Tag Archives: audio tool

Simple Analog Synth Brad Ormand

2016.01.22 – ARM Cortex M4F System Running Great

There’s so much going on in my research and experiments, it’s just hard to explain everything right now.  But, in a nutshell, I have been patiently (but consistently) ramping up knowledge of building some awesome applications for the ARM Cortex M4 – both hardware and software.  I have a lot of audio processing, lighting, and graphics ideas to start on so my first step is to become well-versed in their operation.

In the last month or so, I have been drawing faces, drawing UI, painting, making headway on the ARM stuff, woodcarving, working on music, running over my budget for the new year (like multiple times with complicated, categorical spreadsheets), doing some behavior modification (like stopping drinking sodas and exercise regularly and others), working on this site, and so much more that I don’t write about.  Sometimes, it does seem like I have too many things going on, but like I say – “I just follow my interest” – and, where it leads, that’s where I go- just enjoying life as it comes, working with what I have.  I definitely try to wisely balance it all by not getting into “comfort-only” scenarios, like spending gobs of time on stuff that doesn’t require any hard thinking or sweat from the brow.  Rather, all of my “hobbies” require actual work and are investments in my future and have the additional benefit of brightening my days when I do them.  The fulfillment factor is high.  That’s what I’m feeling right now.  But, I also have to take it one step at a time as to not get burned out – going for a good balance.  It’s a great start to the new year.

// A R M

As for the ARM stuff, though…  Lately, I have been deeply involved in trying to find a great toolchain and chipset that would work well with Mac OS X and my limited PCB fab opportunities here.  I heavily explored the Atmel SAM4S for a while, and then the Silicon Labs EFM32 (I do like Simplicity Studio), and even experimented more with PIC24’s and PIC32’s (I like MPLABX, too), but I have been heavily preferring the NXP / Freescale Kinetis K series Cortex chips and their KDS (surprised, but happy about their merger 🙂 ).  I have everything I need to program and debug them,  and I think Freescale and NXP have a lot of support around their products these days.

ARM Breadboard Circuit 1 Brad Ormand

And, whichever ARM Cortex M4F I choose, I feel future-safety coming off this because of the CMSIS rallying and the ARM standards and it’s growth.  And, the IoT revolution is really just beginning, and I want on the train, and I’m digging my own tunnel with these research shovels.  This is certainly a new career path for me, but as I am already “dug in” to, and known, in the software industry I am currently employed in, I will continue that for a few more years.  It’s stable.  But, as I get more and more skilled at producing hit ARM apps with CMSIS, C/C++, and assembly, and as I refine my architecture ideas (both HW+SW), I’ll be closer to being able to switch my day-to-day doings over to full time by about 2020, I believe.

// G O O D _ M I L E S T O N E

So, that’s what I’m thinking for that…  It was a huge milestone to get the Kinetis rolling with some of my former code written for the PIC24.  I ported some stuff over and after a few nights, I finally got it rolling!  It was really nice to see it running as expected.  Many things are different – interrupts, 32-bit vs 16-bit, registers, SysTick, NVIC, etc., so being able to rely on this setup as my “go-to” platform gives me a lot of leeway to design stuff from now on.  It’s huge because it finally allows me to have a string of product design and code architecture sessions over the next months that won’t be interrupted by changing platforms or technical difficulties.

Also, I’m using the Segger J-Link now with a bare, exposed, Kinetis K22 ARM LQFP 64 chip that I soldered to a little plain break-out board (with filter caps and custom programming header and stuff).  I’m going direct to bare chip without a dev kit, which was what one of my requirements were all along to getting this train started.  I wanna design the board, power, regulation, routing, logic levels, inverters, amplification, communication, interfacing, headers, electro-mechanicals, etc. – the entire system.  Cuz, I think that stuff is fun, too.  More work, but I wouldn’t wanna give up that phase.  And, so I’m saying, that now that I’ve got that innovation complete with something stable in the lab, I feel like I have a platform to jump off of to design an endless amount of other applications, unrestrained.  But, boy did it take a few months of setup time and sifting through the cruft of what would work best for me and my setup.  Now, all good.

