Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Information and discussion about the DSI Tempest.

Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:30 pm

***** DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME . YOU WILL FRY YOUR TEMPEST *****

Sampling the Dream Project Status as at 07 July 2014

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1486470665/sampling-the-dream

I'm just going to put all the project update stuff in here.

One thing I would like to stress though is that we keep things nice and clean. Lets try and pull together to make it work :)

The high level project plan looks something like:

1) Secure Funding - 2 months - Sept 2014
2) Procure dev platform - 1 month - October 2014
3) Develop sample loading and playback in dev - 6 months - April 2015
4) Design and build sample loading mechanism for live - 6 months - October 2015
5) Test above - 3 months - January 2016
6) Beta test - 3 months - April 2016
7) Roll out

The time frames are just guess work at the moment, but will hopefully set expectations. I know 9 people can't make a baby in 1 month, but there might be opportunities to get more people working on it to bring the dates in.

I think a rough estimate for cost for the dev platform would be about £1k.

Wish me luck and please donate to the good cause!


Some background info that people have asked for:

As per the bio on the Kickstarter page:

My first experience making noise on a computer was on a BBC Micro at school, I think it was something like:

10 SOUND 0, -15, 100, -1

In the 30 odd years between then and now, I've played around with various technology, learnt various programming languages, studied Electronic Engineering, taught IT and now work as a Senior Project Manager in for a large organisation in the UK.

My spare time I write apps in Objective-C, prototype electronic gadgets and make awful music.



I've got a few apps in the App Store, the latest one is called QuiverAce, and there's another one called The High Intensity Workout.

http://itunes.com/apps/quiverace
http://itunes.com/apps/the-high-intensity-workout

The great thing about learning a few different languages is that once you understand the basic structures and solutions, it doesn't matter what you're coding in. :geek:


Original First Post

For some reason I was always afraid to post this in the old forum in case I got my wrists slapped, but as this isn't affiliated to DSI, I thought I would go for it...

Does anyone have any experience flashing the Dream SAM3716 chip using ProgSAM?

I've done some digging around and from what I can tell, the samples are MP3, probably stored in the external parrallel flash...

This is how far I've got...

USB Card attached to Dream jumpers:

2014-06-30 19.15.04.jpg
2014-06-30 19.15.04.jpg (48.02 KiB) Viewed 13432 times


And ProgSAM showing destinations.

SAM.jpg
SAM.jpg (43.07 KiB) Viewed 13432 times


The questions I've got are:

1) Where are the MP3s stored?

2) How are they packaged for upload?

3) I am actually barking up the wrong tree?

Anyone got any ideas?
Last edited by GBR303 on Mon Jul 07, 2014 6:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby cbmd » Tue Jul 01, 2014 7:24 am

This is not a good idea.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby spaceshipearth » Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:23 pm

Good luck. Replace it with a SHARC while you're at it!
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby dslsynth » Tue Jul 01, 2014 4:34 pm

cbmd wrote:This is not a good idea.

Quite a bit of understatement I would say. Requires cooperation with DSI if it have to be a good idea at all!

A sysex solution would be a much better even if it involved a lot of encoding on the computer side to pack the samples in a way that is easy for the Tempest OS to write to the flash memory. The user community could write that code for the sample encoding in order to save OS developer effort at DSI.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Tue Jul 01, 2014 5:19 pm

I totally agree it's not the best idea I've had, but having been playing around with computers and electronics for as long as I can remember, I'm totally aware of the risks, and also that it is technically possible.

Also very aware that people are screaming out for this, but it doesn't look like it'll officially come from DSI, but it would be nice to have some friendly advice ;) The last thing I want is people frying their units.

The other option is to fork out a bit of money on a SAM development board and figure it out on that first.

I must admit I'm unclear how the sysex solution would work, as I'm not sure if you can access where ever the samples are stored via the USB, but I might be wrong.

All in all it's a nice old school hack to work on, if we bring enough expertise to the table, hopefully we can crack it :D

BTW: I've started a similar thread over on Muff Wiggler....
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby anigbrowl » Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:21 am

I don't think this would be a good idea. The idea that they're stored as mp3 seems questionable to me - can you explain why you think so? That's a lot of decompression to do for a real-time embedded system, even one with the DSP power of the tempest, whereas RAW/RIFF could just go straight to a D/A.

I looked into getting the Dream SDK and other stuff a while back with a view to hacking on the thing, but their software toolchain costs somewhere over $1000 :?
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:40 am

Okay, here's my thought process so far:

On looking inside the beast the layout is fairly obvious with the bottom half of the board taken up by the 6 voices. Looking at the top half, there's a lot of caps and other analogue 'stuff' on the left hand side, so I'm guessing everything after and including the mixer. The far right looks like power related activities.

