Making music, making blips and bleeps, turning knobs, plugging in keyboards, and having the freedom to modify your gear – these are good things. And that’s why I’m so excited that today is the day the MeeBlip launches.

It’s been several years in development, but now it’s finally here. It’s a hardware box that makes noises – virtual analog synth noises, chip-sounding noises, good noises, bad noises, noises you can make into music. It’s got physical knobs and switches on it, plus a MIDI DIN in port so you can connect that keytar you bought on eBay. It’s also a digital synth you can build, modify, and hack, down to the way every knob is mapped and every sound is blipped.

The MeeBlip is the creation of James Grahame, of Retro Thing and Reflex Audio fame. (He tells the full history of how it came to be.) But we’re serious about the Create Digital Music name going on there, too. We’ll be documenting and helping develop this instrument for some time to come, and we’ve begun building a site and community for the instrument so you have a place to meet other people using it.

The MeeBlip, from code to schematics, is open source hardware. You can hack it, read through the code, make your own and sell it. At the same time, just because it’s “open source” and “hackable” doesn’t mean the MeeBlip is just for hackers. On the contrary – we wanted a synth anyone could play. With the Quick Build Kit, you can assemble the MeeBlip without a soldering iron or, really, much skill, in a matter of minutes. Plug it in, turn some knobs, and you can make some sounds. And if later you decide you want to go deeper or even change the way the instrument works, you can do that, too.

The MeeBlip is available today, shipping worldwide, for US$129. (Kit versions are available for those who know what they’re doing, for $79, as are a la carte parts.)

You can hear what it sounds like with some samples I’ve uploaded to SoundCloud. This is the MeeBlip completely raw – no effects, no sequencing, just me playing live and turning knobs, right into Ardour.

MeeBlip: The hackable digital synth – SOUND DEMO by cdm

We’ve got a massive site for you to go learn about MeeBlip and, if you like, grab one for your own. (The first batch ships within the week, if you get in on the first order.)

http://meeblip.noisepages.com/

Enjoy. I’m personally thrilled that the MeeBlip goes from being silent to making some serious noise.

The MeeBlip sports front-panel illustrations by designer Nathanael Jeanneret.
  • midihendrix

    I wasn't considering this until I saw how reasonable the price is. Nice!

  • http://www.inoutfest.org active

    fine. take my money! see if i care!

  • midihendrix

    p.s. the sounds are awesome

  • http://www.inoutfest.org Flplsx

    So Monday I think to myself: maybe I'll finally get one of those YM_MINI kits from Stray Tech. Monday night I get an email saying the new batch of Shruthi kits will be available for order on Wednesday, so I spend all day today researching it, and now this. Now I want all three, plus one of those Midibox SIDs if I can ever find a couple 8580s. Cheap, awesome synths are making me go broke!

    This looks incredible, think they'll still be around come Xmas?

  • http://hendersonsix.com Henderson

    Looks and sounds very interesting, well done guys. Great to see that it's open source.

  • http://mutable-instruments.net/shruthi1/ Olivier

    Congrats on the release! Now we know why you were so enthusiastic about the Keytar Hero :)

  • Wantless

    Sooo… That is what that picture was about…

    http://createdigitalmusic.com/2010/09/what-does-t

  • Chungkingxxpress

    Cool but… no Open Sound Control?

  • Charlie Lesoine

    What if I like to solder, but I don't like to find and drill my own enclosure?

  • http://meeblip.noisepages.com James Grahame

    @Charlie: We're trying to keep things simple for the launch. We might offer a full kit version of the cased board (which is a slightly different shape to accommodate the case mounting posts)in the next few weeks, if enough people are interested.

  • http://www.casimirsblake.co.uk Casimir's Blake

    O.O

    Okay, I'm sold. I have been looking on in envy at the myriad collection of SID hardware projects out there. But I'm far too lazy and "not-techy-enough" to bother with the building process.

    THIS, though, I'm totally up for. THANKYOU for providing "ready-made" kits. You have a sale guys. One of these + a keytar + an amp and finally synth players can ponce around on stage just like all self-respecting guitarists!

  • HEXnibble

    The MeeBlip is available today, shipping worldwide, for US$129.

    Wow.

  • Doug

    Sold! Can't wait to start playing with this.

  • http://www.deceptikon.net Dkon

    Looks awesome, ordered!

