The MeeBlip micro is a small project board, ready for everything from completely custom synth builds to wearable projects and installations requiring synthesis. (Really. More on that soon.)

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.

If you want a MeeBlip that’s easy to play, right away, the full-sized SE is probably a better choice than the micro. The micro is completely playable via MIDI, but the full-sized SE has dedicated knobs, switches, and even buttons for storing up to 16 presets. You can buy it either as a Build Everything kit, which requires a soldering iron and some time, or the Quick Build, which requires just a screwdriver and can be … um … quickly built.

micro’s Mission

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.

micro Q&A

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.

19 Responses

  1. Will

    Does the micro firmware support a shift register setup for the switches? In other words, if I want all 16 switches do I just wire it up, or do I need to reprogram?

  2. jgrahame

    We`re working on a version of the Micro that has inputs for 16 switches + a few extras.

  3. Spazmatron

    Is there a way to get a single sided pcb image to etch my own board?  

  4. Will

    Cool! Given this new development is it worth it to pursue the shift register mod for the v1 micro?

  5. jgrahame

    I suspect many people will prefer the new micro with 19 switch inputs. It makes a lot of sense for people who are planning to build their own case and use their own potentiometers and switches.

  6. Bruno

    Oh… Ordered mine early this month (should arrive next week), but maybe I should've waited. :-(

    Are there any tutorials on connecting the 16 switches on the current version of the board?

  7. jgrahame

    Hey Bruno, no I haven't created a tutorial — but I could easily draw up a schematic.

    As an aside for others reading this thread:

    The Micro is an excellent choice for people interested in MIDI control of their Meeblip and who don't want to spend a lot of money. It's also an excellent choice for people who want to build beautiful handcrafted cases.

    However, I think some people want the full kit but decide that using the micro and building it using their own parts will save money.

    They often end up spending much more than buying the full synth because nice switches, potentiometers and cases are very expensive. Even the little slide switches we use on the full kits (Mouser part 102-1221-EV) cost $2.58 each in small quantities. That's over $40 for the switches alone, plus another $20 or so for potentiometers and $5 for knobs, plus shipping costs. Suddenly, the Micro-based synth costs well over $100 in parts (and you still don't have a case or front panel).

    Buy the Micro If you want a tiny little project synth and are planning to connect a control or two (perhaps a couple of knobs to tweak the filter in real time), or if you're planning to build a Meeblip into a tiny case (like the Nintendo cartridge mod a resourceful builder made several months ago).

    If you want the full-blown Meeblip synth, get the Quick Build or DIY kit. We buy larger batches of parts and pass along the savings. It will cost you less than doing it yourself and you'll end up with a rugged little case and custom lexan panel overlays.

  8. Bruno

    I went for the micro for immediate costs, and since there wasn't an european source available, to lower the possibilities of it getting held by customs.

    I plan on building a custom case little by little, and may only use some knobs as you suggest, and control the rest with PD, but if it wouldn't be too much trouble, having the schematic would be great too! :)

  9. jgrahame

    OK, will create a schematic. Give me a week or so.

  10. Will

    Cool, thanks!

  11. Bruno

    That's great! Thanks!

    I just built mine last night. Will try it out soon. I'm missing a midi cable. :-P

  12. Bruno

    I just built a simplenzar to use with my micro, and it is working! :-D But I only seem to get a kind of a noise wave. The exposed controls work, though. Any hints on what may be wrong? :-) Could it be the simplenzar code? It seems to be working well. I don't have another MIDI controller yet…

  13. KLH

    For existing MeeBlip owners, can we just upgrade the firmware ourselves or get the $10 preprogrammed micro from the store? Or do we have to buy a full new kit in order to use the new firmware? I'm primarily interested in MIDI control of the MeeBlip parameters.

  14. jgrahame

    You can get a programmed micro to update your original Meeblip to V2 firmware with MIDI control.

  15. Nat601

    Hi James,

    Any progress on the schematic  for the 16 switches?

  16. Domenico

    Hi all,
    I'm planning to buy a meeblip micro and put it into a classic wooden case with an aluminium case. I'm a little confused because cannot understand really which function are available for knobs and switches. Could you help me with a list of function?
    Thanks a lot

  17. Dante

    I want to know this as well:-)

  18. Luca Crisi

    @Bruno: Which source did you use for your SimplenZAR? 0.8.16 has a lot of bugs (for loops without brackets, just to say one)? I was reoptimizing the original code and I wonder how can it work, if it really does!

  19. Luca Crisi

    @James: What about the schematics you were to draw fro Bruno? Could I also have them? Thank you so much.

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