This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Fixed one lethal Merzbug in Elements.
  • Fixed a couple of serious Merzbugs in Clouds.
  • Reprogrammed the 24 Clouds modules I got from the factory with the bug-free (for now) firmware. Sent a few to testers.
  • Fixed a very nasty problem in Streams through a software+hardware fix (my favorite kind of fix!).
  • Built one Ambika kit, no missing parts! How long does it take to build? Exactly one The Sea and Cake discography. Waiting for the delivery of the hardware parts (spacers, screws & co) to release the kits! The cases are already here. December 2nd or 3rd is probably going to be the date…
  • Wrote more and more DSP code for new module 5. Feeling a bit guilty for solving easy problems, but it’s very relaxing after all the unknown territories I’ve explored when developing this year’s new modules.
  • Went through my list of all glitches/quirks/bugs in past modules and tried to identify smells of them in new modules. So far so good. Looked back at 18 months of production/prototyping screw-ups and created “check-lists” for PCB prototypes, panels, manuals and modules.
  • Compiled all the manufacturing changes/extra QA steps for the new modules. Gave manufacturing order.
  • Tested and packed 250 Volts modules.
  • Finished the CVpal kits.
  • Received new module 5 PCB prototype! Successful board bring-up (LEDs, buttons, CV inputs, audio inputs/outputs, firmware upgrade code and CV calibration routines are tested), after 3 hours of battle (PCB defect, then fried op-amp, then backward soldered op-amp, then stupid software bug that looked like a hardware bug).
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Continued working on the PCB upgrade of existing modules – this week rerouted Ripples and Braids’ PCB for new jack connectors’ footprints, removed +5V requirements, fixed quirks, ordered prototypes.
  • Worked on filterbank / tf2sos code for new module 5.
  • Continued inspecting/testing the new modules for assembly issues.
  • Prepared a batch of 100 new CVpal kits. Almost ready, waiting for the PCBs!
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Reordered new batches of Peaks, Shades, Branches.
  • Rewrote new module 5′s sample rate conversion code. The new code is much more concise and efficient – brought it to new module 1.
  • Remotely followed the factory production/testing of the remaining first 25 pieces of new modules 1, 2, 3, 4.
  • Fixed a bug in new module 3’s firmware.
  • Wrote most of the “structural” code for new module 5 (lots of while (size–) { *out++ = *in++; } waiting to be filled).
  • Started filling the gaps in new module 5’s code. The most difficult bits are over, from now on, it’s just polishing and listening tests.
  • Rewrote some parts of new module 5 code with C++ templates. The goal is to create many specialized, branch-free instances of the signal processing code for the various settings of the module.
  • Tortured new module 4. Found a few quirks but they can be creatively abused, so I’m good. Launched production of batch of 224.
  • Solved nasty mechanical problems occurring during new modules 1, 2, and 4 panel assembly. In the process, found a mythical supplier of non-standard washers – and reviewed assembly procedures for all modules to see if we can benefit from these (and the answer is yes!).
  • Finished building prototypes of revised modules.
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Created technical drawings for new module 5′s panel.
  • Prepared BOM and production documents for new module 5. Ordered a prototype, received postcards from the PCB manufacturer.
  • Ordered panel prototype for new module 5. Hannes did a quick (and as usual, great) job on that one.
  • Tweaked new modules 1 and 2′s code – probably some of the last changes as the release date approaches…
  • Spent a long day at the factory. New modules 1, 2, 3, 4 have been all made in small quantity (4 to 25 pieces of each) and successfully passed the test procedures (minus false positives).
  • Started work on transitioning the production of modules from “half-turnkey” to “full-turnkey”. There are still a few parts that I currently purchase myself (faceplates, pots, jacks, boxes…) – the goal is to have all the inventory bought and managed by my CM. There’s lots of tribal knowledge that needs to be properly written down.
  • Reworked testing procedures for new modules 1 and 2 to account for some of the deviations between units we observed in production. This was also the first time I got to hear the consequences of new module 2′s variations/modulations influenced by the processor serial number.
  • Played with all the first units brought back from the factory.
  • Received prototype PCB of new module 4′s expansion panel, built one. Sent quote request for having it made very quickly.
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Finished writing the user manuals for all new modules.
  • Reworked the calibration procedure for new module 3 – it no longer requires a multimeter and access to a test point on the PCB – I have found a trick in which self-patching the module allows the MCU to measure and digitally trim the parameter that needed adjustment…
  • Ordered prototype PCB of thonkiconned/depentavoltified Edges. This is a low priority, background task, so you won’t hear about this for months…
  • Rushed things on new module 4’s expander front – hoping to make it available at the same time as the module.
  • Reworked Shades and Branches PCBs to use Thonkiconn jacks.
  • Collected notes, bits of codes and sketches into… product specifications and panel UI requirements for new module 5! Created the schematics (it’s digital and has the same innards as new module 1)
  • Designed the digital upsampling/downsampling chain for new module 5 (internal processing is done at 8x or 16x the sample rate).
  • Created the code tree and wrote all I/O drivers for new module 5.
  • Received and shipped lots of modules.
  • Designed the PCB for new module 5.
  • Spent a nice week-end in Metz, panel on electronic instruments with Chapelier Fou, concerts on saturday; and Shruthi kit assembly workshop on sunday.
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Recently at Mutable Instruments

