Programming the Pocket Miku

I’ve had the “Singing Keyboard Synthesizer Pocket Miku” for months now, and I’ve played with it a bit as a handheld synth keyboard off and on when I’ve had the time (which hasn’t been all that often). Recently, I decided to write a Java app for accessing the different features available via MIDI commands, and I’ve kind of run into a wall regarding documentation. That is, there doesn’t seem to be anything useful in English.

The Miku, also known as the NSX-39, is based on the Yamaha NSX-1 chip, which is used in a number of other products, including a Vocaloid-style Speak and Spell game in Japan. While Yamaha has posted the NSX-1 timing sheet, product brief and MIDI spec online, they haven’t made the NSX-1 User’s Manual publicly available. The MIDI spec is the only one in English, and while it’s good for things like the Control Change and SysEx messages, it lacks example usages, and there’s nothing for specifically controlling the NSX-39.

Gakken has a go-to author for synth-specific issues who goes by the name Polymoog. Poly wrote a MIDI guide for the NSX-39 which is very detailed, but is in Japanese. He also makes reference to a number of spec docs hosted on Google docs that aren’t publicly viewable. I’ve tried requesting access to them, but haven’t gotten a response back. I’ve also tried asking on the Yamaha Synth forums whether anyone has these docs and, again, haven’t gotten an answer back.

Now, I’m willing to accept that the NSX series synths are only available in Japan, and that the demand for English documentation is very low. But, it would be nice to have all of the Japanese docs so I can at least get a better shot at figuring out what’s going on, on my own.

Fortunately, I do have the Pocket Miku Perfect Guide, which includes a few of the data tables, and some example SysEx messages. Unfortunately, a lot of the information was lifted directly from Polymoog’s MIDI guide, and contains the same typos Poly made.  So, I can get working about 50% of what I want to accomplish, but I have no idea what else the Miku is capable of, and I don’t know why the other 50% isn’t functioning correctly.

This brings me to my point. I’ve been compiling a lot of notes on the NSX-39 Control Change and SysEx messages, and I’m slowly translating, for myself, the key operations of the NSX-39 from Polymoog’s guide. I’m going to start up a new series of blog entries here, alternating with the backgammon series (due to wrap up in a few weeks), consisting of these notes. What I’m really hoping is that this will help connect me with other English-speaking NSX-39 owners, and we can get something of a community started up. Worst case, I’ll just have my notes available here in the blog as back up if my laptop ever gets fried.

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