This project pushed “constraints as creative resource” to the limit. The client specified that the design language and elements from the product’s predecessor be maintained—down to the knobs, faceplate treatments, and typography.
The project brief revolved around electronic and industrial design work to bring the client’s preamplifer platform up to functional parity with current market offerings within a framework that fits with the client’s existing manufacturing capabilities. The result is a platform that is significantly more capable than what it replaces yet easier for the client to manufacture. It is also amenable to comprehensive appearance changes if and when the client deems the timing is right.
So while it might not seem there’s much innovation on the outside, there is a lot of innovation for the client on the inside.
The Verge has an interesting writeup on Native Instruments’ Stems, “a new audio format that stores up to four different tracks in a single audio file.” I (and I am sure others) had this idea back in the late 80s but based on multitrack cassette and synced MIDI control of mixing parameters. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes!
As part of my Open source audio remote control initiative, I’ve just published Volume-AlpsRK16814MG, an open source hardware design that integrates a high-quality Alps motorized quad potentiometer with an H bridge. The design lets you control the motor’s direction using two logic-level signals: VOL_UP and VOL_DOWN. The fact that it’s a quad pot means you can use it to control regular stereo volume by ignoring one of the dual gangs or a differential stereo signal.
Here’s the schematic* to give you an idea what it’s doing. Gerbers and PCBs are available at OSH Park.
I’ve also modified the remote control receiver to better support motorized pots. There is now a compile-time option that lets you latch and unlatch the VOL_UP and VOL_DOWN signals rather than produce repeated VOL_UP and VOL_DOWN pulses—which makes control of motorized pots more fluid.
I’ve started a FLOSS remote control receiver project for DIY audio preamplifiers. I think it’s just about good enough to make public.
Remote control is one of the more challenging things for an audio DIY person to implement, so I thought having an open source hardware and software platform for doing this would be useful. It uses our good friend Arduino for brains and works with the Philips RC-5 protocol. I like RC-5 because its the closest thing I know of to a universal, well-documented, brand- and model-agnostic protocol.
The IR command decoding is done using Guy Carpenter’s excellent RC5 library. I also considered using Ken Shirriff’s multi-protocol IR library. Ken’s library works with a large number of protocols, but I thought its larger memory footprint might preclude porting this thing to tiny AVRs.
Last week I finished delivery of a custom 6-channel DAC for mastering engineer Greg Reierson at Rare Form Mastering. It uses three stereo DAC cards I designed previously for Audio by Van Alstine, Inc. (currently used in their production DACs) and six custom dual-differential gain/filter cards. I designed the gain/filter cards to use an absolute minimum of active stages—something I have consistently found to help subjective performance.
Greg reports that the new DAC is dead silent and delivers noticeably better LF control than his previous setup. We hope to do some gain-stage device (that’s opaque-speak for “opamp”) comparisons down the road to see if things can be improved further. He will be using the new DAC for general monitoring and also to drive his newly acquired Neumann VMS 70 cutting lathe.