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  #1  
Old 05-15-2012, 05:06 AM
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Default Flight Gaming Controller Converted for Midi

I ran across this nice looking setup:







It's called the Saitek X45 Digital Joystick & Throttle. And boy does it have a bunch of switches and rotary controls..
Here's the full manual- http://www.saitek.com/manuals/X45_Manual_update.pdf


I ran across two schematics for it. The first one shows both the Joystick (SH 1&2) and the Throttle (TH 3&4).
Below that it shows the pots for the joystick, throttle, two rotary controls and the rudder control (on back/bottom of throttle).




Now I'm mainly interested in that throttle control. So lets just forget about the joystick entirely for right now.
I might get back to the joystick another time though..
Right above here you should see pots TH, RD, R1, R2.
Four pots that are most likely 100K Ohm each. I might be able to change them out to 10K Ohm, but doubt it'd be easy..
so I'd have to do something to them so the Midi CPU could use the signal.


Below is another schematic of the throttle only. It appears to be the stock DB 15 connector wire colors.. the 15 pin #'s can be seen in the prev. schematic.
I'd think that DB15 connector would be simple to create a socket interface to the MIDI CPU..



I got that from this site-
http://www.brewsterbuffalos.com/x45/

now that site is showing how to make the DB15 connector to a USB connection with the throttle controller.. something I'm not interested in doing.
(The throttle controller plugs into the Joystick with the 15pin connector, then the joystick ouputs a USB to the computer.)
I just thought it was very helpful to get an inside look at the unit and that handy schematic to do some investigating on using it for a midi controller.


Can you tell if the switch matrix and pots would all "fit" onto the Midi CPU?
I see a ton of potential with this thing if done right. Pitch Bend, Mod, Filter Cutoff, LFO, Up/Down switches for several CC's.

Secondly.. would both controllers fit? The SH 1&2 matrix and additional two pots, JY & JX?
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Old 05-16-2012, 11:49 PM
J.D. J.D. is offline
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This is pretty amazing! I've looked at joysticks to convert but always felt they would be sort of a one-note idea, both literally and figuratively. No danger of that with this beast.

It looks like it would be a pretty close call to fully utilize this with just one CPU. I would also think that you might want to build them as separate controllers in case one of them serves your purposes well for a performance. You'd also free up some terminals for LEDs or extra buttons or even an input for some pedals or motion sensor control.

If you plan on using this with software, you might just take a look at what a program like GlovePie, or an object oriented program like puredata might be able to do for you. It would spare you some time and money on the boards and scaling the 100k pots.

If you want to make a hardcore controller you will probably need to use some op amps to scale down the pots to around 10k or you wont get the full range of motion from them. Look up a manual called "op amps for all" to get an idea of the circuit you want. There may be a way to make it work with an specific external reference voltage too, so this is not the final word on what options are available. Someone else will likely have the specs for that, (by someone I mean Jim! )

I think the coolest part about this is the learning curve it wil present even after the conversion is complete. You'd be learning a brand new, highly articulate instrument that is sure to yield some very new ways of manipulating sound and other protocol. Lots of practice and a big payoff. Cool project!!!
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Old 05-17-2012, 02:51 AM
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Thanks for the comments and suggestions J.D.


I almost thought I had my hands on one of these today off of ebay.. unfortunately the seller chickened out on the sale since it bid too low for him (grrr... ).

This is the ultimate version.. the Saitek X52







a closer look at the Throttle's status display screen-




It has that LCD display that can be programmed via USB to display just about anything when you activate a control button/dial/trigger..
The workaround thru USB may be a bit much for me currently... and at that point it wouldnt need this MIDI CPU.. it would just use a PC to convert to Midi messages back out the PC Midi port.. so it may be a future project if I ever got ahold of one and figured all that out.
Yea, I realize there are programs that can convert game pads/sticks to midi messages(and I'll play with them in due time).. but I would like a dedicated midi controller so I dont need to be tethered to a PC.
The application I'm shooting for right now is to use one of these controllers on a custom built synth that has Sysex CC's that are not found generically on other synths.
But that LCD display would be killer if you could get it to show LFO rate, waveform selection, mod rate, patch name.. etc.


