Mix Fractal Bytebeat Vibes with MMXX T-APE

Using math to create digital songs on a PCB the size of a cassette tape.

James Lewis
a month ago β€’ Music
T-APE with included tin (πŸ“·: PhonicBloom)

One look at the MMXX T-APE from PhonicBloom, and you know for sure it creates exciting music. The cassette tape form factor may suggest analog sound. However, it generates sounds digitally using a trick up its reels. The primary sound creation mode relies on fractals, not samples! (Although it does support samples and wavetables too.)

T-APE produces sounds using three methods: wavetable synthesis, sample replay, and bytebeat. The wavetable synthesis generates sine, wave, triangle, and noise waveforms. In comparison, the sample replay mode uses samples from the two megabyte flash memory. That same flash memory comes with 500 kilobytes of animal sounds pre-programmed.

The cassette tape-sized circuit board features an Espressif microcontroller, multiple LEDs, two rotary encoders, two light sensors, capacitive touch controls, and a 3.5mm output jack. Despite having an ESP chip, the board does not appear to break out WiFi nor Bluetooth.

The marquee sound engine is the granular sampler. Even though "sampler" describes it, this mode does not use traditional sampled sounds. T-APE does not even have an analog input! Instead, a sonic fractal generates a bytebeat, which is a program that creates sound.

Inputs change various parameters of the song or can add layers to the songs. For example, you can spin the two rotary encoders positioned where a cassette tape's sprocket would be. (Sadly, you cannot put a pencil inside and turn like with a real tape!) Another input is the touch-based capacitive controls. These alter aspects like delays, variables, and volume, to name a few. The full T-APE manual on PhonicBloom's website has a complete description of the controls.

Listening to T-APE's demo reminds us of an analog Theramin. Interestingly, PhonicBloom says you can use the onboard light sensors to replicate the gesture-motions of one!

Jump to 14:48 for a complete song example

T-APE is for sale on Tindie for $99 USD before shipping (from Ireland.) You get an assembled board, an attractive tin to keep it in, and a manual. Heads up, T-APE supports a 250 mAh LiPo battery, but there is no battery included in the package.

James Lewis
Fan of making things that blink, fly, or beep. Host on element14 Presents, baldengineer.com, AddOhms, and KN6FGY.
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