May 18, 2017 | By David

Musical enthusiasts and musicians of all levels will soon find their sonic palate expanding even further with the help of a new project from Hyve—a project that should also appeal to tech wizards. The startup has just raised over $100,000 in a successful Kickstarter campaign for its Touch Synth, a miniature synthesizer that is designed to be easy-to-use as well as hackable and customizable. Users can make their own back for the instrument using 3D printing technology.

Created by Skot Wiedmann, a technician at the University of Illinois’ Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, the Hyve Touch Synth is intended to be an entirely new way of creating sounds, drawing on basic synthesizer technology as well as human touch. Wiedmann sees the instrument as an opportunity for collaboration between musicians and engineers, exploring what’s possible with electronic music and human input. The synthesizer is easy for beginners to pick up and play with, but also infinitely customizable. Experts and novices alike will be able to take it apart and modify it, using soldering or 3D printing technology to make it their own.

The design of the Hyve Touch Synth appears complex but is relatively simple. The bottom half is arranged similar to a piano keyboard, with each square being a different note. When touched, pressure sensors in the squares cause a sound to be emitted, and this can be easily combined with other notes in higher octaves by moving vertically up the grid, evolving the tone. A horizontal movement will pan the stereo sounds from left to right, and touching the bottom row allows for a pitch bend, the intensity of which can be controlled through the amount of pressure exerted.

The top half of the synth is composed of hexagons. The hexagonal grid maps harmonic relationships between notes, with notes that sound good together being placed adjacent to each other. This allows for easy chord formations, and sliding across the grid allows for the changes to be made smoothly. Anyone will be able to grab the Hyve Touch Synth and start making some cool sounds, and it has a huge potential for experimentation. A total of 60 polyphonic voices are possible.

The fully assembled version of the synthesizer just needs the included legs to be attatched to the body, then it can be plugged in and it’s ready to go. It’s lightweight and portable (153 mm x 127 mm x 13 mm) and also has a 40-hour battery life so it can be taken anywhere, with a durable body that won’t get damaged easily. There’s no need to worry about maintaining a glass screen, either: you just place your fingers directly on the sensors, which is one of Wiedmann’s favorite aspects of the instrument, as it gives users a fascinatingly tactile relationship to sound.

A more stripped down version of the synth—the Hyve Synth ‘Hacker’ kit—was also available for experienced electrical engineers, for a pledge of $79 or more. Those backers will receive just the circuit board and touch interface and can solder, build up, and modify it as they see fit, or even just hang it on the wall as art.

The Premium version, for $299, comes with a handcrafted hardwood back made by local woodworker Jeff Nardoni. More hands-on users will be able to make their own ‘franken-Hyve,’ using wood, cork, or cardboard to make their own back and adding other modifications. They can also download a 3D design file and knock up a customized back for it from PLA with their 3D printer. This Hyve Synth ‘Maker’ kit was available for a pledge of $149 or more. Estimated shipping for these items is September 2017.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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