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 Forum index » DIY Hardware and Software » Les Hall's Projects including eChucK
Electronic ChucK
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:45 pm    Post subject: Electronic ChucK
Subject description: A hardware implementation of ChucK
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I've been thinking of making a synthesizer, kind of like a modular synth but made of little bitty circuit boards connected by wires. It's kind of like the dual form (i.e. duality) of a classic modular synth becuase the modules are not fixed in place but rather arranged geometrically. I posted about the concept and got positive responses mostly saying "go for it".

Then tonight it occurred to me that one could implement ChucK in this way. Lots of the UGens in ChucK patches are based on simple circuits anyway, so ChucK sort of lends itself to this sort of thing. One can imagine a gain block that is simply a difference amplifier with multiple inputs on both the positive and negative inputs. It would need a power module and adc and dac modules to get started. In fact, those three modules would get the thing rolling right away - a microphone adc and speaker dac with a 9V DC power module regulated down to +5V as is the style with guitar pedals. Or perhaps a dual supply of +/-5V would be best.

At any rate, I can begin plans for this by sketching it out on a web page. Comments welcome.

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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I got an email response asking what makes this concept different from conventional modular synths. To clarify, the modules are not fixed into a frame with front plates and banana jacks, but rather thy each exist as a little circuit board with screw terminals for wire interconnect.

Also due to the simplicity, the cost would be a lot lower than a conventional synth. The kit could be made available as a single circuit board routed out with 100 little circuit boards that are the synth modules.

Further, because of the close correspondence with ChucK, one could prototype the circuits in software before building them in hardware, so it's easy to use and wonderfully educational. A great toy for kids or adults.

That's the plan, anyway. Naturally some aspects of ChucK would need special consideration such as the .op feature or the modulation input values, but that is quite manageable.

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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 10:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

the first board is ready, it is a 9V in, 5V out power board. The Eagle design files for it are here:

http://www.freedomodds.com/music/eagle/echuck/Power.brd
and here:
http://www.freedomodds.com/music/eagle/echuck/Power.sch

I'd appreciate any comments.

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aerogramma



Joined: Feb 27, 2008
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Location: Roma, Italy - London, UK
Audio files: 13

PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Hello!
the project looks really interesting.

I'd like to make a few comments and ask a few questions?

- What's the role of Chuck in this project?

- Would you post designs as jpgs too? not all of us have Eagle or a PC etc etc Wink

- It may be a good idea to prototype also some EChuck signal generators of some sort and post samples here.. that's always a good thing

All the best

aero

Wink
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Fri Oct 03, 2008 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

aerogamma, thanks for your reply. Interest is phenomenal on this project so far overall. I will make JPGs for you. ChucK has two roles: 1. the system is loosely based on ChucK's UGens, and 2. ChucK will interface to EChucK.

It's funny that you should ask that because I was just examining possibilities for a ChucK to computer interface board. The idea is to use 1/8" plug cables to connect ChucK's dac and adc to EChucK. The dac connects to the headphone jack and the adc connects to the line-in jack. Since we have stereo on both of those signals, that gives ChucK two analog inputs and two analog outputs. Digital signals at audio rates can also be transmitted this way by sending them as attenuated square waves.

I was just working on the ChucK to EChucK interface board when I saw your post, but I will take a break from that to make some JPGs for you. I will put them on the EChucK web page which is here:

http://www.freedomodds.com/music/echuck/

That page is getting a lot of hits, people are interested in the project. What fun! Also see my interest poll post in the DIY Hardware and Software main sub-forum. Cheers!

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Inventor
Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The first panel of EChucK modules is designed and routed. I will be sending it out to a board house in a few days, and will receive boards eight days after that. So in less than two weeks the first EChucK boards will be available for sale and testing!
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MyPasswordIs123456



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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

The problem I see with this concept is reliability. It wouldn't be very solid and I am not sure how good the connections will be without jacks.
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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

You're right. And there's one more problem. The board houses won't cut up a panel into little bitty circuit boards without charging an arm and a leg. So that kind of blows the whole EChucK concept to smithereens, I'm sorry to say. what a bummer. Oh well.
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jksuperstar



Joined: Aug 20, 2004
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Uhm....ever work with FPGAs? One chip == a few thousand UGens. Maybe tie the language of real chuck into an hardware description language (verilog). Hmmmmm...
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Wed Dec 17, 2008 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

That's a good idea. Yes, I worked for a few years doing FPGA design back when I was an engineer. I don't want to ever do it again, lol! Reminds me of evil work.

But your concept is interesting from the perspective of EChucK. If I was gonna get into it, that might be the route I'd choose. Kewl.

In fact, I remember some products that were basically arrays of FPGAs with a PCI bus on a card for a PC. Now that would rock, computationally speaking.

Cheers.

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Slinky



Joined: Jan 09, 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Electronic ChucK
Subject description: A hardware implementation of ChucK
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Inventor wrote:
It's kind of like the dual form (i.e. duality) of a classic modular synth becuase the modules are not fixed in place but rather arranged geometrically.


