The great thing about having a synth that has a chip for a brain is, it can evolve. So, as we played around with the MeeBlip ourselves, and got feedback from lots of you, it was clear that we wanted to make some changes to the switch and knob layout.
And then began the painstaking process of actually making those decisions. We spent lots and lots of time swapping one switch with another and arguing about what should be there. We’re indebted to you in our user community for giving us some feedback about what mattered to you, and very much, as well, to veteran synthesist, sound programmer, and producer Francis Preve (Keyboard Magazine, Academik Records).
Underneath, there are some significant changes to the firmware that make it more efficient and effective, which we’ll be talking about over the coming days. But let’s start with what this means for actually playing the MeeBlip. And remember, if you don’t like the decisions we’ve made, it’s called a “hackable” synth for a reason. I’m working now on a firmware mod tutorial for changing a knob setting or two, even for beginners who have never touched this stuff before, so you can make sure you’re happy with your ‘Blip.
We’re calling this whole generation MeeBlip SE, but the following descriptions apply to any MeeBlip with a front panel. (The firmware is available on the micro, too, but then of course you won’t have knobs and switches labeled since there aren’t any knobs or switches!)
Here’s a walk through of the new controls:
Knob Shift is on the bottom right. Yeah, we’re not sure why we didn’t do this from the start, either, but it’s fixed now, and more clearly labeled. Also, you’ll be using it less, thanks to other streamlining.
Pulse Width Modulation! A previous firmware introduced a simple, single-speed PWM sweep to one of our two oscillators. I personally loved the way it sounded, and so it’s still there – just throw the PWM sweep switch for instant results. But now, you also get to actually control the width of the Rectangle/Pulse waveform. (For the uninitiated, this adjusts the harmonic content of the rectangular oscillator. Actually, for the uninitiated, just play with it and hear how it sounds!)
Anti-Aliasing! There’s a whole saga behind making this work, but you can now have band-limited oscillators. Switch it on, in other words, and you’ll get smoother-sounding waves across the extremes of a keyboard. Switch it off, and choose to add some crunchier digital sounds when you hit lower notes, which can also sound good. (Again, if you don’t know what we’re talking about, just try it! Add in the Distortion switch for some less-expected sounds.)
New A/D envelopes for amplitude, filter. When you want to adjust the envelope of amplitude (the shape of the sound itself) or the filter, nine times out of ten all you really need is the attack and decay. In the spirit of instant playability and simplicity that motivate the MeeBlip, we’ve reduced to these two knobs. It allows for more efficient use of the chip, it’s more intuitive to understand and play, and most importantly, it allows us to put both dedicated amplitude and filter controls on the main panel – no need for knob shift.
Filter Envelope Amount: Now, you can adjust how much the envelope modulates the filter, via this control when the Knob Shift is in the downward position. That lets you determine how subtle, or extreme, the effect is.
Osc B Enable: Throwing this switch now sets a 50/50 mix between the A and B oscillators. (If you miss the ability to mix with a knob, I’ll show you how to add it back via a firmware mod, but we felt this covered more of our users and some other changes made the cut.)
Clearer Labels, Layout: You’ll notice the whole front panel has changed from top to bottom in appearance and layout. We were inspired this summer – as always – by the work of Dieter Rams, James because he was editing a book, Peter because he got to spend some time looking at old Braun gear in New York and elsewhere. But this isn’t just about design chic: we wanted to make the controls more obvious to users and easier to see in low light. It’s one more step toward making the MeeBlip accessible not only to our more synth-savvy early adopters, but people new to synthesis, because we feel pretty strongly that for both groups, playing around with tangible controls is hard to beat.
Questions? Comments? Complaints? Let us know if any of this is unclear, or if you don’t understand any of the changes. And if you say “boy, I just wish it worked like this…,” let us know that, too, because thanks to the ability to mod the firmware, the hardware really doesn’t have to compromise between what we thought and what you think.