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Wind Controller Calling all Yamaha WX owners

h4yn0nnym0u5e

h4yn0nnym0u5e

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Calling owners of Yamaha WX wind controllers... spurred on by discussions of the YDS-150, and the shortcomings of its ancestors, I thought I'd have a crack at one improvement, namely a wireless link to replace the specialist MIDI cable that's needed. I've based this on the WX5, but it should work just as well for a WX11 and WX7. I no longer have the former, and have never had the latter, but they all seem to be much the same*.

The idea is to have a WX-specific transmitter / receiver pair with the following features:
  • WX transmitter powered by its own battery, which also supplies the WX itself.
  • WX receiver powered by the WX connector on a VL70-m or WT11, or...
  • ...separately, if using a different sound source: currently this is USB micro B
  • Reasonably low latency - there's no getting away from the fact that we're adding the radio transmission time and an extra MIDI message
  • Arduino-based, so you can tinker if you want to!

I've cobbled together a prototype which seems to work OK, though it's not been tested in an adverse environment with lots of 2.4GHz radio traffic. There are some potential issues with losing messages with the software in its current state, but I think these could be overcome with a bit more work, and I've not actually seen it happen in my brief testing so far. It would probably make sense to add some form of indicator so you could tell if the link is getting iffy.

The WX5 has the advantage that it has a full-size MIDI output next to a power socket, which between them seem to be OK for holding the transmitter in place. Other mechanical arrangements would be needed for WX11 and WX7.

Not quite sure where to take this, to be honest, so I thought I'd chuck it out there to see if anyone thought it interesting or useful. I'm more than happy to publish the schematics and software for people to make their own - the parts cost is probably about £30 as it stands, provided you don't have to buy electronics basics like wire, or a soldering iron. I could at some point make another unit for a pass-round, though crossing borders might be a pain, especially with the LiPo cell, so it'd be great if we had any handy folk in the US, EU etc. who could make a couple.

Technical details for those of a geeky disposition: the radio is an NRF24L01 module; Arduino is a Pro Micro clone; not 100% sure what the voltage booster is, it takes 2.5V upwards and the output can be set to 5, 8, 9 or 12V; standard LiPo charger module with protection; 1000mAh LiPo cell; 6N137 opto isolator; 3.3V regulator; various discretes and connectors; some stripboard to make it on. (Could use a slightly cheaper Arduino e.g. a Pro Mini, but the USB on the Pro Micro makes updating and debugging way easier; there are other power options, like a couple of AAs, which would mean the LiPo and its charger could be left out.)
IMG E3141



IMG E3142

*actually, looking at the WX7 MIDI implementation, I need to add aftertouch to the software. No problem.
 
David Roach

David Roach

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Wow, impressive, well done!
I used to be really into wind synths, starting with the Lyricon, then the EWI, then belatedly the WXs.
Even though I no longer mess with this stuff, I applaud your ingenuity.
 
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interesting or useful
I'd buy it in a minute if it didn't break the bank! I have no idea what it would cost (including someone else building it), but it's the biggest reason my WX stays in the closet. If it could be used wirelessly, it would make all the difference in the world. It is a far superior instrument to the YDS, and I own both.
 
h4yn0nnym0u5e

h4yn0nnym0u5e

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I'd buy it in a minute if it didn't break the bank! I have no idea what it would cost (including someone else building it), but it's the biggest reason my WX stays in the closet. If it could be used wirelessly, it would make all the difference in the world. It is a far superior instrument to the YDS, and I own both.
That's the thing, really. The "competition" appears to be the CME WIDI Master, which on the face of it looks expensive at €49 each (and you'd need a pair) compared to £30 for the electronics I've built. But if you start adding something for a 3D printed case, and paying someone to build it for you, the economics fail to stack up pretty rapidly. If you have a mate who's OK with a soldering iron, and another one with their own 3D printer, it'd be a fun little project (which is why I did it...).

So, you'd not be too bothered by the fact that the sound generator has to remain tethered? It feels a bit weird to me, but I imagine I'll get used to it, and it probably makes more sense than trying to shoehorn a speaker into the thing.
 
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I hadn't heard of that device, I'll have to go look. I can't even remember if the WX works on battery? If you mean the sound generator (module that has the sounds, like the VL7m?, needs power, it's not a problem. I'll have to go look at the manual, the WX is literally packed up and sealed right now.
 
h4yn0nnym0u5e

h4yn0nnym0u5e

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I hadn't heard of that device, I'll have to go look.
Think it's quite new on the market. Available from Thomann, among others.
I can't even remember if the WX works on battery?
It does, or at least the WX5 does - not the WX7 or WX11. 6x AAA batteries, which I think were the downfall of the WX5 in the EU, because of a regulation about keeping them separate or something. I never did find out exactly the problem...
If you mean the sound generator (module that has the sounds, like the VL7m?, needs power, it's not a problem. I'll have to go look at the manual, the WX is literally packed up and sealed right now.
VL-70m, as pictured above? Seemed to be the default option at the time, though I believe other synths were deployed to good effect.
 
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Think it's quite new on the market. Available from Thomann, among others.
It does, or at least the WX5 does - not the WX7 or WX11. 6x AAA batteries, which I think were the downfall of the WX5 in the EU, because of a regulation about keeping them separate or something. I never did find out exactly the problem...
VL-70m, as pictured above? Seemed to be the default option at the time, though I believe other synths were deployed to good effect.
Yes, I went straight to Thomann, but Amazon has it as well, free shipping. I bought them together VL70m and the WX5 yeaaarrrrs ago. The VL70 is a darn good one, especially compared to the YDS internal sounds. And it allows a lot of editing, but it's a real pain to use the editor. (There was an app years ago, but I think it's gone and I don't use Windows.)

Regarding tether, the way I see it, since we're going to go through an amp or a PA anyway, there wil be AC power there. The deadly tether for onstage work is the cable from the WX5. Under 50€, I expected it to be over 100. That's electronics, for you! I'm ready to test that to see if the latency is decent.
 
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Another 49€ 100€ out, thanks to pandemic free time! It makes the WX5 much more useable, though.
 
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h4yn0nnym0u5e

h4yn0nnym0u5e

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Another 49€ out, thanks to pandemic free time!
Ah ... just €49? Think it might be twice that, one for the WX5 and one for the VL70-m! Unless you can split it and use one part at each end, not sure about that.
 
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What is this new Hell? >:) >:)

I saw two connectors and assumed... it's been shipped already so we'll see. Yes, I see that in one of the reviews.
 
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Ah ... just €49? Think it might be twice that, one for the WX5 and one for the VL70-m! Unless you can split it and use one part at each end, not sure about that.
Ok, got the second one today. Yesterday, the first came and looking at the manual (downloaded online, the unit comes with nothing at all) I was afraid it was going to be a horrible job getting it to work with a buggy phone app. Actually, the pair syncs and it work without any nonsense. I only tried it for a moment just now, but I can confirm the pair works well (so far) with the WX5 and without noticeable latency. The cable-free operation makes a huge difference. To compare the WX5 with the YDS-150 in one small bite:

1. The WX5 with a good sound module has much better sounds, and a lip sensor.
2. The YDS feels better, closer to a saxophone.
 

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