The X45 is relatively simple enough to hack for the Midi CPU board though. Looks like I just need to wire up a D15 socket to plug the Throttle controller into and have that socket wired up to the board.
Cool thing is, the older Microsoft Sidewinder joysticks also use a D15 connector like the X45 Throttle. So if I already have a D15 socket, I might be able to wire it up so a Sidewinder stick could just plug right in and all I'd need to do is change the MIDI board's Firmware.
The X45 is a D15 plug on the Throttle.. it plugs into the Stick (not the PC).. then the stick has a USB that goes into the PC. So the stick would have to be hacked into for it's control lines if used with the Midi board (or tether into the PC as is).. something I'd put off for another day.. and yea, it most likely would need another Midi board to get all the features out of it if I hacked into it.
I'm thinking I might be able to find Pots that are 10K that would swap in place of any 100K pots I might find in there. Of course that might bugger up my idea of swapping a Sidewinder in on the fly if the Sidewinder also uses 100K pots (more surgery!)
But I wouldnt be against putting the op-amp adaptor inside a custom interface box with the MIDI CPU so no controller molestation would be required.. just Plug N Play!
That may be the better way to go.. hmm..

I'm also working on using racing pedals for a foot controller. Again, Saitek (aka Mad Katz) had an old steering wheel with pedal set that can be found cheap..



the pedals use a 9 pin connector.. like the kind for older mice. Again, all I'd need is to have a D9 socket to plug it into and I bet there'd be enough control lines left on the MIDI board to wire it up along with the throttle.. so you could plug them both in, or just one at a time.. then plug MIDI out from the board to the synth you want to use it on. No PC connection required (after Firmware config, of course).

Lastly, another controller I have my eye on to hijack is this rudder controller pedalset by Saitek as well.



It will do one axis between the two pedals (like a real rudder pedalset would do, one goes down, the other comes up).. but what is neat is the tips of the pedals can be tipped forwards, just like a real Cessna airplane pedalset to control left or right brakes independantly (yea, you can spin in circles if you just hold one brake down, LOL). So there are three pots to play with on that pedalset and in very curious ways compared to the usual Midi foot controller you see for sale by Roland, Korg, etc.







These controllers are not cheap. The X45 typically goes for about $35 or more shipped/used on fleabay. The X52 can be about $50 or more. Sometimes a throttle or stick only is sold for around $20. The rudder pedalset is an easy $70.
That steering wheel setup with pedals I just picked up for $14 shipped I thought that was very reasonable.
It'll all add up to over $120 for a Midi board, Throttle controller, cheap pedals and a housing to put the Midi board in. Same cost as a retail Midi controller of sorts, but it would be completely different than any retail controller.

Last edited by Synthetech; 05-17-2012 at 03:15 AM.
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Old 05-17-2012, 06:10 AM
J.D. J.D. is offline
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A pretty great area of exploration for sure.

I'm not sure if I'm totally understanding. Are you hoping to build a kind of converter box using the CPU that you would plug one of these game controllers into or do you want to hardwire the CPU into the controllers themselves?

Some of these controllers probably have their own microcontrollers on board and use serial protocol to communicate, I'm not sure it would be possible to build a device that you could just plug into and convert to MIDI using just the CPU. (Totally possible with another microcontroller, maybe even already exists.)

Im sure it would be possible to hardwire the CPU into most of these and still preserve the original functionality. It would take a lot of careful work and certainly some 'surgery', but you'd have a solid instrument based on a solid board. And yeah pretty unique!
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Old 05-18-2012, 11:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.D. View Post
I'm not sure if I'm totally understanding. Are you hoping to build a kind of converter box using the CPU that you would plug one of these game controllers into
yes


that way I could also plug a sidewinder, a 9pin mouse.. anything db15 and db9 plugs. Imagine 9pin trackballs too.

In my case, the db15 for a throttle and a db9 for pedals.

just figure the pin functions and code accordingly.
Change the code when I change controllers... Then I'd just build a Xover adapter for between the sidewinder and the midibox.. in case the pots dont match up on pin to pin between the controllers.
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Old 05-19-2012, 12:46 AM
Jim McDougall Jim McDougall is offline
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Funny you should bring this up -- i still have a SFS flight stick (same F-15E Talon) and the matching throttle as seen in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oZHrOiNPb8

very similar to the Saitek you were looking at

and a CH flight pedals assembly as well as the Saitek Action pad --- never considered using these as midi input devices but the throttles have a pleathora of switches and pots. I think the flight stick is a little too big and bulky for use with a keyboard but the throttles would be a real kick.
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:42 AM
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well I went ahead and bought an X-45 set... it'll be a week or so before it is in my hands to molest.


