News

ST4 casing continued

Yet again another ST4 development update.

The casing negotiations are still ongoing. To reassure you: we’re still talking to the same factory. There are just details to be discussed. We expect to have the first proof casing ready late August. When the final casings will arrive we don’t know yet. We expect late September. As mentioned before, the casings take way more time than anticipated. We will try to stick with the current factory when we start producing the next batch.

There’s other news: half of the PCB’s have now been tested. And firmware is reaching a level of maturity where controls work the same in all of the GUI screens. The GUI has become more readable, intuitive, faster and there’s an intro animation. And it looks like we’ll add spanish and french keyboard support soon.

The last firmware development work involves the instrument editor. In the next weeks the firmware will grow to be able to choose from at least 100 samples on SD card. We’re also trying to get LFO settings per instrument, which is very useful to control the timbre. If that succeeds we might still go for a digital chorus per voice.. if there’s still enough CPU time left..

ST4 – Electronics production done

All electronics for the ST4 kickstarter have been completed!

All electronics for the ST4 Kickstarter have been completed!

Take a good look. Yes, all those PCB’s have been assembled. And over half of them in-house. That means we just have to hook it all up and test it.

On other fronts: the firmware has progressed nicely. Apple USB keyboards are now supported, German keyboard layout is supported, and it looks like UK is up next. If you have a kayboard layout you want to see supported, you can send it to us and we’ll code it! tastychipselectronics@gmail.com.

USB hubs are (somewhat) supported, which opens doors to new avenues like USB MIDI controllers. The tracker now features half and double speed options. The display has the feature to show multiple controls (up to 4) at the same time, and controls have set points. Huge amounts of features to control the signal path have been added: LFO sync, LFO cross modulation, frequency controllable LFO random noise, channels may be bundled in one big group (for instance, set cutoff for all channels with a single pot). Poly and mono (non-)legato modes are available. There’s now a PWM mode and LFO modulation can control it. That’s not all, LFO can also control bit crusher parameters!

We’re currently negotiating the casing with a number of factories. This is a lot time consuming as previously thought. The ST4 casing is multi-functional (desktop and 19″ rackmount), has a display and this involves a lot of details and choices to be made. When we’ve invested months and months in electronics and software, we’d like to do the same for the casing. We’ll see which ones comes out best. The cardboard box design now also has been done. The DIY manual is 95% finished and the user’s manual is about 70% complete.

In the meantime we’ll continue making the firmware better and better. Most features will be made available through the two onboard rotary encoders, not only through the USB keyboard. The goal is to have everything except sequencing and typing in names possible with on-board controls.

In short, it’s primarily casing stuff and firmware polishing from here on. Late august does seem somewhat feasible.

ST4 Production

In recent weeks the ST4 electronics production has kicked off. Many of the simpler boards have now been produced and are ready to be built into the ST4 units. These were handmade right here at Tasty Chips labs in The Netherlands, just like the Sawbench synth was.

A stash of assembled ST4 VV boards.

A stash of assembled ST4 VV boards.

The more complex boards (exp, vcf, vca) are being assembled by machine in a fab nearby and should be done by the end of the month. Concerning the manual labor, we still have to do the voice and the mod boards. The DIY manual has also seen some major progress and many of the board pages are supplied with photos of all the soldering steps: ST4 DIY resource. More and more detailed information will appear on this DIY resource in the coming weeks.

In parallel, the firmware is still being worked on. Some news:
– Poly mode now works fine and is intelligent enough to allow 3 finger chords + solo.
– The ST4 tracker can now send MIDI out clock signals.
– The ST4 tracker accepts MIDI clock input (preliminary).
– Samples can now be tuned.
– Sample looping can be turned on or off individually per instrument.

The casing (graphic) design is ongoing. We’ve got an excellent graphics artist on board to help us with the silkscreens. The details of the fabrication are being negotiated at the moment.

Last but not least. We’ve had multiple requests whether the ST4 will become available to the public after Kickstarter. The answer is YES! Also, we are taking pre-orders. These are completely free of charge and the interested party is not obliged to buy in any way. Just send your name, postal address, and the version you want (kit, or built unit) to tastychipselectronics@gmail.com. Price for built unit will be 850 eur, 550 for the kit. Units are shipped out on a first-come-first-served basis.

ST4: Power up!

Last update reported on the ST4 power problems. The European government basically killed off the AC/AC power bricks on which the ST4 depended. So we were forced to take a step back to redesign. You’ll be pleased to hear this was successful and with that the electronics are complete! Finally!

