Now that we have all our SE-generation MeeBlip hardware available, you may be wondering what the difference is between these models, and which you should get. (Actually, you might be wondering that even if you’ve already got a MeeBlip!)
We have three major models:
1. MeeBlip micro: Project board for true DIYers – no case, no knobs, compact size.
2. MeeBlip SE Build Everything Kit: Build your own full MeeBlip from parts, with some soldering and a bit of time.
3. MeeBlip SE Quick Build: Grab a screwdriver and a few minutes, and you’ve got a full MeeBlip, no soldering required.
How do decide:
- Want to play sooner than later: If you want to get playing as quickly as possible, you should probably get the MeeBlip SE Quick Build. No soldering means you get going just about right away.
- Love soldering: If you’re a DIYer and like to solder, you should get either the micro or the SE Build Everything.
- Need something small and really inexpensive: If you’re short on cash and are happy using a MIDI keyboard or sequencer to control your MeeBlip – and don’t care much about having switches and knobs included – you should get a micro.
- Want to design your own MeeBlip: If you want a board that’s as small as possible to make your own custom form factor, you should get a micro.
In fact, the best way to explain why it’s important for us to offer the micro is to explain why we changed the DIY kit version of the full-sized synth. So many people wanted the faders or knobs that it was simpler for us to just bundle all of it in the kit. That simplicity helps us ship faster and keep costs low for you.
But if you want to build your own custom enclosure and even completely reimagine the layout of the board, the micro is for you.
Here’s the basic idea of the micro:
Make the board smaller. Most of the space on the full-sized MeeBlip board is taken up by accommodating the knobs and switches. By removing those connections from the board, we make something that can fit in smaller spaces.
Let you make up your own layout/form factor. Because we still include input pins, DIYers can imagine a new knob and/or switch layout and make any enclosure they want.
Build a small MeeBlip and just use MIDI. You can also ignore those input pins, find a little project box, and control your MeeBlip via MIDI. The MIDI firmware is designed in such a way that you can even flip a switch by using a knob – so if you have a MIDI keyboard with lots of knobs but no switches/toggles, you can use those extra knobs. Turn it to the right to switch something on, and to the left to switch it off.
Use novel inputs. Want to build a wearable jacket full of infrared sensors to control the MeeBlip? You can do that, too.
Most of our best feedback comes from you, and one micro buyer – Thomas Buzzard – asked a series of questions that summed up what people probably want to know about the micro. (It was funny – I was dragging my feet writing just such a Q&A, and Thomas sort of wrote it for me.)
Thomas, hope you don’t mind – I’m going to steal the conversation between you and James.
Q. I was wondering about a few things: I have seen a few MeeBlips now, the original/the SE/the micro. Is the software for the micro the same as the original or is it the SE program?
A. The micro has the same synthesis engine as the MeeBlip SE — it’s same firmware and the same audio hardware (minus a volume knob, of course). To the greatest extent possible, we do try to keep all of our hardware ready with the latest firmware and improvements.
Q. I see that the micro has fewer knobs and switches, but there seem to be more functions that are accessible exclusively via MIDI.
A. That’s right: you can access all of the SE synthesis parameters via MIDI on the micro. You can also connect your own inputs and access most of the parameters via physical controls, but with only 8 switches, not 16 – see below.
Q. What makes the micro different from the SE and the original?
A. No patch storage. the micro doesn’t have patch storage, because it doesn’t have the buttons and switches we use on the full-sized SE to save and recall. The SE has 16 patch memories. On the other hand, because you’re more likely to control the micro via MIDI, you can store MIDI settings on whatever hardware you’re using for control (like a tracker or sequencer on your computer, for instance).
Fewer switches. There are only 8 digital switch inputs on the micro. The SE also has 8 digital inputs, but they’re arranged as a 4×4 matrix (with reversal protection diodes) to allow addressing of 16 switches.
MIDI channel 1. The micro defaults to MIDI channel 1. Again, we saved space by not adding physical controls to switch MIDI channel. Then again, we’ll be talking more about how to make programming the micro part of your workflow with it, and you can always make a small change to the code that will change that default.
Q. How do I program the micro?
A. (Thomas actually didn’t ask this, but you might!) If you want to upload updates from us, or code yourself, you’ll need programmer hardware that attaches to the MeeBlip. We’ve got details of that and instructions for how to program all the MeeBlip models.
Q. I want an even smaller micro.
A. Again, Thomas didn’t ask this, but micro owner Andrew on the forums has decided to make his own MeeBlip “nano” design, in the same vein but with some new notions. We’re also working on a surface-mount version that’ll save more space, though that means you should grab the [through-hole] micro now if you prefer to solder this yourself.
I imagine this still leaves some questions unanswered, so keep asking and we’ll add to this list.