Early Tests of Max/MSP Controlling 2A03 (NES CPU) Audio

My last post mentioned that I had an interface working for controlling the 2A03 at a reasonably fast rate. Last week I wrote a serial data receiver (UART in this case) into the 2A03 control logic so I could send the 2A03 commands from Max/MSP. I technically could’ve used MIDI, but at 31,250 bps it is far too slow for all the data I want to send as quickly as I want to send it. I opted for 1,000,000 bps with the option to speed it up further later.

The chain looks like this:
Max/MSP -> FTDI USB-to-UART cable -> FPGA development board -> 2A03 adapter

It works just as well as I hoped. I basically have real-time control over all the NES audio registers from Max/MSP. Here’s a screenshot of the big ol’ mess in Max:

It serves as a quick idea prototyping/test platform for the NES synth module, so it changes too frequently to bother making it tidy.

This post is boring without audio, so how about a few test recordings? These are all straight from an NES CPU into the preamps on my sound card.

Click here for clip 1 – triangle wave FM

The pitch of the triangle wave is modulated by a sine wave in Max/MSP. There is a lot of jitter in the timing not only because of the serial transmission, but also because I have to convert the sine from an audio thread in Max to control data to use with the “serial” object. Control data timing is not designed for audio. It worked decently given the circumstances.

Click here for clip 2 – pulse wave delay

One of my favorite Nintendo sounds is two pulse waves configured as an echo effect. I am just playing with a few settings (delay time, second wave volume and duty cycle). The percussive nature of the voices comes from an envelope with an attack time of zero and a short decay to silence. The envelope and all other data is being completely handled by Max and dumped out over USB. The pops in the audio are from a known control issue. They will get better and go away as I tweak the control logic.

Click here for clip 3 – noise bursts

I couldn’t post audio tests without including the noise channel. This is a steady stream of short bursts (zero attack time and fast release time) with pitch and timbre being adjusted by hand then linked to the amplitude envelope in fun ways.

One Response to “Early Tests of Max/MSP Controlling 2A03 (NES CPU) Audio”

  1. mckenic Says:

    Sounds GREAT! Hope progress is ongoing and coming thick & fast! Cant wait for this module!!!