Ambika FAQ

I want one, but fully built. Will you sell me one please?

All the decisions that have been taken during the design of this product (feature set, choice of processor, board design, part selection) were motivated by one goal: make it a synth that you can build and service yourself – eventually from scratch, with standard self-sourced parts. Because of these choices, the assembly of our products cannot be efficiently automated, and hand-assembly is the only way to go. Mutable Instruments cannot offer this service in a cost-effective way.

However, you might find someone willing to build one for you. You can browse a list of experienced builders willing to offer their services on the Mutable Instruments forums.

Is this thing Arduino powered?

Mutable Instruments’ DIY products use the Atmel ATMega line of microcontrollers, which are also used in the Arduino development boards.

However:

  • Our projects are clocked at 20 MHz, to get the best (and still modest…) performance out of the chip. The Arduino boards run at 16 MHz, and as such, a lot of code coming from Arduino-land will not run on Mutable Instruments hardware without changes.
  • Our projects are designed for firmware upload through a standard AVR ISP programmer, or through MIDI, not with a USB>serial interface.
  • Our projects do not make use of any library, programming style, or development tools coming from the Arduino project.
  • Our projects are stand-alone systems – they do not require Arduino boards as their “brains”.

No USB? 20 MHz 8-bit chip? No DAC? No assembly? Do you know what you’re doing?

Yes, some of the technical choices taken at Mutable Instruments are not particularly cutting edge, or are very unusual compared to standard industry practices.

The reason is that there’s a part of education in Mutable Instruments’ mission; and our DIY products are designed to show you as much as possible what’s going on under the hood, and to maximize the opportunities to get you involved in tweaking things. For these reasons:

  • Only through-hole parts are used – no tiny LQFP surface mount packages!
  • We stay away from MCUs which do not have free/open-source development tools, or which require proprietary IDEs. If it’s not dead easy to get a standard gnu toolchain + programming tool for a chip, we just do not consider it. “Be the change you want to see in the world” etc.
  • We use assembly language only for a small number of signal processing primitives, the rest is written in more readable C++ to make it easier for you to dive into the codebase. Yes, C++, our projects are complex and there are things in C++ that help us structure them better.

A consequence of the first two points is that we are limited in our choices of MCU to the Atmel ATMega series (OK, we’re going to give a chance to these new NXP Cortex-M0 parts!) – which do not features a USB interface – and that we sometimes cut corners in accuracy/signal fidelity to get the most out of these little chips. A consequence of the third point is that there are still a few % of CPU power untapped in our projects, that could be regained by instruction micro-management.

Can Ambika accept the Shruthi filter boards?

No, Ambika voicecards have a different size, signal requirements and power supply voltages from the Shruthi filter boards. More importantly, each Ambika voicecard is like a full-featured, concentrated monosynth, not just a filter!

Is there any kind of warranty or repair service for kits?

We accept returns of goods in the same state as we shipped them (unopened bags of parts). We ship at no cost any part that could be missing or damaged from your kit. In the event you have damaged a part while assembling your kit, we can sell you a replacement.

However, it is your responsibility to ultimately get your kit to work.

In the event of an assembly error, we do not exchange or repair boards. We provide support through the Mutable Instruments forum. Very experienced DIYers are hanging out there and will be happy to join us to assist you.

If your question has not been answered here, you can:

Olivier Gillet, Mutable instruments SARL 2011-2017. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a cc-by-sa 3.0 license.