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The Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer is an AVR-based MIDI synth that allows musicians to create Nintendo style chiptune music.
The Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer is an AVR-based MIDI synth that allows musicians to create Nintendo style chiptune music.
The Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer is an AVR-based MIDI synth that allows musicians to create Nintendo style chiptune music.
171 backers pledged $14,534 to help bring this project to life.

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Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer

$14,534

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The Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer is a minimalistic, microcontroller-based synth designed to emulate the classic chiptune sound of the Nintendo Entertainment System's APU (audio processing unit.) The synthesizer's MIDI input allows musicains create NES-video-game-style chiptune music by simply connecting a MIDI keyboard or other MIDI device.

No programming is required. Each Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer includes a preprogrammed microcontroller; however, each synth also features a 6-pin AVR programming header, allowing programmers to flash the embedded ATmega328 microcontroller with their own custom software. The programming header enables hackers to create their own custom waveforms, envelopes, software low-frequency oscillators, and PCM samples.

Unlike many other microcontroller-based synthesizers which use internal PWM peripherals to generate weak, scratchy, low-quality audio signals, the Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synthesizer uses an auxiliary digital-to-analog converter chip to create a clear, high-quality audio signal.

Specifications:

  • 3-note polyphony
  • 1/8'' (3.5mm) jack mono audio output
  • MIDI input through standard MIDI DIN connector
  • 7-segment LED waveform mode indicator
  • simple two-button interface
  • embedded ATmega328 microcontroller

Preset Modes:

  • Mode 0 - 12.5% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode 1 - 25% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode 2 - 50% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode 3 - 75% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode 4 - sawtooth waveform
  • Mode 5 - triangle waveform
  • Mode 6 - triangle-wave-based drums
  • Mode 7 - noise-based percussion
  • Mode 8 - arpeggio, 12.5% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode 9 - arpeggio, 25% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode A - arpeggio, 50% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • Mode b - arpeggio, sawtooth waveform
  • Mode C - arpeggio, triangle waveform
  • Mode d - vibrato, 12.5% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • mode E - vibrato, 50% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • mode F - vibrato, 75% duty cycle pulse waveform
  • mode G - vibrato, sawtooth waveform
  • mode H - vibrato, modulated duty cycle pulse waveform
First PCB Prototype
First PCB Prototype
Latest version featuring lower parts count, higher output rate, and lower output impedance
Latest version featuring lower parts count, higher output rate, and lower output impedance

The hardware design has gone through 3 versions. The latest hardware configuration is capable of producing audio at sampling rates exceeding 44.1 kHz; however, a lower output rate is used in order to faithfully emulate the sound of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The hardware is capable of up to 8-bit quantization. A software bitcrusher is used to achieve the lower bit depths used in the NES. This bit-crushing effect is most evident in the Arcano NES Chiptune Synth's reproduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System's 4-bit triangle wave channel, often used for bass lines and tom-tom drums.

The software has been through 15 versions.  All videos were made with the 14th version of the software. The 15th and current version of the software includes additional white-noise-based percussion sounds such as open and closed hi-hats and additional waveform modes including modes created to emulate the detuned reverb effects characteristic of the music from the Mega Man series of NES games.

The creator of the Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth is eager to hear the music created by Kickstarter campaign backers. If the campaign succeeds, please share the music you create with your Arcano NES Chiptune Synth by tweeting a link to @ArcanoSystems.

Risks and challenges

The greatest potential impediment to timely delivery of rewards is the availability of components. Fortunately, the Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth has been designed to minimize this risk. The latest version of the synth features a minimalistic, low-parts-count design composed of common components available from multiple suppliers.

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  1. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    A build-it-yourself kit for early backers. One Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth kit including preprogrammed microcontroller, printed circuit board, and all components. Soldering skills required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $65 or more About $65

    One Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth kit including preprogrammed microcontroller, printed circuit board, and all components. Soldering skills required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    49 backers
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  3. Reward no longer available

    Pledge $80 or more About $80

    An assembled and tested synth for early backers. One fully assembled and tested Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth. No soldering or programming required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    One fully assembled and tested Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth. No soldering or programming required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    81 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $120 or more About $120

    Two Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth kits including preprogrammed microcontrollers, printed circuit boards, and all components. Soldering skills required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Two fully assembled and tested Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synths. No soldering or programming required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    12 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $290 or more About $290

    Four fully assembled and tested Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synths. No soldering or programming required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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    Limited 0 backers
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $330 or more About $330

    Six Arcano MIDI NES Chiptune Synth kits including preprogrammed microcontrollers, printed circuit boards, and all components. Soldering skills required. (Does not include cables or DC wall adapter.) Free shipping worldwide.

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Funding period

- (28 days)