The new PSU design is not only more “eco”, but it’s especially better for the user as now only a standard 12VDC PSU is necessary. Easy to find and replace, and equally cheap. And, as promised, such a power brick will be shipped along with the ST4! 🙂

Not only this, but we’ve already moved ahead and started assembling the first ST4 systems. In the coming days (weeks) the DIY manual will be put online. A start can already be found here!

The casing development has made good progress. The technical drawings of the front, back, and bottom plates are almost completely finished and we already made a test run on our C&C with this to good effect. What’s more the graphic design has made similar progress. But we’re not going to spoil it this post.

New front plate test.

Fresh from the CNC: the new test front plate.

So, what’s left to do:
– The casing
– DIY manual
– Hardware production
– Firmware 1.0

The good news is that most of these activities can be done in parallel.

Mid july sounds like a realistic release date.

ST4 Electronics complete!

Another post in a long line of ST4 updates.. This is a good one. The current hardware turns out to perform very well. The previously tested CV generator circuit is now embedded on the so-called “expansion” PCB, which functions as the central hub between all other PCBs and the Arduino Due.

We gave the system several listening tests and it sounds very clean indeed! No 50Hz, no whining, and very little white noise (only at very high volumes). The CV’s are now also at 5V, so this should make it a bit more hackable for modular fanatics as well! 😉

The new envelope section with the sliders was implemented in the firmware is very intuitively usable, like was intended. A big step forward!

ST4 Qualification Model hardware.  Highest performance yet! Top left: VCF board. Right of that is the VCA board (through-hole version). Right of that is the IO board for MIDI/USB. Center: expansion board. Center-right: VCA board SMD version. Bottom: all the control boards. The one in the center has the new envelope sliders and led buttons..

ST4 Qualification Model hardware. Highest performance yet! Top left: VCF board. Right of that is the VCA board (through-hole version). Right of that is the IO board for MIDI/USB. Center: expansion board. Center-right: VCA board SMD version. Bottom: all the control boards. The one in the center has the new envelope sliders and led buttons..

We’ve been in discussion with some factories and have worked out a decent price for the casing.

There’s also some bad news, however. The original AC/AC supply was killed off by European rules and regulations. Don’t ask! It has something to do with bogus safety or environment bs. So, that’s us over there, redesigning that power supply! What we have chosen now is an external regulated AC/DC (mains -> 12V DC) supply, with an internal switching DC converter (12V -> -12V). Don’t worry. It will be filtered, and the external supply will be region independent!

ST4 Qualification Model control boards. Note the left one with the envelope slilders and led buttons (to select channels and vco/vca/vcf/aux)

ST4 Qualification Model control boards. Note the left one with the envelope slilders and led buttons (to select channels and vco/vca/vcf/aux)

Another thing is the analog audio PCB’s. SMD is cheaper, and also saves space. We’ve already made the VCA board into SMD, but it still needs an extra development cycle. Same for the VCF.

What still needs to be done:

  • Final PCB development
    • Final silkscreen adjustments for the DIYers!
    • SMD version of VCF and VCA
  • PSU redesign
  • Casing design and production
    • Silkscreen designs
    • Styrofoam and box design
    • Fabrication
  • Completion of firmware v1.0

Estimate we’re still on track, except for the PSU business. But early summer still sounds feasible..

 

ST4 / Post-kickstarter update

First of all, 20 Sawbench rewards have now shipped out. That means all except the ones in the combined (ST4+Sawbench) rewards. The combined rewards will be sent out as soon as the ST4 is ready. This saves work and postage costs (which are very high). The webshop will start selling Sawbenches again at some point. But we’re running out of stock we’ll probably make a follow-up.

The ST4 development has reached another milestone as earlier on this week the new PCB’s arrived. See the picture below:

– top: IO board (MIDI/USB)
– center left: expansion board (power distribution, DAC’s, SRAM, display, connection with all other boards)
– center right: SD board
– bottom left: mod+env board
– bottom right: vcf/vca controls board

The new ST4 PCB's

The new ST4 PCB’s

Note that the mod board has got sliders for ADSR and ledbuttons to quickly select channel and function (VCO/VCA/VCF/AUX).

Assembly and test will start today. As mentioned before the SMD will be 0805 and SOIC, so relatively big and hence suited for DIY. We like the SMD because it’s cheaper, smaller, and we feel easier to solder than through-hole. However, all control and interface components (pots, sliders, sockets) will remain through-hole, since this is much sturdier!

