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Pocket Operator Sync Splitter

If you’ve seen one of my Pocket Operator videos (like this one) you may have wondered how I have things hooked up. Since people seem to ask every now and then, I thought it would be helpful to just write up a post. So here it is.

If you have two Pocket Operator you probably know that you can sync them up, and audio will pass from the first unit through the second unit. The 1/8″ TRS (stereo) cable will carry the sync signal on one channel and the audio on the other. With two Pocket Operators you can adjust the volume for each and usually get a decent enough balance for the final output. It works. Mostly.

But what if you have three or more Pocket Operators? Well, you can still chain them and sync them, and the audio will carry through all of them, but it gets more difficult to adjust the volume on each one, and getting three or more chained together with equal sound levels at the end is… rough. So here’s my solution.

I got a sync device from the p0k3t0 shop on Tindie. Specifically I use the Sync Splitter for Pocket Operators – 7 Way. (There’s a 5 Way and 9 Way as well.) This device allows you to run the first PO into it, then split the sync into 6 output signals (for 7 more Pocket Operators) and then it also passes through the audio from the first PO.

So the Sync Splitter is the output for the first PO, and every other PO outputs audio as normal, and now you’ve got X number of audio signals where X is the number of Pocket Operators you have. In my case it’s four. (For now. I’ve still got my eye on the Arcade.)

Here’s a diagram:

Note that all cables are standard 1/8″ TRS Stereo Cables. No mono, no splitters, etc. The exact cables I use are these short red right angle cables.

Okay, so I’ve got four Pocket Operators each with their own output and I need to do something with them… so I plug them all into a Bastl Dude Mixer. I love that little Dude! It’s small, runs on four AA batteries (I use rechargeables) and it has five inputs, so if you’re doing a jam with 5 or less Pocket Operators each can have its own channel. Each channel has its own volume control and a mute button so you can do punch in/out easily for each PO.

Any multi-channel mixer should work fine, but the Dude has 1/8″ instead of 1/4″, runs on batteries, and it’s tiny. It’s sort of a perfect fit for the little PO crew, and it works well for my needs.

This post is long enough so I won’t get into the actual recording technique. I’ll save that for another post. Cheers!

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Sync a Behringer TD-3 to a Pocket Operator

Last year I wrote up Syncing a Behringer RD-6 to a Pocket Operator via a Pi Pico which was more of a “wow, this works!” thing than a good explanation. I say that because a few people thought it was nice, but didn’t quite understand it, or wanted a diagram, so here’s a diagram…

The 1/8″ stereo jack on the left is where you plug in the Pocket Operator, and the 1/8″ stereo jack on the right goes to the device you want to sync up. (A Behringer RD-6 or TD-3 for example.) The ring/red is the audio side of things, the tip/orange is the click/sync signal put out by the PO, and sleeve/black is the common ground.

As previously mentioned, the Pocket Operators are awesome, and they can sync with each other, but can’t always sync with other devices. They put out a 1 volt signal for the sync track (the “click”) and most other electronic devices want something higher, like 2.5 volts, or 5 volts. The Behringer RD-6 wants over 2.5 volts, so you cannot sync it to a Pocket Operator, but now you can with this device!

This basically reads the 1 volt from the Pocket Operator, and then outputs 5 volts that the Behringer RD-6 can recognize as a sync in signal. While the RD-6 has a sync out port, there are reasons you may want to have the PO be the primary and the RD-6 be the secondary. There’s also the Behringer TD-3, which (oddly enough) does not have a sync out port.

A guy named Oscar got in touch and asked if this worked with the TD-3 and at the time I didn’t have one. Well, I have one now, and it works great. And since the TD-3 does not have a sync out port (!?!?) this is the only way (without additional hardware) to sync a TD-3 to a PO.

I built one (using a Nano, not an Uno) and I’m sending it to Oscar to test out. He’ll need to provide a USB power source and a splitter cable to get it working. (He’s got both already. Most Pocket Operator nerds probably do.)

