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 : http://www.loscha.com/scans
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.