"Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Pym » Thu May 27, 2010 7:06 pm

There are pros and cons to each of these issues... you have to remember that the MIDI protocol over the traditional serial ports are REALLY SLOOOOWWWW. An NRPN takes a minimum of 2 MIDI packets per change and up to 4 MIDI packets if you're using higher resolution. On a traditional MIDI port that means up to 4ms of latency per NRPN change. Now if you're changing multiple parameters... oh man does that add up fast!

USB has allowed us to ignore that bandwidth issue since it carries many MIDI commands per USB packet but it has it's own limitations, like a necessary 1ms of jitter if you're using the class compliant drivers and possibly more depending on how the OS handles things. So in one sense, it really is a limitation of the protocol and the standard hardware.

The other issue is many controllers and even DAWs still don't support NRPNs well. If you're looking for a synth would you rather have one that only has 127 steps but is effortless to make automated changes to or one that has slightly more resolution but is difficult to automate and control? Even the controllers that have NRPN changes usually only use +/- 1 commands to make the change, which means they can't support acceleration on the encoders. So not only is it difficult to setup but you don't have the responsiveness on the controller that you want.

We're still watching closely to see what comes as the new MIDI killing protocol but I haven't seen anything yet. Of course Ethernet is getting cheap enough that I have considered adding an OSC controller to one of our future products until the protocol catches on it's not worth putting the development time into it
pflosi wrote:I was about to post the NRPN comment too. The Andromeda uses a resolution of more than 16000 steps, for example. No stepping audible.

Although I'm not a big supporter and user of midi, it's not the protocols fault - the possibility for NRPN is there. It's the designer's fault.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by StepLogik » Sun May 30, 2010 1:48 pm

i wish OSC/ethernet would catch on as a control protocol. MIDI is still really useful but it is definitely behind the curve in terms of technology. With ethernet switches, hubs, etc being cheap and ubiquitous, I think ethernet would be ideal. For the price of a used MIDI thru box, you can hub all of your gear together and get blazing bandwidth.

USB is probably OK as well but the additional bandwidth on an ethernet connection means you can do so much more and ethernet easily supports ad-hoc connections whereas USB requires a host/client structure.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by gigundusdongus » Sun May 30, 2010 8:39 pm

WOW! this has been a fascinating read to me, as my only complaint with any gear I've bought lately are the stepping values (especially on the envelope amount). Sounds like compromises are going to happen, and we have to make a choice as to which compromises we (as players) are willing to live with. I am interested in and surprised more people haven't jumped on OSC protocol, as people who really know their gear keep mentioning it. Keep up the great work at DSI ya'll. The MEK is a classic.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Synthaholic » Tue Jun 01, 2010 2:57 pm

Hey, I'm a software engineer (mainly .NET right now) and I dabble in PIC stuff in my spare time... DSI could hire me to fix firmware issues and enhance things. ;)

(I always post this when I come across any product, software or game that has a noticeable issue or three) ;)
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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by StepLogik » Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:15 pm

Synthaholic wrote:Hey, I'm a software engineer (mainly .NET right now) and I dabble in PIC stuff in my spare time... DSI could hire me to fix firmware issues and enhance things. ;)

(I always post this when I come across any product, software or game that has a noticeable issue or three) ;)
I think they would want someone a little more experienced than someone who "dabbles" :lol:

I've had to hire firmware programmers in the past and its pretty interesting to see how the high-level programming guys struggle with firmware programming. Its a completely different beast. Just like some script kiddies struggle with strongly-typed languages when they "move up" from python or javascript, I see the same types of struggles with guys moving from C++/.NET/etc to firmware development. They often get frustrated at the lack of resources/libraries and that they have to actually write efficient code :D

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Synthaholic » Tue Jun 01, 2010 6:38 pm

StepLogik wrote:I think they would want someone a little more experienced than someone who "dabbles" :lol:
True, unfortunately. I don't know where companies find these people who were born knowing how to write firmware. ;)

I have been programming for a good 25-30 years, and back in the 80s when CPU power and memory were nothing like they are now, I did learn how to write efficient code. I only do .NET c**p now because it pays the bills. :?

I'm sure if I spent a day or two with Dave Smith I could pick up the ropes pretty quickly, at least for fixing bugs and stuff like that.

I guess I'll have to develop my own synth, then ship a resume to DSI and bring the prototype with me to the interview. ;)

P.S. What PIC chips and tools do you guys use? So far none of my PIC projects have been synth-related, but I may make a MIDI-CV converter or something along those lines some day, just for the fun/experience of doing it.
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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Pym » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:18 am

I studied computer engineering in college and ended up more on the system admin side of things so I used languages like perl and C, gave me a good background. Moving into firmware from there takes time, but you use a lot of the same principles. The biggest headache is going through data sheets... ugh!

We're staying with 5 people for a while and I'm not sure when we're going to hire someone else. Probably sometime sooner or later as we get stable but Dave isn't looking to crank out tons of synths, he just does it as a hobby and we help keep things afloat so he can do the fun stuff =)

The Evolver desktop uses a PIC16, we also use PIC18s, dsPIC and lately PIC32 for various stuff
Synthaholic wrote:
StepLogik wrote:I think they would want someone a little more experienced than someone who "dabbles" :lol:
True, unfortunately. I don't know where companies find these people who were born knowing how to write firmware. ;)

I have been programming for a good 25-30 years, and back in the 80s when CPU power and memory were nothing like they are now, I did learn how to write efficient code. I only do .NET c**p now because it pays the bills. :?

I'm sure if I spent a day or two with Dave Smith I could pick up the ropes pretty quickly, at least for fixing bugs and stuff like that.

I guess I'll have to develop my own synth, then ship a resume to DSI and bring the prototype with me to the interview. ;)

P.S. What PIC chips and tools do you guys use? So far none of my PIC projects have been synth-related, but I may make a MIDI-CV converter or something along those lines some day, just for the fun/experience of doing it.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Barfunkel » Wed Jun 02, 2010 12:43 am

How does one learn to write firmware anyway? Can I just buy some DSP's from a store, a book about programming them,connect the DSP's to a computer and start messing around, or are they closely guarded company secrets?

I got a programming background (although haven't done it since the 90's), it'd be interesting to learn some music-related programming, especially since I'm planning on making some own gear later. Got zero interest in programming plugins though, just the code for hardware.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by Stab Frenzy » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:30 am

Barfunkel wrote:How does one learn to write firmware anyway? Can I just buy some DSP's from a store, a book about programming them,connect the DSP's to a computer and start messing around, or are they closely guarded company secrets?

I got a programming background (although haven't done it since the 90's), it'd be interesting to learn some music-related programming, especially since I'm planning on making some own gear later. Got zero interest in programming plugins though, just the code for hardware.
The best way to start would be either with Arduino or xoxbox (AVR based) or a midibox kit (PIC based). The Midibox stuff seems to have the most active community, but there are a few people doing xoxbox firmware work. I find it's easier to start by looking at code someone else has done and modifying it until you know what everything does, rather than starting by trying to write your own code from scratch. But I'm hardly an expert. The AVRSynth would be another one to look at, that was going to be the basis of the synth I'm designing.
Last edited by Stab Frenzy on Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: "Potentiometers" on new DSI synths - *Rant Warning!*

Post by cartesia » Wed Jun 02, 2010 4:30 am

Barfunkel I'd recommend picking up an arduino to begin with.. it's an open ended DIY electronic device platform, you can do many music /sound related things with it and it has a great set of tutorials and tools, is able to be programmed via USB.

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