If you’re of a certain age — or are a retro-gaming aficionado — you’re certainly familiar with the music that accompanies you on Sega Genesis games while you fight, race, puzzle, or whatever your way to the finish. These tunes are produced on the Yamaha YM2612 FM synthesis chip, giving it and systems like it a beautifully distinct sound.
Thea Flowers grew up listening to Sega Genesis music, and in order to not just hear these 8-bit tunes, but create new music, she came up with the Genesynth. The device uses the same YM2612 6 voice synth chip found in the Genesis, but instead of a gaming console, uses a Teensy 3.5 to interface between it and a USB-MIDI connection. It also packs a new audio amplifier “that far exceeds the original Genesis version,” while still retaining distortion features that are characteristic of the device.
The build went through several hardware and software revisions, and while not entirely done — is this kid of project ever really done? — it looks great with a tiny OLED display, custom PCBs, and a clear acrylic enclosure to show everything off. If you’d like to build your own or iterate on the design, everything is open source — the hardware/firmware files are available on GitHub.