I had my heart set on that X-52 throttle with the LCD screen, but I can just imagine that would be a major pain to go inside and breakout all the pots/switches to separate lines, like the X-45 already is with it's DB15 connector.


Figured I'd get the controller first, then figure out what kind of pots they used in it and go from there.
Anyone have any good links to those op-amp scalers??



I had my eyes on CH pro pedals.. I think they would make for a very interesting foot midi controller being it has three pots inside it. The rudder control could make for a pitch bend and the brake tips for modulation and filter cutoff.. or whatever combo you wanted.
If I ever find a good deal on a set, I'll most likely grab it. For now I'll just have to play around with the cheapo racing pedals.
That SFS throttle controller is pretty slick. Dont see a split throttle like that very often. They are kinda rare to find on ebay and a bit more expensive.


It is my hopes that if I can get the X-45 to work with the Midi CPU, then other people can just copy my work to make their own. Plus if it can all be done so an older Sidewinder (with db15 connector) can plug in it too, it'd be a win/win situation... that way you have a choice of which controller to use if you happen to have both of them.

I agree, a flight joystick would most likely be too clumsy to use for sound tweaking. I'll most likely keep the X45 throttle control and re-sell the X45 joystick which does sell on ebay without the throttle. That way I can get about 2/3rds of my purchase $$ back for the set.
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Old 05-25-2012, 04:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeker View Post
Figured I'd get the controller first, then figure out what kind of pots they used in it and go from there.
Anyone have any good links to those op-amp scalers??
So you need an op amp to reduce the output impedance of the analog voltage signal provided by the joystick pot. Correct?

I'm a fan of MCP6002-I/P. Cheap, single 5V supply, DIP package. Set up as a "voltage follower" per wikipedia. Power using MIDI CPU Vreg.

Pot Voltage output -> voltage follower -> MIDI CPU analog input.

Let me know if I misunderstood the question.

http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/...bF5Hzf1CcEHRbP
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Old 06-09-2012, 02:30 PM
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Thanks for the info John.

Since I need to convert four pots on this Throttle control, wouldnt this one with 4 op amps inside it be a better buy?

http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/...jY67zbQQYyc%3d

The pots are indeed 100k. Would you happen to know what resistors I'd need to make one op amp do the proper conversion? I'd be powering the pots with the 5v off the midi board.



Well I did finally get the X-45 Throttle controller. And man is this thing slick! It even has a tension set for the Throttle throw.. the tighter you make the adjustment screw, the harder it is to move the throttle back and forth.. you can make it flimsy or extremely stiff.
The rotary controls are quite nice feeling, they have an indent in the middle of the rotation for both of them.
The rudder/rocker pot control on the bottom of the handgrip is very nice.. it will work great as a pitchbender. It returns to center automatically.



I'll be building a separate project box to house this midi cpu in.. I would like this box to have two DB 15 connectors for inputs from this throttle control and a CH Pro Pedalset (or any other future controllers I might frankenmidi together).

Now here's the thing, I'd like to go from a DB15 outside the case, then thru the case to a ribbon cable.. then ribbon to connectors directly on the midi cpu board.
I tried to find information on the spacing of the control terminals to perhaps attach some kind of IDC or molex connector directly to the midi cpu board... so I can hook the ribbon cables to the connectors on the midi cpu board.. but allow me to take it all apart if need be later on.
I'd hate to solder wires directly to the midi cpu board on all those control terminals, just to later on change them again.. hopefully we can figure out some kind of breakout connectors to permanently affix to the board?

And yes, I realize I cant utilize all 30 connections from two db15's.. I will have one fully utilized and the second one will be custom cabled to use the remaining 8 or 9 control terminals.

I'd also like to use a 4 switch dip switch to control the midi channel setting on the midi cpu.. are the holes on the midi board ready for standard dip switches, or do I have to break out from the board with wires first? It'd be nice to be able to just solder in a single grouped dip switch.