The bit that sticks out for me are the 5 big ICs across the middle section, from left to right we have:

What looks like 512Mb of Spansion Flash
The Dream 3716 - Sound Synth and Processing
A PIC 32MX69SF - OS
SST 39VF3201B - 32Mb flash
ISSI IS62WV25616BLL - 256k x 16b Flash

At a guess, I would say the PIC has some software looking after the USB side of things, so translating it to MIDI and that kind of stuff.

Looking at the data sheet for the Dream.... well, the website has just gone down.... but the mention of MP3s reminded me of some posts about the sound quality of the samples, and listening to them on the monitors and headphones, they do lack a lot of depth.

The manual actually states 16bit 44.1kHz so I'm happy to be challenged on this.

I think the main point to make is that while people are saying "this isn't a good idea" there's lots of other people saying the capability is a very good idea. DSI have said that the Tempest is pretty much a closed book now. Although maybe dev is going to continue now, but this might just be to improve the MIDI implementation.

Is the lack of willingness to support custom samples because of architecture, developer time or simply because that's not what the guys set out to produce?

It can't be the first because they got in there in the first place and it would remove all supportability.
If it's second, I'm sure there's plenty of people who would willingly help out.
and if it's the third, then surely that's been proved wrong by the customer base.

I'm sure the last thing people want is a load of bricked Tempests.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby chysn » Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:14 pm

So... you're trying to devise a technique for loading your own samples into a Tempest? If you have access to the memory, you should look for the metadata first (sample name, start and end points, loop points, etc.). The metadata could lead you to the samples and you'll need to know how to change the metadata anyway. I think it's highly unlikely that the samples are MP3s, and highly unlikely that the Tempest itself is able to write to the memory that contains the samples. But if you know what you're doing, good luck, and let us know what happens. I hope the wrist slap from DSI wasn't as bad as you thought it would be.
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Other Hardware: Alesis MMT-8, Korg Volca Beats
DAW: Reaper for OSX through PreSonus AudioBox USB
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby anigbrowl » Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:20 pm

Well, I had just typed 2000 words on this topic summarizing earlier information that went down with dsiform. But then dsi-lifeboat made me log in again after I hit the submit button and threw away everything I had written :shock: It seems DSI-lifeboat makes you log back in every 30 minutes of something?!

So instead of repeating all that, let me post this, which I think will be of considerable (and obvious) interest: http://www.dream.fr/pdf/SndDev/Sound_Pa ... ckages.pdf

I'm guessing the Tempest includes the CleanDrum32 sound set or at least that it provided the starting point for the onboard samples which was then further mixed with DSI's own recordings. Since this provides specific sample sizes, we could unpack the Tempest Sysex (see page 44 of the Mopho user manual on DSI's approach to sysex data packing) and look for correlations in sample size. If we find any exact matches, then we can cut those out and load them into an audio editor to get at the encoding format.

BTW looking through the Dream docs again I see that by default the firmware includes mp3 decoding, which I had forgotten about, so yeah that does seem likely.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby dslsynth » Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:38 pm

Sorry to hear that, anigbrowl! I have had similar problems here and my impression is that its related to cooking handling and forum domain name with or without "www". Not to mention the forum setting a session id url argument which may change if one write the site url into the browser again. The other forum had similar issues at times. And a general problem with web services is session timeout.

A general advice is to copy drafts of a post into a local text file and keep that including its URL and posted version. I have been doing so for a long time now to counter issues as you described. And it has an extra bonus: One can find old posts even if the forum goes down. Quite handy, actually! So that is my recommendation. Keep a local directory on your computer with such files and be systematic in the naming of them.

Hope this helps!
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby anigbrowl » Thu Jul 03, 2014 7:02 pm

There is a possibility that they're encrypted, though: http://www.dream.fr/pdf/Serie3000/Appli ... ection.pdf
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:05 pm

I did the same thing earlier, but managed to use the back button and copy and paste everything.

It's most likely that all the security options have been used, can't see any reason why they wouldn't.

It would be great if the samples were packaged into one of the Sysex files. DSI could publish an update with various options based on genre or something.

I'm not convinced it would be that easy though, I'm curious why the jumpers for the Dream are on the board if it could be updated via USB?

BTW: I'd love to read the rest of the 2000 words :D
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:09 pm

chysn wrote:I hope the wrist slap from DSI wasn't as bad as you thought it would be.


I don't think anyone from DSI has commented yet, have they?