Furthermore, we’ve contacted the factory for PCBA (PCB Assembly by machine).. Especially for the VCA (~100 components) and VCF boards (200+ components).

Some work on the software has been done. The most glaring bugs were fixed and it seems there are no more crashes now.. But a lot of features need to be implemented, still. After some deliberation it was decided to go ahead with MIDI OUT stuff like unlimited polyphony and cc’s. However, they won’t be there in the first release. More like v1.1 or 1.2. The GUI needs to be completely redesigned (piano roll for the poly stuff and some crazy stacks for the cc’s).

In recent days we also contacted a new designer to do the front plate  and back panel graphics. We’re thinking of a multi-color scheme, if the budget will allow. We’ve also contacted the casing factory about this..

In closing, a lot of activities. But it looks like it’s all coming together.

 

Rewards and ST4 development

For all the Kickstarter backers and people interested in the ST4.

Last week we sent the first rewards to the backers (first-come first-served): 5 Sawbench kits and 5 assembled ones. This week we made a similar amount and they will hopefully be tested and shipped over the weekend.

Also, for the DIYers, the manual has been enhanced with pictures and tables, which can be used (also by us) to verify if all components are in the bags! Just overlay your stuff to check!

Sawbench_D_R_mech_

Some good news about the ST4: the noise issues seem solved! The numbers: SNR is now better than 80 dB, in some cases better than 90 (but it should not be more than that, bleh! :)). Even better, the periodic noise issues are completely gone! The entire guts needed to be replaced (going from PWM CV to a multi-channel DAC), but it was worth it.

The envelope section has been redesigned and the new components are already in-house. The new design for the control PCB’s (with envelope controls and such) is almost ready to be taped out. We hope to send those off to the factory in the next week. The new multi-channel CV DAC design will also be taped out at the same time.

When the new control board design is finalized we can also start redesign of the new front plate and contact the factory. We’re currently in discussion with a potential US distributor.

Overall, things seem to be ahead of schedule. We expect to send out all the rewards early summer.

ST4 Kickstarter Campaign & Webshop

Hi guys, I guess you know we’re hella busy with the ST4 Kickstarter. The Sawbench is also a reward for this Kickstarter.. For this reason we temporarily removed the Sawbench (assembled and full kit) from the webshop.

If you want to buy a Sawbench please consider buying it via the Kickstarter.

Sales will restart 17 Feb. Thanks for your understanding.

ST4 Kickstarter online

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/844778849/st4-hybrid-synthesizer-tracker that’s the link you need to see! It contains a trailer video of which Stu & Erhalder having been sweating over for 5 days or so.. And the result is pretty damn sweet if we may say so ourselves.

The trailer in HD (since the KS video’s are always compressed to a pulp):

If you want to see this product turn into an actual real-life physical breathing and belching synth, please support us! The early bird price is a special offer and is a full 100 euros under the webshop price. Just so you know.

There is also room for a DIY kit reward.. _if_ there is enough interest. Just leave replies in the Kickstarter comment section or via tastychipselectronics@gmail.com.

Once again a nice pic of the prototype:

ST4 depth of field + some wood

ST4 depth of field + some wood

Details and more photos:

Official ST4 product page

Kickoff t-minus 4 days

The last days we’ve been working feverishly on the ST4 Kickstarter campaign preparations. We’ve already completed a feature-by-feature demonstration last week. This week we’re focussed on making a trailer video, much like the Sawbench one from last year:

But the ST4 more than 4 times as complex as the Sawbench. The feature list is enormous and it’s impossible to even list all features in a minute-long video. So we just have to make the best possible music with the thing..

That ain’t easy, though. We discovered:

* Renoise on Mac exports signed 8 bit WAV, should be unsigned.

* We need way better lighting in the studio to make decent film.

* The ST4 prototype firmware refused to reload the samples from its song.

* Hooking up a full-blown MIDI setup takes time.

Studio demonstration of the ST4.

Studio demonstration of the ST4.

Anyway, we’re good at what we do, and we’re big boys. We’ll manage 😉

Edit: we did, thanks to 20k of filmstudio equipment and professional help!

Developing for the old woodboard, a new screen to display the full LFO MOD matrix.

Developing for the old woodboard, a new screen to display the full LFO MOD matrix.

The coming days we’ll also output some extra video’s: jam sessions and feature-by-feature explanations. There might also be a documentary about STU’s synth/chip history.

STay tuned!

Scroll to top