SS30-M - A Yamaha SS30 in a rack-mount, with MIDI

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tone Generation

Whilst looking for some clues on the key switching problem I came across this.

The Internet Archive has a mission to provide "universal access to all knowledge". Amen to that!

The document seems to have come from here :
which has a number of other interesting synth related documents, including another version of the IC guide book.

The manual contains details of the two chips used on each tone generator board. Ten years ago (blimey) I wrote about the polyphony. I mentioned in passing that the SS30 has two oscillators per note. This post expands on that and, although it still isn't the whole story of how the sounds are generated in the SS30, it is where it all starts.

The SS30 tones start with a pair of oscillator circuits built from discrete parts. These are free-running VCOs with control for the pitch and detune. They share a common master tune and vibrato input and one also has the detune control input . The output frequency of these VCOs is much higher than what you will end up hearing though.They both produce 500 KHz signals.

These two signals are then feed to a pair of YM25400 Digital Tone Generator chips as the master clock input.

Each cascades of these Digital Tone Generators output a divided down clock which is passed on to next generator board for further division. 500KHz - 250KHz - 125KHz - 62.5KHz

The YM25400 derives 13 tones (an octave + 1, C0 - C1) from the master input clock. Each YM25400 then feeds a further pair of LM3211 frequency divider chips.

In summary: the G (tone generator) boards convert a pair of master clock inputs into to a pair identical octaves from two YM25400s. These octaves are then divided down further by a two pairs of LM3211s. This creates another identical pair of octaves one octave lower than the first pair. You end up with two groups of 26 semi-tones (2 x 13).Only G1 uses the extra semi-tone to give octave  + 1, the other boards discard the extra C tone and just output an octave.

The two octaves are named using the eight-foot-pitch naming convention. The initial octave direct from the YM25400's at the 8' and the one below is the 16'.

By now you may be thinking we're going to end up with not with 49 tones for the 49 keys but more like two hundred tones! And we do, but not all at once. Firstly the outputs of the YM25400s and LM3211s are mixed in pairs. Each tone that come out of the G boards is a combination of two square waves - and quite a strange combination too, which I will cover in a later post. If I can actually figure out what is going on!

So, there are actually half that number, but still double the number of keys. The reason for that is the G boards generate Violin, Viola and Cello tones. The various outputs of the G boards are split, switched in and out and combined in various ways to provide the various options selectable from the front panel. At it's simplest you can play the bottom octave, the G1 board, as violin/viola or Cello. When playing as Violin/Viola you only use one half of the G1 boards output. And when you change the split and play Cello you use the other half of the G1 board. It becomes more complicated on the other boards. G2 is split twice, so you get Cello half way through an octave at F as well as at C, and G3 and G4 don't out put any Cello. It gets very confusing in the schematic but is quite simple in the end.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five years - and then an oscilloscope

Five years is long time between posts. I'm not going to try and explain that gap. Life has it's own priorities and this project wasn't one of them, I guess. I mean, I have done other things with my time beyond work, family, home-life and friends. In fact I have done a bit of work on the project in that period, but I didn't post about it. I can't really explain why but I do know that I get interested in something, spend a lot of time on it and then lose momentum suddenly. Or more accurately, I get distracted by something more important or interested in something else.

However, this project was always intended to be long-term. It took me years to go from a pile of bits to getting a case and thinking seriously about how to progress it. So, a bit of a gap is no great concern to me, although every year I don't have the finished article is another year I could have been using it.

On the other hand I'll be forty next year and if I aim to finish this project by then it would give me a date to work towards. As I type I have around 11 months to go, so it's attainable. Finishing would also free me up to do something else. I can't think what that would be though. 

Anyway, enough of this introspection.

One thing that has held me back from continuing with the project is having a decent scope to work with. In my early twenties I spent around three years of my work-life with a scope or soldering iron in my hand. When I'm working on electronics it's a scope that I reach for to see what's happening. It's the right tool for the job. I say a decent scope because I do have a scope, a GBDSO - Elektor Gameboy Digital Sampling Oscilloscope. This project was fun to do and produces tolerably good results but it's also a far cry from the professional kit I'm used to and, whilst a bad workman might blame his tools, a bad workman usually has bad tools. The issue is that I need this to be a pleasurable experience and using the GBDSO can be frustrating. I also want to be able to see audio traces cleanly and even some fairly pricey and professional digital scopes do a poor job of that.
So I bought a second hand Philips PM 3050 60Mhz analogue scope instead.

As you can see it's dual-trace and there's a nifty LCD display to show you the current settings. The traces on screen in that photo are the square/pulse and sawtooth output of the CEM3340 voltage controlled oscillator chip on my Roland MC-202.

The 202 was modified by me with some CV inputs years ago and has always been a bit flaky. As part of a general sort out in my studio I resolved to do something about that. I also realised that an SH-101 that I have on loan from a friend isn't working any more. No, I didn't break it. Well, I don't think I did. It's hadn't been used for years so I'm not sure what happened to it. So, I'd like to repair that too. It was these repairs that set me thinking about a scope again and how annoying the GBDSO was to use.