  • http://louddjs.com mat

    hello first hardware synth. "Your order will be shipped by from our Canadian mountain lair by international air mail"

  • electronic_face

    Peter, dude, this brought a tear to my eye. This is so awesome.

  • http://myspace.com/zeroreference zeroreference

    goin' on my holiday list.

  • vinayk

    does it send audio via usb to your PC say? or is that only for power?

  • vinayk

    oh also…

    does it send/receive midi via USB?

  • http://meeblip.noisepages.com James Grahame

    @vinayk: USB is for power only. The Atmega 32A microcontroller simply can't handle something like a V-USB software stack and real-time sound generation at the same time.

    MeeBlip runs at a 40 kHz sample rate, which leaves only 400 instruction cycles between each sample.

  • http://www.synthtopia.com/ James Lewin

    Congratulations on the new project, Peter!

    MeeBlip looks exciting on its own – but it will be even more interesting to see what hacks people come up with.

  • http://www.wiretotheear.com Oliver Chesler

    Yes… big congrats!!!

  • richardn

    oh bliss! ordered, wow!

  • Peter Kirn

    @electronic_face: Wow, thanks.

    And to everyone, major thanks for the kudos! I really appreciate it.

  • Armando

    wow. really really happy for you guys! this is incredible wow!!! MAJOR PROPS!!

  • Jamie

    First iMS20 and now this, wow I'm having a great surprise filled Tuesday! Thanks for offering this with accessibilty to builders and non builders alike, and thanks for such a reasonable price. I'm ordering one tonight.

  • jonah

    What are some possibile ways this can be "hacked" on a software level? I mostly likely wouldn't do any programing myself, but might pick one up if interesting functionality was added.

    The printable template is awesome! I guess if anyone changed the interface a lot they could write in new the functionality. Heck of a lot cheaper and smarter solution than LCDs!

  • Peter Kirn

    @jonah: Actually, easiest answer to that is the code itself — James did some extensive commenting, so you can see what things are in there.
    http://gitorious.org/meeblip/meeblip-synth/blobs/

    (Gitorious screws up the formatting a bit – you can download the file itself raw for now; hope to have a view that fixes that soon.)

    Additional MIDI features would be easy, low-hanging fruit. DSP requires … well, some DSP knowledge, but there's some room there, too.

    On the hardware side, you could do some wacky stuff with input.

  • Koratanu

    This is sooo awesome. Add to cart indeed.

    So you mention that USB is for power only, so does that mean that loading new code is done via a chip flasher, or is it done via USB? Sorry if that's a silly question!

  • Sasa Rasa

    Like Charlie said, having a kit including PCB, components and case would be the best option for me. I can do my own soldering. Please consider it.

  • Peter Kirn

    Koratanu: You'll need a chip flasher; not too bad, and I'm working on a tutorial on that shortly. (Hoping to have it done before anyone's has arrived.)

  • RichardL

    Very cool. I like that it goes to 11. Congratulations!

  • http://www.jeremyabel.com Jeremy Abel

    Whoo, thank god this was the surprize mystery image and not another iThing app like everyone suspected ;)

    Congrats all around, though! Peter, what was your role in this project?

  • Peter Kirn

    @Jeremy: I've been in touch with James since around the time he first hatched the idea. I was having trouble putting this into words, so I just asked James, and he replied thusly: "documentation, expert advice, user guides, documentation" and coined the word "MeeVangelist." I think I will take that as a title (and share it with anyone else interested!)

    And if you haven't already figured it out, the recurrence of the word "documentation" suggests that my job has only just begun… ;)

  • http://meeblip.noisepages.com James Grahame

    Actually, Peter is selling himself short. He had the vision of doing this as real open source hardware, supported by a community of musicians and experimenters on Noisepages.

    The cold truth is that there's very little open source music hardware out there. Most stuff is released with strings attached — either the developers withholds key elements like the board design files or they say, "but you can only make them if you ask me first."

    Peter convinced me that this would be a great way to prove that open source really does work in the hardware realm, and that people would take MeeBlip in unforeseen directions that simply wouldn't happen with a closed device.

    In essence, MeeBlip is a Synduino — nothing more than an AVR microcontroller with a MIDI jack, an audio output and lots of knobby things. Peter's not-so-sneaky plan is to build a community of bright-eyed coders and hackers around it and encourage them to do better than they could alone (me included). That's a good thing.

