We're in beta!

Fresh off the heels of Knobcon, the largest synthesizer convention in the world, we are proud to announce that we are launching the public beta of the Believotron Wanderlust synthesizer.

The beta is free and open to participation. Beta hardware will be available for pre-order mid-october. If you're intrigued, sign up for the beta.

The alpha really outperformed on many different fronts, thanks to the robust design of the Axoloti controller. I was expecting sloshy knobs, or capacitive touch triggers that had about 20 ms of jitter. I was blown away by how crisp and regular the triggers were. Once we realized that we had a serious jambox on our hands, we whipped up various menu chains to prove that you can get things done without menu-diving. And then we stopped.

We stopped, because as we stared across tables and corkboards of sketches, workflows and ideas, we realized that menu control is deeply personal. If you have a favorite or least-favorite synth, you'll know what I mean. Some instruments sound profound, but require a strange ritual of click-clacking a gesture across the magical meta buttons. And that kills the jam. So we stopped.

We stopped, because at this point, it's foolish to design a general purpose, reconfigurable synthesizer without you. Without an instrument in your hands, no flowchart or state diagram is going to predict what makes you productive, joyful, or in a deep synth vibe.

So! Start doing your synthesizer dance! We're flipping a board and should be ready to take reservations by mid October. If you haven't signed up for the beta, head on over.

Hardware Status

  • Knobs: The knobs work wonderfully. Able to roll as many as you have fingers and dexterity. No noticeable clipping or jumping. Was able to connect to a 16-step sequencer to use knobs as pitch control. Volume knob is invaluable. Wish there was room for more knobs.
  • Padcaps: Work flawlessly. Really great reaction time. Its using a naive polling method, rather than using the irq bits, and it still triggers accurately. You could literally get three octopi and they could touch all the pads simultaneously, or with some sort of magical mollusk pattern and it would trigger. Whether routing to menu systems, triggering notes, or samples from the SD card, the padcaps work well. The piano isn't as expressive as a mechanical keyboard, but I think the functionality for rhythm, simple melodies, and arpeggiation make it an extremely versatile interface. I like it better than the squishy buttons of the small jamboxes from the last 15 years. Those *feel* good, but they squish up your rhythm. Modern fingers have become accustomed to precise control on tablets and smartphones. The multi-touch on this thing is a dream. We're extremely lucky we didn't mire ourselves in six months of capacitive touch tuning. The future is wonderful!
  • XY Joysticks: I picked up these two joysticks on a lark. They're really tiny on my fingers. I haven't found a top for them, so they're a little pokey. They work flawlessly. I'm not sure they're travel range make them the best, but they're located right next to the keyboard for pitch / expression bending. I'm excited to hear what people think about these.
  • LEDs: Funny thing happened on the way to the LED store. Against my own nature, I ordered a reel of LEDs from a brokered source. They were the wrong model, and I think they may even be a strange variation on that model. I'm going to get actual samples and put them through their paces, because these LEDs have some really remarkable colors. The original APA102Cs worked just fine for the Makerfaire demo, which means we're going to have an LED bake-off! I'm also planning on replacing the voltage translators because they had issues with some 3.3V logic systems.
  • SCH: The schematic is a confusing mess. I used a CAD tool that has a lot of positive traits, but was a real nightmare to make clear schematics. I'm going to transition to another CAD tool and redraw the schematics so it actually makes sense. It is monumentally important that both a stranger to schematics and a pro can read, understand, and figure out how to modify. The maze of boxes and wires that I got from this software is frustrating and reads like a plate of spaghetti had an aneurysm.
  • PCB: It needs small changes. Well, it needs big changes, but I'm squeezing out one last release on the old CAD tool. The Beta-0 PCB silkscreen won't be extremely readable, but Beta-1 will pierce clarity into the backs of your eyeballs. I'm very picky about PCB readability, but copying the files over to a new CAD tool would delay hardware a couple of months. The general feedback is to get something in your hands now and incorporate all the changes into a B1. I'll make up for it by making a very, very high resolution infographic that explains what everything is and a writeup on how design decisions were made. Until then, if you have a question about a specific part, take a photo and circle what you're curious about and we'll talk about it in beta. I want this to be a very open design process. If someone has a question, it's probably a really interesting question that other people would benefit from hearing asked and answered.
  • Beta-0 PCB Changes:
    • Realign mounting holes. (Upper right is misaligned)
    • Enlarge potentiometer holes. (Footprints. Am I right?)
    • New voltage translator
    • Remove extra jumpers

Software Updates

I've got a lot of admiration for the Axoloti patcher environment. Creating new objects, adding ports, adding code is starting to come together. It's a very robust framework, and it's very easy to build synth models quickly. I'm interested in pushing the boundaries and making dynamic routing and meta menu controls easy. We're going to be tracking our goals and progress on a public taskboard. We'll let you know in the newsletter

Beta Milestones

The beta is a work in progress. We will be reacting to whatever the community chooses to highlight and will add time to the schedule for new ideas that are great. We will start moving things to later phases if they are holding back the beta. Dates and schedule will be recalculated weekly. Hardware will be pre-ordered monthly. The first shipment will be phased so we can focus on a small group of new users each day.

  • Phase 0 (Now)
    • Small changes to PCB
    • Pre-order Beta-zero hardware (Oct-15th)
    • Ship first Beta-zero hardware
  • Phase 1 (Software / Usability testing)
    • Develop UX based on user feedback
    • Develop metal case styles and circulate
    • Develop new SCH / PCB
    • Pre-order Beta-one hardware
  • Phase 2 Beta Shakedown
    • Design out MFG / DFM problems
    • Pre-order Final Release

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.