Altura kit not functioning.

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  • #12423 Reply
    PatrickB
    Participant

    Hello,

    I recently purchased the Altura MIDI Theremin kit from your company. Serial number ZD3304.

    I’ve assembled the kit, and it gets power, but does not appear to be functioning correctly.

    Here is a link to a video of what I’m experiencing…

    https://photos.app.goo.gl/914hB1JAHNJuTYFX8

    Please advise on my next move to troubleshoot and get it working! Thanks!

    -Patrick

    #12437 Reply
    zdlAdmin
    Keymaster

    Patrick, sorry about the trouble with your Altura, but thank you for the video! That is very helpful. I see two significant things going on: the sensors are facing the table, and the knobs do not appear to be functioning correctly. So one at a time:
    1) The sensors sense over a wide, cone-shaped space. Laying on the table as in the video, they are both sensing the table at all times and transmitting a static, default, minimal value. This will tend to confuse the display. For testing, please flip the sensors over so they face the ceiling, and tape them to the table or something. In most contexts, only the left sensor affects the display. Set the first two knobs (Data far, Data Near) to full opposite positions and move your hand in and out over the left sensor. What do you see? You should see (in most contexts) numbers spinning by. Nudge the third pot (Function). As it moves, you should see numbers 1-7 scroll by. If not, leave the knob at the 9 o’clock position, which corresponds to 2 or 3.

    E 5 is not an error message. It means you are playing in the key of E in mode 5, which is phrygian or something.

    Even if the display remains unresponsive, please plug the Altura into a MIDI device (a synth). Do not run it into a DAW or other computer system at this point; just run it straight into a MIDI IN jack. Set the last two knobs to 12 o’clock, which sets the Altura to play over one ocatve right in the middle of the keyboard. Wave over the right sensor. Hear anything? Is the MIDI light flickering on the synth? This is testing whether the device is transmitting data.

    Finally, check the Articulation mode. Turn off the device, turn all knobs full left, turn on again. What do you see? The display should read 2.1.2 (the latest software version), then change to a number which is a multiple of 15 (the articulation setting).

    2) At 1:25 in the video, I see the more compelling issue: When you twiddle the knobs like that, you should see more action on the display. It may be different when the sensors are face up, but I am guessing this will not completely solve the issue. I think we have seen this once before. I will consult with my partners this morning and follow up.

    #19199 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    Hi there I have the same problem.

    Here is a video with all of the details.

    I bought it a few months back and only just got round to assembly.

    Cheers

    Innes

    #19216 Reply
    zdlAdmin
    Keymaster

    Innes, thanks for the video; it is invaluable! Sorry you’re having a little trouble getting your altura fired up, but congratulations on giving it a shot! It is a moderately ambitious project for a first-soldering experience. You seem to have been thorough in your troubleshooting. We are going to look at two things:
    1) Are you getting 5V DC distributed around the board? Check the DC voltage to ground at a few places around the board, with the battery in and the power on. Consult the circuit diagram to spot the power pins on the MCU (marked VCC). Also the sensors are easy to measure. Unplug them from the board. One of the end pins should show 5V DC. What do you find?
    2) there are three 14-pin ICs that look pretty similar: the multiplexer, shift register and hex buffer, located at U2, U3 and U4 respectively. Examine the nearly-invisible markings on these three components. Are they in fact three different components, with no duplicates? (It happened once.) Are they each in the correct location, in the correct orientation? Any error would account for the observed behavior.
    Let us know what you discover.

    #19230 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    Hi there.

    Ok as you’ve guessed I’m a beginner at this but here is another video showing what I’ve found.

    Cheers, Innes

    #19233 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    Addition:

    Have just checked all of the soldering and although messy in parts there do it appear to be any areas where shorting would occur.

