CEREBEL-USB: USB to MIDI converter
In one my quests for the ultimate electronic LIVE set rig, I decided to attempt the impossible!! xD… Now, seriously, this project is one of the most interesting, simple yet difficult that t I´ve ever encountered. Because life is hard, but full of beauties… Feeling inspired today… :)
Like many of you, I´ve been bombarded in the last few years with inexpensive DJ, studio and esoteric USB-MIDI controllers. They are those gig friendly devices full of beautiful LED´s, knobs, buttons… problem is that 90% of the time, these devices had nothing more than a USB so they are useless to me.
It´s sad, but the truth is, that today’s market is focused on laptop DJ´s & Live with computers and minimal setup, no offense but these limitations make people like me, who don´t use a laptop on stage, unable to enjoy the cheap, transportable and useful devices in our setup….
Modular synthesizers, analog modules, old computers, retro video games or circuit bent machines could benefit from a little device like this.
USB to MIDI:
I have a friend who is studying engineering and programming, so we talked about this idea of turning USB MIDI devices in to standard MIDI with a 5 pin connector. He doesn´t understand why I keep wanting to avoid computers, so we had an argument… not bad but you know… again, I was alone in the darkness of deep coding…
Happily for me I found enough information around the net on how to use Arduino as a host device and started to try things around, different controllers, keyboards, joysticks, wiimotes…
It´s a fun project because is not limited just to listen to USB-MIDI devices but also other USB devices like cameras, Wiimote controllers, bluetooth devices, keyboards, mouse, joysticks and any USB device in general, so it´s fun to experiment with weird and affordable devices.
USB HUB – MIDI MERGE
One of the most simple and exciting features of CerebelUSB is that it includes built-in HUB functionality, which means that you can connect a cheap USB-Hub and increase the inputs of USB devices. This sounds obvious but it means a lot when you think of the device as a MIDI MERGE unit, where all the USB MIDI devices that you plug in the inexpensive HUB are instantly merged in to a single MIDI output.
The price of an average MIDI-MERGE box is 50€ and up, so considering that the USB also provides power to those devices, you can save a lot of space and cables by powering many USB Midi controllers in the HUB and merge all those MIDI signals in to a single output… awesome.
At first I built a test prototype which was small, but made me reconsider shrinking this project down to it´s minimum size. The whole point of this for me is to be able to use devices that are light and small in my Live set, so CerebelUSB had to be as tiny as possible, almost like a small converter between cables.
I love LED feedback so why not! I decided to add a nice white LED to show MIDI Output activity. As soon as MIDI data is received through the USB and is transformed in to Old School MIDI, the LED will flash, very helpful for troubleshooting or just nice light indicator for feedback in dark environments…
Universal 5V supply:
The device is designed using 5V in mind, this is because providing 5V through the USB will allow all the devices to function properly. The Arduino brain (pro mini 3.3v) can handle from 3 to 12 volts, so it works in that voltage range with no problems … BUT … most devices will need to be powered from the USB and whatever you are feeding to the unit, will be going to the USB… so this will “burn” anything that doesn’t meet the requirements… Of course this is obvious, but is better to avoid any risk and use a 5v DC supply.
More info, and videos coming soon!!
The following video is the first working prototype with a bigger size, the audio is in spanish, so sorry for the people who cannot understand it. I will be making new videos showing the uses of this unit with gameboys, analog synths, Octatrack and other modules…
All the best! from the intergalactic federation.
Over an out.