MATRIXSYNTH: DAFM DIY Synthesizer - SEGA Genesis FM sound on a tiny board

Friday, July 12, 2019

DAFM DIY Synthesizer - SEGA Genesis FM sound on a tiny board

Published on Jul 12, 2019 Floyd Steinberg

"DAFM DIY Synthesizer, by Kasser Art. Table of contents below! This is a 6 voice, 6 part multitimbral FM Synthesizer based on Yamaha's YM2612 / YM3438 sound chip, as found in the SEGA Genesis 90s video game console. In this video, I'm using a soldering iron for the first time in 30 years, trying to assemble this kit.
The intro & background music was recorded with this synthesizer, utilizing it's multitimbrality (no overdubbing needed).

Table of contents:

00:00 sound demo #1
00:38 introduction
02:04 soldering! / music demo #2
02:48 … everything's going as planned …
03:33 more soldering!
04:35 hardware features
05:42 turning it on for the first time...
06:50 user interface walkthrough / creating a sound
12:58 conclusion"


"Now the DAFM Synth Genesis YM2612/YM3438 has been redesigned as a DIY friendly kit. This is a nice project that comprises soldering of through-hole components. This kit can be found on Tindie: Assembled version with case and knobs can be found here.

What is it?

Sound synthesis through Frequency Modulation (FM) allows to obtain unique sounds that defined a whole musical generation during the 80's and 90's The model Genesis uses the YM2612 (or YM3438) yamaha chip that was used in the SEGA Genesis / Megadrive home console.

Why did you make it?

This synthesizer is the perfect mix for lovers of retro video games, and makers who want to introduce themselves in the musical experimentation.

What makes it special?

The YM2612 has six channels with four operators per channel. The operators can interact according to eight different algorithms. Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release (ADSR) envelopes, frequencies and low frequency oscillators (LFOs) can be modified to obtain the whole range of FM sounds.

The YM2612 chip has a peculiar form of crossover distortion in the output, which has become known as the "ladder effect" among fans. The YM3438 is a modified CMOS version of the YM2612 with a louder sound output and no "ladder effect". The DAFM Synth can be purchased with the YM2612 or the YM3438 chip. Nostalgic retrogamers would choose the YM2612 chip. The YM3438 would be the first choice for the FM-synthesis lovers.

The synthesizer is operated through 2 rotary encoders and has a complete menu that is shown in 4 blue OLED displays. Thanks to the beautiful tactile keyboard of 12 notes you can try the different patches as they are created. There is also the possibility of changing the octave and thus test the full sound spectrum of the Yamaha chip. Once created, the presets can be saved in the RAM memory or in a SD card as DMP files that can be opened with VGM trackers like Deflemask.

The stereo sound output is 3.5 mm audio jack, has a MIDI input to connect a keyboard, sequencer or any MIDI instrument and can be powered with a micro USB cable (5V)."

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