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Just completed my Sammich SID Build

Pete Brown - 22 October 2011

I enjoy playing with synthesizers, and I adore my C64. What could be better than putting them together? Putting them together yourself from a kit :)

A while back, I ordered a Sammich SID kit. I didn't have time to complete it at the time, so it sat on the shelf. The stopping point was when I put a transistor in backwards and had to order a replacement and desolder the original. I ordered it, but let the project sit for a bit as the through holes were plugged and it's not like you can just heat the heck out of a transistor lead and push it through.

Midibox is more than SID

The Midibox project (or projects) is a modular system for building all sorts of MIDI devices. Not only are there a number of variants of the SID synthesizer, but also FM-based synths using old ICs off of Soundblaster cards, sequencers, drum machines, MIDI processors, monitors, controllers and much more. The system is really flexible and has a great community built around it. All DIY.

Well, I've just completed it the PCB and control surface, and I couldn't be happier. Here are some pictures.

This first picture shows the two boards after testing and with all the ICs installed. The synthesizer comes as two boards (base and control surface), a kit of components, laser-cut plexi enclosure, and some hardware. Soldering and assembling it is all up to you. However, there is an excellent build guide with step-by-step instructions suitable for beginners and pros alike.


Here's a time-lapse video of one person assembling the sammich SID. You can get a feel for the layout of the board and the number of components. It may seem like a lot, but compared to many other synth kits, this one is relatively simple, and great for folks just getting started.

sammichSID Assembly video

What makes this guy hum (literally, in some cases since the SID is a bit noisy) is a pair of 6582a SID chips. This is the later version commodore synthesizer chip, as used in some of the later products starting in the very end of the 80s and early 90s. The kit supports the earlier higher voltage 6581 chips as well - the ones in just about every breadbox C64 and Commodore 128 made. Those are far more common, but also have a lot more variation from chip to chip. Here are the two chips in my build.



Here's the device running, attached to my setup here at home. Dig those groovy LEDs on top. That was a lot of rapid soldering to avoid toasting them :)


After that, all I had left was to troubleshoot and make sure everything was working fine, and paint the lettering on the enclosure. Now that that is done, I can wrap it up and start on the next one (Oh hellz yes I *did* order a second one, black this time). Of course, I'll need to wait a few weeks for it to post from Australia. I'm also kicking around some other ideas now that I have a better understanding of how to interface with and control a SID without a C64 being involved.

The completed box with painted infill lettering looks like this:



My painting isn't perfect, but the laser-cut paper-covered body made it easy to do a decent job of it.

My thanks to the folks in the Midibox forums who helped me out when I thought I had a short in the board. Turns out, I just need to learn how to use a multimeter when rectifiers are involved. And a HUGE thanks to Jason Williams (Wilba) for putting together this fine kit.

Want to know what the Sammich looks and sounds and looks like? I have the white "Arctic Frost" version, but here are some other builds. The first has some music. Everything but the drums is coming from the Sammich SID. Yes, those are Commodore SID chips making those amazing sounds.

sammichSID with a Midibox 808 drum machine and a sequencer, all home-made

And here's another

Some clubby / house music on the sammich

Of course, it will also be fun to try out SID Player mode and download some SIDs to play on the real hardware, but in stereo:

SID Player Mode Sammich SID

This one is fun too

Dude having fun with his Midibox SID, the Sammich's big brother

I'm still learning electronics. This kit was pretty easy, but just challenging enough to give you a good feeling of accomplishment at the end. Plus, it's one sexy kit.

posted by Pete Brown on Saturday, October 22, 2011
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