Rolf Sassingers' FPGA-Synthesizer

Rolf's Music Synthesizer Page

I am native German but was born and lived in Switzerland (Aargau). I am a professional electronics developer for industrial solutions. During my private time I participate in choirs and music groups and do some recording.

For years now I am working with analog synthesizers and partly digital music synthesizers too. My focus in all that time was analog synthesis since I never expected digital synthesizers to become powerful enough to reach the sweetness available with true analog synthesis. Here I am presenting my projects. After years of absence and some tries with digital music creation in hardware (programable logic devices) I came back to them since in recent years, they became that powerfull that close to analog synthesis seems realistic today.

My first projects started in the early 90tees, when I was still at school, see my Sound on digital logic project. I tried the simple Xilinx PLDs available at that point of time but found, that they were too little to implement complex logic into it. MIDI which is essential for me seemed to be very complex. Later at university I was playing a bit with larger PLDs and created some synthesizers for testing, but they never came to a state to use them effectively even because of the missing MIDI-protocol.

This might change with recent FPGA technologies since soft core CPUs are available to do the complex work of MIDI transmission and reception. Also tricky MIDI processing seems possible. If one searches the internet for FPGA projects it seems obvious that a number of people try this in the meanwhile so I started a short analysis what is up today. Here is the current list of the world's most important music synthesizer projects based on programmable logic, so far I was able to investigate it: Evolution of FPGA synthesis. If you want to be listed too, please feel free to send me an e-mail and describe your project. Of course I do not need information about the 1001st project copy but of a real milestone. for example, I am highly interested in finding out, who had been the first guy in the world, who had realized a self standing synthesizer in a programmable digital ciruit.

My new idea is to use a current evaluation PCB from one of the OEM manufacturers like Xilinx, Altera or anybody else's and add just a little audio / MIDI function. My choice at first glance is Altera since they offer a free design kit for all the cheap cyclone 5 FPGAs and still have the required VHDL simulator ModelSIM included inside their free download package. When I first checked out the package, they even come with an integrated logic analyzer SignalTap wich might be a great help to bring up the PCB. See more information at the tool chain page.

Now once having created an idea, a concept view will have to be done. See my latest idea if the PCB of the MIDI Music Synthesizer for Altera Cyclone V here. It will contain my C-MIDI-Implementation as well as a modified Version of my PLD Synthesizer. Some Transormation from Xilinx PLD Software XC3000 (devices) to Altera will have to be done, but i consider this as easy. The most work will be the SOPC System in Altera's Design KIT, and I have to check out license issues and payment models first. Possibly I will use a free software instead to create the Software part.






other gear in my studio

Yamaha MOXF6


Waldorf Micro Q

Access Music Virus A, Access Music Virus C

Emu Orbit, Emu Proteus 2000

Novation Supernova

Neumann TLM103









DJ Energy (+)

DJ Tatana






The Design of the MIDI / Audio Board is done. Concept seems fine and layouting will start soon.


It is impressing, what kind of things people publish on IEEE regarding audio today. Things that are done decades before or are that easy that students can do it.






The pages from my old synth have been mooved to here.


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