    Oh, and he came up with the name. :)

  • Peter Kirn

    Actually, I believe Jaymis first coined the name – in fact, I'm not even sure where it came from – but otherwise, that's correct. And my plans tend not to be none so sneaky, indeed. ;) I'm personally more the disclosure than the non-disclosure.

  • Polite

    This looks very cool. The programmable/hackable aspect of it is absolutely killer.

    Is the controller restricted to the number of controllers you have on it at the moment? Would it possible to go crazy and make some Andromeda-like knob covered monster? Or converting it into a taurus-like foot activated bass synth?

    Looking forward to a programming tutorial. It's a shame it's not flashable over usb. Will there be any programming environment we can use to debug/test code without having to flash it to the chip?

  • dead_red_eyes

    SOLD.

  • strunkdts

    very cool!

  • Greg

    Goddamnit, you guys are making it harder to be grouchy about target marketing to rich people.

    Want.

    How nuts is it of me to dream of a simple vcf in here?

  • J. Phoenix

    Congratulations! You've made something that will probably never stop growing once its seeded…I can't wait to play with one!

  • http://www.bagger288.com/goldenmaster goldenmaster

    looks really great, great work, love the price point. Love the open source idea. Hope people come up with some really interesting stuff with this.

    I think if this blows up, it would be great to make another version with a more powerful DSP… imagine how far people could take that! Custom efx, if it had more RAM, maybe even all kinds of homebrew samplers…

  • http://www.document02.com Document 02

    This is uber-cool. Great work.

  • Koratanu

    Just ordered one. A secondary thought I had after my previous question: will this be able to be powered via an AC to USB adapter, sans computer? Something like THIS. Very stoked.

  • http://soundcloud.com/Farsight_Theory Simon

    I'd like to hear some more samples! Show us what it can do in the nasty bass department :)

  • midihendrix

    dumb question because seems like not – but will this have the ability to store presets? (without usb)

  • http://mutable-instruments.net/shruthi1/ Olivier

    Now a bit of criticism… There are two things that vastly limit, in my opinion, the hackability of the thing:

    - From what you said, one needs to use an AVR programmer (or maybe to swap in a reprogrammed chip) to update the code. Why not going the download the code by SysEx way? You know, “if all switches and knobs are flipped to zero at bootup then stay in bootloader waiting for SysEx”. You could report MIDI update progress by changing the pitch of a sawtooth on the audio output, it’ll sound cool and it fits in 1k.
    - Assembly. Why, oh why? I hope someone will rewrite the whole thing in “Compiler-aware C”, or at least the non-ISR part. Maybe it’ll be me. I don’t know. Maybe it won’t be that hard since the project has been around for years and there are already people familiar with the codebase…

  • Peter Kirn

    @Olivier: Sure, glad you asked. You will need an AVR programmer, but $22 buys you something like this one from Adafruit: http://www.adafruit.com/index.php?main_page=produ

    … and I'll be documenting that, plus basic Assembly hacking, for newcomers. (I count as a newcomer, so you can expect a sympathetic voice!)

    Flashing is very, very fast, which is what makes this work. We actually had a prototype working on SysEx, but decided to drop it, because there's a greater likelihood of screwing it up and bricking the chip. And once you've done that, you'd need … a programmer.

    That gets at Polite's question, too –

    The goal here is to, very quickly, try out modifications to MIDI assignment and sound right on the board, with immediate sonic results. Doing that in Assembly and flashing the chip directly is actually just about the most accessible way to go. You'll debug by making sounds, which is often a good approach.

    That's my take on it; I'm sure James can elaborate.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Koratanu: You can indeed do that. We actually had intended a USB wall wart for sale at launch, but on testing, James found some issues with noisy adapters; once we're satisfied with quality, I expect we'll have one again.

    I'm building a MintyBoost for mine so it can run on the go with rechargeable battery power; I'll post the results to the MeeBlip blog by the weekend.

    @midihendrix:

    USB is only for power. It's just a convenient, standard-shaped port.

    No onboard preset memory (it'd only be good until you turned a knob, anyway), but scroll down here for my suggested "hipster preset storage":
    http://meeblip.noisepages.com/use-one/ ;)

  • Peter Kirn

    By the way, if you want to continue the discussion outside of comment threads:
    http://noisepages.com/groups/meeblip
    Email notification available. Let me know directly if you have any trouble with that site.