*** EDIT

Sorry apart from Carson :)
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby anigbrowl » Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:38 pm

Well to sum it up very briefly

The two memory chips seem to be 4mb each, one is for samples and the other for OS (probably the high speed one)

I think the PIC handles USB, MIDI, front panel UI, and maybe the sequencer

I think the Dream SAM3716 chip serves the samples and possibly the LFOs and Envelopes

Not sure about the mod matrix, but there's an anonymous DSP chip on there whose label I don't want to remove as it might void warranties. I have a bunch of photos of the circuit boards if anyone is interested, although it's a very easy machine to open up.

It is indeed possible that the samples are stored in mp3 format, decoding is built into the default Dream firmware. You can read more about that here, and it might be worth checking if the sysex matches up with that of the Tempest and/or the Mopho (Pym said the Tempest is almost exactly the same as the latter on the synth side): http://www.dream.fr/pdf/Serie3000/Firmw ... rm3716.pdf

I have some other docs for the SAM3716 but they're aimed more at electronic engineers who need to put it into a board. The firmware and software toolchain are where it's at for most of us. You can buy a dev board from Dream which is basically a full synth on a small PC, their product line is very cool. Unfortunately the limited market means high prices, The full product development kit is $1100 (including a development board with 2 in 4 out, SD card slot, MIDI i/o) or ~$800 for the software alone :|
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:58 am

It's good to have someone else thinking a long the same lines :D

The anonymous chip is the Spansion S29Gl512P10

http://www.spansion.com/Products/memory/parallel-flash/Pages/Spansion%20GL.aspx

http://www.mouser.com/ds/2/380/S29GL-P_00-220237.pdf

Looks like the parallel flash that the 3716 supports.

Also FXpansion are credited in the manual for the samples, so it might not be a default package.

So many assumptions that need to be tested!

I'm almost tempted to go for dev board, I wonder if we could finance it via some form of crowd sourcing?

One scenario is that we could end up being in a place where we know how to upload some "stuff' to the board, in which the samples are packaged up, but we don't know what the rest of the "stuff" is. We could end up having to completely reinvent the wheel, maybe even make it rounder!! :o
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby dslsynth » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:23 am

@GBR303: Well I am sure DSI will love you for going down this route as they can eventually sell you a new main Tempest board for $$$$ once your current one goes completely bananas. ;-)

Or said in another way: You guys are way braver than I am. Chris mentioned a long time ago that the samples were stored in a special format in flash memory on Tempest which essentially can be anything. The best route to replacing the samples on Tempest is that Chris make options for it in the OS. Such a service can be anything from having the users generate a new flash memory contents on a computer and send that to Tempest for replacement of the current sample collection to an easy to use download a new sample feature.

The less effort DSI have to put into the sample replacement service the more likely its going to happen. Which is why I think the basic OS feature version with community delivered software tools is the way to go if sample updates are ever going to happen for Tempest. Still its going to be a substantial effort for all involved.

Another minor detail is that DSI have license only to use the samples hidden deep inside Tempest. If users are going to replace the samples with a completely new sample memory they either have to obtain a license to the current samples they want to keep or brew a completely new sample collection.

I certainly understand why DSI says that they are still looking into said feature.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby MasterVe » Fri Jul 04, 2014 4:21 pm

Why is the tempest memory so limited
When you can buy a 16gb flash usb card
For 9 dollars.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby anigbrowl » Fri Jul 04, 2014 6:57 pm

Oh good find on the Spansion chip. I wonder why they stuck that big 'Tempest DSP 1.0' label on it.

MasterVe wrote:Why is the tempest memory so limited
When you can buy a 16gb flash usb card
For 9 dollars.


That's the million dollar question. OK, flash chips for embedded products have a somewhat different cost structure and it might be that they were working to stay within a budget...but I mostly think they were so focused on the analog synthesis that they underestimated the storage space they'd need at design time.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby dslsynth » Fri Jul 04, 2014 7:02 pm

On the question of flash chip prices my impression of the root cause is "volume discounts". Chris mentioned a while back that they were considering using SD cards instead as they are much cheaper. To the best of my memory discussion were in the autumn before Tempest was released.
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Re: Flashing the Dream Chip with samples

Postby GBR303 » Fri Jul 04, 2014 8:30 pm

anigbrowl wrote:Oh good find on the Spansion chip. I wonder why they stuck that big 'Tempest DSP 1.0' label on it.


Possibly where the guts of the OS are stored.

Having spent a lot more time in the last couple of days reading up on this, the thing that really confuses me is that there appears to be a lot of functionality that isn't used. I'm pretty sure the thinking was that the analogue signal path was to be preserved at all costs, but the 3716's main function is as a DSP. I guess all it's just using the sequencing engine.
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