Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby db0451 » Tue Jan 06, 2015 7:56 pm

Purple PCBs! I’m not an expert, but that’s a new colour to me. :D Look forward to hearing how you get on. Happy 2015!
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby dojoe » Sun Jan 11, 2015 12:37 am

First prototype done! \o/

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I tested that it doesn't immediately go up in smoke when I apply power to it, that the bank select logic works correctly and that the pull-up networks at the synth side are connected OK. Everything else will be up to jojo risking his D50 and testing the card for real ;)

Fingers crossed!
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby SoundWerx » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:52 am

Super nice and very very clean looking boards. I'm definitely in the market, these look fantastic. Count me in. Nice work and thanks for what you're doing! BTW... happy new year! :)
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby ʝɵʝɵ » Sat Jan 17, 2015 3:38 pm

Good news: The bank switching works just as expected. And yes, the cards look absolutely gorgeous!
Bad news: There are some data transfer issues when writing to the cards, which lead to random bytes being transmitted incorrectly*. Right now, the card is a perfect source for circuit-bendt-like patches! :D
I think there might be a timing issue, maybe the MRAM chips behave differently compared to the original RAM chips. We will hopefully be able to find out more about this issue in two weeks.

I also maltreated my D50's card slot a bit because we forgot to take the contact protection mechanism into account when calculating the card size (you know, the thin piece of metal that covers the contacts and is pushed away when sliding the card into the slot), so using original cards is a tad more difficult now. However, we will of course sort out this issue so you won't have to break your beloved synth. And for me personally, once this super nice card actually works as expected, it won't be an issue as well anymore. :)

* I swear this patch was called "JackBass"... :lol:
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby baz99 » Sat Jan 17, 2015 10:11 pm

ʝɵʝɵ wrote:Good news: The bank switching works just as expected. And yes, the cards look absolutely gorgeous!
Bad news: There are some data transfer issues when writing to the cards, which lead to random bytes being transmitted incorrectly*.


I hope you and dojoe figure it out, it would be sad if this great project doesn't succeed at this point after all the time you have already invested in it.
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby Headless68 » Wed Jan 21, 2015 2:26 pm

Hi - I'm interested in a M-512e clone for use with Roland VG8ex

Keep me posted - I will also let the guys in the V-guitar forum know about this - the prototype is looking great!

Regards
Phil
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby bassman4d521 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:46 pm

Interested as well - Thanks for putting this in the V-Guitar forum Phil!
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby ʝɵʝɵ » Thu Jan 22, 2015 5:10 pm

Headless68: Thanks for posting this on other boards as well (everyone, feel free to spread the news in other related Roland communities as well!).
I won't sign up on the VG forum for a single post but here is my direct answer to the moderator there in your topic:
Yes, of course there's always the possiblity of using librarian software on the PC to overcome the limitation of internal synth slots. Naturally I am also using the excellent D-50 librarian for managing my patches, but nothing can be quite the creativity killer like having to wait 10...15 seconds until your patch data is available on the synth (MIDI SysEx is slooow). I have more than 128 "favourite" patches for my D-50 and I always want to be able to use them instantly, without having to wait for a SysEx dump to be transmitted to the synth, hence the point of this card is exactly that it can be switched live without additional hardware, and most importantly it can be switched instantly.
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It works!

Postby dojoe » Sat Jan 31, 2015 11:23 pm

\o/

jojo and I got together today to debug the timing problems he was experiencing. First order of business was for me to solder a billion tiny wires to relevant points of the card.

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That thing in my hand is a wire dispenser pen; I would have gone crazy without it. In the end, we had a card with lots of signals extracted:

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Which we then slapped into jojo's D-50 and wired up to a logic analyzer so we could watch the signals while the synth stored and loaded patches.

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Staring at the signal traces for a while, we got a rough idea what the problem was, and I came up with a simple fix that involved cutting one trace on the PCB and replacing it with a short botch wire, and lo and behold, now everything works like a charm! \o/

For some tech pr0n, here's jojo's own card that I made freshly today:

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And here's the card sticking out of jojo's D-50.

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1024 patches at his disposal! =D Note the slight indentations towards the rear end of the card; I added them to make the card easier to remove and it works really well. The next card revision will feature nicely routed indentations.

I will make one last rev.A prototype in the M-512 configuration that I'll ship to baz99 for testing. If baz doesn't find any new problems, I'll make a small rev.B prototype run (probably three pieces again, or maybe six) and then I'll start thinking about a real production run.

I'm really happy about how this is turning out. Champagne! \o/
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Re: It works!

Postby baz99 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 6:08 am

dojoe wrote:I'm really happy about how this is turning out. Champagne! \o/

That fantastic news, I'm glad you managed to fix the issues you had. :clap:

I'll of course very happily do the beta testing of the M-512 prototype with my JV-1080.
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby ʝɵʝɵ » Sun Feb 01, 2015 9:18 pm

So, I returned from dojoe's place and had some fun with uploading a couple of banks to my new memory card, and I have to say that it's simply fantastic! Huge thanks fly to dojoe again for turning this old idea of mine into reality - an affordable and simple, yet very powerful reality.
When we were debugging the card, many friends suggested using something like an SD card as a storage instead, and indeed this was one of my first ideas as well. But then again, this would probably turn out to be more complex to use, much more costly, much more complex to develop and most importantly, who needs a card that can hold a gigabyte of patch data, which is probably way more than all patches you could ever find on the internet? :)
dojoe's solution is simple and elegant, and very closely models the original functionality of the card, so there's not a lot of stuff you could do wrong.

Now let's just hope that the card works just as well with all these other Roland synths out there!
Last edited by ʝɵʝɵ on Mon Feb 02, 2015 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby db0451 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:38 pm

Not that you have to answer, but: Are either of you also known as synthjoe? I’ve read some great posts by him, and he seemed similarly clever, so I’m curious. :)

Do you have any other synths that you would need tested? Fwiw, I have a D-550 and a D-110 (and no cards for either ;)).

[edit] fixed D-550 model number – no space for the other one :lol:
Last edited by db0451 on Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby ʝɵʝɵ » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:46 pm

db0451 wrote:Not that you have to answer, but: Are either of you also known as synthjoe? I’ve read some great posts by him, and he seemed similarly clever, so I’m curious. :)

Not that I'm aware of. ;)

Regarding the testing.. Well, if baz99 can confirm that his prototype also works on his JV synth, we can be even more confident that the card works hopefully anywhere. I tried to insert it into my U-220 as well, which expects ROM sample cards, and it was reported to be an illegal card, just like any other D-50 card. But that of course doesn't involve any writing, so it probably doesn't give us any more confidence. Once dojoe gets the second batch of cards, the best idea would probably to send them out to people with different synths each, so that we can test it on a variety of synths before releasing the final card.
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby db0451 » Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:55 pm

Great, well I think you have the D-(5)50 angle covered, but let me know if a D-110 test would be useful to you. (and by that time I might/hopefully will not have some alternative compatible synths!)
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Re: Custom-built multi-bank Roland M-256/M-512 memory cards

Postby LinguaFranka » Sun Feb 01, 2015 11:25 pm

+1 for me; another VG-8 user. I'd love to buy one.
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