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Chip Maestro - An NES MIDI Synthesizer Cartridge's video poster

I've developed a special Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge that turns your NES into a true 8-bit MIDI synthesizer. Read more

New York, NY Music
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This project was successfully funded on June 7, 2011.

I've developed a special Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge that turns your NES into a true 8-bit MIDI synthesizer.

New York, NY Music
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About this project

Keep an eye on this page: after batch 1 ships, will go live, and you can pick up a brand new Chip Maestro from there!

I have started writing up the technical documents! To get a sneak preview before they are officially released when the Kickstarter ends, please pledge at least $1! This will allow you to make feature requests as well.

Just as a clarification, pledging at the $50 level or above is the same thing as a paid pre-order: as soon as the Kickstarter finishes, I will purchase the parts necessary, assemble them, and ship them to your door!

Check the updates section for more information about the artwork for the label!

Hey, thanks for taking the time to visit my Kickstart page! Check back often to see my project's development, and pre-order one by pledging!

Please allow on Noscript to see the above video!

I am prototyping, designing and assembling a special cartridge called Chip Maestro which can be used in any Nintendo Entertainment System. This cartridge will accept a MIDI input from any instrument, and by passing the MIDI notes through the NES, the cartridge will make the NES synthesize 8-bits of awesome in true NES squarewavey goodness. See the video for more details!

Most chiptune artists today use 'software synths' to try and recreate the sound we grew to love. By providing artists with a low-cost and easy to use hardware solution, they can use a real NES to compose their music, and even play it live on stage! And if you don't have a MIDI instrument, don't worry; you can use your PC with an inexpensive USB-MIDI converter, or create your own instrument using Arduinos or other microcontrollers that can output MIDI, so you can turn anything into an 8-bit instrument!

Getting this cartridge into the hands of musicians takes a bit of funding. All the money raised will go towards finishing the prototype, a thorough debugging, and purchasing materials to begin production. This entire project will be showcased on Kickstarter as well as my site, and every backer will get backdoor access to my build logs. And, best of all, it will all be open source! Yes, even though there is money involved, I am still putting all my schematics and code on the internet! This way people can improve on my design, and remix it into their works. These remixes come back to me, and I can improve the original product based on those works. It's an endless cycle of creativity, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I posted a proof of concept on my site, under the heading TSUNDERE, which was the working title. This will also be the site where I'll be posting general info about my build (backers get access to a secret page, which will be more detailed and filled with notes).

Technical details:

I am exploiting the 2a03 chip inside the NES by keeping it in an infinite loop, and injected note addresses and data using opcodes derived from NES note tables. The internal circuitry inside the cartridge translates MIDI note data into NES note opcodes, and sends that to the 2a03 APU, which synthesizes the notes on the appropriate channel. Full technical details will be up in a week, and all backers will receive a link to a secret page with all the details!

Reward details:

All backers will have their name/alias in the source code for the finished product, and all backers at and above the $50 pre-order level will have their initials silkscreened on the back of each cartridge circuit board produced!

The first batch of Chip Maestro cartridges produced will be shipped to fully paid preorder backers as soon as they are assembled.

Tickets to pre-order are not an obligation to buy. After the fully paid pre-orders have shipped, I will contact all the people holding tickets and ask if they wish to purchase a second-batch Chip Maestro for $5 off before it goes on sale to the general public.

If you wish to use an existing NES cartridge for your Chip Maestro, I will email you when the circuit boards are ready, and you can send me the cartridge you wish to have Chip Maestro implanted into.

There will only be 6 Golden Chip Maestro cartridges produced, never more! If you are feeling particularly driven to see this project succeed, please support this project by purchasing a Golden Chip Maestro!


  • Because PAL uses a different set of note tables, please let me know after the Kickstarter ends if you will be using a PAL console, so that I can program it with the different note table for you before I ship it out.

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  • The Chip Maestro can officially support 4 channels: The two pulse waves, the triangle wave, and the noise wave. DMC (sample) support is possible, however this will require some hacking.

    Last updated:
  • My primary focus of the Chip Maestro was the ability to fully use it using the simplest MIDI Keyboard, so settings must be changeable using unused notes (currently the lowest octave -0). I am currently implementing CC controls per requests, so if you would like to see a specific CC message implemented, please wait until later this week when I begin releasing technical documentation. Then you will be able to see exactly how the Chip Maestro works, and send in feature requests.

    Last updated:
  • When 2 or more notes are pressed on a MIDI instrument, the user has the option of selecting which waves are played in which order.
    When using the Chip Maestro with a computer, sending notes to specific MIDI channels triggers specific waves to play.

    Last updated:


  • You selected
    Pledge $1 or more

    10 backers

    Backdoor access to all my build logs! I'll also give you my personal contact info, so you can shoot me ideas, comments, criticism, or just ask how I'm doing. Every backer, regardless of amount, receives this info.

  • You selected
    Pledge $5 or more

    24 backers

    Ticket to pre-order a Chip Maestro (please read description for info on pre-order tickets)! Get it before it goes on sale to the general public!

  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    200 backers All gone!

    Paid pre-order of a limited-run Chip Maestro cartridge! These backers will receive a cartridge from the first batch as soon as they're assembled, hot out of the oven! Backers at this level and above also get their initials (up to 3 letters) silkscreened onto the back of every cartridge that goes into production! Own one of the first of hundreds of Chip Maestros to make their way into the hands of musicians worldwide! Shipping for this reward is included for domestic and Canada, 8$ worldwide.

  • You selected
    Pledge $125 or more

    18 backers Limited (7 left of 25)

    Chip Maestro cartridge development kit! Backers at this level will receive a special Chip Maestro cartridge with the programming headers attached, and USB programmers to write their own code for the chips on the board! This package is for adventurous types who want an even greater degree of customization with this already flexible synth. If you would like to get a head-start developing for the Chip Maestro, email me after you place your pledge and I will send out a kit as soon as possible.

  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    4 backers Limited (1 left of 5)

    One of 5 Gold Chip Maestro Cartridges! There will be a limited run of 6 golden colored Chip Maestros! The only other Gold Chip Maestro will be given to highest level backer!

  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    1 backer All gone!

    My highest level backer will get the full VIP package! I will personally deliver your brand new Golden Chip Maestro cartridge, an NES to play it on, and a MIDI keyboard, then set it up in your home/studio! East Coast backers only please; if you would like to set up some other arrangement, please contact me in advance.

Funding period

- (30 days)