  • (Metaphorically) Fought some fires on the production front.
  • (Metaphorically) Fought some fires on the administrative front.
  • Explored an alternative implementation of a signal processing block in new module 2’s. Provided 15% CPU gain (that could be allocated to all kind of fun stuff), but the implementation trick did not stand well CV modulation.
  • Received Ambika metal cases, housed my old Ambika in one to test it, all good, first batch on the shop.
  • Reworked the PCB of an old module to use Thonkiconn jacks. The change will probably happen somewhere in 2015. It might also be a good occasion to get rid of the +5V requirements for some modules.
  • Designed an expansion module for new module 4.
  • Went hunting for a source of ribbon connectors for new module 4’s expander.
  • Received euro-pallets of modules, started shipping to dealers.
  • Announced that Ambika, Anushri, and Shruthi fancy filter boards will be EOL’ed. Dealt with the freakish consequences.
  • Scheduled a factory tour + QA training session for october 30th. Program of the day: Shelves, Streams, Elements, Clouds.
  • Built the last 33 MIDIpals.
  • Ordered prototypes for new module 4 expansion PCB. Prepared all the documents for the panel production.
  • Worked on a few firmware improvements for new module 3 suggested by a beta-tester.
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Rehearsed the (rather complex) test procedure for new module 3, on a prototype, with the actual equipment used at the factory.
  • Reworked one of the defective PCBs from new module 4 to see how feasible it would be for a DIYer to repair it. Found a rather straightforward way of fixing it (6x parts to desolder, 2x vias to untent, 2x traces to cut, 4x SOD323 diodes to solder, 2x through-hole resistors).
  • Took advantage of new module 4′s retooling to redesign the PCB and group all interesting signal points together. It is now straightforward to build an output expansion panel for it (not sure yet if I’ll leave it DIY or have it manufactured).
  • Received the audio interface with which new module 4’s tests will be done. Validated the test procedure with the reworked module.
  • Built a new prototype of new module 1. Evaluated several samples of illuminated pushbuttons and found a winner. Updated production documents for the 4 modules that use this part. Kudos to Hexinverter for sharing sourcing information! Such sharing of resources ultimately increases the quality of modules across all manufacturers.
  • Implemented new module 1′s data load/save.
  • Implemented a variation of new module 1′s main signal processing algorithm – activated for some extreme combinations of parameters. From now on, the only firmware changes in new module 1 will be audio quality tweaks! No TODO related to the feature set.
  • Wrote quick start manual for new module 1.
  • Found a new paper for the manuals. Ordered manuals for all modules in production.
  • Finished assembling 10 MIDIpals.
  • Planned the production/delivery of modules for Q4. Braids and Peaks will arrive very shortly!
  • Designed the digital decimation filters for a product that works internally at 512kHz.
  • Worked on a number of cosmetic/OCD firmware improvements for new module 2.
  • Received the first 4 pre-production PCBs of new module 3 (20 more waiting at the factory). Tested them and assembled the panels. Given that these are built with parts with tighter tolerances than my prototypes, reworked the range of a digital trimming procedure.
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This week at Mutable Instruments…

