cheap instrument idea of the day

Andrew Schrock aschrock at cs.brandeis.edu
Fri Jun 13 17:52:09 CEST 1997


Hey all,

Here's something I've been playing around with for a while. I guess it
started to form when I bought one of those 'yakback' type toys from Toys
R' Us 6 months ago.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, it's a little toy that
can record maybe 3-4 seconds of sound and play it back. Zounds! It's
backed with a small battery and comes in a little black child-hand-sized
case with a 'pitch wheel'. Basically it's supposed to make the sound
faster/slower, but in reality just makes it sound pretty distorted. I
assume this toy was made so that kids could play their voices back and be
amazed at their own voice.. ah, the wonders of youth. some models of this
thing come with cheesy drum/phaser type noises to play along with your own
voice. (Advertised as a "you too can be a rap star!" type deal.) Also has
a little lock button to keep from recording over the sound you have in
there. 

In any case, i thought it was a pretty nifty gadget for 5 bucks. I stuck a
few modifications on it, added line inputs and outputs, but that's as far
as I went. Now I'm considering purchasing maybe 4 of them, adding trigger
inputs, power supply, and putting them all in a 1U case for laughs. It
would probably be the cheapest sampler to ever see the light of day, but
it would be fun to hack around with. I figure 30 bucks for the toys
themselves, $5 for a 1U piece of aluminium, a couple dollars more for
switches, wire, and jacks. Maybe upgrade the rhetostat used for the pitch
wheels to potentiometers for another $4. (although even that might be
overkill) Total should be well under $50, much less if you have parts
laying around. 

Has anybody done something akin to this? The trigger inputs should be
pretty easy, but I can't seem to find plans anywhere, and I'm still pretty
much a newbie at this. Essentially all i need is a trigger input to act as
a simple pushbutton on/off switch that would take the place of the cheap
rubbery button on the toy itself.. the recording would take place via the
front panel. BTW I'm going to be using my PAIA midi>cv converter in drum
trigger mode. 

FYI I have no idea what kind of chip this thing runs on. I can tell you
that it is simply one chip (which is covered up, so I can't see it) with a
few resistors/caps in there as well, and seems to be close to a revival of
the SK-1. The kiddie sampler of the 90's. IMO Sound quality is pretty
damn near atrocious, but that really wouldn't matter to me. The more
distorted, the better. Another bonus is that if you press the button while
the sample is playing, it stops playing the sample. Nifty if you were
going to be making techno/electronic music. 

If I do make the effort to write up plans for this, it would probably be a
textfile.. I'll stick it on a DIY web page if it ever gets done. Email me
if you can point me in the right direction with the trigger inputs. 

take care,
Andrew





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