Archive for game consolles and circuit bending

Yamaha PSS 390 mini synth demo


The Yamaha PSS 390 is the “toy keyboard” claimed to have the better and best sounding FM synth engine in the toy range.
It has 100 tones that can be widely modified with the tone controls, instead of button +/- it features sliders to edit the synth parameters.
The only lack is the midi control that however can be added by retrofit.
It can be seen in action in the videos of the band “the Apparat Organ Quartet”.

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Circuit Bending the Casio SA serie (part2)

This is a glitch/random bend by Finlay Shakespeare http://www.futuresoundsystems.co.nr .
The mod was originally done on the casio sa1 but it should work with all the sa-serie.

Casio SA Bends

Here is another random/glitch mod I found in a couple of forums:

Casio SA-7 bend diagram

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Circuit bending the Casio SA-serie

Doing some circuit bending on my casio keyboards I collected some useful schematics to “safe-bend” the casio sa serie (sa 1 2 5 8 10 20 etc).
The main mod is the one from Casperelectronics that adds interesting bends as the “glitch/randomizer” , “feedback” , “5th add”, “pitch shift” and the classic “power crash”.

Casio SA-X

In the forum www.circuitbenders.co.uk I found another scheme based on the casper mod but with some adds.

SA-Xbends

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Yamaha CS 01

Yamaha CS01

The CS-01 is a funky little synth!
It may seem a toy but is a real analog synth in a small case.
The structure is quite simple, justa simple LFO, a “VCO”, VCF and ADSR.
I wrote “VCO” because even if the yamaha labeled it VCO but it is in fact a DCO.
The sound of the oscillator is however real analog, and “phat sounding” in a typical japanese way, and it reminds the classic analog sounds of the early 80’s.
The oscillator offers a good selection of waves (TRI, SAW, SQUARE, PULSE, PWM) and feets(4′ 8′ 16′ 32′ and noise).
The most powerful is the sound of PWM, which is really fat and “wide” sounding.
PWM has its own speed control too (indipendent from lfo).
The LFO is only a tri wave useful for vibratos and wah effects, its not extremely fast, but works well for all the classic sounds.
VCO also have a “glissando” instead of portamento/glide, which means that it can jump from a note to another passing through the notes in the middle.
The VCF is a 12dB lowpass with resonance and EG depth.
The resonance is controlled by a switch that turns it on or off, but it’s possible to modify the control to have a real resonance control adding a knob.
On the MK2 model the filter use a different structure (it has a 24 dB slope instead of 12) and has the resonance controlled by a slider.
The filter is, as other old yamaha monosynth, very smooth and “bubbling”, even with resonance tutned on the filter never eat the low frequency range, offering a wide variety of colour even as a bass machine.
The CS01 is mainly a bass and lead machine, the bass is always rounded, and punchy, for the classic 80’s arpeggio or for techno bass sounds.
On the lead side it can sound quite minimal and smooth or rich using the pwm, it can also reproduce easily the classic retrocomputer sounds !
Despite the toys look with the built in speaker this a lightweight classic 80s monosynth that can do most of the analog mono-sound without any problem of space in the studio and being very reliable.

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Midi interface for Nintendo Gameboy

This is a really interesting interface to control your Nintendo Gameboy thru midi from your favourite midisequencer or keyboard.
This interface can work even as a sync to midi.
Visit the Firestarter site !

This is a guide to Do It Yourself!

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Casio SK-5 review

Casio SK5

Casio SK5

The Casio SK serie started with the SK-1 (one of the best selling toy keyboard of the period) and the target was a the consumer market.
The little sampler was technically far from the professional counterpart like Emu or Akai, it was just a toy with a tiny memory of few seconds and no memory retain.
Soon after the SK1 the SK5 followed.
The sK5 was an upgraded version of the SK1 with more sampling time, the capability to sample 4 sounds and to retain the sound in memory even with the power swithed off (if the keyboard run on batteries).
The sampling specifics were the same as the SK1 (8bit- 9,38KHz) quite low even for the time, and apart from didattic use by children, the sk seemed at that time just a toy.

The cheap prices of second hads SK and the “Anti Theory” of Reed Ghazala made the fame of the little sk grow.
The interesting circuit bending capabilities of this instruments made them popular between the circuit bending community as a “must have” together with the  “Speak & Spell”.

The Antitheory statement , by Reed Ghazala, is that you don’t have to know anything about electronics to do circuitbending.
A circuitbend is like an energy flow thru shortcircuits…
A circuit is not designed to have shortcircuits , so you have to “think different” !

The SK5 is now a well known and is now considered  a “real instrument” , not just a toy, after many more or less inportant, famous or trendy artists used it.
Just to name a few…Autechre, Bjork, Portished, Nine Inch Nails , Blur, Aphex Twin, but the list is long…

The heart of the instrument is a 8 bit sampler with a very lo-fi sound and 4 voice poly.
It can samples 4 sounds and play them together with the rubber pads or with the keyboard.
The performance can be registered with the onboard sequencer, with no quantization (you cannot correct the timing).
Every sample can be edited with the “envelope shapes” that adds crescendo, sustain, vibratos etc., can be looped or reversed .
The sample memory can retain the samples if the keyboard has batteries.
There is also the possibility to choose a “long sample” time (it occupies 2 samples slots) to sample a loop for example.

The strenght of this keyboard is without any doubt the sound, because the samples are totally mangled and they sound really different , like pixelated…
This is really great for lo-fi sounds.
The second point is that the SK 5 is an easy instrument to circuit bend and the mods add a great variety of  “tools” to shape new sounds with the twist of a knob or a simple switch, a variation not known, an aleatoric change, that’s why Ghazala called his mods projects “aleatrons”.

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Bent Casio SA2 and Boss DR112

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