  • Caught up with all pending accounting/payments issues.
  • Re-opened the online shop and handled the tsunami of orders.
  • Ordered packagings for new module 2 (they won’t come in white boxes).
  • Started the hunt for new packaging suppliers, and for new toys!
  • Went hunting for new papers/printers – as the “Laguna” paper used for all the module manuals so far is no longer available.
  • Implemented new module 1′s soundhack-ish easter egg.
  • Improved the quality of some DSP algorithms used in new module 1, benchmarked code speed.
  • Implemented a signal analysis tool (based on ESPRIT) to get some insight from audio samples and tune some parameters of new module 2.
  • Solved a bug in Ambika’s handling of the sustain pedal when cyclic voice allocation is used.
  • Received the last 30 Peaks and 10 Frames. QA’ed & shipped.
  • Ordered panels for new module 1 and 2 (250 each).
  • Implemented the routines for saving/restoring new module 1′s state and programmable data (fun fact: module 2 is modeless).
  • Received 100x CVpal alu panels. Bagged them all, available on the shop!
  • Rewrote some horrid boundary checking/buffer arithmetic code in new module 1 into something I (hopefully) will still be able to understand in a few months.
  • Rewrote new module 4′s factory testing tool to give more usable visual feedback of measurements (switched from pyGTK + matplotlib to SDL, FPS went from 4 to 60). Configured testing machines.
  • While reviewing the factory testing procedure, found a hardware bug in new module 4, occurring when high CVs are applied to a pair of inputs.
  • Solved the bug in new module 4. Butchered one of the prototypes to validate the circuit – which unfortunately will require PCB and stencil retooling. Did LTSpice simulation to confirm the bug and fix. I’ll have 24 boards assembled with the fix in less than 3-4 weeks, validate them, and then continue with the 200 remaining ones end of the year.
  • Prepared a new set of production documents for new module 4 – with the fix.
  • After a rather frustrating patching session, reimplemented the last of the 4 main modes/functions of new module 3. I’m now quite happy with it, and we have a golden firmware file for the testing of the pre-production run (available next week).
  • Got my hands on new module 2, back from a tester. Tested and optimised the DSP code of the Autechre-inspired easter egg mode.
  • Combed through Peaks’ source code looking for possible embarrassing bits. Found nothing scary. So published it!
  • Received 24 “stillborn” new module 4 PCBs (1 panel of 6 fully populated, 3 panels of 6 with SMT). Verified that at the exception of the bug, everything else is OK.
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This week at Mutable Instruments

Reminder: I’ll close the online shop on sunday (7th) and will reopen 2 weeks later (21st).

  • Resumed work on new module 1’s firmware. Currently the plan is to restart everything related to DSP from scratch since I’m still not happy with it (UI and all is fine, though…).
  • Demo’ed new modules to the Modular Square guy. Everybody agrees new module 2 is going to be awesome.
  • Put out fires on the module testing front: first the display of a module testing unit requiring replacement (1 day of testing lost), then a damage PSU (1 more day), and finally a dead JTAG box (2 days of testing lost before the replacement was shipped).
  • Received shipments of Peaks, Edges, Ripples, Frames. Slowly working through backorders. 125 Peaks shipped to dealers, 50 or 60 more dispatched on monday.
  • Worked on a custom MIDIpal app for a demanding customer. This is probably the last time I’ll do this as it was ridiculously time consuming…
  • Implemented new module 1′s state saving and V/Oct calibration procedure.
  • Developed the software tool used for the factory calibration/testing of new module 1.
  • Implemented half of new module 2’s easter egg (which probably deserves to be a module on its own).
  • To counteract the imminence of the Blanchotian disaster, went shopping for PET COOLS.
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This week at Mutable Instruments

  • Wrote the factory testing procedure for new module 4 (script, software tool, and a short code update for the module tester).
  • Finalized BOM and production documents for new modules 1 & 2.
  • Finally ordered the production of new modules 1 & 2 ; 25+225 each. New module 1′s firmware is still far from being done, but I want to make sure everything will be ready to roll production-wise once the firmware is finished.
  • Prepared a big shipment of jacks and pots for new modules 1 & 2′s production.
  • Fixed some minor annoyances in new module 3′s firmware.
  • Fixed some minor bugs / did some minor UI tweaks in the Shruthi firmware.
  • Had a couple of good ideas/breakthroughs about a complex oscillator algorithm that is very likely to become new module 5. I’m going to try avoiding getting too excited about it before I finish new module 1′s code first!
  • Set up a new (laptop) workstation for when I’m on the go… I’ll travel and close the online shop between september 8th and 24th.
  • Received 150 Ripples, verified a random sample of them. Rest of the stuff (Peaks, Yarns, Frames, Edges) will slowly arrive throughout next week.
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