Caveats and Disclaimers

Few important things you should read before you pre-order Gecho

TL; DR version:

Q: Will Gecho do X ?

A: If you have seen demo video of X or it is specifically mentioned in project description, then YES. Otherwise, NO.

  • Example 1: Firmware updates and communication with dedicated PC application via USB cable - this was not shown in a video but was described, is essential feature and therefore will be included.
  • Example 2: Active noise cancellation: No - that is quite a problem on its own, beyond scope of this project.
  • Example 3: Inventing music completely from noise? When this project started, that was not exactly the idea. But later it's been shown that it is possible (subject to your definition of "music" ;)

More details you may or may not care about:

Classic music box usually plays one or two melodies with one "sound".

Our modern music box plays few melodies with limited amount of sounds. If you want more melodies or sounds, you either need to put them there yourself or wait until someone else does it and shares the update.

All rewards in KS campaign really only differ by box being included or not, whether it is painted and you need to do some soldering and gluing.

Depending on where you live (e.g. outside EU), your post office may demand you to pay duty/vat or other import charges on top of the KS price and postage.

There is some inherent noise, because of the type of synthesis. If you have good headphones, you won't mind it. If you have headphones that boost certain frequencies, it may bother you (then, the equalizer can be used to adjust treble, and bass too).

I've only tried it with 4x Koss PortaPro at once, these have higher impedance (60 Ohm) which is about twice as much as random common headphones, so maybe don't plug more than two of them just yet, until we do some more testing. Also, they better be of the same type to get same volume levels for everyone.

In order to completely mask the environment sounds and convert them to music, you'd need to plug in good noise-cancellation headphones, Gecho cannot cancel noises this way on it's own with standard headphones.

Playing live, on stage, etc. - I've never tried this, and your results may vary. The "active" channels, mostly seen in demos, are probably useless there as they depend on microphones input. Those mics are very, very sensitive (they register your voice from a distance of one metre, ideally you need to be 30-40cm from them, not closer - and no need to raise your voice either). Gecho works best in quiet environment, hence the meditative aspect as a primary use. Passive channels can be used in loud environments - no problem there. Also, alternative firmware (written by someone else) may appear, targeting other types of usage.

Battery life - nobody asked but it's fair to mention. Standard capacity of AA battery is 2400mAh, Gecho's current draw varies between 50 and 110 mA depending on the program. Let's say you get about 24 hours of continuous listening before batteries need replacing. That's not much (can be 4 weeks of occasional playing with Gecho), but there are other options: power it via USB (you can do this any time while batteries are in, then they are not used). Or if you ordered a DIY kit, upgrade the powering: 4xAA instead of 3 (they should fit in the box but not with the battery holder I can supply). Or install a Li-Po / Li-Ion rechargeable pack. Input voltage can be 4-6V. Power circuitry used to misbehave towards end of the 3xAA pack life (when voltage decreased to 4V) but I am upgrading it - previously the overall voltage drop was 0.8V (4.5V - 0.8V = 3.7V > 3.3V needed for MCU, but 4.0V - 0.8V = 3.2V which was too low). In revised board the drop should get below 0.3V - perhaps 3.7V pack will be enough to power Gecho then.

Gecho is "Lo-Fi in, Hi-Fi out" device. It cannot be used as a sampler, the pre-amp circuit is primitive and cuts off higher frequencies, plus the ADC is only 12 bits, and there is no extra memory for storing sampled data. This is fine for few demonstrated applications, if you want to do more, there are soldering or contact pads that allow various hardware extensions.

MIDI Interface will not be included by default (I presume most people don't want it, and it adds to the cost) but the revised board allows easy customization, there will be tutorial how to do it, and if you hesitate to solder the necessary components on your own, we can do it for you.

Connecting to other devices: As a prototype board, it is your responsibility to assure safety when hacking it and/or connecting to other devices. If it blows up due to your rechargeable batteries add-on, or you plug it to MIDI input of your $8000 worth Jupiter 8 and magic smoke appears, don't blame me. However, I will provide you with all information known to me about how to do it safely.

I cannot promise to put different types of synthesis in (apart from what is shown in demos), and to implement various features that were suggested during this campaign (complete MIDI implementation, various sync methods) but I will progress the firmware over time as it is a great interest to me to learn and try various things. Hope someone will join these efforts and contribute their own code.

What will I do to support ongoing development of this project:

  • provide space on my website to post articles (you can contribute with your own extensions, hacks, examples of use, photos of boxes finished and decorated by you, or made by you from scratch, art projects based on this board...)
  • host the forum for solving technical issues and discuss programming questions
  • incorporate user contributed content or code extension into the main firmware, then release it as updates for everyone