The future of music

The SPIN synthesizer brings music performance into the era of AI

February 15, 2024

Key facts:

  • SPIN, designed by Arvind Sanjeev, represents a new frontier of AI music performance.
  • This innovative device takes inputs through the device from an Arduino board and processes it using an LLM called MusicGen.
  • SPIN is a self-contained device with a digital vinyl system (DVS), sampler-style button inputs, and speakers.

The synthesizer’s journey through time is fascinating, beginning with the Moog, a beast that brought electronic music to the masses in the 60s. 

Then came the 80s, when the Roland TB-303 turned the music scene on its head, giving birth to acid house. And who could forget the digital revolution ushered in by the Yamaha DX7, a synth you’ll surely have heard thousands of time, more if you’re an 80s music fan. 

Now, synths have jumped into the AI era.

Welcome to the world of SPIN, the brainchild of designer Arvind Sanjeev, the AI music synthesizer redefining the art of music creation with its built-in large language model (LLM) named MusicGen.

The SPIN synthesizer brings music performance into the era of AI 1
The SPIN AI synthesizer. Source: Arvind Sanjeev.

By simply inputting your desired mood, genre, sounds, and beats per minute, SPIN brings your musical ideas to life on a classic LP record format. Its integrated Digital Vinyl System (DVS) allows you to manipulate the music by slowing down, zooming in, scratching, and exploring the spaces between notes. 

Whether you’re crafting new tunes, seeking a novel sound synthesizer, indulging in playful scratching, or setting a fun ambiance for a party, SPIN can deliver. 

How SPIN works

Delving into the technicalities, SPIN is powered by integrated hardware and software. 

User inputs via an Arduino Mega translate into commands for the MusicGen API through a Raspberry Pi, culminating in the generation of mp3 files. 

These files are then played through a modified Numark PT-01 turntable, using a timecoded vinyl record and the Xwax DVS package.

The SPIN synthesizer brings music performance into the era of AI 2
How SPIN works. Source: Arvind Sanjeev.

From testing the MusicGen API on a Raspberry Pi to designing and assembling a custom PCB, from crafting a wooden cabin enclosure to fine-tuning the system for optimal performance, the development of SPIN was a tricky endeavor – but it looks worth every ounce of effort. 

To see it brought to life, check out SPIN creator Arvin Sanjeev’s website or watch the video below.

SPIN is a glimpse into a future where AI enriches our sensory experiences, allowing for a deeper, more personal interaction with music. 

There are a few other AI-integrated plugins and projects, like the Dadabots neural network death metal ‘band,’ but SPIN is probably the first to bring sophisticated AI models, specifically LLMs, into a portable hardware device.

If you want to kickstart a deeper exploration of AI in music production, Dadabots” videos are an excellent place to start.

Sam Jeans

Writer and digital artist who has been covering the latest AI-related news, including generative AI and its influence on the creative industries. Sam plays drums and has been writing for tech and music sites since 2016.

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