MeeBlip SE’s new limited edition features retro color scheme and knobs, plus 30 patch memores – and now ships fully-assembled to most of the world.

“Open source hardware” has generally come to mean something for hobbyists, something involving soldering irons and code. MeeBlip is about something different: it’s about making a musical instrument anyone can play, right away – with or without soldering. It’s about making music. And that’s why I’ve been glad to have CDM involved in this project: we get to build something that embodies what we believe in.

Now, you can get a Limited Edition, retro-styled MeeBlip SE for US$149.95 / €149.95 (incl VAT) / £119.95 (incl VAT), shipped just about anywhere worldwide, fully-assembled.

Order page | International info | SE Limited Edition info

The new version includes a vintage-inspired black-and-orange paint scheme and knobs, expanded 30-patch memory for quickly accessing your own sounds, and all the MIDI connectivity and sonic versatility that has made the synth a hit, plus bundled power if you buy in the USA, Canada, UK, or Europe. Under the hood, it’s still open source – every circuit, every line of code is on GitHub. You can learn from that, modify it – or just enjoy the synth knowing it’s there. Let’s back up and talk about what MeeBlip means in December 2012 – and hear what kinds of music it can make.

MeeBlip SE Fall 2012 Limited Edition: Where We’re At

Two years ago, CDM joined with engineer James Grahame to release the MeeBlip. Two years of making this hardware has posed some significant challenges. But if we’ve fought through it, it’s because we wanted to demonstrate that you could get a fully-playable, affordable, ready-to-use, open-source synth — by actually shipping it. And we wanted to do that because this was the kind of hardware we wanted ourselves.

2012’s MeeBlip SE tells that story better than anything we’ve made so far. It’s now fully-assembled, so you can start playing right away – or give it as a gift to someone as their first synth. (It comes with a printed guide on how to use it in the box, too.) Two years of development, all open source – with feedback from our community – means that it sounds better and works more reliably, too. This is the SE-edition synth that won the Key Buy award from Keyboard Magazine, as far as I know the first open source product to do so.

We’re also much smarter about shipping internationally. In North America, we’re using fulfillment by Amazon and shipping direct from Canada. In Europe, we’re shipping via DHL from Berlin. If you buy this week in North America or Europe, you’ll get MeeBlip in time for Christmas.

We include power, too; European customers now get a custom power adapter with swappable Europlug and UK adapters right in the box, in addition to our standard bundled North American adapter for the USA and Canada. (Elsewhere in the world, we keep shipping costs low by letting you buy the appropriate adapter for where you live.)

This stuff matters, because we want to make sure that details of shipping or power or assembly don’t get between you and making music. But let’s talk about music.

MeeBlip has onboard MIDI input for connecting keyboards, sequencers, and computers. For those who do want to modify it, you can connect a programmer or Arduino to the “hack port.” Or just use it as-is.

Hands-on control, MIDI

MeeBlip is designed to give you physical control over sound – no menus or screens required. While that means reducing functions to a set of knobs and switches, make no mistake: you can get a lot of sounds out of this synth, and you can always find those sounds just by using your fingers. And because MeeBlip has a standard MIDI DIN port, it’s easy for anyone to use and play. You can “upcycle” an old garage sale keyboard find or connect a $50 Rock Band keytar or use a $30 USB MIDI adapter to connect to a computer.

Once you plug it in, you can make all sorts of music. Making synths is, generally speaking, a terrible way to make money, so you’d better do it because you love what happens when you share what you’ve created with other musicians. And our community has made some amazing things – you’re the reason we keep on doing this.

Listen to the results

For a sampling, here are three radically different directions you can go with MeeBlip sounds, and a few of my favorite MeeBlip-made creations from our users that – so far – haven’t been heard yet on CDM. (See the ongoing audio demo thread MeeBlippers have made for a lot more!)

MeeBlip: The chip music game soundtrack synth

MeeBlip’s digital design is inspired in part by classics like the SID found in the Commodore 64. It’s still a 16-bit synth, and can sound analog if you like – but you can also go raw and digital and make chip music. It really comes down to the user and composer.

