As you may know I’ve recently taken to a bit of electronic noise by building some small electronic noise making devices. I started with some simple things like the Atari Punk type noise generator using a couple 555 timer IC chips and things went further by researching what was available online to build in the form of small DIY kits.
I found out that the company responsible for the acclaimed Atmegatron 8bit Synthesiser Soulsby Synths have produced a very reasonably priced at under £30 ‘build it yourself’ cut down version called the ‘miniAtmegatron’ (no surprises why it’s mini)
With the kit you get all the components needed for building an Arduino Shield which then slots into an Arduino board(not supplied) to make the miniAtmegatron Synth.
Soulsby do sell a ready to go programmed Arduino board on their site for a reasonable price too(I chose this when I ordered the kit too). Although if you do source an Arduino from somewhere else there are instructions on the Soulsby site for programming the Arduino.
I must say that you do need some previous soldering experience to put the synth shield together and highly recommend that you use a thin pointed soldering iron as the two LED’s are the most fiddly parts to solder in. I did have difficult with those but with a bit of care(and a solder sucker) I managed to solder them ok.
Another thing I should mention is that I did find it difficult to see the colours on the resistors so I recommend the use of a magnifiying glass and decent light to work in.
In all it took me around 30-45 minutes to put the miniAtmegatron together so it’s not too time consuming at all.
The board itself is well laid out and the design is quite nice making it a pleasure to build. Especially once you plug the shield into the Arduino and see the LED’s light up the first time(I guess I was lucky as I normally have to redo a solder joint or two)
So what do you get once you’ve built the miniAtmegatron?
You get an 8 bit monophonic synthesiser featuring its own unique Wavetable PWM audio engine, inbuilt sequences and other features taken from its bigger sibling the AtMegatron!
The good thing about the mini is that it’s fully hackable(if you dabble in programming) too as the source code is available from Soulsby Synths. You can also find a new manual and detailed instructions including MIDI CC chart on this page too.
Once built you have a very fun synth indeed! The sound quality coming out of the unit is fully 8bit crunchy goodness.
Once you MIDI the miniAtmegatron up and design a bass sound you like and run it through your setup you’ll like the tones you can get.
The variety of waveforms and filter types this synth hold are varied enough to get you creating some fantastic sounds. And having the inbuilt sequences is fun if you just want to play around with the mini connected up to a Power Bank for total portability.
The layout of the synth works really well with the coloured LED’s indicating the different modes and patterns, and the buttons and knobs are of really good quality and feel very tactile even at this small size.
There is a case available to buy too now(I didn’t get one) if you want to protect your miniAtmegatron from knocks.
The only downside for me at the moment is that you can only save 1 patch to the miniAtmegatron but saying that some users may use the open source software to make a librarian someday.
I love it!!