Over the last year, I have been busy with a project which unfortunately de-prioritized the frequency of blog posts on this website. While the project, called BitMasher, is currently ongoing, I felt that now is a good time to share some of the details and progress made on it so far.

BitMasher is a hand-held audio effects ‘game’ – a mashup of an audio effects box and retro-game elements:

From the video, the cat’s movement is controlled using the D-pad and A button. When it jumps and lands on a cloud, an audio filter activates and is applied to the input audio from the line-in input. The left and right clouds are linked to low and high pass filters respectively and their height determines their cutoff frequencies.

Audio Flow Diagram

The Idea

While playing Pokemon on my Game Boy one day, I wondered how an audio effects device could be integrated with an interface similar to the Game Boy (ie. with only a D-pad, some buttons and a screen). Audio hardware and plugins often allow the musician to change effect parameters through sliders, buttons and/or dials (or digital versions of them) – and for good reason! These interfaces are intuitive to use and responsive. Constraining audio effect control to an interface similar to the Game Boy would be an interesting challenge. Would it be very practical? Probably not. Would it be fun to use? Maybe!

BitMasher Concept

BitMasher will have various audio effects – each having its own scene or “mini-game.” These scenes are intended to be light-hearted and perhaps vague representations of a particular effect that the user can interact with – much like the Clouds scene in the above demo.

Despite looking like a retro-game, I’m hard pressed to call it a game since a game typically has some goal and/or an evolving storyline that the player progresses though. BitMasher has none of that – unless you count changing audio as a goal.

This post is a short introduction to the BitMasher project. Future blog posts will go into some depth on future scenes as well as some of the hardware and firmware implementation details. This project has had many interesting challenges that I think would make great blog posts.

I often livestream BitMasher development work on Twitch so if you’re interested in this sort of stuff but don’t want to wait for development blog posts to come out, feel free to tune in!