Florian Vox - Speech Synthesizer

Florian Vox - View from the front

I got interested in voice synthesis one day partly due to being in the Kraftwerk cover band, Uber Ding, where I had given myself the task of creating some synthesized voices for some of the tracks. Hence the name Florian Vox being a reference to Florian Schneider, founding member of Kraftwerk.

I came across the Emic 2 Speech Synth module which was an easy to use and somewhat more advanced sounding than other voice synthesis. One nice thing about this module is it will allow singing at specified notes which I thought could be fun to play with.

So the project was to be a standalone unit which accepted MIDI as a controlling device. The idea being that I could create programs on the unit which were controlled via midi notes or controllers. Allowing the press of a key to say a word, phrase or even sing something at a given pitch. The unit would also need a few other items like an audio output as well as some simple buttons for various operations.

The unit is powered via the USB which is also the programming port of the Arduino Nano. This is the first project that I have done where I have used the standard hardware serial which is normally used for programing the Nano. I've placed a toggle switch on these ports because the MIDI interface which is connected to them during a run interferes with the USB interface and hence causes issues while programming the Arduino.

The Emic module has a speaker output with a small audio amplifier. I made the mistake of connecting the audio output to this connection. There is a 3.5mm jack on the Emic module but for some reason I thought this was also a speaker connection. It is actually a line level output. I modified my board to accommodate this error.

Florian Vox - View inside the case - the Emic2 module on the left hand side - one of my standard MIDI interface boards on the right.

The hardware side of things was quite straight forward apart from a couple of small errors. The other small error I made was regarding the toggle switch. I designed and made the printed circuit board before I had the pcb mounted switch in my possession. Unfortunately I had placed the pin holes in the wrong place and the outcome was the switch would not be mounted on the board but to the case. The angled toggle switch that I purchased at great cost was not used in this project.

I had some fun with the case. I took a vector graphic of Kraftwerk in fan recognised standing pose and then routed and paint filled it on the top panel. The case is one of my standard and now familiar cases. This is also the first case where I have replace the standard philips head screws with hexagon bolts as I think they have more of an industrial feel that I like.

The bad news though is that it can't really be used as a real-time instrument. The Emic module operates by receiving serial codes. There is a quite a substantial delay from sending this code to getting a response from the synthesizer. Simple problem really. So alas I use the unit to make the sounds and then sample these to be used in the band. Of course that doesn't mean the unit couldn’t be used in a less structured music type of way but I've left the unit programmed to simply receive serial via the Arduino IDE. Something to ponder for future development.

Florian Vox - Rear view showing the MIDI in and Out alongside the USB power and programming port