consuming task and my core module doesn't look so pretty from the bottom anymore.

I have finished all but (2) pcb's to this point - I thought I would do a rundown of each part.

1. 4-pot and 4-switch pcb. Here you can see I finally got around to assembling these ones where the switch board piggybacks on the pot board:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/piggyback1.jpg

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/piggyback2.jpg

2. Here are the little pcb's I made for the faders to make hook-up a lot easier.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/fader-pcb.jpg

3. Here is the dual illuminated switches that go in the bottom left position of the panel

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

]http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/dual-illuminated-pushbuttons.jpg

4. This is the illuminated dial that goes in the bottom right area of the panel.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/illuminated-dial.jpg

5. These are the square buttons that go below each fader.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/square-buttons.jpg

6. These are some of the boards with the led buttons.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/led-buttons.jpg

Here is a pic of all the control stuff, the pots, sliders, buttons, and led's layed out somewhat in the arrangement they will be in in the final panel.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/layout2.jpg

I still have alot of work to do before I retire for the night so I'm going to get back to it ;)

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The panel just came in. It looks great. I am still researching exaclty what kind of primer and paint I need to use on the aluminum.

I have decided I will be sending out for screens and doing my own silkscreening when the times comes. Right now there's still a lot of wiring and testing to do. Here's the panel, it's 2.5mm aluminum.

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.alphazone1.com/midibox/panel1.jpg

[sorry, can't find this image - will upload in future if I can locate]

Please don't - stryd_one

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- The second problem I've been having is that LCD. Since it needs -5v for the contrast voltage I had to tap this from my power supply. The problem I came accross is that the 5V available on the core module travels along in a more serial fashion, so when I cut in to disrupt the +5V going to Vd of the LCD I realized I had to place a lot of jumpers around to make sure everything else that is still supposed to get +5V still get's it! Also variable resistor P2 on the core module needs to be referenced to -5V and not +5V when using a negative contrast LCD. It actually turned out to be a time consuming task and my core module doesn't look so pretty from the bottom anymore.

My LCD also required a negative contrast voltage but it wasn' t nearly that complicated or un-pretty to deal with. Maybe the way I did it may be asking for trouble but it was based on other postings here so I suspect it should be fine (and so far after several hours of playing with my MBSID it's been working fine.)

I used the circuit recomended elsewhere on the BBS/Wiki with an IC-7660 and just pulled P2 (VR2 as labled on Smashes boards) and wired it through those three connections. The 10uF caps were even freebies since there are tons of them on the sound cards I'm scavanging for OPL3 chips :D   Here it was test wired:

Image removed due to possibly malicious content. Download at your own risk, it contains a strange script. - stryd_one

http://www.yumaduners.com/albums/album80/voltconvert.sized.jpg

That was my first test of the circuit - I later re-wired it and managed to make it MUCH cleaner and all wrapped up in heat shrink . I kind of like having the pots not mounted to the board anyway as I want to mount them off the back of my box so they can be adjusted to meet the needs of the room it's being used in when it's finished.

Which reminds me...I really need to stop slacking and finish my control surface and box for this thing!

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Nice. Thanks for the response! What happened with me is I was impatient with it. I quickly did the fix that I thought was necessary and then I realized I did the wrong thing...then I had to patch up the change and do the correct thing. Then I did the wrong thing again  ::) The 3rd time I got it right, and my core board has 4 or 5 scars on it when it should have just one!

Nice pic.

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