In the podcast episode, Paul Soulsby describes his Atmegatron products. These are 8-bit digital synthesizers built on the Arduino platform. The Atmegatron hardware consists of a small, desktop module with a unique user interface and wood sides. The knob layout can be daunting at first, but you quickly get the hang of it.
The really amazing part of the Atmegatron is its hackability. Soulsby offers an accessory pack which allows you to load new software onto the Atmegatron which can completely change the behavior of the instrument. There are several different official software version available including a polyphonic string synth, a drum machine and an analog-sounding synth based on the ARP Odyssey. Each version can completely re-map the controls on the hardware. So, overlays are available to help you use each different instrument effectively.
During the podcast, Paul demonstrated how quick and easy it is to upload different versions. The process only takes 20-30 seconds. Each version has a dramatically different character.
And, if you’re the type who can jump in and edit code, you’ll have plenty of fun making your own synth. All of the source code is available on github. If not, there’s plenty of fun to be had with the standard offerings.
In our discussion, I briefly mentioned the mini-Atmegatron, but we didn’t go into details. This is a DIY-kit for building your own synth. It has a lot of the same features as the full-fledged version of the Atmegatron. The finished kit is an Arduino shield (little circuit board that plugs in to an Arduino). It is a quick build and incredibly affordable—especially if you already have a spare Arduino Uno.
Paul was a lot of fun to talk to, and I’m excited to see what he comes up with in the coming months and years. The ongoing development on the platform is a huge benefit to owners of the Atmegatron. I highly recommend picking one up from your favorite synth shop.