SudoMaker's RetroWave Is a Raspberry Pi-Compatible OPL3 Soundcard HAT — with Optional USB Adapter

Retro-inspired compact soundcard offers compatibility with Raspberry Pi-style GPIO headers, while a PotatoPi Lite gives it USB connectivity.

Gareth Halfacree
a year agoRetro Tech / Music

SudoMaker has announced a new add-on for the Raspberry Pi family of single-board computers and compatibles, which aims to bring back a computer audio classic: The RetroWave OPL3 Sound Card, and a supporting STM32L-based PotatoPi Lite development board, which can turn it into a USB sound card.

Found at the heart of many classic sound cards, including the Sound Blaster 16, Yamaha's YMF262 chip introduced FM Operator Type L 3 (OPL3) audio to the world. With an iconic sound, OPL3's FM synthesis engine supported 18 channels, simple stereo, and four-channel output - and the same technology, albeit in somewhat more modern guise, is now available for the Raspberry Pi.

The RetroWave brings classic OPL3 sound to the Raspberry Pi or compatible single-board computer. (📹: SudoMaker)

"[RetroWave is] a hardware OPL3 sound card in shape of a Raspberry Zero HAT," SudoMaker writes of its creation. "You can use it to: Turn a Raspberry Pi or similar SBC into a retro music player; enjoy authentic sound while playing games in DOSBox; hack it! Compose Yourself!

"Why not [use] emulators? Emulation is imperfect, or too perfect. It isn't pointless to listen to a real hardware synth chip — even in 2021. It gives you authentic sound that isn't clipped to 44,100Hz sample rate. However now it can be difficult or expensive to setup a working retro computer that supports old sound cards that are even harder to find. So we [came] up with this solution — works with modern hardware, without compromising the sound, and remaining at its full potential."

The RetroWave can also be used with desktops and laptops through a PotatoPi Lite STM32L dev board. (📹: SudoMaker)

While designed primarily for the Raspberry Pi, the RetroWave OPL3 is compatible with any single-board computer boasting the same 40-pin general-purpose input/output (GPIO) header — including the NVIDIA Jetson Nano. For other devices, SudoMaker has also launched the PotatoPi Lite which takes the RetroWave on top and turns it into a USB-accessible sound card for Windows, macOS, or Linux machines.

Both boards are now available on the SudoMaker Tindie store, priced at $30.98 for the RetroWave OPL3 Sound Card — less if the OPA4134 OLP3 chip is swapped out for a TL074, more if you want a brand new OPA4134 rather than a salvaged part — and $19.99 for the PotatoPi Lite, which can also be used as a generic STM32L series development board with Raspberry Pi-compatible GPIO header.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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