Pulsar mini chip synth v0.8

So I was working on a xoxbox kit (Still haven’t finished it actually) very cool all analog, based of the TB-303 and I started thinking that this mass of hundreds of components would have the be able to be replaced by modern tech.  So after some research, learning and remembering what I was taught in college (was a computer science major for about 3 years) I have come to learn and understand somewhat how small simple microprocessors can do a lot more then I had ever thought.

Welcome the Atmel line of 8-Bit RISC microprocessors, always loving the old 8-bit game systems (I still own my Atari!) and also having a place in my heart for chiptune music I decided to work on a chip based version of the good old TB-303.

So what you see on youtube is the early fruits if my labor.

Right now it’s pretty simple, just a 16 step sequencer with either square or saw wave, adjustable gate, octave, and tempo.  A nice 16×2 screen to show the info and a switchable low pass or high pass filter.  I doesn’t sound all that amazing in the video but you can get some pretty deep bass from the square wave and the saw has some interesting characteristics.  Now it is by no means made to replace or sound like a TB-303, just something that has similar operation but using modern tech.

I figured it was at a good point the get a circuit board made, so again back to the reseach and learning.  I quickly realized there is no ‘easy’ software for this so I downloaded the most popular, which also has a free version, Eagle Cadsoft.  It’s a nice piece of software once you learn it, but if you don’t learn from someone else or a tutorial, it’s very hard to learn on your own.  A couple weeks later and I made my first professional circuit board with even custom part layouts.  Now at this point I am still waiting for the printed circuit board (PCB) to arrive, I also found out that PCBs don’t get made fast for the hobbyist, especially for cheap prices, I found a service offered from Sparkfun Electronics called BatchPCB which is reaitvlely reasonable but also quite slow, so here I wait.

I’d like to add more to the design but really awaiting the PCB so I can make sure the initial design works fine and go on from there, but here a list of ideas I have.

1. Add a LFO, I want to add a LFO that can effect any of the parameters.

2. Step indicator so you know what step you are on.

3. Line out not just a headphone out.

4. An adjustable filter, right now it’s just a switch from one to the other.

5. Savable presets, this would most likely take an extra EPPROM chip

I’m sure I’ll come up with more, and might end up adding a second microcontroler not a big deal since there cheap (about 4 bux) and can be quite flexable.

So please leave your comments, sugestions and ideas.  Eventually I’d like to offer this as maybe a kit with board and parts or even an assembled version.

Thanks for the interest!


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March 2009
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