Will it be some kind of an evil cousin of the Doepfer A100 form factor? Cool
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Fri Jan 09, 2009 2:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Electronic ChucK
Subject description: A hardware implementation of ChucK
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Slinky wrote:
Inventor wrote:
It's kind of like the dual form (i.e. duality) of a classic modular synth becuase the modules are not fixed in place but rather arranged geometrically.


Will it be some kind of an evil cousin of the Doepfer A100 form factor? Cool


Haha! Well, if I ever pick up the project again, which I'd love to do, it would be even more free-form, without an enclosure of any type. I envision sculptures of circuit boards connected by solid wire so that the light little boards are supported by the rigidity of the wire.

The big problem right now is, I had some boards made and the manufacturer did not even do the routing that I paid for. Routing is expensive because it chews up router bits, and making one board with ten *different* little boards on it is totally out of the question. I would have to make ten board designs, each tiled up with a separate EChucK circuit board.

That is possible, but outside of my budget for right now, so EChucK will have to wait until I can afford to get back into it. In the future, however, I do hope to make EChucK a reality. I apologize for any let-down that may cause.

If anyone wants to pick up the EChucK torch and carry it, I'm all for that as well! I can send the existing boards to such a volunteer for experimenting. Cheers!

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2009 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Well, a few months ago the EChucK boards arrived and they are ready to be given out to whoever wants to mess with them. Each board has four dsPIC boards plus a power supply board and several little peripheral boards. I think they are just about all given away now, we'll see who actually commits to wanting one. Anyway, here is a photo of me holding one (upside down).


EChucK.jpg
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Me holding an EChucK board upside down, lol!
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kijjaz



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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Wow.. how do we program that into a synth? hmm hmm. Do you have some beginning modules that makes the thing perform as a synth now? I'd like to hear what it can do.
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

kijjaz wrote:
Wow.. how do we program that into a synth? hmm hmm. Do you have some beginning modules that makes the thing perform as a synth now? I'd like to hear what it can do.


Well, the inputs are set up to be analog and the outputs PWM. Just add an LPF (physically) to an output to make it analog. I planned on first making a VCO and then a boolean sequencer. That's enough to make a small working synthesizer sculpture. From that starting point we could add all kinds of modules including digital filters or whatever. I'll leave it up to the synth experts to tell me what they want.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Oh.. but how about the sound output system? Is it a digital to analog converter from a PIC or the sound are made from analog peripherals and the PIC are there to control those peripherals?
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
Posts: 5978
Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
Audio files: 258

PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

kijjaz wrote:
Oh.. but how about the sound output system? Is it a digital to analog converter from a PIC or the sound are made from analog peripherals and the PIC are there to control those peripherals?


Well in time we can add a DAC or make a crude R2R DAC from a PIC, but for the moment I was going with the simpler approach of just low pass filtering a PWM output from the PIC. I figured the easiest way to get sound in and out of ChucK is to use the line-in and headphones jacks of the computer.

So the system is very simple for now, just a PIC module and an LPF module will suffice. If we need to do additional filtering to the signal, that can be done in software by ChucK UGens. Oh, and there are two analog jack mini-boards for making the audio connections. Very simple.

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Stream Operator


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

I finally figured out how to chop up the EChucK boards. I had the solution all these months but didn't think of it. I just put my Dremel tool in a drill stand and put a diamond cutting wheel in it. By carefully adjusting the height of the cutter, I sort of rigged up a makeshift table saw of sorts. Just the thing for cutting the boards. Though, as you can see some of the little EChucK boards are trimmed a bit too close. They are still usable though.

I also downloaded and installed the MPLAB IDE and C programming libraries, then after days of reading pdf files and going through tutorials I was finally able to write my first EChucK program. All it does is output a square wave, but it is the basis of generating the PWM output signals that the modules will use to transmit audio.

I have been wondering about what to make as the first really useful EChucK programs, and just tonight it occurred to me that I could make guitar effects using the DSP engine in the dsPIC processors. That plus maybe an AM radio transmitter for guitar.

At the moment, it's all a moot point, however, because I have no programmer and no chips to program. In time I will get those things set up also. Little by little EChucK is becoming a reality!


EChucK_Boards.jpg
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EChucK boards, one of them chopped up!
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GodSaveMetal



Joined: Sep 16, 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject:   Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

Inventor wrote:
the first board is ready, it is a 9V in, 5V out power board. The Eagle design files for it are here:

http://www.freedomodds.com/music/eagle/echuck/Power.brd
and here:
http://www.freedomodds.com/music/eagle/echuck/Power.sch

I'd appreciate any comments.


Were is???? freedomodds.com can´t see it!!!!
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Inventor
Stream Operator


Joined: Oct 13, 2007
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Location: San Antonio, Tx, USA
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 06, 2010 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote  Mark this post and the followings unread

oh i took that site down, and this project is no longer active. The first circuit boards were a good learning experience but that was all. Now I'm doing the KS board and other projects.

Les

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