Introducing CarSynth

1010music proudly presents the world’s most powerful synthesizer: 285 Horsepower. More than 2 metric tons. 12 speakers. Seats 7.

CarSynth is a wacky project meant to explore what it means to synthesize music and sound effects using a full sized automobile as the controller, power source, and sound system. The CarSynth module plugs into the cars OBD port, which is typically used by your auto mechanic for diagnostic purposes. Then, you have access to some of the basic parameters of the vehicle, including speed and RPM. Power comes from the automotive 12V power supply. The audio is provided by our Bitbox eurorack module, which is a 24-bit sampler. Finally, the car stereo provides the sound reproduction.

The CarSynth module exposes 5 control signals as shown below, which can manipulate any kind of audio recordings.

The signals work as follows:

  • Vehicle Motion Gate – When the vehicle is moving, this signal is high or +5V
  • Vehicle Speed CV – This signal ramps from 0V to 5V indicating the overall speed of the vehicle
  • Accelerator Gate – When the driver presses the throttle or accelerator pedal, this signal is high or +5V
  • Accelerator CV – This signal ramps from 0V to 5V indicating the position of the pedal
  • Engine RPM CV – This signal indicates the current running speed of the engine

Behind the scenes, the custom part of this project is the ODB power to Analog CV section. It is comprised of these components:

The remainder of the module is a standard version of Bitbox. The video demo shows the RPM modulating the pitch of one of the audio samples. The extended demo shows two samples playing at once.

We hope you enjoy reading about CarSynth as much as we did making it. Let us know what you think.