The original vision of the MeeBlip was to make something affordable, something open and hackable, something anyone could get, something that could tell a story, and something we’d use to make some music. And since those are all goals of Create Digital Music, too, it’s a perfect physical compliment to what we do. For me, personally, it means putting my money where my (blogging) mouth is. It’s a chance to learn.

So that makes this a really special week. It hasn’t been easy getting here, but now the MeeBlip begins its second chapter.

This week, we’re announcing availability of the MeeBlip SE. US$139 (intro price) buys you a version you can put together in a few minutes with just a screwdriver, a complete, MIDI-capable digital hardware synth. (We ship most places worldwide – and we’re shipping now.) Through incredible work by the MeeBlip’s principal designer, Canadian James Grahame, the SE revises our original design:

  • It’s more playable. With lots of feedback from users (and extended chats with Francis Preve of Keyboard Magazine and Academik Records), we made the control layout more logical and more fun to play.
  • It’s got a greater sonic range. Anti-aliasing on/off, and a variable pulse width knob combine with more unusual features like its digital distortion and intentionally-quirky digital filter.
  • Everything responds to MIDI. If there’s a knob or switch on the front panel, there’s a MIDI parameter – and vice versa. Whether you use your hand or a MIDI message, everything is accessible.
  • It stores patches. 16 patch slots accessible from the front panel mean you can use your favorite sounds live, and you can store them somewhere other than your brain.

And you can get one right now. (MeeBlip SE, and for DIYers, either the SE Build Everything version or the compact micro board.)

But, of course, as we learned how to make the synth better, we learned a lot more about how to make the business of making a synth better. Learning is wonderful: I’ve been floored by seeing what people have done with these instruments, by seeing them pop up in unexpected places and making brilliant, unexpected sounds. Learning is also painful. We made some mistakes, as demand for the MeeBlip went beyond what we expected, and the limitations of the chip we chose made developing our more ambitious ideas take longer than we wanted.

In other words, users have been incredibly inspiring – reality has sometimes been incredibly challenging – and those are the two things that have moved us forward.

So, it’s now a daily task to work on ways of making the MeeBlip more accessible, more available, and better.

While we work on that, you can now find all of our schematics and code – including many, many hours of James’ work, in particular – on GitHub. Axel Werner, a programmer in our community, has already contributed to making that code better, so when you play a MeeBlip, you’re playing some of his work, too. (The lesson of open source: if just one person does something with what you share, it’s already worth it. And Axel’s not alone.)

I’m working mainly on documentation – both for users just wanting to make music (even if this is their first synth), and developers who want to learn about code and sound.

You can learn about the MeeBlip, read those new docs as they’re added, keep up with the latest, and – if you like – buy the new MeeBlip SE as a kit or quick-build synth – at the synth’s site:

http://meeblip.com

Let’s Get Some Music in Here

I can’t talk about the MeeBlip nearly as well as its users can show it.

Case in point: we didn’t know one Jeremy Leaird-Koch until the video above popped in our inbox. It’s a demo video of the MeeBlip SE, and it shows off all the new sonic features of the instrument, and demonstrates the PWM width functionality, and shows how to make music, and does a timelapse of building the kit from scratch. Here’s the funny part: we didn’t ask him to do this. His demo video puts anything we’d make to shame.

Jeremy’s story behind this, and the reason there are two MeeBlips in there, was even more amazing. He wrote us about a month ago:

My boyfriend and I had put off exchanging Christmas gifts because I was waiting for the MeeBlip kit (his present) to arrive. Finally, about a week or so after XMAS, it came, I wrapped it up, and gave it to him. I unwrap his present to me, and it’s in a Canada Post box, too. Turns out we got each other the exact same thing. Two MeeBlip kits. Absolutely hilarious.

Anyways, the next day we built them up and played around with them. We also made this little video documenting one of the builds and our first explorations of what it could do. Damn, what a fun little box.

I nearly cried – well, for two reasons. One was, it was a clear explanation of why you go nuts trying to make a synth. The other was, we really screwed up shipping in 2011, and if anything told me to never let that happen again, this story did. We’ve changed the way we source parts, the way we assemble the MeeBlip, and the way we distribute it, and it’s one of the things I think about every morning when I wake up. But thanks, Jeremy and your boyfriend; you’ve absolutely inspired us.

And most importantly, I want to hear more music, made on whatever thing you choose, because I really enjoyed it. And that’s what this is all about.

Side note: if you like soldering, you want the MeeBlip Build Everything kit for intro US$119, which is what he has here. If you don’t, don’t let this scare you; you can get the Quick Build and just use a screwdriver, and it doesn’t take a whole lot longer than this does in fast-forward timelapse time.

http://meeblip.com/get-one/

  • http://twitter.com/rhythminmind Eric Beam

    Great work, with both this demo/build & the new meeblip release .

