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Andromeda A6 OS Update Project Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 20th July 2015
  #121
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
There is, however, one extra curve in the A6 binary. It's purpose is unclear. Tuning or calibration of some sort, perhaps?
Could be, I wonder if the firmware contains any secrects, things that are in there but weren't used, that would be interesting.

Quote:
Not really sure on GNU vs. vasm, TBH. Might have been a premature alarm. Typical programmer's dilemma of how long do you spend on tools vs. the actual thing you were trying to write in the first place. Especially on fun/therapeutic projects, it's easy to get sidetracked.
I know the feeling, also how long to work on something that might turn out to be impossible to get to work. But it is nice to work on projects that are your own and at your own pace.

As my A6 hangs at the boot logo (only powers up when turning off and on again at that point) and apparently needs an SRAM chip swapped out with another brand, I wonder if that is purely a hardware problem, or if software timing is involved.
Old 21st July 2015
  #122
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamerDeluxe View Post
As my A6 hangs at the boot logo (only powers up when turning off and on again at that point) and apparently needs an SRAM chip swapped out with another brand, I wonder if that is purely a hardware problem, or if software timing is involved.
That sounds like the resonator issue on the display module. Replace it with a crystal (along with 2 caps) as discussed in the boot thread.
Old 21st July 2015
  #123
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GYang View Post
Guys I don't understand 95% of this thread, but truly enjoy it.
Word!
Old 23rd July 2015
  #124
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LamerDeluxe View Post
As my A6 hangs at the boot logo (only powers up when turning off and on again at that point)
This seems to be a common failure mode for A6s. There are a number of problems that can cause this behavior, mostly deriving from the front-panel being controlled by a separate processor. If anything goes wrong with the main processor before it has a chance to set up the front panel display, you don't see any error message on the screen. The A6 appears to freeze.

To help with that, I think the first feature that should get released is better power-up diagnostics. If any kind of fault is detected, the blue LED could blink out an error code that identifies what isn't working.

Another idea: the ColdFire CPU itself has 4K of onboard RAM. That's enough to hold a decent SRAM test that could run at power-on. If people's SRAMs really are going bad, this would be a way to detect it.
Old 23rd July 2015
  #125
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by bklein View Post
That sounds like the resonator issue on the display module. Replace it with a crystal (along with 2 caps) as discussed in the boot thread.
That's interesting, thanks for the help, first time I've heard about this, I will check this out. I've been holding off replacing the SRAM chip for years (even though I already bought it), as I haven't soldered SMD components before and I don't want to damage the board. Regular components shouldn't be a problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
This seems to be a common failure mode for A6s. There are a number of problems that can cause this behavior, mostly deriving from the front-panel being controlled by a separate processor. If anything goes wrong with the main processor before it has a chance to set up the front panel display, you don't see any error message on the screen. The A6 appears to freeze.
Thanks for explaining this, I had no idea what was going on in there.

Quote:
To help with that, I think the first feature that should get released is better power-up diagnostics. If any kind of fault is detected, the blue LED could blink out an error code that identifies what isn't working.
That would be fantastic, as it is mostly up to the owners themselves to fix their Andromeda's now.

Quote:
Another idea: the ColdFire CPU itself has 4K of onboard RAM. That's enough to hold a decent SRAM test that could run at power-on. If people's SRAMs really are going bad, this would be a way to detect it.
That would also be great. The service manual told me that in case of the boot problem I was experiencing I had to swap out the SRAM chip with one of another brand, but if that isn't needed I'd rather leave it alone.

Another problem I've been having with my Andromeda is that voices 3 and 4 often get stuck in the digital effects, like a reverb will go on forever on those voices. Without the effects they are perfectly fine, no tuning errors or anything. I'm thinking it might be the ribbon cables, but I don't know how the digital effect logic works.

EDIT: Well, I'm a few pages into reading the boot troubleshooting thread and it seems like the simple addition of a pull-up resistor to the SRAM chip could solve my boot problem, that would be fantastic! It is great to have all these informative threads now, after years of no information at all. Thanks to everyone involved in all the research, keep it up!

Last edited by LamerDeluxe; 23rd July 2015 at 09:07 PM..
Old 23rd October 2015
  #126
Gear Head
Hi!

Any progress on this project lately? Just curious :-)
Old 24th October 2015
  #127
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

I've been working temporarily on something else for a few weeks, but definitely have not forgotten about the Andy. There's nothing specific to report at the moment. I have made a goal to release *something* (however inconsequential that might be) at the end of the year.
Old 16th November 2015
  #128
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
I definitely don't have the expertise to make any hardware changes. As for A6 CPU replacement in general, my guess is that it would be next to impossible.

That said, it might be possible to find some small room for improvement in the software implementation of the envelopes.
I went through an interesting 4-6 month period in 2012 reaching out to various folks who built the Andy, including the 3rd party contracted to write the OS.

A few things came out of it:

1. Alesis and the folks that built the A6 really don't care or want to be bothered - after all the A6 was sadly a large factor in Alesis going bust.