// T H E   _  F U T U R E

Simple Analog Synth Brad Ormand

I think, first, I’ll get the previous project I wrote about last month all set up with this new “drive train” and then move on back to the FFT application I developed last year, perhaps with my DisplayTech color TFT with cap touch.  Maybe a pinch zoom for FFT window resolution?  Maybe a custom, level-switchable analog front end?  Maybe build a touch, animated GUI lib to apply to all my new designs.   Maybe a digital version of my old “Audio Tool” with selectable synthesis?  Who knows..  I’m ready to get things going and move on though.  Seems like I just got to the point to where I can finally get to the product design phase.  Ready to go.



Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Testing

10.26.2014 – Synth, Audio Tool & Cut Grass

Woke up dreaming about the VCO. I was still wiping my eyes when I was putting the LM5532 on the breadboard to implement it. Then, I took a break to hang with my Dad. He came over with a few lawnmowers that I borrowed to cut my yard with. So, we cut the grass and then got some BBQ. Lots of good conversation, talking about projects and current events and different things. For real – can’t get much better for a Sunday. Plus, the yard looks dope.


Ok, then I built the VCO. Took me few hours, exchanging values, but I got a solid square wave from 40Hz to over 6k. Fuck yeah… At one time, I had the low freq at about a hertz, just watching the trigger go on and off on the scope… like, that was a cool thing, I guess – but, might be cool for a LFO – I want audible frequencies only, on this aspect, though. And, also, it sacrificed some top end when I configured it that low. I was only able to range it to about 500hz or so at the top, and, number 2, the cap was not holding very long so the “square” was looking more like a deformed saw.

So, anyways – yup – 40 to 6k. Solid Square. I’m happy with that.  And, I got it going right at line level, about 1.7 volts peak max, which is what I wanted to be my specification throughout.  I put some keys up to the volts-in and played with the sound for a while, combining my Audio Tool osc with it – jacking the frequencies up as it crushed through the amp. It was fun. Now, on to figuring out some values for frequencies and shaping the other waves.


Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 11.48.27 PM

Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Test

10.25.2014 – Audio Tool & Synth

I wired the connector up to the mic. It worked fine. I think the whole Audio Tool piece is a little bit trashy, actually.. 😉 It’s at least “scrappy” – by it’s look, and it’s operation. It’s a shop tool as far as I’m concerned. However, the stick-on tag look is really growing on me haha. Luvvit.

Brad Ormand - Audio Tool Test


Yeah, It has major distortion on it’s output about 3/4 of the way up to it’s gain max.. But, hell – I have been using that, too, musically and for the mic.  I sound like an aircraft pilot through it when it’s all the way up – ha kinda cool.  So oh well. But, it comes in really handy. I have been taking it everywhere to run signals through stuff and also just as an on-desk portable audio amp to test circuit output with. I already see design improvements across the board, but it had to be fully completed for me to acknowledge that, I think.  The major aspect is that I just keep building and building and learning and learning with every invention.

I am really wanting to get my VCO design rolling now that I got the Audio Tool construction out of the way. The SSD1306 dev has taken a back seat after I got it working as a debug display for my code (instead of using LED signaling, etc – dreadful). But, anywayees, for the VCO, I’ll start with a square and just try to get my ranging right. And, then I’ll try to wave shape that into 1 or 2 more usable waveforms. Then, I want to add a few keys up and play a few pitches. Then, I’ll work on a filter and amp for it.

Custom Microphone by Brad Ormand

10.24.2014 – Audio Tool & Mic Jack

Well, the Audio Tool assembled fine last night, and it works as intended. One thing, though… When designing a board with controls of a certain complexity, I’m not going to use this “prototype” method anymore! Damn, it’s just that: Unless it’s labeled super-well and you have major knowledge of the circuit (i.e. Remembering how you laid out the schematic on the board), it’s just not feasible (nor enjoyable) to work with, in the end.  The traces *are* solder.  And, what if I have to service it in 10 months?  I’ll have to trace the traces all out again from the schematic.

