Tag Archives: synthesizer

One Maker has created the synth from hell

Want a different synth? Just swap the chip for a different program.

Created by Melbourne-based sound designer Roberto Jordan, Hell Synth is a palm-sized experimental synthesizer that comes in both pre-assembled and kit form. Little noise synths are typically limited in the scope of their sound, either because they grind aggressively or drone in massive arrays of humming square-waves. In an effort to develop something a bit different, the Maker packed a whole lot of sounds in his 8cm x 7cm tool, ranging from oceans of glass to lightening fast arpeggios, that will keep anyone twiddling for hours.


The device is equipped with 9V in and comes with an adapter cable so users can also plug in a 9V battery. Aside from that, it features a power indicator LED, audio and media out ports, six knobs and an ATmega328 at its heart. What’s cool is that Hell Synth’s bottom panel is actually the same circuit board as top.

“This is the fifth version of this synth design and the 10th version of the software. I’ve been working to make sure it is fun to use while being full of awesome sounds,” Jordan writes.

Hell Synth currently features three programs, which allows users to control pitch, waveform, along with some chaotic elements that would appeal to any hard rocker. “FROM HELL!” is a hardcore noise synth with six digital wavetable oscillators, tons of glitch, modulation, waveforms, as well as MIDI out. Secondly, “ARP BOX1” is a little arpeggiator with both audio and MIDI out, capable of everything from Casio-style acid crazy to bleepy-bloops. The latest addition, “Zsynth,” is a space radio with slow warping, phasing sweeps, pulsing beats and hums. Jordan notes that users can either download the aforementioned programs or upload their own.

Want one of your own? Head over to the Maker’s page here.

The Prankophone is a synth for making prank calls

Prankophone is a synthesiser and telephone system hybrid that plays melodies to call recipients generated by their phone numbers.

Russian artist Dmitry Morozov, who we better know as ::vtol::, never ceases to amaze us with his innovative, out-of-the-box projects. Most recently, the Maker has spliced a synthesizer with a telephone and a logic module to create what may be the world’s most annoying machine. (But in the best way possible, of course.)


Who could forget as a kid (or an adult) making prank phone calls using soundboards from sites like eBaum’s World? Well, ::vtol:: has just taken those antics to a whole new level. The aptly named Prankophone is an apparatus which not only calls an unsuspecting person, but plays them an algorithmic melody based on their phone number. The speakers on the device transmit both the synthesized tunes along with the sound from the individual at the other end, but the recipient can only hear noise from the synth.

“Nowadays it’s averting to hear in the phone receiver any sound other than human voice – music means that we have to wait for the answer of the operator, strange electronic noises imply some mistake in decoding,” ::vtol:: explains. “Thus, the sound from Prankophone would be perceived as some kind of mistake, though in reality it is an individual and anonymous sound message, a micro-noise piece which is unique for each number it managed to reach.”


The artist says that was inspired by two historic pieces of technologies crucial to electronic music: the telephone and telegraph. The Prankophone can be set to one of four different modes to call any random number or intended recipients. In manual mode, a user must dial the number of a selected individual the old-fashioned way. Whereas in autonomous mode, the machine will generate the numbers and proceed to dial and emit the sounds all by itself. As its name would suggest, keyboard mode transforms the dialing of a number into a one-octave keyboard with each of the 10 digits correlating to a different musical key. Live mode, however, is a bit different. The number is defined by any of the previous methods, but the sounds aren’t reproduced automatically but from the keyboard, thereby enabling the user to “communicate” through sound with the person who answered on the other line.

“The system of automatic generation of numbers may be calibrated depending on the region, or there is also the international mode which takes into account the phone codes, length of numbers and other parameters,” ::vtol:: adds.


The Prankophone consists of an Arduino Mega (ATmega2560) and a Raspberry Pi at its core, along with a Nokia phone, a two-channel sound system, a GE telephone for its buttons and a one-octave keyboard. In terms of software, the apparatus runs various Python scripts and uses the Pure Data visual programming language. Intrigued? See and hear the gadget in action below, before heading over to the artist’s official page here.

This pocket-sized, modular synthesizer is based on Arduino

The NS1nanosynth is a modern, analog/digital synthesizer that fits in the palm of your hand.