2. The original chap who coded the OS, has earlier source code (it was further modified by another member of the Alesis engineering team) but can't share due to an NDA/copyright and Alesis are unwilling to share due to copyright and bureaucratic bollocks - they were quite rude tbh...

3. The coldfire CPU is underpowered and really at the limit of what they could do in terms of updating all of the S/H's, the easiest and most sensible thing to do would be to replace the entire digital board.

4. I had also read Alesis hit some limitations as to how quickly they could update the ASIC S/H's, but until someone is able to provide addressing for the ASIC S/H's I am unable to build a test harness to test this.

5. The 8051/2 micro that runs the screen and scans the buttons is also under powered - it shows when programming the A6. The code for this would also have to be looked at...

Much like many recent micro replacement mods for older Roland synths, the simplest option would be to reverse engineer the ASIC addressing and build a replacement digital board. Maybe Alesis would be happy to share the addressing info as this wouldn't be a copyright issue... who knows... As per point 5, the 8051/2 would also need new code as we don't have the source nor have an understanding of the serial (I2C?) protocol between the Coldfire and the 8051/2.


Kind regards

Indigenous
Old 20th November 2015
  #129
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by indigenous View Post
Alesis are unwilling to share due to copyright and bureaucratic bollocks - they were quite rude tbh...
I understand that they can't be bothered with all the hassle when there's nothing to gain for them, but being rude is pretty unprofessional. They could at least offer a license with an NDA at a reasonable cost.

Quote:
3. The coldfire CPU is underpowered and really at the limit of what they could do in terms of updating all of the S/H's, the easiest and most sensible thing to do would be to replace the entire digital board.
Would that really be relatively easy to do? Apart from controlling the analog chips it also handles the midi and pedal ports, knobs and buttons and digital effects with AD and DA conversion. It would be awesome though if it was practically possible.

Quote:
4. I had also read Alesis hit some limitations as to how quickly they could update the ASIC S/H's, but until someone is able to provide addressing for the ASIC S/H's I am unable to build a test harness to test this.
It would be really interesting to know what the rate is those chips can handle. Faster modulation would be such a big improvement.
Old 1st December 2015
  #130
Any word on the how this is going?
Old 4th December 2015
  #131
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

@analoglsd: No news currently. Still working, slowly.
Old 14th December 2015
  #132
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I've enjoyed reading through this thread and seeing people are making an effort to update the Andromeda.

I've played it many times before. One thing I didn't like about it is that it does seem to have "lag." I always feel like the machine is not immediately there with me, even when pressing a note down! And reading about the computer processing lag seems to at least support my basic impression.

It's a shame that the Andromeda is no longer in production, let alone an updated version or spin-off version, when the market has finally come along to what Alesis foresaw over a decade ago!
Old 1st February 2016
  #133
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

Update. Work on A6 OS for the past three months was sporadic while I spent time learning the Haskell and Rust programming languages, and on some open-source work that arose from my day job. I've learned that I am very easily distracted into side projects of side projects. I didn't say much about it here because of anxiety over posting messages of non-progress.

Regardless, work on A6 OS is picking back up. I've decided to post my commit messages (i.e. a log of every little code change I make) on Twitter. If anyone is interested, they can check that Twitter feed to get a feel for how fast or slow things are going, and what I'm working on from day to day.
Old 1st February 2016
  #134
Gear Head
great news!
Old 1st February 2016
  #135
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pounce's Avatar
 

very interesting. I'm also left wondering if eventually updating the processor in the A6 will be a move that makes sense. (ala gligli and related updates to other synths) seems a slightly tweaked os and a more modern cpu could be a lovely way to keep an A6 going for a very long time.
Old 1st February 2016
  #136
F5D
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Great! Following now in Twitter too!
Old 1st February 2016
  #137
Lives for gear
Not that I know anything about coding, engineering, etc., but given that you already have the hardware to work with, would it be remotely easier to start from scratch with an entirely new J# Minor OS? I imagine it would be like trying to write LINUX from scratch....
Old 1st February 2016
  #138
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Mefistophelees's Avatar
Recreating the digital board in one thing. I wonder how difficult it would be to replace the voice chips.
I expect the circuits are based on existing circuits so that bit wouldn't be difficult. Getting them to sound right is the difficult bit.
This would have to be done as SMT parts on a circuit board so another problem is fitting them into the A6 case.
Old 2nd February 2016
  #139
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Its all jibber jabber on twitter so far but its very exciting to see things moving forward.
Old 7th February 2016
  #140
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GYang's Avatar
It is the best part of this forum.
Enthusiast doing impossible with fantastic machine.
Hope you will achieve what is planned and deserve your place in GS Hall of Fame, as few other guys who did excellent upgrades/updates to other machines.
Old 7th February 2016
  #141
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Rufuss Sewell's Avatar
I feel like the biggest waste on the A6 are the mod buttons. There are tons of these mod buttons all over the panel, and they don't do much.

