Welcome to the R-R-R-R-RetroCade Synth from Gadget Factory. This exciting new hardware synthesizer is built on Gadget Factory's own Papilio platform, and is designed with both hardware hackers and musicians in mind. Musicians will love the ease of use and extreme retro glitchiness that the Retrocade has to offer. Hackers will love that it is open-source, and is designed to be HACKED. Either way, you're in luck. You will find no better, more flexible synthesizer at this price point anywhere else!
The RetroCade Synth boasts the capability to play the built-in Commodore 64 SID chip, the Yamaha YM-2149 chip, .mod files, and MIDI files - all at the same time! The RetroCade Synth can be played via any external MIDI control interface or via your favorite audio/ sequencing software. We have built a custom VST software dashboard which gives you visual control over all the various parameters the synth has to offer, and it is included at all hardware tiers here on Kickstarter.
So sit back, watch the videos, get amped up, and show your support for open-source projects! We thank you for taking the time to check us out!
The RetroCade Synth is a combination of the Papilio FPGA board, the RetroCade MegaWing, and a control dashboard that runs on a computer*.
Papilio FPGA (Click to learn more)
- Xilinx Spartan FPGA (Spartan 3E 500K or Spartan 6 LX9)
- High Speed USB port for programming and communication
- ZPUino Soft Processor
- MOS 6581 (I.E. C64 SID)
RetroCade MegaWing (Click for hi-res image)
- 2 – ¼” Stereo Audio Jacks with 18 bit Delta Sigma DAC
- MIDI – In, Out, Through
- uSD Card for MOD, MIDI, YM, SID, and config files
- MicroJoystick – 4 directions, Select
- 2x16 LCD Display
- 16 Analog inputs for sliders and knobs
- 16 Digital inputs for switches and peripherals
Control Dashboard (Click for hi-res image)
- Control all of the features of the audio chips from a computer.
- Made with SynthMaker for easy customization
- VST plugin or standalone executable
*NOTE: The RetroCade hardware does not require the Control Dashboard or a computer. All features of the RetroCade Synth are hardware based and only require the Papilio and RetroCade MegaWing combo.
Reaching our requested funding level of $6K will allow:
- 50% - Manufacturing and delivery of everything in "What's Included".
- 30% - Prototyping and testing of RetroCade MegaWing.
- 15% - Creating documentation and a website.
- 5% - Finding and squashing of bugs in the firmware and dashboard.
OVERFUNDING BONUS: Any overfunding of the project will be applied to a salary that will allow me to continue working full time as an Open Source developer. After delivery of the features in the "What's Included" section I will work on the following bonus features:
- Adding as many chips as I can find Open Source VHDL implementations for. The ones I know of are; NES, Atari 2600, GameBoy, POKEY, sn76489.
- Adding a library of digital effects that can be applied to any chip. For example the library will have the ADSR envelope from the SID that can be used with the POKEY or YM2149. Digital effects to implement; low pass filter, LFO, portamento, legato, and as many more as I can find or create.
- Recreate the analog filters of the SID chip with digital techniques.
- Add modern FPGA synths like the SK-Synth and the GateMan Poly Synth.
*NOTE: I would expect these bonus features to take around six months to complete, after the hardware is delivered.
If you are dying to learn more technical details then watch this video or check out the PDF.
At the heart of the RetroCade Synth is the ZPUino Soft Processor. The ZPUino allows the classic audio chips to be controlled by simple, easy to hack Arduino compatible sketches. RetroCade users can make quick changes to the ZPUino sketch in order to modify Control Changes, load YM or MOD files, or change how the RetroCade works! To learn more about the ZPUino visit the ZPUino home page.
The RetroCade Synth is an Open Source project that was built on top of the work of many other Open Source developers. This project would not be possible without their contributions and in some cases, direct support and help. The old saying about standing on the shoulders of giants is very applicable here. So it is important to take some time and give attribution and thanks to those giants:
- First on the list is Alvaro Lopes, the man who made the ZPUino Soft Processor. The ZPUino is the heart of the RetroCade Synth and it was his act of adding support for the SID and YM chips that sparked the initial idea for the RetroCade. He has provided direct help and support every step of the way and without his influence there would be no RetroCade Synth. Alvaro has played a VERY big role in the development of the RetroCade Synth. All of the MOD functionality was implemented by Alvaro by turning the opensource PTplay project into a library that can run on the ZPUino.
- Next is MikeJ@FPGAArcade.com, who made the YM2149 VHDL file that makes it possible for the YM2149 to exist inside the Papilio FPGA. He has some really cool new hardware coming out soon so check out his website.
- Finally is Jan Derogee, who made the C64 SID VHDL file. Jan was inspired by an interview with Robert Yannes, the original creator of the SID chip. In the interview Robert gave deep technical information about how the digital logic was implemented. Jan then recreated an Open Source version of the digital logic in VHDL. He even placed quotes from the interview in the source code for each section, which makes the source code a very educational read. Jan has asked that we only mention his name, and give the majority of the credit to Robert Yannes.
- Greg Hopper aka Hoppasaurus - Special thanks for writing original music for the demo, spending countless hours helping to debug the hardware, providing pro audio support, and playing a live performance for the video. I couldn't have done it without all your support and endless supply of cup of noodles.
- PulkoMandy - Special thanks for letting us use a portion of your song, Renegade Remix, as a backing track in the demo.
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