I did make one mistake on this device… I actually incorporated labels into the enclosure. I for “In” and O for “Out” and when assembling it I didn’t notice I had it backwards until testing. Oops! So I just stuck some labels on the top, and now In is on the right and Out is on the left. If I make another, I’ll do it right next time. Oh, I also realized I could probably just build a splitter into it by adding another jack, so I may do that as well. (Though that will increase the size of the enclosure a bit.)

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Pocket Operator Album

Hey, I’m recording another album. You may know I recorded three albums as part of the RPM Challenge back between 2008 and 2011, and before that I did other recording, playing, performing, and touring. So this isn’t totally new…

What is new is that I am recording all the “songs” using only Pocket Operators. Those tiny little synths that make bleeps and bloops. I started acquiring a collection of them in the summer of 2021 and at this point I’ve got four of them, and I use three or four in song. Also, all of these songs are short! Nearly all of them are under one minute in length.

I should point out that I am far from the first person to produce a Pocket Operator album. Others have done it, though that really wasn’t the inspiration for this. Basically, someone asked for it! Splorp is (partly) to blame. Yeah, seriously.

Anyway, head on over to peteprodoehl.bandcamp.com/album/po-sounds and grab it if you want it. It’s a “name your price” thing, so it can be free. If you pay for it I’ll probably just use the money to buy more Pocket Operators. Oh, I also plan to keep going, so more songs will be added over time.

Oh, if you prefer these songs with some (uhhh) visuals, you can check out the YouTube Playlist which has some older material not included on the album. (The album versions pull the audio from the video and just do a quick cleanup to make sure the levels are good, but otherwise there is no editing.)

Too lazy to click those links? Just use the player below. If you want to use these songs for anything let me know. There’s a 99% chance I’d be cool with it. If you want me to record something else for you, get in touch with me and we can discuss it.

(Note: This is not a physical album and I’m sure it will not be one in the future. The photo at the top is just a silly graphic I made.)

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Pocket Operator Programming Chart

I’ve been doing these Pocket Operator Jams for a while now and I noticed that the more complex ones (with multiple Pocket Operators) require some notes when programming the sequences. I was hastily jotting down notes but then I came up with this Pocket Operator Programming Chart. (You can download a PDF of it!)

Pocket Operator Programming Chart

The way it works is simple. You can keep track of each PO by number (or name) and then create the sequence, writing the pattern numbers. You can just leave it blank when you want a PO to drop out (or write in a blank pattern number). I’m still experimenting with this stuff but it’s definitely come in handy. I’ve said it before, programming music sequencers is a little like programming computers, but more fun.

The paper is super-handy to look at and follow along with while you set the sequence for each PO. I tend to read the chart, count out loud, and press the appropriate buttons. Works for me.

This 16 step chart works for most of my jams since it keeps things under a minute at 80 bpm. Since the PO-12 and PO-16 can only chain up to 16 patterns, this works out well.

Here’s some examples of using the chart.

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Triple Trouble (à la Beastie Boys)

In case you didn’t know this, I’m a huge fan of The Beastie Boys and while listening to the song Triple Trouble from their album To the 5 Boroughs I heard this line:

I got kicks on the one, seven and eleven, snares on the five and thirteen

So I programmed it into the Behringer RD-6 Analog Drum Machine and… it sounded pretty good! Of course the RD-6 is based on the Roland TR-606 which isn’t quite the machine that the Roland TR-808 was. I mean, the 808 is famous for many reasons. (By the way, the “TR” stands for “Transistor Rhythm”.)

Hey, I’ve been in bands and heard a lot of music, and yeah, it’s pretty recognizable rhythm. After I posted the video a friend of mine said “Now do it on the Pocket Operator” so I did that, but I incorporated three Pocket Operators, which seemed appropriate. Here it is.

Want more drum patterns? Check out 808.pixll.de