[sdiy] hobbyist hardware DSP - choosing a platform

Andy Drucker andy.drucker at gmail.com
Thu Mar 23 03:47:43 CET 2017


I have followed Terry's announcement about Audio Weaver Lite with interest,
as well as web discussions of related tools like SigmaStudio, because I am
shopping around for something similar.  My question is quite broad and not
so well-formed, but let me describe where I'm at because I think there are
significant numbers of people in a similar place and there is a big
opportunity to make rich sound projects more accessible for
makers/tinkerers.  Any advice on choosing a framework would be greatly
appreciated.

I am ~1 year into the synths/DSP/DIY realms as a hobby---much less
experienced than most commenters.  My best experiences so far have been in
Max/MSP, where I enjoy the easy interplay between signal processing and
logical control flow (although I would sometimes prefer a more
imperative-programming style control).  I really like the potential for
interaction and creative algorithmic music and synthesis.

But on the use/performance side, I would rather interact with a fun
physical device away from the PC.  Being able to stick it into a
hardware-synth signal chain would also be a plus.  And most of all, I would
like to be able to design and produce instruments and sound-toys that a
wide range of folks could enjoy playing with.

I am somewhat familiar with Arduino and R Pi.  However, it appears that
plain Arduino is quite weak for DSP, and pi has weaknesses stemming from
using so much of its juice to run general Linux.

My main wish-list for a hardware platform + programming framework is:

1.  should have ready-made DSP primitives, at least sufficient to make a
subtractive synth (osc/filters/LFO/ADSR).  Ideally want real-time
frequency-domain stuff.

2.  should also allow for some patcher-style logical control flow, and,
easy interaction with sensors, buttons, etc. producing control information.
 (This is where I am less clear how e.g. Audio Weaver or SigmaStudio would
rate.)

3.  limited involvement in the details of hardware chips.  I am not opposed
to learning more about hardware, in fact I'm enjoying E. Williams' book on
AVR programming, but still want to be able to abstract away from too many
details of this stuff.  Arduino and Axoloti seem like good examples of
doing this well.  Other tools seem more aimed at professional electronics
designers, which is a concern.

4.  finally, and no small thing, I would like to be able to make devices
cheap enough to easily give away.  Let me not give a hard budget, but
suggest that e.g. Axoloti is quite a stretch at 65 EUR (and also a bit
bulky for toys).  A shame since I think it meets my other requirements.


Again for reference, frameworks I've been reading about include:

-SigmaStudio or Audio Weaver in conjunction with appropriate chips

-various combos of Arduino and R Pi with sound cards and other peripherals,
e.g. the pisound project, e.g. to run Pure Data on a Pi

-Axoloti


Thanks!
Andy
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