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Andromeda A6 OS Update Project Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 23rd July 2014
  #1
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J# Minor's Avatar
 

Andromeda A6 OS Update Project

I'm starting a personal project to build an updated operating system for the Andromeda A6.

An OS update has been discussed on and off for the past decade. Usually the thread ends with the speculation that Alesis/Numark/InMusic won't help. The original A6 team has disbanded, Alesis won't release the source code, an so on. AFAIK, beyond some wishful thinking and, perhaps, a few emails to Alesis, not much action has been taken.

I'm a professional software developer. I grew up on C, assembly language, and bare metal programming. That puts me at least close to the right skill set to understand and improve an A6 OS. So, I'm going to give it a try.

In the best-case scenario, this project would be done with the blessing and support of Alesis/Numark/InMusic. I’m willing to sign the appropriate agreements (an NDA, for example) and to keep the source closed — whatever is necessary to get Alesis on board. Failing that, plan B is to reverse-engineer the software. There seems to be enough technical information available on the A6 that it just might be possible. Maybe.

I am not a lawyer, but my understanding is that it is legal to reverse-engineer software. To be sure, at some point I will talk to a lawyer to verify that I'm in a good legal position. I do not intend to compete with Alesis or to infringe upon any of their intellectual property. My sole aims are to fix known issues in the A6 and to implement missing features.

This is a closed-source project. In fact, nothing gets released until I know where I stand legally. With that said, I intend for the updates to be available free of charge.

There is a good chance that this project will fail. The technical challenges are enormous. The legal aspect might not work out. Even if the project succeeds, it will take months or years before there is anything to release. So please, keep your expectations low.

There's no web site or forum. This is basically just me working nights and weekends until something useful happens, or until I give up.

If there is interest, I will provide regular status updates in this thread. Let me know if there is a better place for me to provide them.

Last edited by J# Minor; 28th July 2014 at 05:29 PM.. Reason: No longer intend to charge money.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #2
Wish you luck!
Old 23rd July 2014
  #3
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So here's where we are after five days of work.

- Reached out to Alesis to see if they'll cooperate. This was a voice mail message left with an Alex S. No response yet.

- Found lots of documentation on the Internet. A6 service manual, a set of A6 schematics, ColdFire CPU manuals, and others.

- Discovered the basic internal architecture of the synth: kinds of components used, what component does what, how they are interconnected.

- Successfully decoded the OS 1.40.12 and OS 1.40.13b .syx files to produce the actual binaries inside. Currently I can't do the reverse (re-encode), because I haven't discovered how the checksum works in A6's update format. This is an area of active investigation.

- Obtained the tools I need both to disassemble the existing code and to compile/assemble new code.

- Identified the OS initialization code and began disassembly.

QUESTION: Does anyone know a specific person at Alesis whom I should contact? I'd like to reach someone like a product development manager that might have enough pull to get papers in the mail for me to sign.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #4
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pounce's Avatar
 

Would be delighted to see this happen
Old 23rd July 2014
  #5
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cramseur's Avatar
This article name drops some of the people at Alesis who were involved in the project.

MATRIXSYNTH: Making the Andromeda A6

May be some place to start looking.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cramseur View Post
This article name drops some of the people at Alesis who were involved in the project.
Ah, thanks! That one came across pretty early in my searches.

The OS binary actually contains a block of text listing the names of the entire team.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #7
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NEXUS-6's Avatar
 

If anybody can do it its you J# Minor!!!

Subscribed..
Old 23rd July 2014
  #8
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Go J#
Old 23rd July 2014
  #9
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I will be keeping my eyes on this thread, great news, good luck.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #10
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Rufuss Sewell's Avatar
I'll be happy to beta test!
Old 23rd July 2014
  #11
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Glad to hear someone finally does this... or at least tries to. Too bad I sold my Andy a little while ago.. felt like sitting on a timebomb.. lol. Now if only there'd be a way to fix the awful pots Alesis used on the andy, I might look into getting another one
Old 23rd July 2014
  #12
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The main issue I have to the current OS is the travel on the matrix encoders
Are way too finicky if there was a way to break their travel up into manageable
Increments for fine adjustment, maybe a combination of a button press and a knob twist to slow the action down.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovekrafty View Post
The main issue I have to the current OS is the travel on the matrix encoders
Are way too finicky if there was a way to break their travel up into manageable
Increments for fine adjustment, maybe a combination of a button press and a knob twist to slow the action down.
I'd say the other way around.. maybe use 10% of the range of the pots in normal mode, and use the full 100% with a shift key or something.

Or maybe use some kind of exponential way to control the pots, with the most useful range (about 10%) in like 25 to 40% of the travel of the pots, and up to the crazy range as you move to the extremes
Old 23rd July 2014
  #14
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My #1 request....

A pan spread knob. It can be a soft knob. I just want to be able to spread a detuned Unison-X patch across equally L to R.

