Create (minty) fresh beats with this open source synth kit


MintySynth is a hackable, Arduino-compatible synthesizer kit that fits neatly inside an Altoids tin.


A few months ago, Andrew Mowry embarked on a side project to devise a pocketable synthesizer/sequencer capable of fitting neatly inside an Altoids tin. The Arduino-compatible kit, aptly named MintySynth, originated with hopes of becoming not only an educational tool but a fun toy for Makers and music enthusiasts alike.

MintySynth2.0_small

The open source and hackable device comes unassembled, and generally takes anywhere from one to hours to build. It should be noted that some soldering is required. Once complete, MintySynth can be used with its preloaded software or programmed just like an Arduino.

After receiving some feedback on his first design, Mowry upgraded the kit with several revisions including fewer parts, a simplified power supply, a battery life of 150 hours (10X longer than the original), an additional photocell, and the ability to be powered by an FTDI cable when the switch is in the “off” position.

The acoustic instrument-maker by trade, tinkerer by night chose to improve the MintySynth’s software as well with enhanced LED functionality, additional waveforms, the ability to improvise using the light sensor, and a “laser tripwire” mode, which triggers music/sound effects when a beam of light is blocked.

MintySynth’s preloaded software consists of a four voice, 16 step wavetable sequencer that allows you to play around with different instruments while controlling the tempo, swing, keys and scale. Once you’ve created a song, you can enter “live mode,” which enables you to change the pitch and voice of one of the instruments in real-time so you can jam along with the other three instruments. You can even save up to four 16-note songs, relooping them over and over or reloading each one individually for a total of up to 64 notes. If you want to program the synth yourself, however, you’ll need an FTDI cable since there’s no on-board USB.

In terms of hardware, MintySynth is based on the ATmega328P and has auto-reset so you can easily upload sketches just as you would to an Arduino Uno. The kit also features a few resistors and capacitors, five thumbwheels, a 1/8″ audio jack, a 28-pin DIP socket, a six-pin FTDI header, a 16MHz ceramic resonator, two LEDs, a six-pin jumper header, a three-pin MIDI header, five buttons and runs on a pair of AAA batteries.

“MintySynth was designed to be compatible with a variety of Arduino sketches and libraries, and a jumper is used to select audio output on digital pin 3, 6, or 9, so you can use either of the 3 available timers,” Mowry explains.

Intrigued? You can head over to MintySynth’s page or the Adafruit store to get your hands on one. Keep in mind, though, that it does not ship with an Altoids tin, so you’ll have to eat some mints first and then get to work. Fresh breath first, fresh beats after.

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