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Midibox Sid: C64 Transformed Into Glowing Midi Synth

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The venerable Commodore 64 is well known among the electronic music community as a synthesizer modder’s dream machine thanks to its robust SID audio chipset. But most of the mods I’ve seen end up looking just like an old C64 and all the cool stuff is going on under the hood. So when I came across this mod, all those glowy knobs and buttons got me really excited.

midibox c64

Modder subatomicglue’s MidiboxSID may have started life as a C64, but now it’s nearly unrecognizable thanks to a serious synth rehab. I especially love the backlit reddish-orange potentiometers and LED illumination throughout the box, making this retro synth perfect for cranking out beeps and blips out in a darkened nightclub or concert gig.

midibox c64 back

This isn’t any old stock C64 either. Subatomicglue embedded 8 SID chips under the covers of this puppy, which lets it generate 4 stereo pairs of sound, and 4 synthesizer “voices” at the same time. The controls expose plenty of flexibility to tune and tweak every nuance of the system’s 8-bit chip sounds, and of course, it can be MIDI controlled for sequencing purposes.

midibox c64 2

The cool thing is that the specs for building Midibox SID are available for anyone cares to make one for themselves. As a matter of fact, the one featured in this article is based on a reference design by Midibox SID originator “TK” (Thorsten Klose). Here’s a video of TK’s original in action.

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Check out the full worklog to see how it all came together, and learn about building your own C64 Midibox here.







Comments (11):

  1. Hello! I’d like to speak with someone in regards to producing a loop library using your C64 Mod.

    Thanks

    Jason

  2. bjb says:

    This is really neat.

    I am not so sure about keeping the old brick power supply, though. Those were weak back in the 80′s and the capacitors in them are only getting worse!

    Probably would be better to use a modern switching wall wart.

  3. Michael says:

    Wow. If Commodore wanted a way to boost their brand and find a profitable market niche for themselves, they should hire this guy and start making C64 synth hardware. Too bad somebody else bought the brand.

  4. Peter says:

    Commodore went bankrupt because they couldn’t market and sell awesome computer hardware, so what makes you think they could do it now Michael.

  5. Marc says:

    This is an old project. The Midibox Project is a “Open” project strictly non-commercial.
    Everything it given to make your own, even the board drawings and code to load on the chips.
    Check it out.

  6. Copes says:

    Yes, strictly non commercial,
    Inside there is a Microcontroller controlling the Sid chips,
    actually 1 mc per 2 SIDs. You can start with a minimal setup and then expand if you like. This surface is rel. expensive, though.
    I Build a minimal Version w. one Core/one SID and controll it live via MIDI – great Sound! Because there are so many add ons like lfos and env, its a complete different thing than just ‘play old c64 sound’.
    BTW, each Sid has 3 Voices on it, so the pictured machine has 4 times 3 -> 12 Voices, double this with the Stereo, you get 24!!
    Of course you can Split the 3 Voices of one Chip ocer the keaboard, or layer them, and etc etc….

  7. Steve says:

    How can I buy one of these Glowing C64 SID Synth MidiBoxs?

  8. DFOX says:

    I second Steve, where can I get my hands on one of these? I’d be willing to pay to get one made, or pay for one if you more laying around.

    &nd another thing, does the midi box (basically) function like a SID?

  9. Smithy says:

    Guys read Copes comment.

    These are strictly non-commercial meaning they cannot be bought or sold, it is illegal to do so.

    The best way to get your hands on one is to build one yourself,
    i never did an electronics project before but im building one at the moment. Its definitely do-able if you put the time in.

  10. Lorenzo says:

    hi .is possible buy it ?????if yes where i find ?????

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