Last of all for now... is there a way to make a midi thru.. basically clone the midi output of the midi board? So I can have a Midi In, Out and Thru sockets on my midi cpu box.


Thanks again for all your help and input fella's. I am slowly getting this all together, but of course it takes time and lots of planning. Things should begin to come together here soon.. I've been waiting 6 weeks now for a custom daughter board to install inside my Korg Poly 800. The board completely reprograms the old synth with things like going from 1 LFO to 4 LFO's... it gives it new waveforms, adds portamento/glide, gives it SysEx that it never had prior and a slew of other goodies.. so it's hard to plan things out until I get that board first, play with it to figure it all out and plan all the controls.
Once I get that, then I can go ahead and buy a midi cpu and begin the madness.
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Old 06-10-2012, 12:57 PM
Jim McDougall Jim McDougall is offline
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MidiCPU uses std .100" spacing you can get the pins in rows of 25 from Digikey and Mouser and they carry the mating connectors in various pin counts up to 12 or 16. Doa search on the forum thread for connectors -- there is a thread on this.
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Old 06-10-2012, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeker View Post
Thanks for the info John.

Since I need to convert four pots on this Throttle control, wouldnt this one with 4 op amps inside it be a better buy?

http://www.mouser.com/ProductDetail/...jY67zbQQYyc%3d
Yes, definitely.

Quote:
The pots are indeed 100k. Would you happen to know what resistors I'd need to make one op amp do the proper conversion? I'd be powering the pots with the 5v off the midi board.
The potentiometer is simply acting as a voltage divider as described here:

http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=441

Since the pot value is too large, it won't work well if you connect the voltage from the pot directly to a MIDI CPU analog input. So instead, connect it to the input of a "voltage follower" circuit. Then, connect the output of the voltage follower to the MIDI CPU input.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltage...implementation

Quote:
I tried to find information on the spacing of the control terminals to perhaps attach some kind of IDC or molex connector directly to the midi cpu board... so I can hook the ribbon cables to the connectors on the midi cpu board.. but allow me to take it all apart if need be later on.
I'd hate to solder wires directly to the midi cpu board on all those control terminals, just to later on change them again.. hopefully we can figure out some kind of breakout connectors to permanently affix to the board?
Here are some threads that you will find helpful:

http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=692
http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=535
http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=260

Quote:
I'd also like to use a 4 switch dip switch to control the midi channel setting on the midi cpu.. are the holes on the midi board ready for standard dip switches, or do I have to break out from the board with wires first? It'd be nice to be able to just solder in a single grouped dip switch.
The MIDI CPU does not have room for an on-board dip switch, but you can definitely wire something remotely. This may be of interest:

http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=353

Quote:
Last of all for now... is there a way to make a midi thru.. basically clone the midi output of the midi board? So I can have a Midi In, Out and Thru sockets on my midi cpu box.
The MIDI CPU MIDI Out acts as a MIDI thru port. It automatically merges MIDI messages on its MIDI input and combines them with whatever it generates locally. There are some limitations, like with sysex messages. Check out the "MIDI Merge" section in the firmware user manual.

Quote:
Thanks again for all your help and input fella's. I am slowly getting this all together, but of course it takes time and lots of planning. Things should begin to come together here soon.. I've been waiting 6 weeks now for a custom daughter board to install inside my Korg Poly 800. The board completely reprograms the old synth with things like going from 1 LFO to 4 LFO's... it gives it new waveforms, adds portamento/glide, gives it SysEx that it never had prior and a slew of other goodies.. so it's hard to plan things out until I get that board first, play with it to figure it all out and plan all the controls.
Once I get that, then I can go ahead and buy a midi cpu and begin the madness.
Sounds good. For projects like this, my advice is always to implement a small piece of it first, then add features one-at-a-time. The incremental approach makes troubleshooting much easier, and usually decreases the total project time dramatically.

I look forward to hearing about your progress.
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Old 06-10-2012, 03:05 PM
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Thanks John. Lots of good info I needed to narrow down to move on to the next phase..


Regarding the Midi Thru.. I was trying to have a third midi socket on my box.
I realize the OUT is also a Thru on your board, I just was hoping to make a 2nd out socket... like a mini patchbay.
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Old 06-11-2012, 12:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeker View Post
Thanks John. Lots of good info I needed to narrow down to move on to the next phase..


