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Saturday, October 16, 2010

The polyplasmic archophone - Hack a Day

The polyplasmic archophone

posted Oct 16th 2010 7:03am by Caleb Kraft
filed under: digital audio hacks

The polyplasmic archophone is a fresh approach to high voltage “arc music“. They are using  an Arduino clone to convert signals for the ignition coils. It is still unfinished, but the effect is decent. In the end it will have 2 tiers of voice coils for a total of 13. They are using different materials for the antenna so they can get different colors of sparks. You can see a video of it after the break and we must say the effect is quite nice. Change the lighting on that video and we could imagine this being the set to a [Joules Verne] movie.

[via Makezine]

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Go there...

His Web Site...

The Polyplasmic Arcophone (“Arcophone” or more colloquially, “Mr Zappy”) is a MIDI-controlled, 30,000V electric plasma arc instrument.

More info as this quinessential musical accessory to every mad scientist's laboratory takes shape.

Current status


  • 6 voices provided by automative ignition coils & Coil Driver circuits
  • MIDI in optoisolator
  • Freetronics 2010 Arduino clone running our MIDI processing and spark trigger signal synthesizer software.
  • One ATX powersupply


  • MIDI control via Arduino - Note on and off only at present, MIDI note stack, Voice allocation heat-load distribution algorithm
  • Custom polyphonic digital pin oscillator (because arduino's tone function is mono! boo!)

To Do


  • Build suitably embellished presentation casing
  • Blinky and flashy and glowy lights
  • Sodium coated antennae (for orange plasma)
  • Copper Anntenae (for green plasma)


  • Pitch bend support
  • Voice stacking + detune
  • Choreographed voice allocation modes, selectable by MIDI CC.
  • Frequency dependent duty cycle (to help charge the coils for the higher spark rates)
  • Velocity sensitivity by recruiting extra coils for notes
  • Mod wheel support
Go there...


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