In Russia, vintage MeeBlips have custom clones, thanks to open source hardware

The original version of our MeeBlip synth project has found a quirky new iteration in St. Petersburg – and it’s making some terrific grooves.

Let’s start with this fantastic, primal alien-discotheque vibe of MeeBlip Quartet, featuring three MeeBlips SE and one MeeBlip triode (“Rare Russian Edition”), via two splitter boxes.

Perfect for setting the mood on your space station, really.

Open-source hardware in music can have a life past its normal conclusion. Our original MeeBlip synthesizer is now coming up on its ten-year anniversary. And because part of what we’ve improved is the ease of manufacturing our newest hardware, we don’t intend to go back to the original and “SE” model. The new stuff is better. But anyone curious about its circuitry and firmware – or digital filter code in Assembly language for the AVR microprocessor – can find all of that on our GitHub:

https://github.com/MeeBlip

James Grahame did nearly all of the engineering, but you’ll also find copious credits to other contributions. So you’ll see people like Jarek Ziembicki, who made the open-source AVRsynth that inspired us, or optimizations and new waveforms by Axel Werner, one of our early customers.

This also means people can make new MeeBlips of their own – for people who want those oddball earlier iterations, or in countries where it’s more accessible and affordable sourcing local parts than trying to import a complete synth from overseas.

And that’s what Alexey Evlampiev of St. Petersburg, Russia has been up to. He’s been making cool “Russian edition” versions of the original MeeBlip SE and triode, plus the superb open-source FM synth preenfm2, among other gear fascinations. (Speaking of preenfm2 – that project by Xavier Hosxe has built on musicdsp.org, which is an excellent clearinghouse for algorithms from synths to FX to filters, as well as pioneering work by Mutable Instruments, who has made perhaps the broadest variety of open-source synth hardware contributions.)

Here’s a duo of MeeBlips triode (Russian) and Elektron machinedrum (normal Swedish edition, that):

Also digging the retro-green panel on this anode:

Since the Russian Editions are super-limited, we still suggest our official MeeBlip shop if you want to get your synth on, and the latest MeeBlip geode. (We also make low-cost thru boxes aka MIDI splitters, including the thru5 kit if you want to make one yourself.)

https://meeblip.com

It’s funny hearing our older synths, as the geode has definitely improved in sonic features – and we made it easier to build and ship. It’s in stock now:

But I have loved seeing the crazy custom builds people have made over the years by modding our finished synths, using our free and open-source (GPL-/CreativeCommons-licensed) designs, or working with our kits. It might just give James and me some new ideas for panels and knobs and colors and whatnot – suggestions also welcome.

Open source hardware isn’t the right choice for every project – our current synth uses a proprietary USB interface for reliability, for instance. But it’s nice to have it be part of the music gear ecosystem when it makes sense. It also shows that we can make inexpensive gear and exchange information while giving proper credit – real sharing, rather than simply plagiarism.

And I do hope to meet Alexey for a jam session next time I’m in St. Petersburg. Plus I’ve got to get James Grahame over to Russia and Berlin, as I’m sure he’ll love it.

Russian speakers can follow Alexey at his VKontakte site – https://vk.com/grooveboxmusic; everyone else, subscribe on YouTube.

See you at meeblip.com.

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