Regarding the Midi Thru.. I was trying to have a third midi socket on my box.
I realize the OUT is also a Thru on your board, I just was hoping to make a 2nd out socket... like a mini patchbay.
You could use this...only build as many outputs as you need:

http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=1127
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Old 07-19-2012, 10:20 PM
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back to the voltage follower...


Can a 741 op amp work for this as well? I have loads of them and duals as well already in my IC parts stash.

And as for the application, is it really as simple as putting the 100K Ohm pot's tap at the amps "+" input and split the op amp's output with one of the splits going out to the midi cpu and the other going back to the inverted (-) input on the op amp??
No resistors or other components needed, like shown in the animation gif found on this site?

http://talkingelectronics.com/projec.../OP-AMP-1.html
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Old 07-20-2012, 02:51 PM
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Actually: Yes, it's that simple!
Here, in this thread you might find the answers for your questions:
http://forum.highlyliquid.com/showthread.php?t=836

Last edited by Mixtick; 07-20-2012 at 03:02 PM.
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Old 08-26-2012, 04:40 PM
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Thanks Mixtick...
the Op Amp info is helpful.. I probably will use 741 dual op amps for my followers.



Well I've run into another set of questions regarding the use of this Flight controller...





Looking at the schematic for this throttle controller (TH controls)..



it appears that the buttons I intended to use for activating layers are inside matrix's.


John, is it correct that to toggle layers that you must give the activating switch it's own control input.. IE, I've got to isolate every switch I want to use to toggle a layer?



What I wanted to do was use the big orange "D" button (T8) to switch through 3 or more layers of the pair of potentiometers (R1 & R2) nearby it (the little round grey knobs). So that the pots change as a set.. Say LFO1 Freq/Depth-- LFO2 Freq/Depth-- LFO3 Freq/Depth.

T7 is the mouse button.. a tiny button next to the pointer hat switch on the front of the controller. I'd like it to toggle the mouse pointer switches to cycle thru 3 or more layers of controlls.

The Mode 1,2,3 switch.. I want it to toggle thru 3 layers for the rear hat switches .
It's a Hat Switch located on the back of the controller..




Basically I want the hat switches to stay in a Matrix, but be able to switch layers for either of them independently.



The schematics are a little confusing at first, but I believe the Mode switch only has two switches.. Mode1 and Mode 3 (MD and MU respectively (UP/DOWN)). Mode 2 is nothing switched on at all, except to turn on LED "Mode 2" (not seen in the schematic).. from what I can tell.

The Aux 1 switch is two switches.. Aux 0 and Aux 1(AD and AU).
The Aux. switch I intend to use to switch Portamento ON/OFF.. and it doesnt need to be a layer toggle and may remain in the matrix.


This pic shows the PC board for the switches:




It looks like to keep things clean, I'd have to cut traces on that PC board to isolate the switch terminals for Mode, Mouse Button and button "D"... if I want to use them to make layers.. (mouse button is on another PCB.. just Mode, D and Aux. switches on this board).
Then I'd have to solder wires directly on the switch terminals solder points on the PCB and create a separate cable of wires to run out of the controller to interface with the Midi CPU.
I'd like to retain the DB15 female connector currently used by the Flight Controller if at all possible.. makes for a cheap/easy way to plug it into the MIDI CPU.

I was hoping to use this controller without doing any mods to it, but it don't look like it's avoidable if I'm going to make custom layer switches.


Sound about right?




I also wonder if there is a way to make those two round pots to change values from 0-15, instead of 0-127.
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Old 09-07-2012, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
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John, is it correct that to toggle layers that you must give the activating switch it's own control input.. IE, I've got to isolate every switch I want to use to toggle a layer?
Yes, that is pretty much the case. You can also use a switch to enable/disable any combination of layers by writing a literal value to the Configuration Layer Control Register.
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Old 01-21-2014, 03:08 PM
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Synthetech has posted some of his results on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnQc-oJ_Ogo

More at his channel:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Synthetech
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Old 01-22-2014, 05:10 PM
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Thanks for bumping the thread John.


I intend to make a new thread with a more direct outline of what I finally built and how I did it.
Hopefully I will also find time to make extra vids too.
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