Thursday, June 30, 2011

Your Quest: Cheapest MAME cabinet: Part 1, decisions.

NOTE: My blog has now moved.  Please visit my new blog where I write about audio apps, diy synthesizers, and CNCs.

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NOTE: While this is probably the cheapest way to a MAME interface, I ended up with getting a simpler J-PAC for wiring.  Read my post about configuring Ubuntu to run inside the an arcade cab here!

I'm possibly buying a house soon. Naturally, the first thing on my mind is putting a stand-up arcade machine in the place. While I ended up buying a proper JAMMA cabinet, this post describes my original plan to build a MAME cabinet.


  • Stand-up. No bar-top machines
  • Two-player, only interact via arcade buttons & joystick
  • Should support NES, SNES, SEGA, and old-school MAME titles


JAMMA Cabinet (used)$200?Comes with buttons,speakers,screenHard to find, heavy to ship, custom monitor
DIY MDF Cabinet$100-$150 inc. buttonsCan make lighter, smaller, thinnerMore work, need to paint & trim, need buttons
Winner? Lets go with DIY / MDF.


For buttons, I was originally going to go with a la carte parts from SparkFun until I ran into this ebay deal: 2 joysticks & 14 buttons for $34 + shipping! Much cheaper!

But how to wire up the buttons / joystick? Depends on our choice of brain.


For the brain I have 3 free choices: XBOX, Wii, or old PC. While software-wise they could be considered equivalent I am tempted to sell my Xbox, keep the Wii on the TV, and use an old PC. More on this decision later.

PCHard-soldered to a USB keyboardwill be cheapLots of fine solder work to do
XBOXhand-soldered to two xbox contollersFREE!Again, lots of fine, custom, solder work to do. If it breaks then I have to go in and fix by hand.
WiiArduino-based classic controller emulationMost elegant solutionEven more DIY work, most expensive, have to hack wired power to wiimotes

Since I have a purposeless xbox, and plenty controllers, maybe that's the best bet? The work will be to wire up all the buttons to ripped apart controllers, then pack it all into a box and expose the wires with a nice little screw-post connector.

7 buttons per controller gives me, looking at an xbox controller, all I need.
- Almost all the digital buttons & D-Pad. I guess I can live without "Back" and just with "Start". That's actually perfect.

I think I will go with 6 buttons + 1 1p/2p button each player. That works for SNES and SEGA as well as the lesser MAME arcade games as well. Excellent!

Still to be determined: Screen, speakers, painting, etc, etc. However it is exciting to think the current total cost is around $50 + MDF/screws.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What Have I Done (5 new drum machines on the way)

So I went from no drum machines to finding some great deals, asking them if they'd ship and not hearing back, to suddenly they all replied with "yes". Thankfully the deals are great enough that I can keep half of these and sell the other half to pay for the 1st half and end up with a few drum machines effectively for free.

So, what did I buy? In order of most exciting to medium-exciting:

Tama Techstar TS-305
Weird progressive techno bleeps and bloops? Not the same overused roland x0x boxes? Enter the TS-305. It's a bit bigger than I'd prefer, but not much should compare to completely analog adjustable drums.

Tama Techstar TS-204
Companion to the 305. Adds a synth and a clap. Pairs with the 305 (which I actually bought from a different seller in a different country) and I'll likely keep these together. Not sure if the synth can be 1v/oct CV controlled or is just triggered beeps. Will have to play!

Roland TR-707
A classic house drum machine. Excited to be able to use the separate outs as a trigger brain for the TS-305/204 combo until I build a dedicated MIDI->trigger rig. This unit was super cheap as half the voices apparently don't work. I'm expecting it to be the slide volume pots but some time with the oscilliscope will sort this out I'm sure. I really like this diabolical devices circuit bending, it's very useable bends (not just shitty noise), might have to replicate once it's fixed.

Yamaha RX5
Did not plan on getting this but the seller threw it in for $75 shipped and a ton of blogs suggest it's "most underrated drum machine ever". Two videos convinced me to get it for $75.

One: this thing can do dark techno with the ability to pitch samples down two octaves reverse, and add their own loop points.

Two: This thing can do pure SNES. Unfortunately I can't find the video supporting this statement right now but basically this can act as a 16-channel MIDI device and play all it's samples across the keyboard.

I'll take a moment to mention that videos of the RX5 are good examples why circuit bending should be a means to a useable end and not applied just because they make an terrible noise effect.

I'll also take a minute to say I hate when a company starts re-using their product codes between product lines. I guess when you make everything from drum machines to motorcycles it's inevitable.

Last but not least: The Boss Dr. Pad 1.

I guess this thing is digital? I thought it was analog but doesn't sound like it from the video. Oh well, this on "hand clap" next to my SP303 and incoming korg monotribe will be a fun jam setup!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Buying this tonight! Mobile fruity loops? yes please! I've been waiting for this to arrive for quite awhile, hoping it keeps me from buying a drum machine for a little while :)

FL Studio Mobile basic use tutorial video

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Original XBox: Alternate Alternate uses

Ah, the original Xbox. Online gaming machine. DVD player. In it's prime, my roommates and I used this thing nearly 24/7 in our townehouse during university. Halo (lots of Halo), networked media center, emulator, and occasionally even another video game.

But what about now? The games are dated, the services disconnected. The DVD drive is failing. The wii's emulation and even media center (with the new wii MC) capabilities rival the original xbox (although not at 720p I suppose).

What's left? ultimate emulator machine into a cabinet? It seems like the only remaining choice.