    Not sure what to do other than order another kit! This time cabinet only assembly haha

    Innes

    #19248 Reply
    zdlAdmin
    Keymaster

    You are doing great work! Your analysis suggests that the Altura might be working just fine, except for the display! Go ahead and plug a MIDI cable into the device and connect it directly to the MIDI IN of a synth. (Do not try connecting to a computer synth for a first test.) Make sure you plug the sensor cables in correctly, not backwards. You had it correct initially. Point the sensors up toward the ceiling, not down to the table. Set the knobs as described in the Quick Start guide: left, right, 9 o’clock, left, left, noon, noon. This should give you one octave of C Major on the right sensor, and control over modulation or note velocity on the left sensor. The unit will default to transmit on Channel 1 on power up. Go ahead and see if you can control your synth. Do you see any activity on the MIDI light on the slave synth?
    When he is able, Altura designer Brach will comment on possible faults in the circuit that could account for the display’s power issue.
    Good work! Hey, this is part of the fun!

    #19252 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    Hi there. I have done as you suggested – first plugging it in to a synth (my wife’s electric piano) and then tried it via two different sound cards with no result. Not a flicker.

    I have a friend who does electronics for a living and he’s coming round with his desoldering gun on Saturday morning; we will
    Probably remove the sections that are problematic and resolder them. I doubt if that will work however as the solder doesn’t look like it is the problem…

    Cheers

    Innes

    #19253 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    I’ve checked, double checked and triple checked everything and can’t get it to work at all.

    Any ideas?

    Cheers

    Innes

    #19309 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    OK one last update!

    I had a friend come round today to have a look – he’s a real life electronics guy. He brought his oscillator and de-soldering gun.

    However, after having a look at it close up, we decided together that it would make more sense to buy another kit and use this one for spares in case some were needed. It was my first effort and there were lots of places where I could have caused a short initially when soldering and then later with my attempts to fix the mess!

    So onwards ad upwards as they say, with attempt number 2 – this time with a MkII which looks to be fairly similar except for the addition of a couple of buttons.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond to my queries and videos.

    I really like the business model you have.. for nerdy music / computer types like me there is nothing else like it.

    Also there are so few items like this on the market – I used to use a ‘leap’ controller on stage to control filters and other effects (I use a laptop live) but it was so glitchy I gave up on it after a while – so I was really happy when this came out.

    Cheers

    Innes

    #19363 Reply
    zdlAdmin
    Keymaster

    Innes, you are my new favorite customer of the week. I shipped your new kit this morning. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and to all a good night.

    #21812 Reply
    innesiain
    Participant

    Hi there, Innes here aagin.

    I’ve just finished assembling my second kit, this time after a soldering lesson from my electronics friend. There was a bit of a gap between build attempts but after the lockdown started I found I had time!

    Anyway, unfortunately I can’t get it to work. The display in’t functioning correctly but this is something I could live with as I only really want to use it to control filters in Ableton live. The main problem, again, is that there is no MIDI output. I’ve been through your troubleshooting advice and cannot find a problem. ALl of the solder joints are correct and I’ve used multiple MIDI monitoring techniques.Absolutely dead.

    Unfortunately I have no more time and cannot face going through a lengthy troubleshooting proceture which is unlikely to yield a result however I really do want to have one of these as they would be perfect for my live show which is a combination of electronic and acoustic instruments with Ableton Live at its core.

    I went to your website to order one that was pre-built and tested but you don’t offer this – do you only sell them as kits? I’m happy to pay for one that has been built and tested. …

    Cheers

    Innes

    #21833 Reply
    zdlAdmin
    Keymaster

    OK, the built units are nominally sold out,but I think I have a floor model or B unit I can fix you up with. I will contact you directly.
    One thing to check regarding No MIDI Out. This kit has two nearly identical 16-pin ICs. If they are installed in the wrong locaction or wrong orientation, the MIDI out will not work and the display will go funky. When the PCB is upright, with the row of pots at the bottom, the two ICs are to the left of the display with the divots pointing down, toward the pots. The IC on the left is labelled CD4050BE and the one on the right is SN74HC595N. Humor me and verify these are installed correctly.

    #21853 Reply
    Innes Campbell
    Guest

    OK I’ll have a look when I get home – I’m at work at the moment.

    I’ll let you know what I find.

    Innes

    #21865 Reply
    Innes Campbell
    Guest

    Hi

    Looks to me to be all correct.

    Innes

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