High speed assembly of a MIDIbox sammichFM synthesizer. The sammichFM is based around the Yamaha YMF262 synthesizer chip (also known as the OPL3) made famous by the soundblaster soundcards of the early 90's. You can learn more about it at MIDIbox.org.

The SMD component audio track is Erik B and Rakim - Don't Sweat The Technique. Great advice for that portion of the project. The audio to the assembly portion is an original tune performed on a MIDIboxFM by TK.


What kind of soldering iron are you using?

An ESD safe Chinese knockoff of a Hakko 936. After having spent a lot of money on nice Wellers and Hakkos over the years I've come to believe that I'm better off with an adequate iron that I don't have to worry about destroying if I need to use it for something it wasn't necessarily designed to do.

What's that on your head?

A Bausch & Lomb magnifier visor with a bunch of stupid stickers on it.

What kind of Multimeter are you using?

A Tektronix DM257. I prefer this one over the Flukes and Actrons I've used. It's a tank.

How did you film those close up parts?

A Celestron USB microscope. They're kind of a pain in the ass to focus and the software that comes with them is shit but, for the price, it can't be beat.

What's that gooey stuff you're smearing on that board?

Chipquik. It lowers the temperature at which the solder will flow. It's used primarily for desoldering and rework situations, but since we're going to go at this SMD stuff as if it were through-hole, it's nice to have.

Why are you soldering each pad of the SMD components individually instead of drag-soldering?

Drag soldering is a pretty easy once you get the hang of it providing you're using an appropriate tip for your iron. We suspect this might be a lot of MIDIboxers' first attempt at working with SMD components. Since the SMD parts here have a pretty reasonable pitch, it's best to treat them like through hole components to avoid the risk of bridging pads. Additionally, it keeps folks who are unlikely to work with more SMD components from having to buy a lot of gear they are unlikely to get much use out of.

How long did it take you build it?

I don't know. Maybe 15 hours, but a lot of that was spent figuring out how to film things, adjusting cameras, and reading schematics. This synth was a prototype so there were no assembly instructions. I think you could probably get it all done in about 6 hours but painting it will still take a day or two.

It doesn't look like you're doing a very good job of painting the engravings.

That's not really a question, but you're sort of right. You really just want to fill the engraving with paint and use a flat-edged piece of scrap plastic to squeegee the excess away. As the paint is pretty thick it takes some coaxing from the brush to actually make it sit in the engraving.

You did *insert thing here* too fast. Can you tell me how you did it?

Of course. I'm happy to answer questions. Which part were you asking about?

If I build this can I make sounds like a DX-7, DS-8, or D-50?

Well, sort of. Like Wilba says, this project may not be a very cost effective way to get an FM synth. Its capabilities are somewhat limited when compared to a lot of retail FM synths, but if you enjoy building more than buying, then this might be for you.

What kind of paint is that?

Testor's fluorescent enamel yellow #1177. I don't know if it's available outside of North America, but there should be something comparable in your area.

Have you made any music with your sammichFM?

Well, kind of. I think FM synthesis sounds sort of cheesey (in a really good and fun way) so I went all out with the cheese: vimeo.com/19025657

Whatcha' Doin'?

Listening to The Residents and answering silly questions that I'm asking myself.

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