“Squid Racing” by MEGA SYNTH (Darren M. Mittermeier) blew us away. I wish someone would make a game around this soundtrack. Listen:

As featured on MeeBlip-Made Music: Squid Racing, a Funky, Chippy Tune

MeeBlip: The experimental/ambient synth

UEM, aka Los Angeles-based William Harrington, offers this beautiful, cinematic track called “On the Edge.” Pushed to its limits, MeeBlip’s digital filter and oscillators are capable of a sound all their own.

As featured on MeeBlip-Made Music: On the Edge, Beautifully Contemplative Ambient Track

MeeBlip: The bassline-generating, low end, dance-making synth

Making dance music with MeeBlip is a lot of fun. You can’t hear it online, but this thing can create floor-shaking bass. (The fact that it’s small and inexpensive makes that more fun.) Here are a few examples:

renderful (New Orleans-based Codey Christensen) uses a monotron filter alongside the MeeBlip for an acid creation:

celeriak (Adelaide, Australia-based Joe Bradden) creates a freestyled track, using all MeeBlip SE sounds (seriously) apart from drums:

Get yours now

The point of MeeBlip for us was shipping. When we’re not doing that, we’re really unhappy. When we are, we’re ecstatic. Here’s how to get yours.

Order page | International info | SE Limited Edition info

Got questions about all of this? I’m happy to answer them on comments, so fire away.

  • kasbah

    Looks great! Might pick one up when I am in Berlin. I assume the enclosure is a standard project box for electronics? Do you have a link for that? It looks like it would be a good choice for all sorts of human input projects.

    • Peter Kirn

      Glad you like it; actually, it’s a custom-machined case on the SE.

      But yes, Berlin pickup is definitely possible.

  • kent williams

    Can’t say enough about how good the Meeblip is as a sound generator. Once I bought it, I sold my Mopho — Meeblip can’t make every sound the Mopho can by any means, but the sounds it makes are great, and it’s knobbier.

    • renderful

      agreed and it can go from paddy to aggressive with ease. it can be tweaked and twerked to quite a range.

  • Matthew

    Any good examples of the open source being utilized ?

    • Peter Kirn

      Users have made direct feedback regarding the firmware, partly because they can see it. That impacted the SE firmware directly, in fact. And for a lot of people, just the ability to browse source and schematics is helpful, even if they don’t work with it directly.

      Some people have gone as far as making their own circuit boards – that’s possible because of publishing the MeeBlip’s circuit boards. So it’s possible to make your own MeeBlip without us, which could mean if we’re ever not around or the synth is ever discontinued, it won’t be lost forever. It’s future proofing.

      The MeeBlip itself draws from an open project, avrsynth.

      And some people have modified the source on their own for their own purposes, too, we hear, though it’s up to them whether to share that.

      We think a lot of this value may come in the future. 2013 is definitely about helping people to learn how to modify the code, even if they haven’t touched code before, and offering some alternative firmwares.

      But some of what happens here may be in the future. That to me is exciting, and that’s why I hope we push it along — gradually solving manufacturing and distribution gives us the freedom to devote more time to that idea.

    • Random Chance

      Regarding the source code: I was quite astonished to see one huge assembly language file instead of a neat collection of C or C++ files. Seeing how the Shruthi is programmed in C++ it’s hard for me to understand the reasons for writing code in assembler (except perhaps for some parts of the system where the compiler does not do what the programmer expects). Another aspect that sort of surprised me was the use of a relatively expensive (probably depends on where you live, I’m talking from my perspective here) 2-channel 8-bit DAC. Why not use 8-bit fast PWM on the AVR and maybe invest in another dual op amp for further filtering of the signal if needed? These questions have possibly all been answered to the fullest extent and beyond, but I have only just now had some time and inclination to take a good look at the project. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, and I would have that you can excuse my obtuseness.

