DIY Sampling Drum Synth Box of Death

  • Started
  • Last post
  • 7 Responses
  • prophetone

    Fellow maker nerds, I'm not first to the party, but I've been toying with the idea of creating a cheap but proper nice diy, swiss army knife drum/sampler/synth/effects box... powered by Raspi for the synth brain duties... and an Teensy/Arduino on hardware inputs to midi signal out into Raspi duties.

    And maybe the difference in what I want to accomplish with this is to build it in a way that I haven't realllly seen out there in diy-land... tough like tank, in the old-school big 'ol oversized drum machine box style which I love, and finished off nice with a proper pro cnc'd faceplate ($$) and screening the back panel.

    Form factor of box similar to a Monomachine/Machinedrum or a Sequential Studio 440 etc. Big, knobby, heavy, lotsa cool sounds and flexible. A midi controller with swappable brains, hackability.

    Step one, build out the hardware box - lotsa twiddly knobs, interace buttons, a sequencer arrangement and a biggish 320x240 oled lcd; a midi controller. Step two, decide on best route for the OS which could be all sorts of things - if Raspi linux then there are lots of interesting open synth engines out there like AMSynth, FluidSynth. Step three, maybe if at such a final point, have custom pcb made to deal with the knob, pots, lcd, switches of it all on one panel. A kit?

    As above I was looking at lots of cool linux apps... then the C&G Organelle happened... I'm now fooling around with Pure Data, which I love because it is powerful, appeals to the code-y developer in me, can be just about anything synth/sequencer wise, can run nicely on Raspi etc. And I love the sparse vectory look/feel and the fact it could run in -nogui mode right away, like the Organelle, so developing a gui can come (waaaay) later. Can create and share patches, map the diy hardware properly, easily. Fun.


  • sublocked0

    Difficult project. Big undertaking. Search around on CDM ( and kickstarter - might be something similar happening with raspberry pi?

    FWIW, what you want is already built minus the hackability. It's called the Teenage Engineering OP-1 and it's great. If you don't have one I suggest you play with one :)

  • sublocked0

    Didn't ask, but what's the motivation for the project? General making? Tinkering? Curiosity? Filling a need? Being cheap?

  • prophetone0

    I like to tinker, make things, mess around... love synths and drum machines and ui/industrial design.

    Want to build something that can be as useful as a MD or OP-1 but built diy for sub $200 and can feel a sense of achievement in a cool little project. Maybe it becomes a kit or at least something that others can see in the flesh on Youtube or feeds and be all "that is super cool" then build for themselves. This is what I do myself, in awe of others' ingenuity with respect to diy synths, arduino, raspi, etc.

    If I wanted to buy a Monomachine I could march into a music shop and do just that. But where's the sport in that? I like nerd challenges.

    And speaking of the OP-1 and Teenaging Engineering ui in general, love the fun Game & Watch flavored ui approach to things and that would be a cool thing to achieve, build out a gui for something like PD and have some fun with it. That would be next level though.

    Also, I haven't seen anyone else do 'this' quite this way. I think there may be others out there who are interested in the same thing but need to see it in action to find the maker motivation. Which is me when I come across things on YT and in forums, I see it and think 'ok it can be done', how can I put my spin on it?

    • Dont buy Monomachine.. looks amazing, seriously underwhelming in reality. ended up selling it after 6 monthsautoflavour
    • I have been drooling over it for a long time, and frankly it IS the catalyst for this endeavour. I want more tho in a box, namely sampling as well.prophetone
    • A lot of the drool is the form factor, admittedly, i love the layout, the industrialness of it. But I believe I can achieve that as diy.prophetone
    • Really? I love my monomachine...thinki... of upgrading to MKII so I can use custom wave table samples.sublocked
  • prophetone0

    And... yes, how can this be achieved on the cheap.

    Because that is absolutely part of the challenge. But honestly thanks to Raspi, Teensy, open source software and cheap parts, this achievable almost immediately now.