  • http://www,TweakingKnobs.com TweakingKnobs

    Congrats !peter !

    i think ill order one right away !

  • LeMel

    James,

    I was so disappointed when RetroThing was mothballed…really enjoyed it. But this is what you were up to? Brilliant! Exciting, relevant, valuable work, guys. And affordable too!? You'll get my support soon…

  • http://www.jeremyabel.com Jeremy Abel

    Aw it's in Assembly?! That's a shame, I do say. I think that severely limits the hackability of this thing, from a code perspective. It's a lot easier for people who are used to ECMA-syntax-like languages (Java, Flash AS3, and to a lesser extent C/C++) to write code for something so vastly different like Assembly. Any particular reason why you went with it? Was it an optimization choice?

    @LeMel: RetroThing mothballed?! They still put up a new post almost every day!

  • http://fallsastar.com Crashproof

    Wow, neat project!

    I'm fighting the "I don't strictly need it" thing at the moment, but at that price, that quarter of my brain is not really putting up much resistance.

  • panic

    Love the concept, sounds awesome, feels fun. Sold.

  • http://meeblip.noisepages.com James Grahame

    @Olivier: I discussed SysEx firmware update with Paul Maddox (GorF, Tron). The big problem is that the MIDI data stream is too quick – a page write will take a few mS, and interrupts will be disabled while that happens so there's the potential for data loss. An ISP programmer from adafruit or Sparkfun costs around $20, and the firmware can be flashed and verified in under 5 seconds, so it's quick and efficient.

    As for the choice of assembly, porting it to C won't necessarily make things easier to read and understand. There are a lot of bitwise ops and several rather dense multiplication routines that will still be complicated in C.

  • james

    the code has been broken!!!

  • stan9fromouterspace

    Okay, who's going to be the first to post their own sound file of the track created using their new goes-to-eleven pride & joy?

  • leMel

    @Jeremy Abel: Yikes – how could I confuse MusicThing (also excellent) and the wondrous RetroThing? You are indeed correct. Well, I do have the single neuron, you know.

  • http://dust.unrecnow.com marcusfischer

    are those waveforms limited to the hardware or are they software controlled?

    i love a nice sine wave but if i'm not mistaken, it looks like there isn't one?

  • http://reflexaudio.com James Grahame

    @marcusfischer: The waveforms are software generated.

    @leMel: I heard from Tom Whitwell of Music Thing fame this morning. The site may be on hiatus, but he'll be MeeBlipping with the rest of us.

  • GD

    Good for educational purposes at best. The sound is as thin as a tin can can be.

  • Peter Kirn

    We'll have additional sound samples up shortly; mine have received some … feedback. (They were, to be true, hastily conceived!) It may be that I also have some odd thing for tin cans…

  • fourthirtythree

    What's the delivery time like do you know? If I got my wife to get me one for Christmas would it arrive in time?

    Otherwise I could get it myself but it would be a nice present for me.

  • http://www.elsoftwarehamuerto.org Rafael Vega

    Could you program the chip using an arduino board? That would be interesting.

  • Mike

    Could the code be retrofitted to an existing AVRsynth? I've got a Krue-style one running already.

  • http://reflexaudio.com James Grahame

    @Mike: Yes! MeeBlip is more-or-less backwards compatible, although there is one critical change: you'd have to replace the DAC sample output routines.

  • panic

    @ Peter – lol…i thought they were awesome. 

  • Arne

    Looks like a neat device, but the first thing I'd do with it would be to disassemble it and replace that GOD AWFUL 1980s ARCADE GAME illustration on the front panel with something else.

    Sorry, Nathanael Jeanneret. This is, as with most things aesthetic, a matter of personal opinion. But in the spirit of open source, I'd immediately hack those graphics.

  • http://www.onetonnegraphic.com funnelbc

    Hi Arne,

    Of course you're entitled to do whatever you like with the front panel! The intended design outcome was to create something with a bit more personality than the average bear, but I know not everyone will love that style.

    Here's an EPS of the artwork so you may roll your own graphics as you see fit! Enjoy!

    http://www.onetonnemusic.com/downloads/MeeBlip_pa

    Cheers,

    Nathanael

  • http://louddjs.com mat

    i ordered one, very excited for it.

    i'm sure this is a dumb question, but would there be a way to put an arpeggiator in it, considering it's open source?

    if not… does anyone know of a decent, simple, external hardware arp?