    • Peter Kirn

      I’ll answer the DAC question first. We’ve of course experimented with PWM. To us, the most important feature of MeeBlip is its sound, and that has meant paying close attention to the way the DAC interacts with the sound. We have been loathe to change anything that would impact MeeBlip’s sonic character.

      Assembler: we’re using this because the project began in Assembler (and the avrsynth project that inspired MeeBlip did, too), and because it has worked well for us. In fact, changing AVR-family chips is even a minor chore. This may come as a surprise to those not used to Assembler, but it works fine for this purpose. (I can’t find a reason that we would feel we needed C++ on this kind of hardware. C, sure, is nice – but the Assembler in this case isn’t giving us radically different results or code usability than C.) Keeping it in one file makes sense, because it’s a simple synth.

      It’s a big file, but I think James has done a good job of commenting out the code, including explaining what everything does. And it’s important to us that the MeeBlip be an understandable synthesizer from a code perspective. I think it’s more true of MeeBlip than other synthesizers with open code.

      The language might initially make you think otherwise, but I think it’s easy to get hung up on that. The biggest challenge of working on MeeBlip is not the choice of language – that’s something you could contend with in a matter of a couple of hours, if you’ve done C/C++ code before. The biggest challenge is making all this audio stuff run on a very basic chip in real-time, and that’s what might give beginners trouble.

      We’ve been focused on improving quality and manufacturing this year, and that has us behind on documenting code and writing about how to navigate that code, but I can tell you that’s a big priority for me early in 2013.

      Having said that it can be challenging to work on this sort of project, I think we can make it easy for people to do things like change pitch bend range or knob assignments or certain timbral features to their liking.

    • Random Chance

      Wow, that’s quite a lot more text than I expected. Can you elaborate on why exactly you chose to go with the external 8-bit DAC? From my own experience it’s probably better to use a proper DAC with very little noise and LSB error for things like pitch CV where even a small variation can have a drastic impact. But I’m not so sure about suitably band limited raw waveforms.

      Regarding C++, I was thinking the same way for years until I saw the Shruthi source code and its use of templates instead of preprocessor #defines and the like. I’ve since then used those ideas in my own programs and would not have it any other way. It’s great to be able to program at a rather high level of abstraction without the compiler actually getting in the way of coding real-time low level stuff. You could say, that in the end it’s a “clever” way of generating code and keeping you honest (through the use of expressive types and templates). Not to start a religious debate, but if I were you I’d rather rewrite in C or C++ than write a kind of map for the source code. A solid file/directory structure and some modularisation goes a long way. But that’s probably depending on your background and whether you want or need to use legacy code. YM(M)V.

    • James Grahame

      The simple answer: Meeblip wouldn’t work with an 8-bit PWM DAC.

      A hybrid synth like the Shruthi-1 outputs two 8-bit waveforms that are summed, filtered and enveloped using analog circuitry. The Meeblip’s signal path is completely digital. It digitally sums the waveforms and then computes the resonant filter and applies a digital envelope in real time. The output is a 16-bit word.

      The two outputs of the AD7302 DAC are weighted and summed to create the cheapest 16-bit parallel input DAC possible, allowing me to run it at a variable sample rate without having to worry about SPI timing. The output is then passed through a 4-pole fixed cutoff anti-aliasing filter, and everything runs on single +5V power supply.

      Why assembler? Performance. Meeblip runs at 16 MHz, with a sample rate of approximately 36.6 kHz. That gives you 434 instruction cycles per sample, and we need almost 200 of those instruction cycles to compute the resonant digital filter and the amplitude envelope – it is easier to count clock cycles by coding in assembly.

      At some point in the future, I might rewrite the MeeFirmware in C, but it will still have a significant amount of assembly code in it.

  • Billy Kubina Jr

    Those tracks are hot.
    This may be more valuable than the Monotribe.

  • Mr. Blenderson

    Mine will be here soon – Hannukah present from my wife! I can’t wait to start blipping.

  • Freeks

    Will the next version of Micro have some new features?

    Is there documentation for the “hack port”? It would be interesting to try arduino on that with some ultrasonic sensors.

