Acoustic & Electronic Instruments, Musicians, News, Tutorials, Videos & Interesting Finds
Acoustic & Electronic Instruments, Musicians, News, Tutorials, Videos & Interesting Finds

Cyanodore 64: DIY Commodore 64 SID-based MIDI synth project

Growing up I was always firmly in the Atari computer camp, but as I’ve aged I have realised just how much more capable the sound generation of the arch rival Commodore 64 were, with its legendary and still much-loved SID chip.

With the ongoing love for 8-bit-esque and chip tune music, it makes perfect sense to go back to the roots, find a working C64 and modify it to be a fantastic retro-synth.

Gavin Lyons has done just this and has been kind enough to share the steps required over on Instructables. It involves a number of things — a working Commodore 64 you’re willing to modify of course, plus some knobs, sockets, a LCD screen, and an ARM2SID emulator for the sound. The reasoning for this is to enable stereo sound, which is one thing the original SID/Commodore design wasn’t set up for.

You’ll need to be fairly nifty with a soldering iron, and steps include fitting a MIDI interface card, an SD card reader, replacing SID with ARM2SID (which the author does warn is “not for the faint hearted” due to some intricate soldering required), adding synth knobs which can be used to control filters, adding stereo output, hooking up a 7″ monitor LCD, getting USB Battery power working, adding tube preamp, keyboard illumination, and finding synth software to run on the newly modded machine.

Software choice includes CynthCart, STATION64, and MicroRhythm.

Clearly the amount of work involved means this project isn’t for everyone, but it certainly looks doable for anyone who is already pretty happy modifying electronics and soldering the heck out of things.

If not, just marvel that someone else has done it and created a really interesting synth from a computer which launched over 40 years ago!