I feel like I just “wung” it. Ha – if I was living in the 1960’s or something, this might have been the way to go, but, nah – from now on, I’m just going to lay out and etch a board from a proper routing with labeling and use flat flex modular style with headers instead of these screw posts when doing something with more than 5 ICs and over 10 controls… So – learned something there 🙂

However, the damn thing works! And, it does what I intended for it to do – to help me test audio gear on the go. Aside from wiring up the wrong size connector to my mic cable – everything is cool and the gang. I’ll get the right connector (1/8″ TRS) on the way home from work tomorrow, hook that up, test it, and then start on getting the blog going.

Brad Ormand AudioTool Case Construction on Lab Bench

10.23.2014 – Job & Audio Tool

More progress in the site for work – still making it happen. It’s looking good. I do have to take advantage of every hour, though… Or, I’ll be working over the weekend. Had a meeting with the UX and Design team, and it was fantastic – love that world, so detailed about every move the user could make. I admire the knowledge in that arena. I build their ideas in code and love to spend my time implementing this stuff, but one day I’d like to have more design / color / typography / UX knowledge.

And, in other news… I built the front panel of my Audio Tool (I have just been calling it the “Audio Tool”). I measured and marked the interface, drilled the holes, installed the controls, and now all that’s left is to run the wires – pretty tight in there. I changed my output meter to be a 10-segment LED bar instead of using 8 separate LEDs like before. Umm. Hope it works because I already cut the big hole for it 🙂


I wired up the LM3915 driver for it on a separate PCB and mounted it to the cover. Now, the final test begins. I have tested this circuit during the design phase on the breadboard a million times. I tested it once I fabbed and assembled the PCB, and it was fine, and now just gotta hope that the final product and case design didn’t screw anything up . If it did, I’ll fix it, but I’m hoping to crank it over tonight.  It’s lookin’ pretty hot.  lol



Brad Ormand - Audio Tool - First UI

10.08.2014 – Job, Songs & Animation

Damn – life is exciting right now! In addition to my personal projects, I have to be at work at 6 every day for the next week.  Yeah… in the morning. It’s 1/2 exciting and adventurous, and 1/2 kind of uncomfortable. But, overall, it’s fine.  It’s something new. I saw a shooting star on the way to work, for instance.. Right now, it’s 6:30 and still dark, about to get coffee and start the day.. I actually feel wonderful! Got plenty of adjusted sleep last night and feel a sort of excitement of the adventure of it all and, of course, from the buzz of my Audio Tool.


Speaking of… I spent several hours on the case for the tool – hooked up 3, 1/4 inch jack units, the power switch, the speaker terminals, and started the Mic/Line switch, etc. I mounted the board in the case, mounted the battery holder (with a nice hot glue pad for stability), and marked the top cover for all of the rest of the switches to go on there. Of course, I always try to spend the extra time to get everything symmetrical and evenly spaced – like CSS for the real world UI lol.. It’s looking great, and it’s a great next level in my advancement. Growing and learning through doing actual implementations and getting actual experience. That’s the ticket.

And now.. Back to music… “Fine” needs a 3db boost to it’s kick at about 125Hz, and perhaps a 1db boost, overall. “Kitchen” is gonna need a little cosmetic surgery to it’s kick – it’s a bit more severe. ..(I’m really focusing on kicks right now).. It needs more body, but not at it’s fundamental, way down at like 50, because it’s just too low for the song. I need a bump more like at 70 or 90. I even considered this morning to swap out the kick type altogether if I can get it to work.. I don’t know, tho.. I’m going to keep fixing it until the song gets what it needs and deserves.  Might switch it out.

And, in other news, I’m preparing to write a driver for a 16 x 32 RGB LED matrix so that I can produce a few animations – some int physics and some Bresenham drawing to the display as an entertainment installation. It’ll end up being mostly a two-button input animation switching interface that just sits there and looks awesome. The only problem I see is that the datasheet says it writes two pixels, together, at a time, per clock cycle, and for (single-point) particle physics, I hope I’ll be able to write one of them to “off”. Ha.  We’ll see.
For animations, I’m thinking: #1) 10 to 20 random-tinted particles with gravity bounded by the box (display wid & hgt)… #2) a random vertical spectrum analyzer-looking thing, and #3) horizontal single-pixel rays of varying length shooting by at random speeds and colors, left-to-right.