PSR-6 Demo Video

Hi Everyone

I just wanted to upload this quick demo video of me playing around with my PSR-6. I’m planning on reopening this project to expand on it in the next few weeks so I should have more updates soon but in the meantime this will give you an idea of the kinds of noises this thing can make.

Patch bay – Yamaha PSR-6

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Data Patch Bay – Yamaha PSR-6

circuit bending

While browsing some circuit bending sites some time ago I found an excellent tutorial over at Circuit-Bent.net for adding a patch bay to a retro Yamaha Keyboard. The tutorial dealt with the PSS-170, 270, 140 and SHS-10 but not having any of these models on hand I wanted to see if I could apply the same technique to the a PSR-6 I recently scooped up on the cheap at a local pawn shop. Finally this past week after the arrival of a big bag of banana plugs from E-bay I decided to give it a try.

– I also came across a very helpful forum post on Electro Music from another circuit bender (user name Dnny) who converted this mod for a PSR-6, It is definitely worth a read if you are attempting this bend.

circuit bending

To understand this bend you have to understand a bit about the inner workings of these keyboards. The PSR-6 (and many others of the era) operates using two primary IC chips. The first of these is the Yamaha XE323B0 CPU chip. This chip is easily identifiable as it will usually be the largest chip on the board and has a huge number of pins (I believe around 60). This CPU chip is the brain of the keyboard. Beside the CPU there is a smaller 18 pin FM synthesizer chip (the YM2413) which is responsible for actually creating the audio signals you hear out of the keyboard.

If you study the back (trace) side of the circuit board you will see there are 8 traces which travel directly from the CPU to the FM synthesizer chip. These 8 traces carry instructions from the CPU to the synthesizer chip and tell it when to make noises, and what noises to create. Further each separate pin carries information on a different aspect of the sound. These 8 traces are what I will be hijacking with this bend.

circuit bending

The first step I took was to cut each of the traces running between the CPU and the FM Synthesizer chip of the PSR-6. This will interrupt the normal flow of data. These circuit boards are very ruggedly made (as opposed to some more modern boards) so you may need to cut across them several times with an Exacto knife. Use a multimeter to confirm there is no connection between the two sides once the traces are cut.

Circuit Bending

Next up comes the really fiddly part. I soldered lengths of wires to each pin on the CPU and each pin on the FM synthesizer. I used yellow wire on the CPU and blue for the synthesizer so that they were easily identifiable. It is very important at this point to keep the pairs of corresponding wires together. I used pieces of painters tape to temporarily attach the pairs of yellow and blue wires together and numbered them in order from 1 to 8.

circuit bending

Once I had drilled and mounted the components for the patch bay I was ready for wiring. I soldered the blue and yellow wires to the middle and lower lugs of a row of switches. I then ran wire from these switches to two rows of banana jacks. All of the CPU connections I ran to the top row of jacks and all the synthesizer connections to the bottom row of jacks.

From here I closed up the keyboard and powered it up. To my delight it worked great. When the switches are all in the up position the data lines are connected and the keyboard works the same as it did without any modification. However when you flip the switches or connect any of the red jacks to any of the black jacks… things get weird.

Circuit Bending

When you are getting started with this patch bay it can be a little intimidating. It will crash and it will spew loud garbled noise, don’t be discouraged. You will also find strange, new and truly bizarre¬† noises you never knew the PSR-6 had in it. A good way to get your feet wet is to choose any instrument on the keyboard. flip down the second switch and then change to a different instrument. The turned switch will stop some of the information regarding the new instrument from reaching the FM synthesizer and you will be left with a strange hybrid of the two voices.

The more I play with this keyboard the more fun I have. Slowly I’m beginning to understand what each data line controls and I’ve been able to create more and more interesting patches. One surprising thing I’ve found is not all but many of the patches are repeatable allowing you a level of control over the noise I didn’t expect. This makes the device quite viable for live performance.

Now that I’ve gotten my feet wet with this bend I’m incredibly interested in taking it a step further. I’ve seen other circuit benders set up LED’s associated with each data line allowing you to see the data traveling through each connection. This seems like it would be extremely helpful in developing your understanding of what each connection controls. I’m also going to do some tests injecting a square wave oscillation into the data points to see what kind of results this elicits.¬† Finally I’d also be interested to try running the data through an inverter or other logic gates. If I have success with these tests I will create a second post detailing what I’ve found.

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LM386 Modifications – Yamaha PSS-30

circuit bending LM386 modifications
While completing my first set of mods on my Yamaha PSS-30 I noticed that the internal amplifier driving the mini keyboard was a 386D amplifier chip. This chip has an identical pin out and seemingly identical function to the popular LM386 which gave me some ideas for possible bends I could try. If I was able to apply some common modifications or adjustments which work with the LM386 in amplifier applications like the LM386 guitar amp I may be able to further expand the versatility of the instrument.

