May 2024 Update

It’s about time we started posting some updates on the Beat Friend!

The circuit has been 90% done for ages. For the last few months we’ve been getting it ready for production, and it takes time to get that right.

The current state of Beat Friend workThe current state of Beat Friend work

The main chunk of work was converting the PCB layout to use surface mount instead of through-hole components so it doesn’t take me 3 hours of soldering to build each unit (the surface mount components are fitted at the factory and we just have to add the bigger parts — knobs, buttons, sliders, connectors and the microcontroller). The new layout helped to solve some issues, and introduced a few new ones. I learned a lot bypass capacitors.

We’ve also redesigned the power circuit so it takes a 12V DC power supply instead of 12V AC. DC power supplies are much more common, and the circuitry is simpler. I had learned everything I knew about building power circuits from fixing 60s transistor organs, which have a big step-down transformer and a rectifier circuit to produce positive and negative rails. Turns out we can generate the negative rail from the positive rail and it works just fine.

We’ve tweaked and tuned the drum tones, the filters, the gain stages and the ground design to make it sound as glorious and noise-free as possible. I’m addressing some really low-level noise now, which is great.

One more revision of the circuit and I think we’ll be ready to put it in a box and release it to the world — almost. We’re getting prototype versions of the final enclosure made, which will need some testing and tweaking. I have the guts of a firmware updater written, but it still needs work. We have some more beats to program, and lots of time signatures and variations to test and play with.

We had plans to launch Beat Friend in May to coincide with Superbooth, but that’s not going to happen. There are just a few too many things left to do. Sad times, but we’d rather get it right and make sure we ship something great.

So we’ll keep you posted. When it’s ready for preorder we’ll let the mailing list know first — make sure you’re signed up if you want to get your hands on the first batch…

April 30, 2024