Turning a Sega MegaDrive into a cool, retro synthesizer

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/01/07/turning-a-sega-megadrive-into.html


Waaah??? cool.

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Cool project and amusingly done.


That’s pretty amazing. My creation, not as much (although odd):

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So fuckin’ cool!


I have been just reading/watching about Digital Audio Workstation-less electronic music composition. It is vastly more interesting to me than sitting in front of software to make music. I want knobs, sliders, and little thwappy pads to tap on with clicky buttons.


It’s kind of weird when (modern) hardware is used to control an (obsolete) device, as the controller can easily can end up more powerful than the device itself. Which would rather make the device redundant if it weren’t all about the specific retro qualities. (That doesn’t seem quite the case here - the Arduino is about as low powered as you can get, with only a fraction of the memory of the Megadrive, but it looks like the Arduino processor still has a much higher clock speed.)

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You don’t need an awful lot of power to do FM synthesis, it’s remarkably efficient and flexible on really quite modest systems. The DX7 itself was fine (and you can programme an emulation and get really extraordinary, beautiful sounds with even just a couple of operators let alone 4) but the presets emulating real instruments that shipped with it and were used all over records and live performance in the 80s are awful. But worse was the programming interface and panel which made it difficult to use as a synth rather than a performance instrument. This is one of those (only one?) situation where it makes sense to have more power in the interface than in the processor itself!

I’ve played this guys bike computer at the local science gallery a couple of years ago and it was a ton of fun.

EDIT - you could buy a separate controller interface for the DX7 which did more of what Look Mum has done here: mapped out the controls to individual controllers rather than menu diving on a faded lcd. And I see that third parties have been making their own ones, all of these cost way more than a DX7 does!

I can’t see the add on device on the web, so my memory could be wrong and they didn’t sell a controller for it. I’ve never seen one in the flesh and thought they were on Ebay for much more than a DX7
Another Edit:
I think there wasn’t one and I was thinking of the PR-7 for the desktop module version.


You may want to look into the amazing brave new world of MIDI! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I understand the common term is “robot farts”.


Jan Hammer is rotating

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I’ve been following him for 2 years (as an electronic music producer myself.) He’s smashing it right now. Its nice because the modular thing can be a bit uppity at times :wink:

bleep bloop
Love it.

I went for a Reface DX and toyed with this idea as a live fm controller. (http://www.dtronics.nl/pages/dtrdx.html) but settled on a Max4Live patch in ableton. Happy FM synthing!

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