I've fixed the 202 now. The main issues were actually to do with removing some of the battery circuitry and disconnecting the internal sequencer. The sequencer was zapped when I did the mods originally so I decided to live without it but made a mess of the way the battery state is monitored and disconnected when the mains power is applied. I also fixed the filter audio input which never worked because I hadn't realised that the 1/4" headphone jack socket re-purposed to be the input was shorting the input to ground!

The 101 is next on the repair list and then - back to the SS30-M.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

How are you to switch negative voltages?

I've been wrestling with the problem of key switching again. Because the key driver circuits switch a negative voltage to ground it creates a bit of a problem.

When I first looked at the j-Omega MPT8 I thought it could switch negative voltages but after thinking again and e-mailing then it seems not.

What's all the fuss about though? I can use a solid-state relay, optocoupler or CMOS switch package right? You don't even have to think to hard to get it working. The issue here is that I have 49 keys and very limited space. I'd really just like a transistor and maybe one or two resistors per switch. CMOS switches only come in quad packages at most so I'd need 12 and all the trracking back and across each other to get everything wired. If I must have a PCB at least I'd like it to be simple.

Generally switching negative voltages to ground is not something you get a lot of talk about when looking up these things. Everything is geared to positive voltages and how to bias your transistor that way. It's not impossible just less usual and if you wan to use a simple +nv/0V logic level your options are limited.

The reason for this is not that you can't do it (just switch from n-channel to p-channel FET) but that transistors that switch negative voltages themselves need a negative voltage to switch. which takes you back to square one.

Well, If a CMOS switch can switch a negative oltage with just a +nV power rail how does it do it? I've been wondering.

Google books have a Modern CMOS Circuits Manual online and chapter four has the answers

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

External Power Supply Unit

I'm thinking life would be much easier if the power came from an external unit, rather than having the PSU inside the chassis. Space is really at a premium and that's before squeezing in the Midi converter and switch circuits.

There are six lines (rails) coming from the PSU so if I had an external uni I'd need a six-way connector.

These ones from Rapid look good...

I powered up the PSU last night it looks good but I am worried about the extra cutrrrent draw when I add the new modules. It's all on a 0.5A fuse which seems quite low. Might have to do a bit of measuring...

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Is it practical to get a custom made PCB built up?

These UK company's do a custom service:

They both accept Gerber and Excellon format files.

pcb train recommend using Easy PCB for layouts but that runs to hundreds of pounds.

Instead, I found KiCad which does the job and is GPL.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Switch circuits

I will need 6x SPDT, 2x DPDT and 2x SPST switches.

The 4066 contains four SPSTs which can be connected as required to make SPDTs and DPSTs.

2 x SPSTs = 1 SPDT
4 x SPSTs = 1 DPDT

So, I will need (6 x 2) + (2 x4) + 2 = 22 SPSTs in total. So, I'll need 6 4066s in total giving me 24 SPSTs to use.

It would be simplest to make a single circuit board up with all 6 switches on but you also need to accomodate the logic invertors. The 40106 invertors have 8 not-gates per package and you need two per switch (irrespective of what type you're making) which makes 20 gates or three hex invertors.

In total thats 9 x 14 pin ICS so in a single strip there'd be at least 63 rows on the board or in other words it'll be about 9 x 20mm = 180 mm. Which is okay, as Maplin do an 81 strip board 213 mm long .

Switches cont...

After looking around at switches I can see that there's alot of choice but it get's quite limited when you start narrowing down to DPDT types. This is another reason for looking at the switch IC idea.

I want to choose switches that will look nice and the biggest choice is in SPST.

Like this one from Rapid Electronics which has built it LED. Not blue though :-).


I'm going to need ten switches plus the power switch.


Speed - SPDT
Cello - DPDT
Violin - DPDT


Attack - SPST
Cello 1 - SPDT
Cello 2 - SPDT


Attack - SPST
Viola - SPDT
Violin 1 - SPDT
Violin 2 - SPDT

So, that's 6x SPDT, 2x DPDT and 2x SPST.

When I breifly worked in pro-audio I noticed that they almost never had audio signal going through the actual mechnical switch. The switch was usually controlling a DG201 or DG211 audio swicth IC. This was high-end gear designed for the live use so I suppose there was a concern that meachical switches would degrade over time geting damaged or dirty. You don't really want audio going through anything that might colour the sound or produce noisey clunks on switching.

The original switches are all mechanical though, so why worry? Partly because I won't be using the same kind of switch and partly because there may be a way to improve on the original.

This guy calling himself The Tone God has a design called Wicked Switches that uses 4066 analogue switch ICs. He also explains how to add debounce and LED indicators.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Spec reset.

Over the years, I've been thinking I should really make this project easier to finish.

The two main issues have been the awkward meachnics of fitting the original switches and knobs and the challenge of conjouring up a 49 output, velocity sensitive MIDI decoder.

The meachnics iossue could be resolved at stroke by moving to a set of new off the shelf compoenents.

Similarly there are several polyphonic MIDI decoders available from one company or another.

Therefore, I will continue this project on a simplest is best principle in order to finish it sooner rather than never.

j-Omega Electronics make a reasonabley priced MIDI decoder that will meer my needs.

j-Omega Electronics MPT8

The MPT8 has 64 outputs in an open-collector 'pull-down' arrangement. I'll be pulling up, from -7V, but to ground which is okay.