I got a little time to work on the Sync Project today, and it’s, well, pretty much completely done.
I don’t have MIDI Thru, but with only two jacks to work with, a couple of MIDI outputs on my computer, and a pile of old equipment looking shiny to me lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that I might just leave the output jack as a DIN Sync jack. That way the Time Buffer will also serve as a MIDI Clock -> Din Sync converter for any other gear that I get.
Aside from that, it works. I spent a good hour troubleshooting *something*, and having no luck at all, and then suddenly it just started working, with no particular intervention from me. Noise? Loose connection? I don’t know, and that’s a little frustrating.
I’ve formulated this idea that I wanted to do everything using just alligator clips to make it easy to modify later if I wanted to, but I’m re-thinking that. They move around an awful lot, and there’s a ton of noise whenever I go anywhere near them. I might scrap that. I do want to avoid cutting up the Time Buffer cables if I can, such that it’ll be trivial if I later want to sell it or give it away to revert the whole thing by just buying a new faceplate for it. But I should be able to work around that okay. Even if I solder the MIDI leads, I can cut those later without any real skin off of the module’s back. The big question is what kind of wire to use. Stranded would be better for soldering, but the solid stuff I’m using would be nice if I plan to just put the mini breadboard in rather than soldering this all to a real board. I dunno. I suppose I should bite the bullet and both use stranded wire and solder this all up. The downside, other than the pain of transferring the design and mounting another board (although I think there’s plenty of space to do that) would be that I’d probably then want to buy a screw shield for the Arduino so the connections to the Arduino would hold better. But the final result would probably be more reliable while still allowing it to be modified later if I needed to. Hm.
Anyway, the functions tested tonight were the toggle switch to flip between internal and external modes, the toggle switch to flip between “run” and “stop” modes when working internally, the dial to set the tempo when running internally, and driving it from MIDI clock when running externally. It all seems a go. It takes a while to switch between modes, but I can deal with that.
I really want to finish, but it’s 11:40pm and I have work in the morning, plus I don’t *have* a screw shield, plus it would be really impolite to be drilling and dremeling at this time of night. Plus, I don’t even know where my soldering iron and solder are. All in all, it’ll likely have to wait until I’m back from Boston. If I had the screw shield, I’d be tempted to give away my Air ticket for tomorrow night just so I could finish it up.
Mar 18, 2010 Uncategorized
I think that sometimes you just need to get things out in the open, talk it through in order to see solutions.
After yesterday’s downer of a post about the frustrations of shipping and so on (which, believe me, are still frustrating), I’ve come to a solution that I think will work okay for me.
The module I was building my sync module to connect with was this one, the STG Soundlabs Time Buffer. If you look at the photo on that page, you’ll notice that the front panel has a lot of room on it. Behind the scenes, and unfortunately I’m not in a position to take a picture of it for you right now, there’s also a lot of room.
So my plan is that instead of adding a separate module next to that one, requiring three DIN sockets (MIDI In, MIDI Thru, Sync 24 Out), I’ll just build my components in to that module as a modification. I’ll re-use its existing jacks as MIDI In and MIDI Thru, and then just route the Sync 24 signal right to its header internally.
I managed to get the Arduino running from the system power supply last night, although I didn’t have a lot of time to work on it. Unfortunately, in the intervening time that I’ve been waiting for the jacks, the box I had my project in fell off a shelf, and when I examined it last night, a lot of the wires had come loose. Since I’d been lax in documenting my progress, I’ll have to spend some time figuring out what connections are still intact and aren’t and re-doing the missing ones.
I think that for now I’ll actually just mount the little red breadboard inside the module and work on it. Eventually if I find that too unreliable, I can replace it with a soldered in version then, but this will allow me to make fixes over the next while as they come up easily. The breadboard even has an adhesive backing.
I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to work on it again, but when I do, I’ll be sure to update everyone.
You may have noticed that the first couple of updates about the sync project came quickly, and then nothing for a long time.
The problem that I’ve run into is, irritatingly, parts. I placed an order from A1 Electronics here in Toronto for a whole slew of parts, including five case-mounted MIDI jacks. (This project only requires three — MIDI In, MIDI Thru and DIN Sync out, but I figured that if I was ordering some anyway, I might as well get a couple more.) Even though the store is local, they charged the same $20 shipping fee that everyone does, but I decided to go for it anyway, because, well, everyone charges $20 shipping and them being local I’d get my stuff nice and fast, right? RIGHT?
Well, no. It took a little while to arrive, but not *too* long. I opened the box to find my awesome order with all my neat stuff. Well, almost all of it. Instead of the MIDI jacks, there was just a little piece of paper stating that those items were back-ordered.
Since then, I’ve just been waiting. I’ve popped by a few places and nobody seems to have them in stock. I’ve tracked them down at Mouser, but I don’t know if I want to blow another $20 in shipping for a $3 order, especially since this project has already set me back way more money than I’d planned for. (To be fair, a lot of that money is in equipment that will be handy for future projects.)
Okay, so I’ve been waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
That’s pretty much where it’s at. I’ve sent them e-mail, but received no reply.
So I’ve started looking fondly at the Kenton USB Solo that they sell locally through Moog Audio. It’s $279 CAD, and I’d get a very, very sweet USB MIDI to CV converter, with more outputs than I currently get through the Q104 MIDI Interface. I’d also *still* have the Q104, so I could use both simultaneously to increase my outputs to the modular even more. It also has its own LFO, syncable to MIDI. And… it outputs Sync 24, which would make this whole project redundant.
- Excellent build quality
- Standalone device wouldn’t take up a space in my modular (remaining spaces in the system are at a serious premium)
- Lots of great features, covers several needs at once
- $279 saves money when you consider that this might help stave off the need for something like Volta (something that can do continuous controller conversion better than the Q104 does)
- Would free me up to not worry about the remaining implementation details of the sync project
- Would leave me with a spare Arduino to play with
- Solving this issue would free me up to get back to working on music, whereas the “project interruptus” seems to be forming an effective psychological block for me
- The $20 shipping might easily balloon as I discover that I need more parts from more vendors (such as a screw shield for the arduino or cable headers from Mouser).
- While my implementation doesn’t cover as much overall functionality, the sync part has at least one important additional feature this wouldn’t (an adjustable internal tempo source mode, allowing me to use all the features of my sequencing modules without needing to hook up a computer)
- Buying a device at this relatively late stage in the game feels like giving up
- $279 isn’t peanuts and doesn’t include taxes, shipping, or the 1/8″ to 1/4″ cables I’d need to buy, and is certainly more than just eating the $20 shipping to buy another set of MIDI sockets
- Having patch points on the back of an external box wouldn’t be as handy as having them be jacks in the modular
- Slightly obtuse UI for configuring the device might lead to me not using some of its features (such as the LFO) as often as I could.
So that’s my current dilemma.
Mar 1, 2010 Gear
Today, I moved from our dining room (without most of my gear) back in to my den / studio. You should start seeing more from me again, with any luck. As a side-effect of this move, I was finally able to set up the second chassis and additional modules that I got for the dotcom system for Christmas. They’ve been collecting dust since then, until now.
Here’s a photo of the expanded system, along with a little bit of loopy randomness using all of the new modules together (and a few of the old ones).
Also, hi! :)
(Apologies for the clicks.)
Yes, the patch shown in the photo below is the one producing the clip above. It’s free-running.
Many thanks again to Oksana and Lorne, who built the second chassis for me as a wonderful Christmas gift.