MATRIXSYNTH: MARS Musical Audio Research Station Iris Farfisa Bontempi - Ares Software

Friday, January 29, 2021

MARS Musical Audio Research Station Iris Farfisa Bontempi - Ares Software

video by Museo del Synth Marchigiano

You can find an additional post from 2012 featuring the MARS Synthesizer here.

"In this video we demonstrate how the Ares software allows you to program the Mars card, Isa card inserted in the computer, connected via Scsi connector to the Ics816 audio output card.

The Musical Audio Research Station (MARS) is a programmable specialized digital machine for real-time audio applications which has been entirely developed by the Italian Bontempi-Farfisa research institute IRIS.
The MARS workstation is composed of:

• one or more sound boards, called NERGAL connected to one or more audio units;
• a PC running the graphical interactive development environment called ARES.

The first version of MARS, which has been presented at the ICMC92 was running on Atari computers.

The sound generation board is a full size standard IBM ISA card running at a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz.

The board may be divided into three main sections: DSP, control and mixer sections.

The DSP section contains two dedicated IRIS DSPs called X20 with their respective program and sample memories. These DSPs are memory mapped onto the microcontroller memory area.

The X20 is a fully programmable DSP. Its architecture is highly parallel and allows pipelined operations.

Its internal arithmetic is 2’s complement fixed point with a 16 x 16 bit multiplier and a 24 bit arithmetic and logic unit.

Each X20 has two blocks of internal data memory which may be addressed in parallel. It also contains a 512 x 64 bit words of external program memory, and may access to external sample memory. The sample memory is supported by SIMM modules with 4 up to 32 megabytes of DRAM.

Each X20 provides four audio input channels and four audio output channels. The audio signals are managed on 16 bits. The X20s may be used in parallel or in serie, by sending the four outputs of the first one to the four inputs of the second one.

The control section is managed by a proprietary real-time operating system, called RT20M, running on a MOTOROLA MC68302 microcontroller. The RT20M manages all the MARS objects described previously, and all their interactions with the DSP section, the mixer section and the external world. It also controls any communication through the three ports available on the board: MIDI, RS232, and a special parallel one for high speed connection to the PC’s ISA bus.

The mixer section controls a set of predefined audio mixing operations among boards and audio units.

Each board have one connector to/from the audio-unit, and four connectors (two inputs and two outputs) which allow multi-board links. This last feature allows to create a MARS boards network with a parallel, a serial or a mixed configuration using one or more audio units.

Two types of IRIS audio units are available for NERGAL: low-cost and professional.

The low-cost unit is a small external box (1/3U) with two monophonic input lines, four monophonic output lines, and one stereophonic headphone output.

The professional audio unit is a 2U standard rack module. It is modular and may pilot up to 8 input/output analog channels and 8 input/output digital channels. Each unit can be shared between two different NERGAL boards."

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