  • microkorg0

    Sounds like an amazing project and I look forward to seeing how it progresses.

    A lot of musicians are also into programming or at least hacking and building their own stuff. Projects like the DIY Shruthi from Mutable Instruments was a big success and no doubt the Organelle will be too.

    You do lose a lot of potential customers that way though as there's probably more musicians who just want something to play with not build, hack or have to program themselves.

    There were a lot of third party folks offering to build Shruthi's for money for those kinds of musicians though. Which is one answer.

    The great thing about the OP-1 is that it's so playable. Even a kid can sit down and tweak about with it and understand bits and bobs. It doesn't rely on any musical or technical knowledge due to the fun graphic interfaces and colour coded controls/knobs.

    If the OP-1 was hackable I'm sure it would appeal to a lot of people. But me, i'd just keep it as it is.

    Perhaps the way to go would be to keep it semi-hackable. So that people could create synths, sequencers, programs etc for it that could be sold via an online marketplace.
    That way developers can make money from these kind of things and you can get a little kickback too ;)

    Amazing if you could get this all within $200 for the DIY kit - I could see demand being massive for this price.
    You should think about doing limited runs of ready-built ones too to catch the wider market.
    When Bastl Instruments started off making the wonderful MicroGranny they offered it as a DIY kit and ready built too.
    I love the stuff this company comes out with - completely out of the box. Their wooden modular system is lovely!

    OTO Machines in france is a company well worth checking out. They do beautiful little boxes hand-made and charge a real premium for them and people snap them up. I'd love one of their Biscuits but don't think I could justify the spend for a effects box.

    Another French one-man company ( i think) is Twisted Elektrons. I got their Acid8 - a little 303 type machine. Built well and at a very generous price. Again, hand-made and done in runs. They do some other decent little boxes too.

    My advise would be to do something that looks real good. Set up a nice looking site and this will allow you to sell for a nice price.
    Maybe your standard kit is $200 but there's other options that could bump the price up.

    Think it was Mutable Instruments Ambika that could take up to 6 voices. Each was a card that you could buy. So if you wanted a 1 voice synth the kit was pretty inexpensive. But if you wanted a six voice it was a hefty price.

    Hope that little rant has been of some informative value.

    Keep us updated!

    • Thanks. Yeah I am aware of all of those products, live the OTO design, may get a Microgranny, haven't yet b/c I have an original WTPA sample kit i shud build!prophetone
    • I will be breadboarding this out as soon as I get some time, get a working proto happening. And design the box and layout etc as well.prophetone
    • I think at first it'll be for me... and depending on if I achieve something cool and feedback is positive maybe pcbs and getting serious is a possibility.prophetone
    • happy to lend an opinion on any developments btw.microkorg
    • thanks! i might start out in fritzing maybe and go from there, post some junk here as i go for review/harshcritprophetone
  • drake-von-drake-3

    Cool project man

  • microkorg0

    Been thinking about your project and how massive it is - building a synth/drum/sampler/effects box.

    Why just create a kick-ass one thing?

    Everyone has a multitude of instruments already. What about a kick ass effects unit?

    You could make it hackable/programmable so more effects could be added in the future or you could leave it open source so people could make and sell their own additions.

    But make the thing so it can take multiple inputs say 8? then those inputs can be routed through whatever effects and then there are plenty of knobs and sliders to control each of these effects much like a studio mixer. No menu diving during songs just certain knobs n sliders doing certain things for each song.

    That's the kind of thing I'd wish for :P

    • Effects might be built-in depending on software choice, so was thinking like many other boxes 'n synths can route outside signal thru box if wantedprophetone
    • But... I love the design of the Monomachine keyboard attachment, or the Oberheim DX Stretch...prophetone
    • Whereas that add-on matches the box design and becomes a natural extension of the unit, even bolting on to the side; sorta modular. Would be cool.prophetone
    • This guy has gone that route with Raspi/PD for guitar effects setup:…prophetone