Back in the 1970s, modular synthesizers were often bulky and expensive. Reproducing an exact patch was not only difficult, but virtually impossible. Throughout the years, these devices began to be largely supplanted in pop music by highly integrated keyboard synths, racks of MIDI-connected gear and samplers. Fast forward a few decades and products like littleBits’ synth kit have made piecing together a modular machine just as simple as interlocking LEGO bricks, not to mention tiny enough that it could fit in the palm of your hand.


Taking that one step further is Italian startup Soundmachines, who has pulled out all the stops with their latest DIY kit dubbed the NS1nanosynthThe all-in-one unit allows you to have fun by mixing together new and exciting combinations from over 20 different building blocks. These include a voltage-controlled oscillator, two low-frequency oscillators, an ASDR (attack, sustain, decay and release) envelope, lowpass and bandpass filters, a voltage-controlled amplifier, as well as an assortment of “micro” modules like mixers and multiples, sample and hold, sum/sub blocks, inverters, analog dividers, clock dividers, fixed voltage generators and sensors.


And that’s not all. Designed with the Maker crowd in mind, the NS1nanosynth is built around the Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32U4) and features both MIDI and USB support. The handheld synthesizer measures just 220mm x 85mm in size, enabling it to fit just about anywhere from your bag to your back pocket. What’s more, 5V/400mA of power is supplied either through the classic 5.5mm jack or via microUSB.


“You can, of course, get rid of everything and write whatever you want on a perfectly formed standard Arduino platform. It’s up to you to use your standard or custom libraries and do modulations, connect to wireless stuff, use the on-board dual DAC and quad digital potentiometer,” the Soundmachines crew writes.

Intrigued? Read all about the NS1nanosynth on its official page here, or watch its demo reels below!

Parva is the first analog synthenthizer with a USB master port

Parva is a new synthesizer that combines the old-school warmth of analog synthesis with the convenience of modern-day digital control. 

Created by Austin, Texas startup Futuresonus, Parva is a next-generation polyphonic analog synthesizer that combines an all-analog signal chain with the modern-day convenience of digital control, all in a nicely bundled tabletop package.


“I designed Parva from the ground up with the intention of producing a completely new synth while still maintaining the character of the classics from the ‘70s and ‘80s,” explained founder Brad Ferguson.

From the oscillators and wave-shapers to the voltage-controlled filters (VCF) and snappy OTA-based voltage-controlled amplifiers, Parva’s signal path is 100% analog. The system itself is built upon a modular voice card architecture. Each of these cards are actually a full-featured synth in its own right, comprised of three oscillators, two VCFs, four envelope generators, and four low-frequency oscillators (LFOs). Users can configure their synth with anywhere between one to eight voice cards, which will provide either monophonic or polyphonic sounds, respectively. These voice cards are based on an ATxmega64A1U MCU, while the main board is powered by both an ATxmega64A1U and AT90USB1287.


Parva’s eight voices all feature three digitally-controlled analog oscillators, producing sawtooth, triangle, and PWM waveforms with extremely accurate pitch and rock-solid tuning stability. A pair of two-pole state-variable filters can be configured for a 12dB or 24dB low-pass or high-pass response, or split for bandpass filtering. Additionally, four four-stage envelope generators and four multi-waveform low-frequency oscillators feed a flexible modulation matrix, giving way to virtually limitless sound design options.

What’s nice is that Parva’s digital controls allow users to save and recall patches instantaneously, change parameters via MIDI, and route LFOs and envelopes to more than 40 destinations in the modulation matrix — all without the hassle of cables.


According to its creators, this is believed to the first analog synthesizer to feature a USB master port, which enables users to connect any class-compliant USB MIDI keyboard directly, without the need for a computer. Standard MIDI DIN in and out connections, a typical USB port, individual outputs for each voice, and a stereo headphone jack are also included. The instrument’s front panel was crafted to provide users with direct access to the most commonly used parameters with high-quality potentiometers. Beyond that, every control section is equipped with its own OLED displays to show additional options, making it super easy to dial in the perfect patch. For enhanced readability, parameter zoom enlarges the active setting automatically as the user turns a knob.

“From the aluminum enclosure to the custom-machined aluminum knobs on sturdy panel-mounted pots, Parva was designed with working musicians in mind, and built to last,” Ferguson adds.

Interested in one of your own? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where the team is currently seeking $50,000. Shipment is expected to begin in August 2015.