Like many people 2021 hasn’t been a great year for me personally, nor for Dove Audio. My partner was in hospital for a week (she’s ok now), I’ve struggled with depression a couple of times (something I doubt will ever completely go away), Moved house twice (once to somewhere with the neighbours from hell), Lack of feedback from MuSeq beta testers and changed job that was nothing like what it was supposed to be (It was supposed to be Engineering Manager and became project manager, err no thanks).
In addition to this the news of late has been really bringing my mood down. For example; the sharp rise in COVID19 cases, the UK government being about much use as a chocolate fireguard when it comes to their handling corruption, COVID19 and brexit. In general “social media” is becomming an increasingly unpleasant thing for me, so I’ve begun slowly closing my accounts and reducing my foot print.
Add in the fact that lack of parts has made it really hard to keep things going in Dove Audio, the majority of what we do depends on microprocessors of some shape or another, and some parts now have an incredibly long lead time taking some of their availability into 2023. It’s a tough time for everyone in the tech industry at the moment.
Anyway, Now I’ve moved into a new house with my partner, who’s health is good and a new job that I actually enjoy my mood is picking up a little. I’ve had a few days off work and been able to regain my passion for synths. Hence the release of the new D502 MultiMode VCF module. Now that the D502 is shipping, and with MuSeq on hold (pending communication from the beta testers) I’m moving on with Delta.
Now I wanted to show some of the “fun” of developing a synth, so I’ve got a photo here which shows a number of revisions of PCBs.
From Left to right;
- Super early prototype, which was based around a processor, but sadly it didn’t have the power to do what I needed.
- 8 voice prototype VCF/VCA board, which needed a lot of modifications and testing, I got it working, but I really wasn’t happy with the sound.
- new VCF prototype, rather than going all in for 8 voices on a card I decided to debug a single VCF first. after some mods, and having a bright idea that meant adding two switches, I was happy with the VCF.
- Next we have an early prototype panel, based on an FPGA and Microprocessor, however the FPGA chosen turned out to be a nightmare to use.
- Finally on the right you can see the current 8 Voice PCB, and the current Front Panel. Which I’m pleased to say is working well so far.
So here’s a picture of the current panel and voice board “stack” together;
Now you’ll notice it’s not a very knobby interface, and that’s for a reason. Firstly I’m not 100% sure on what features I will be adding/changing, so for now I have a simple UI, much like the Oberheim Xpander, Maxtrix 12 or more recent Hydrasynth.
To use it, simply press the button you want, for example, Oscillator 1, and the displays change to show the Oscillator 1 parameters (this is what is shown in the picture above), press VCF and you get the VCF parameters and so on.
What this lets me do is experiment with features and modulation routing without needing to design a new panel everytime.
This will not be the final panel design, so no need to panic.
The VCFs are working and making some lovely sounds, and the oscillators are working (and they’re something quite unique). Next to do is add in MIDI control (this was previously working, but the change of FPGA and panel meant a lot of this got scrapped) and parameter control from the front panel.
This is a complex project, and I’m looking after the hardware, the FPGA code (VHDL) and also the C code for the microcontroller, so juggling the three has been difficult. Thankfully I have enough bits for two sets of PCBs, so I can build two prototypes (one is the one in the picture above).
I’m happy with the hardware now, and the VHDL code is coming along nicely. But at the end of the day, I am the only tech person in Dove Audio, so it’s all down to what spare time I have, so this won’t be available quickly.
But, I do plan to have it demonstrable by autumn (fall for my US friends).
Since this is probably the last post of 2021 I wanted to share an update and hopefully end the year on a high note.
Stay safe, and give your loved ones a hug and let them know you love them.
Have a wonderful holiday and happy new year,