  • http://www.federicopepe.com Federico

    I want one! :)

  • Freesoulvw

    I was waiting for the meeblip quick build kit. I was afraid of soldering electronics for my first “real” time on something I’d spent money on,something I didn’t want to get broken or messed up due to my lack of skill. After a few weeks of wanting one and waiting I decided to get the DIY kit and try my hand at the solder thing. The documentation,the web site,the detailed photos,support community(didn’t even need it),everything that goes into this project was so much easier then what was expected. The project did take longer then the “3 minute” screwdriver approach but in the end I had the same synth but with a different outcome. I had my synth but I also acquired a new skill,a new hobby,and a new appreciation for the craft of DIY electronic kits. I now look for other kits and know that I can build those. Everything that takes time and is a new experience is always going to a certain level of “fear” to it. The reward in the end of a finished product at the hands of your own hand almost out weighs the experience of just owning the synth on its own. Basically what I’m saying is,if you want a quick build buy it but don’t count out the DIY kit. You will be surprised at just what you can accomplish with this kit if you just put a little more into the experience.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.grahame James Grahame

      Brilliant. 

      One of the biggest worries Peter and I had at the beginning was how much support kit builders would require. We were amazed by what happened — most people were able to get through the process without help, and those who required a bit of assistance were thoughtful, intelligent builders who were nearly always able to get things working.

      The QuickBuild is currently outselling the Build Everything kit by about 8:1, which means that over 12% of buyers enjoy doing *everything* themselves — a significantly high number in today’s hyper-impatient world. 

      It’s very cool to get emails from people who tell us that this was their first-ever kit or their first-ever music kit. Even cooler, nearly always ask about other kits — “Should I build a Shruthi-1 next? What about the PreenFM? A SammichSID?”

      There are much worse addictions. 

  • http://twitter.com/RobbieRyanMusik Robbie Ryan

    This is really amazing! He makes it look easy, dammit! Great tune, too.

  • http://timrobertssound.bandcamp.com/ Tim Roberts

    Really need to get an AVR to go to the new firmware.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Not sure what you mean, Tim? 

  • Michael Hewel

    getting better and better.. but two questions come to mind:
    I have the original kit, can I just upgrade the AVR to have an SE?
    is it possible to buy the new revised frontpanel and maybe also an empty case/rear panel to go with it?

    • retroz

       You can upgrade to the V1 Meeblip to get the SE sound engine. The V1 hardware doesn’t have patch save capability.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Yeah, what James says. So, you can definitely upgrade at the firmware level. What you’ll be missing is the physical buttons that currently do preset save/load, but everything else works. I’ll be honest on the faceplates — we’ve found these are expensive for us to produce and stock, but you can get the artwork or make your own another way.

  • kent williams

    Just ordered one.  How difficult would it be to reprogram the ROM from MIDI, or is that a hardware limitation?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There’s a “hardware hack” port on the back, to which you can attach an inexpensive programmer (more on that soon.) You don’t want to use MIDI for two reasons.

      1. MIDI is a lot slower than a programmer.
      2. Because the MeeBlip has MIDI in but not MIDI out, you can’t verify the data you’ve sent. Result – it’s possible to brick the thing over MIDI. (The solution to that, once again – use a programmer!)

  • Randy

    I just ordered a Shruthi-1 kit, really looking forward to playing with it.  One reason I ordered the Shruthi instead of the MeeBlip was the Shruthi has an audio input and I’d like to use it as an outboard filter or effects box.  Is it possible to add an external audio input to the MeeBlip?

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.grahame James Grahame

      No, not easily. The filter is digital so there would have to be a D to A conversion to sample the audio for processing.

    • Randy

      Thanks James.  I figured that was the case, hope you don’t mind me asking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1586025257 Stan Taylor

    I keep shoving my money up against the computer screen, but nothing happens. DVD slot, maybe? I want one of these NOW.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Ha! Well, you could also just go to - http://meeblip.com/get-one/

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1586025257 Stan Taylor

      Sparked quite a Facebook discussion when my wife heard me lusting over this & posted, “Why does my husband need more than ONE synth?”
      Probably this payday or next… =)

  • robopony

    Is there any possibility of upgrading the original Meeblip with the new features and layout of the SE?  Also, I love the new front panel!  I always thought the stock panel design of the original was its biggest shortcoming, but the new one is fantastic!

  • James

    ordered! I can’t wait to build/try/play with this thing

  • Trallyn

    how could I use this as effects for my guitar when playing live?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      There’s no audio input on this hardware, I’m afraid; it’s not an effects box.

      That said, I sure do like effects boxes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/clesoine Charlie Lesoine

    I’m very interested in finding out more about code and sound. How much extra processing power does the Atmega 324 have after generating the sound? Is there enough processsing to add a sequencer for example?

  • jon david

    I really wish I weren’t so damn poor. :( I really, REALLY want one of these.

    It’s hard enough keeping groceries in the fridge and the internet service on just to be able to search for available jobs in the area.

    Ah well.