circuit bending

The first modification deals with the gain of the amplifier. If you’ve worked with LM386s in the past you may already know that the gain of the amplifier is set using pins 1 and 8 of the chip. Essentially by placing a resistor (usually 1 ohm – 10K ohm) and a capacitor (typically 10 uf) between these two pins you can set the gain. The higher the resistance of the resistor, the lower the gain. Upon inspection of the circuit I could see this is exactly how this 386D chip was set up. Pin 1 is connected through a 10 uf capacitor, which connects to a 1.1K ohm resistor (immediately to the left of the chip) And then to pin 8 of the chip. In order to replace this system with a variable gain control I removed the 1.1K resistor and replaced it with a 5K ohm potentiometer. By reducing the resistance you can get a slightly crunchier and more distorted sound, and by raising the resistance you can get a cleaner more polished sound. Note the gain level will influence the volume of the output so you will need to compensate for this either at the volume control added in Part 1 or at your mixer/amplifier.

circuit bending

While I was under the circuit board attaching the leads for the gain pot I also connected a few more wires for use with my second mod. I connected the first wire (yellow) to pin 1 (gain control pin) and two blue wires to pin 5 (output). These will be used for the second modification I had in mind. This is a slightly less used LM386 circuit modification but still one which is fairly well documented. By sending a signal from the output pin (5) through a small capacitor and resistor to the gain control pin (1) you can create a bass boost effect. To accomplish this I attached the first blue wire to a switch on my panel. I then ran it through a 0.1 uf capacitor and a 10K ohm resistor. I attached the yellow wire to the other side of the resistor completing the circuit. Now by flipping the switch you connect the bass boost circuit.

Though the bass boost is audible I am not overwhelmingly impressed with it. It is far from the thumping low end I was hoping for. This may be a limitation of the device itself but I feel like further experimentation is needed. I will be going back in to experiment with some other cap/resistor values and other circuit options to see if I can get a better effect. I will report back here if I find better results.

circuit bending

The second blue wire I connected through a resistor to an LED and tucked it behind the circuit board. Because I used a transparent panel this creates a cool back lit effect and since it is powered from the amplifier output it pulses along with whatever is being played on the keyboard.

That about raps it up for the PSS-30 for the time being. I really love the small form factor of this device and would love for it to make it’s way into my regular instrument lineup. In spite of this circuit being a bit limited as far as bend points and options, I still had a lot of fun and got to try out some interesting new things on the circuit. I’m going to keep this device in the back of my mind as I work on other projects and hopefully I can return to it down the road with some new ideas to further mangle it’s square wave outputs. That’s all for tonight but thanks for reading and happy soldering!

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Tone Control and Line Out – Yamaha PSS-30

The thrift store gods smiled on me again this past week. During one of my usual trip to my local charity shop I found a Yamaha PSS-30 marked at 5 dollars. Not only was this tiny keyboard still in the box, it looked like it had barely been played since it’s manufacture back in 1987. I happily scooped it up and brought it home to investigate.

Now after looking inside this keyboard and spending some time online I found unfortunately the PSS-30 may not be the holy grail I had hoped it would be. Many of the Yamaha Keyboards of this era (along with many of the infamous Casio SA keyboards) contain two primary chips. The first is a synthesizer chip (usually an FM synthesizer) and second a CPU which monitors the inputs and digitally controls the synthesizer. This allowed some extremely interesting bending by cutting or crossing the data lines to modify the signal reaching the synthesizer chip.

PSS-30 circuit board

Unfortunately the PSS-30 in an effort to cut costs and save space is built to run on only one IC chip. This means the single YM2410 chip monitors the inputs and generates the audio signal internally leaving us unable to access the data flow. That being said I still wanted to have some fun with this very cool vintage keyboard.

I wanted to start this project as I do most of my builds, By adding a line out. It was also fairly important to me to add an analog volume pot along the line out. The reason for this was simple, This keyboard uses a basic digital volume control which is extremely loud and distorted on the maximum setting. Unfortunately whenever the device is powered off and back on the digital register for the volume setting resets and it returns to this obnoxiously loud setting. With the addition of an analog volume pot I can set the volume where I want it and leave it there without having to worry about it resetting.

To add the line out I cut the speaker lines. I wired the positive speaker line to the top pin of a 100K potentiometer and the ground to the bottom pin. From here I connected the tip tab of a 1/4 inch jack to the middle pin of the pot and the ground from the jack to the bottom pin. This functions as a simple voltage divider and allows you to adjust the amount of the signal which reaches the jack.

Yamaha Circuit Bent cutting

Since the keyboard itself is so small, In order to create room for the controls I had to remove the speaker altogether. Initially I attempted to drill holes for my components into the slatted plastic speaker cover but things quickly got messy and it became obvious that wasn’t going to work. Instead I used my trusty rotary tool to cut out a rectangle where the speaker had been and covered it with a square of plastic I cut from an old DVD case. This will be my control panel for the time being. Once I have the device working how I’d like it I will likely replace this plastic panel with acrylic or steel to give it a more professional look.

Tone COntrol

Additionally as something of an experiment I built a small two knob tone control circuit into the line out. This is a circuit I picked up from an excellent article over at Nuts and Volts (Fig 12). The circuit essentially functions as an adjustable low pass and high pass filter. Since the circuit itself is passive I did experience some attenuation but not enough to become an issue. Since this keyboard uses only square wave audio the capacity of these filters is somewhat limited. You can make some adjustment to the sound but if you limit either end too far the sound will become very flat and tin-y.

I also noticed that the PSS-30 uses an LM386 as an amplifier meaning that I can try some common LM386 amplifier mods on the circuit as well. I will be posting again shortly to let you know how they went but in the interim thanks for your time and happy soldering!

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