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How the Building Block System for Audio Gear works

How to build a MPA Thing with MPA Tiles in a MakeHaus enclosure

In order to assemble an MPA Thing, you need

Rails – at your choice of length (a multiple of 27,5mm)
Height Adjusters – depending on which height (43, 88, 110mm) you decided for
MPA Tiles – the pre-constructed components that provide functionality
as well as Faceplates for the chosen height – which hold your Blocks together.

See how to build three different Things from only three Tiles!

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The standard with of a MakeHaus is a multiple of 110mm. So let’s build a device which is 220mm wide!

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With the same Tiles, we’ll now assemble a device in a MakeHaus that is 220mm long…

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What types of MPA Tiles are available?

Of course, what you can build depends on the MPA Tiles you have available. Here are some choices from our initial MPA Tiles lineup – Made in Germany, Made for You:

Control Tiles

  • Rotary Encoders with Push Switch and Touch Sensing
  • Full Color RGB Switch Pads
  • Motorized Faders (60mm or 100mm long) with Touch Sensing
  • LCD Display and 2 Encoders with Push Switch
  • Arduino-based things you or the community will build!

Connect Tiles

  • XLR, TRS, XLR/TRS Combo for analog audio connectors
  • XLR and RCA for digital audio connections
  • MIDI DIN5, MIDI 3.5mm and USB MIDI for MIDI connectivity
  • USB Audio and Ethernet Audio over IP connections are on the Audio Tiles

Audio Tiles

  • MPA DSP Audio Processor, scalable (latest generation multi-core SHARC DSP)
  • Analog to Digital / Digital to Analog Converters (with/without Mic Preamps)
  • MPA “Dino Park” Synthesis DSP Core (stand-alone operation)
  • USB Audio Interface (available Q1 2020)
  • Audio over IP Interface (available Q1 2020)

Compute Tiles

  • Pi Tile with mechanical mount for Raspberry Pi 3B/3B+ and compatibles
  • Support for other Community CPUs is in preparation

How things are interconnected

Within a Block, there are three types of interconnections for MPA Tiles:

Control Connections

Many Control Tile and Connect Tiles interconnect via their Universal Control Connectors (UCC), allowing you to daisy chain multiple Tiles. The UCC connector and its 6-pin ribbon cable carries both power and data.

Every UCC connector Tile also features a microUSB connector for optional connections to a Compute Tile which runs GLUE. Any one Tile within the UCC chain can make the necessary USB connection.

Analog Audio Connections

Analog audio connections are made via a 16-pin ribbon cable,  that carries four channels of balanced analog audio in one direction. Connect Tiles using this connection include XLR Tiles, TRS Tiles, XLR/TRS Combo Tiles providing common audio connectivity using connector of your choice.

Digital Audio Connections

Digital audio connections, interconnecting Audio Tiles such as DSP Tiles, A-to-D and D-to-A convertor Tiles, AES/EBU Interface Tiles, USB Audio Tiles and Network Audio (AoIP) Tiles.

When you order a Connect Tile, the cable required by that Tile will be included.  As we use very common ribbon cables and “IDC connectors”, you can always chose to make your own cables to achieve custom lengths.

Finally, there is the Compute Tile which is running GLUE, this connection is always made via one or multiple USB connections. GLUE provides the network configuration and control.  Note that GLUE does not process or transport any audio – that is what Audio Tiles do!

About application agnostic hardware

When you look at MPA Tiles and the Network of Things –  all you see is just the tip of an iceberg. Hidden from view is a lot of complex software implementing the latest in advanced IT concepts, along with our own, decade-long R&D into network distributed audio solutions. Here is where the secret in the flexibility and versatility of our platform lies. Without the underlying software framework, a module system like the MPA Platform could not function.

Conventional audio gear contains both hardware and software in the same box. These two components are so intertwined that neither of the two can easily be changed: conventional product is designed as fixed or static purpose. Such product is unlikely to function as anything other than what it was initially designed for.

Our uniquely powerful network distributed software framework allows for the total separation of hardware and software. Total separation means – you can change one without the other. Hardware becomes individual resource within the network – available and its function determined by software running elsewhere in the network. This simply means you assign the hardware its function to serve purpose you desire.

Combined with modular software, deployed from the internet cloud straight to GLUE and even to the most remote Tiles of your hardware system, this presents a vastly flexible and open ended system second to none in the audio industry.

Hardware which is agnostic of its application is not only extremely versatile. It also embraces the concept of sustainability and non-obsolescence – providing great value for your money and a future proof investment into your creative potential. Understanding the gestalt of  agnostic hardware concept will further empower the design of your Blocks in the most beneficial ways!

Mechanical possibilities

MPA Things are based on a flexible mechanical concept which was designed to allow for a number of different MakeHaus enclosure types.

Here is how it works. The width of one channel strip is a standardized 27.5mm. The smallest Thing is precisely four channels strips wide – so it is 110mm wide. That allows you to combine multiple independent devices to form a seamlessly scalable channel strip user interface – from four to dozens of channels.

Most times you will want a single purpose device in its own housing.  But sometimes you want to combine the functionality of multiple tiles into a single housing. It is no coincidence that combining two Block widths will result in a “half 19” inch” format whereas a your standard MakeHaus wide unit will perfectly fit your 19” rack when adding additional side mounts!

Makehaus enclosures come in three different heights – 43mm (fits one rack unit/RU space), 88mm (fits two rack unit/RU space) and 110mm (providing even side lengths and allowing interesting “flip” maneuvers in mounting such Blocks!)

Given all the flexibility of the MPA Platform housing concept, possibilities to build gear which features different combinations of tiles in different housing types are quite endless.

Nothing is stopping you from building your own compartments and embedding you MPA Tiles the way you like it. You can build gear and mount it in a table, in a  loudspeaker, in a road case, in your car – wherever you need it, want it, imagine it!

Once you have chosen your MPA Tiles and your MakeHaus – what does the gear you’ve constructed  do and what can it be used for? This becomes clear when you realize that gear you build with the MPA Platform is again, application agnostic – a mere resource, discovered and allocated by application software which runs on the Compute Tiles and where  you chose how to allocate the hardware resources that are connected to your network of Things…

Where and how to connect your Arduino

We love Maker technology so much we are embracing Raspberry Pi as the standard Compute Tile for MPA Things.

Every MPA Block enables you to connect an Arduino (via its UART to our standardized UCC the Universal Control Connector). We supply the Arduino Library to easily connect to GLUE. Then, write your own Control Support Maps to introduce GLUE to the sensors, actors and functions you implemented. Now GLUE can tie your Arduino and make it a member of your network!

However, note that any coding or hacking is completely optional. You usually build your own gear with no coding whatsoever. We have ensured that “making audio gear” is a true plug-and-play experience! Your GLUE software will make sure all parts of your system will play like one.

The first hackable Pro Audio System. Bring your Raspberry Pi and your Arduino – we can’t wait to see what you come up with 🙂