Fenix Experiment board no 3

Published by Priscilla Haring-Kuipers on

This is a lots-of-DSP board. Most of the things on this Experiment board are a shell for DSP. We have developed a plugin board with sufficient processing power and memory to drive all the things. Currently, we have one of these MCU-boards working and connected to Experiment board no 3.

Experiment board no 1 and 2 were all about validating and converting the schematics of earlier Fenixes. Experiment board no 3 is adding our kind of play to an instrument of this size. Having a digital playground is what changes this system into a new Fenix– the signal sources are more complex allowing for more interesting processing and playing with the signal running through our system.

This Experiment board no 3 has smaller and fixed versions of the phaser and the formant filter. Our phaser is a direct translation of the Fenix II, while the formant is a reinterpretation for which we built new schematics as the parts used earlier are no longer readily available.

We have added a new inverted state variable filter with lowpass, highpass and bandpass inputs instead of outputs. We like this slightly wacky in-house design creating a different filter user interaction and more possibilities for sound play.

The noise box is also of our own making. Our noise contains analog white noise with pink, blue, red and brown filters as well as analog sample and hold, and a digital probability cloud generator (more details on this in the future). What our Wobbler is to LFO, this Noise box is going to be to a classic noise generator.

Our delay lines give space to the signal/sound – Fenix II had a simple mono delay line – this bird has  a multimode delay system with options for reverb and other effects. You might say it’s bigger on the inside.  Our digital oscillator has a FM, Wavetable and spectral synthesis options (more details later). The triple LFO of the Fenix II is exactly as it was before, but with added LEDs.

We have a lot of LEDs to visualise what is going  on in the system. Giving you more direct feedback on all the signals going in and out, giving you level and timing information or sometimes indicating modes. All LEDs are one colour, which is yellow now but this might change from experiment board to functional prototype. By creating unique configurations of LEDs we want to help you to identify the module belonging to that specific grouping of blinking lights, even onstage in the dark.

The screen is an oscilloscope and a USB/midi interface – connecting our Fenix to the rest of your studio, laptop or otherwise. We extended the measurement capabilities of the scope so it is self-calibrating and can be used to tune your Fenix (or anything else you plug into it). Some lighted buttons next to the screen provide your menu interface. Don’t worry – we like it flat.

All these options lead to an ever increasing amount of jacks. We are now at a count of roughly 300 jacks for the whole system, to compare: the Fenix II had roughly 200 jacks. The 100+ more comes from our digital modules that add a lot of in- and output and our new sequencer that has more than doubled in size – more fun to be had!

Running tests on Experiment board no 3 shows us that the hardware that we have created works. Now that all our parts (Experimenat boards 1, 2 and 3) are functional, we can start shaping the Fenix. We know now how many parts we are going to need, the layout of our circuits and what we need to connect. We can piece all the hardware together and start programming loads of software. Let the games begin!

Meanwhile, our metalworking tools (machines) have arrived so we can also play around with making our own case for our prototype, and fully understand how we are going to manifest the Fenix IV.


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