Sunday, 20 December 2009

Soldering non talent...

I bought myself one of these iSpin mixers for 15 quid:

At first glance, and watching the videos you'd be right in thinking, "gimicky, silly scratch sound, very limited with only 4 proper effects."

At first glance I thought, "cool, a cheap way to charge my two iDevices (also has 3.5mm line in), a way to cross-fade between the two of them (both running some DJ software) and possibly hackable."

So it arrived, I briefly plugged it in and tried it out. The fader works, the microphone is a nice to have (sits in the fx path if you want) and the headphones can be either master out or cue, which is great. Yes, the "scratch" effect is awful. The other 4 effects though are rather good (reverb, flange, hi-pass filter, lo-pass filter in two switchable "banks" each with two fx). After a few minutes I got out my screwdriver.

First to go were the little "wheel" things, now replaced with some knobs I had lying around. Sadly the central "scratch spinner" is a rotary encoder, so that'll be replaced with a rotary pot soon.

Ok, onto the meaty bit. The fx chip is called the FV-1 by Spin Semiconductor. It turns out it is a much more capable chip than it seems from the built in two patches of fx. You see, it has 8 internal fx patches (with 2-3 fx on each patch) and an external sound bank, where the iSpin's own fx are housed. After a trip to Spin's website I found that you can switch between the internal bank and the external bank if you solder in a switch. You can also choose any of the 8 patches if you solder in 3 more switches (or an 8-position rotary switch, which I thought would be easier).

So some dremmeling and soldering later I've got the 8-position switch mounted into the case (top right corner, next to the right side iPod) and re-hacked the prog1/prog2 switch to select internal/external banks instead. The 8-position switch isn't quite working yet - it can select the first two patches, but nothing else...

A couple of observations thus far:
  1. Soldering onto the legs of a chip is a nightmare!
  2. My soldering iron is rubbish.
  3. My soldering skills are non-existent.
  4. I don't think my circuit skills are up to scratch! I thought I could hook "ground" up to the 8-way switch instead of 3.3v but something seems to be creating a short-circuit I think. I don't really know what I'm doing :o)
Next steps are to re-do the switch (a big job) and then somehow replace the rotary encoder with a linear potentiometer. Why, you might ask? Because the FV-1 allows analog control over 3 different parameters for each sound patch. Hence the 3 dials on the front of the device. They are not jog-dials, they control the fx!

Hopefully I won't fry anything, then I'll end up with a whole bunch of new fx, essentially becoming an extremely cheap fx unit that mixes and charges my two iDevices or any of my other devices with 3.5mm outputs.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

B Good :o)

Spot the E.T. reference there? Anyway, back in May one of my wishes was to have a Hammond B3 app for my iDevice. C3B3 videos emerged a few months back and my appetite was well and truly whetted.

Well now it's launched, and it is absolutely brilliant! Of course, it looks the part but more importantly it sounds fantastic too.

Everything you'd expect is there:
  • Configurable scrollable split keyboards
  • Overdrive
  • Reverb
  • Key click
  • Fantastic presets
  • Rotary speaker
As soon as you fire it up, you'll be hammering in those classic pieces from rock gods gone by. You just can't help it.

Seriously, I am very, very impressed indeed.

One thing sure to raise a few moans is the use of in-app purchase, which is popping up everywhere these days. On the one hand I hate the idea of constantly coughing up for something I've already bought, but on the other hand this is a B3, for less than 2 quid! Having to pay 59p to be able to save my own presets is a bit cheeky though, but 59p per new sound bank seems fair enough if I knew what they sounded like first. Afterall, the developer has spent the time making those presets so why not get paid for it?

I'd love to have recording built-in (many apps do this very well now) along with using these recordings elsewhere (ioLibrary?). Not only for productivity reasons, but because, well, my talent runs dry very quickly so playing two parts at once is something of a challenge for me. Also my fingers have never felt so over-sized before. This inspires you to want to play big chords, but without configurable key-widths (that I can see anyway) my efforts need to be toned down somewhat!

I can see me spending literally hours with this, jamming along (pathetically) to Deep Purple (apologies to Jon Lord in advance) and all manner of stuff.

What a great way to start a Saturday morning!

Check out their videos here to hear/see for yourself.