0 = all voices center
64 = equal spread
127 = 8 voices full L, 8 full R

Of course, an LFO to control the spread would be amazing.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #15
F5D
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I might be interested in this, although I have never faced any real problems with my Andy. Good luck with the project!
Old 23rd July 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rufuss Sewell View Post
My #1 request....

A pan spread knob. It can be a soft knob. I just want to be able to spread a detuned Unison-X patch across equally L to R.

0 = all voices center
64 = equal spread
127 = 8 voices full L, 8 full R

Of course, an LFO to control the spread would be amazing.
Try using the individual voice outputs and pan them on your mixer however you want. You should be using them as they sound better anyway...
Old 23rd July 2014
  #17
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Good luck with the project.
If you need any help just shout.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #18
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Wow, good luck. I know how much of a pain that can be...

My main complete I had with Andy was the small soft knobs, with daft .xxx values instead of normal / logical increments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
- Successfully decoded the OS 1.40.12 and OS 1.40.13b .syx files to produce the actual binaries inside. Currently I can't do the reverse (re-encode), because I haven't discovered how the checksum works in A6's update format. This is an area of active investigation.
This is the same point I'm at with my Elektron Octatrack editor, yeah, it works, and I can use it, but as I can't 100% guarentee the checksum calculation... can get corrupted projects too often
Old 23rd July 2014
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovekrafty View Post
The main issue I have to the current OS is the travel on the matrix encoders
Quote:
Originally Posted by payt View Post
I'd say the other way around.. maybe use 10% of the range of the pots in normal mode, and use the full 100% with a shift key or something.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rufuss Sewell View Post
My #1 request.... A pan spread knob.
Both good ideas. Another popular one is poly AT response over MIDI. There's a pretty good bug/wish list over at over at electro-music.

If this project gets far enough to start making fixes, I'll make sure there is some sort of online tracker to manage these and vote on the most important. That's still quite a ways off.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty_OHara View Post
This is the same point I'm at with my Elektron Octatrack editor ... I can't 100% guarentee the checksum calculation
I can imagine. The strategy I plan on trying next is a comparison of the 1.40.12 and 1.40.13b binaries. Featurewise, there isn't much change between them. Hopefully that might give a clue on the checksum formula.

Last edited by J# Minor; 23rd July 2014 at 05:21 PM.. Reason: Type
Old 23rd July 2014
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J# Minor View Post
Both good ideas. Another popular one is poly AT response over MIDI. There's a pretty good bug/wish list over at over at electro-music.

If this project gets far enough to start making fixes, I'll make sure there is some sort of online tracker to manage these and vote on the most important. That's still quit a ways off.


I can imagine. The strategy I plan on trying next is a comparison of the 1.40.12 and 1.40.13b binaries. Featurewise, there isn't much change between them. Hopefully that might give a clue on the checksum formula.
you have a PM.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xparis001 View Post
you have a PM.
Replied.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #22
I'm definitely following this thread. As much as I love the synth, it sometimes crashes and has some strange behaviour going on at times. And new features would be epic to say the least.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #23
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.
Old 23rd July 2014
  #24
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It would be nice to see if there is an alternative CPU to put inside to get rid of the annoying engine optimizing algorithms. That was the main reason I sold it. The current CPU is not fast enough to calculate stepping free envelopes . You have to choose whether you are going to program a fast sound or slow sound...and then choose the right engine algorithm.
If picking one algorithm optimized for fast attacks and then making a slooooow attack...yes that is not sounding very analogish...
Old 23rd July 2014
  #25
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This is great news. Full support. Have you spoken to Dave Bryce about this? He works on Keyboard Mag and was a big part of the A6 team.

David Bryce's Music Web Site

I think he's on here too. Gearslutz.com - View Profile: Bryce
Old 23rd July 2014
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Firechild View Post
It would be nice to see if there is an alternative CPU to put inside to get rid of the annoying engine optimizing algorithms. ... The current CPU is not fast enough to calculate stepping free envelopes.
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.
Old 24th July 2014
  #27
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Maxadax's Avatar
 

Sounds like hard work, but I don't know much about software programming. Good luck!
Old 24th July 2014
  #28
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The Andromeda certainly deserves this update
Old 24th July 2014
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldphinga View Post
Have you spoken to Dave Bryce about this?
Thanks for the recommendation. I'll add him to the list.
Old 27th July 2014
  #30
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Status Update:

- Got another potential contact close to Alesis. Have not received a reply from anybody yet.

- Received a bootloader .syx file from a user at electro-music. Decoded it to produce the binary. Awesome!

- Discovered how the OS update checksum works. I can now package a new update, should one ever be produced.

- Switched over to disassembly on the bootloader. Currently, it's slow going, because (as in any OS) the early code is concerned with initializing the many pieces of hardware attached to the CPU. Every opcode has me going through documentation to learn about some new chip feature. While I don't ever expect to be fast, I do expect speed to improve as time goes on.
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