New Nintendo Cartridge, Chip Maestro, Turns NES Into A MIDI Synthesizer

Developer Jarek Lupinski is working on a new NES cartridge, Chip Maestro, that turns a Nintendo Entertainment System into a MIDI synthesizer.

Here’s what he has to say about Chip Maestro:

The cartridge will accept a MIDI input from any instrument, and by passing the MIDI notes through the NES, the cartridge will make the NES synthesize 8-bits of awesome in true NES squarewavey goodness. See the video for more details!

Most chiptune artists today use ‘software synths’ to try and recreate the sound we grew to love. By providing artists with a low-cost and easy to use hardware solution, they can use a real NES to compose their music, and even play it live on stage! And if you don’t have a MIDI instrument, don’t worry; you can use your PC with an inexpensive USB-MIDI converter, or create your own instrument using Arduinos or other microcontrollers that can output MIDI, so you can turn anything into an 8-bit instrument!

Lupinski is currently raising funds to produce the cartridge at Kickstarter.

via SonikTech, matrixsynth

40 thoughts on “New Nintendo Cartridge, Chip Maestro, Turns NES Into A MIDI Synthesizer

  1. this is a fantastic idea! I wonder if it also gives you access to the 'sound effects, and 'noise' components that help make the sounds, like a true synthesizer, or if it's limited to the piano notes they showed in the video.

  2. Apparently, Wayfar's midiNES has a long long long waiting list. (Have one myself, and absolutely love it)

    I'd love to see what the performance specs on it are, though.

  3. Wow, that sounds like shit. I am so sick of the 8-bit retro bullshit. Who cares how it was made, it's fukkin annoying.

  4. It's not that exciting since the midiNES has been around for a while, but if this is more accessible then I guess it's a good thing. I would rather see something like this for the Genesis/Master System since that has an FM synthesizer chip.

  5. MidiNes is next to impossible to get these days unless 1 pops up on eBay. I have a midiNes luckily, which I got on eBay a few years ago, because dealing with Chris Randall is really frustrating. He's a great musician (xik), a genius for designing midiNes, and I'm sure a swell dude, but he does not reply to any of your emails after purchase, does not update his site to reflect the wait times, he just takes money and then leaves the customers twisiting in the wind for months and months. I had heard the stories, so I ordered a cd from him as a test before ordering MidiNes, and it took over 3 months for him to send it to me! I promptly went to eBay after that. bTW, for what it's worth, MidiNES, once you get one in your hands, is a superb product, well thought out and well made.

    All that being said, an alternative version would be beyond awesome. I don't understand why he didn't go into the technical aspects of the cart in the video though. Does it support all channels of the NES? Are they on separate midi channels? Is there any manipulation of the hardware registers to get different timbres? Does it support hardware volume envelopes? Does it support the DMC channel at all (ie any built in samples or a wavetable synth?). How do you change duty cycle? I could go on and on, I'm sure he mentions it somewhere, but some of that should be in the video, instead of goofy Zelda covers targeting people who don't even do chip music….

  6. I'm also curious about specs. I have a short wishlist of dream bonus features:

    * A mode that would allow two note polyphony on Channels One and Two. (I've used my midiNES in the past to do power chords on songs, and it's a pain to try to recreate that live with them on two different channels)
    * Built in Arpeggios would be also very great.

    Though, just the availability of it makes it seem awesome to me. I bought my midiNES before all the long delays happened, I guess, and I'm always worried about replacing it if I should need to. So it's nice that there is a similar product I could go for if mine should break. Sure beats having to move to emulation.

  7. Hey there, dev here, this thread seems to be moving quickly, so I'll keep my eye on this as well.

    Kickstarters are only given a set limit in which to explain your product. If I didn't have time to address something in the video or in my relatively short blurb below it, I will address it in the technical docs coming out later this week to backers, or in the FAQ section, where I have already begun posting. If you have any other questions feel free to contact me first (its the quickest way to get a response), or back the project with at least $1 so you can get early access at the technical docs and make feature requests.

    Built in Arpeggios are very popular it seems. I will try implementing something using a pitch bend wheel, as that seems to be present on nearly every MIDI keyboard.

  8. I believe midines was made by a gentleman named Chris Kann, NOT Chris Randall, who is the co-head of Audio Damage, Don't throw him under the bus. He makes great products, plugins, etc, at a completely reasonable price and offers tremendous customer support.

  9. The guy who produced the MidiNES is a terrible communicator. I ordered mine in the summer of 2008, paid $100, and he still has not sent one, nor has he responded to any of my emails. I envy those of you who received yours. I will probably never own one.

  10. Does anyone know of a chip-tune cartridge similar to this or the lsdj for the Genesis/Megadrive? They seem to be non-existent, and I really have nostalgic affection for the Sega sound chip. Not to mention the desire to use it to make some unique tracks.

  11. I think the same thing about rock guitar music, and here we are 60 years later and people are still excited about guitars.

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