    • Peter Kirn

      Yes, micro black will finally have input parity with MeeBlip SE. And we have some other enhancements via firmware. More details on that soon. On micro, you can easily connect an ultrasonic sensor directly to the board – that’s what we need to document.

      The Hack Port on SE is for firmware upgrades, and yes, that’s documented!

    • Freeks

      Will the firmware enhancements work on previous micro? I have mine still unbuilt as i’m still missing some components for the case.

      How do one get ultrasonic sensor work directly with micro as it needs loads of code in Arduino?

    • Peter Kirn

      Actually, ultrasonic is a bad example – there you might indeed want to just plug the sensor into arduino and plug the arduino into MeeBlip. We’ll be publishing some tutorials on this soon, concurrent with the micro launch.

      IR sensors, by contrast – those you could plug in directly!

  • Stan Taylor

    I love my Meeblip – it is now my only hardware synth, and it’s still gratifying to just reach over & crank up the volume knob & start jamming, even with all the flexibility offered by software-based plugins. Anyone have a quick way to tweak the pitch bend parameter down to a whole step instead of an octave so I can go back to doing my cheesy Jan Hammer imitation?

    • Peter Kirn

      Heh, yes, that’s on my to-do list for example firmware mods… 😉

  • Gwydion

    Hi Peter, great stuff! Any more news on making affordable, Mac-compatible firmware writers available? At least from my point of view, that would greatly increase the chances of contributors into the open source side of MeeBlip…

    • Peter Kirn

      You mean the software toolchain, or the hardware?

      Hardware is easy. Various options like this one – and they work fine with the Mac:

      For software, we’re using avrdude and avra – and they’re free.

    • Gwydion

      Just meant this from a while back: – wanted to bring my meeblip up to latest firmware version… but was not easy/cheap to do so… was a while back now, so can’t remember the blocking point… may the sparkfun one not available in Germany…?

    • Peter Kirn

      We chose not to get into the USB programmer business in the end, because it’s an unprofitable distraction from making synthesizers! But other than that, I’m not sure – it should in fact be reasonably cheap and easy to do that here. (You can also borrow my programmer if you need to, and please do that but — if you could check to see what’s out there, I would be surprised if it is expensive, even here!)

    • Gwydion

      Thanks for the offer Peter :-)

      I’d like to buy a programmer for regular usage though (at least tweaking the code, when time allows). I’ve no idea about which programmers are suitable, and moreover, which programmers people have had good experience with. E.g. the sparkfun link mentions it’s been problematic on Mac and Linux.

      So if anyone can point me to a cheap programmer that I can use with Mac OS X and that I can buy for a reasonable price (say EUR20/$25) here in Germany then I’d be really grateful…

      And maybe it would help others in the same boat too…

  • celeriak

    Loving the meeblip SE, It sounds badass and can always fit on my desk when its covered in junk.
    what can i do with the hack port ?

  • renderful

    I was really impressed with the beefy sound that came out of the Meeblip SE. Night and day, between the original and the SE. I use both, and would love to twerk some hacks, but am squeamish about ASM. Maybe one day.

    Digging the new knobs and color scheme. May have to pick one up. I’m currently using the Meeblip SE as an input to the DSI Evolver with great success. An extra osc as it were.

    Squid Racing is amazing, and ups the ante on what can be done with the Meeblip. Challenge accepted. I’m also a fan of Chris Randall’s Meeblip experiments. The simplicity of the SID and the Meeblip allow for such a large range of timbres.

  • Darren M.

    If I have time during my winter break, my next synth product
    demo will be of the Yamaha QY100 and I might pair it with the Meeblip SE
    to sequence patterns. Maybe a duel demo! Who knows!

    Thanks CDM for the feature!

  • Todd Stanton

    i just ordered mine the other day. i am super excited. this seems as if it will be an excellent addition to my studio :)

  • Samrat Bee

    Can anyone suggest where to buy it from in Europe. Switzerland or Spain ?? Whats the best going price for it .. ?