I'd love to be able to hold the LFO 2 mod button and twist a filter knob and have the mod assigned. Seems like a no brainer.
Old 9th March 2016
  #142
Gear Head
Stumbling across this Jomox video reminded me of this project, this was my reply in that thread I saw it in:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVUW1VqkGMw&app=desktop

Good find, ever since picking up an Alesis Andromeda when it came out in 2001 I've been obsessed with the possibilities of digitally-controlled analogue systems. Hell if I'd gotten into electrical engineering instead of computer science I'd have readily made an attempt at starting a company with that architecture as the central design principle, like a DCAS Model 1 to start.

It's really getting the best of both worlds because you get all the automation and recall, with a custom NRPN MIDI spec you can record and playback just about every parameter, every knob movement, button press, ribbon jam, whatever you want. The possibilities are endless in the digital control layer and yet you still get pure analogue from oscillator to loudspeaker.

It's too bad the Andromeda project wasn't managed better, who's to say if it directly caused the bust or if they knew they were going down anyway and said ah hell why not make our last run an epic against impossible odds and see how far we get..

Someone needs to follow in their footsteps. (ow well do any potential Andy/Jomox users who read this think Jomox is doing just that? Any other contenders in the niche world of digitally controlled analogue? The Korg Minilogue is a 1/4 of the Andy, voices alone, but maybe being stable and responsive is what matters at the end of the day? Who else?

...

Anyway, in the meantime, if there is any way to help out with this project, I think in this case CS would be more helpful than EE. I just hope it's not a lost cause and it's not an insurmountable amount of work to succeed in achieving any kind of a non-trivial OS update at all (not to sound negative, I really truly wish this!)
Old 4th August 2016
  #143
F5D
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J# Minor, can you give an update of how far do you estimate you are in the process of building the OS? It is amazing that you are going through such an effort. I, and many others will definitely pay you, once you get it working and if updates can be arranged for this great synth! Keep it up!
Old 4th August 2016
  #144
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Yes, hope the project is still alive and kicking!
Old 4th August 2016
  #145
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

It's still alive, just going very slowly. I've also been splitting time between the A6 OS and other personal projects, as mentioned previously. You can always check the Twitter feed to see how much it's getting worked on.

Not too long ago, I mapped out the memory buffer where the raw ASIC data values are stored as they are being firehosed (via DMA) to the voice board DACs to, well, control the synth. My next task along this line is to find what code modifies this buffer; I hope that will lead to how modulation happens. The mod engine is still mostly a big question mark.

There are still a few front-panel controller commands that I haven't figured out what they do. That's another active area of research.

More recently, I got fed up (again) with a limitation of the GNU assembler, wrote a preprocessing tool, and converted my existing code to the new syntax. If this sounds like a similar update from earlier in the thread, that's because this is the second time that has happened. So far, I might have spent more time on yak-shaving than on actual reverse engineering of the code!

At this point, given my slow pace and the mountain of disassembled machine code to spelunk through, we're looking at it being years before a substantial update is released. I wish I could be as productive as the Matrix 1000 hackers, but that's just not how it's working out.

BTW, unless plans change, I'm moving to Canada in January. I'll be spending most of my time there, but will be traveling back to the US quite a bit for work. At some point, I'll need to buy a second Andromeda up north so I'm not without one for months at a time. I think it's only prudent to have a spare machine anyway.
Old 5th August 2016
  #146
Gear Addict
 
J# Minor's Avatar
 

So, I meant to ask this.

Who would like to use a tablet or computer as an external display for the Andromeda?

A simple hardware mod would be required. The OS communicates with the FPC (front panel controller) over an RS-232 serial line, using a protocol that I mostly understand. The signals pass over the 40-pin ribbon cable between the main PCB and the front panel. The mod would need to tap the data-send pin and expose it on the rear panel of the A6, in some way that a tablet or computer can consume it.

Benefits: larger, brighter, higher-res display, custom colors, etc.

I'd need someone to make the hardware. I (or anyone) could write the remote display app.

FWIW, the serial baud rate is an unusual one at 156250 bps, so the consuming device would need to support that. In the worst case, we could use a cheap embedded board like a Raspberry Pi to translate the signals into something more easily consumable.
Old 5th August 2016
  #147
Oli
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
A simple hardware mod would be required...
How about a micro board with serial comms to Bluetooth transceiver?

Given it is an uncommon Baud rate, might be easiest to make a custom board.

Last edited by Oli; 5th August 2016 at 01:51 PM..
Old 5th August 2016
  #148
Gear Addict
 
J# Minor's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oli View Post
How about a micro board with serial comms to Bluetooth transceiver?
Good idea, as long as the lag is acceptable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Oli View Post
Given it is an uncommon Baud rate, might be easiest to make a custom board.
Now that makes it not such a simple hardware mod!

I figure (without any evidence yet) that since the MCF5307 has programmable baud rates via a divisor register (rate = 30 MHz / 32 / n), then probably some other, cheap boards can do that too, if not a USB/RS-232 adapter itself. Still need to look at all of those options.

I'm interested in an external display, but is anyone else?
Old 3rd November 2016
  #149
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post

I'm interested in an external display, but is anyone else?
DEFINITELY!
Old 3rd November 2016
  #150
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NEXUS-6's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
I'm interested in an external display, but is anyone else?
Me too..

Keep up the good work !!
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