DM48

12 hole, 48 note, digital chromatic harmonica.
Expressive control over any electronic instrument.

Introduction

Introducing the Lekholm DM48 digital chromatic harmonica controller.
Twelve independent pressure sensors puts harmonica players in control of a world of electronic sounds. DM48 is a pure controller instrument without onboard synthesis.

Specifications

12 precision pressure sensors · Class compliant USB MIDI · Fully customizable tunings · Adjustable response parameters · Compact size · OLED display · Anodized aluminum mouthpiece · Adjustable breathing resistance

Demo videos

Demo 1

DM48 together with iOS-based synthesizers (GarageBand and DXi) using the Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. The demo includes positive and negative bending, custom slider intervals and easy key changes. Prototype instrument.

Demo 2

Demo of tuning editor and tuning-related features, including Richter tuning. Also shows DM48 together with the Chris Hein sampled chromatic harmonica plugin, as well as playing with an external arpeggiator. Prototype instrument.

User videos

YouTube video 1

Harmonica virtuoso Brendan Power playing and demonstrating various features of the DM48. Prototype instrument.

YouTube video 2

French player Laurent Maur playing "Isfahan" on the DM48 together with Sample Modeling's "The Trumpet 3" soft synth.

YouTube video 3

Laurent Maur demonstrating some more exotic applications, including unusual tunings and single-hole triggered chords with the help of Reason refills by EWI Reason Sounds.

YouTube video 4

Jason Keene ("Bluesbop") doing a beautiful rendition of "Have you met Mr Jones?" on the DM48 using a flute patch in Logic.

YouTube video 5

Jason Keene playing "Bye bye blackbird" on the DM48 and Sample Modeling's "The Trumpet 3".

YouTube video 6

Laurent Maur improvising using Sample Modeling's "The Flutes".

YouTube video 7

Jason Keene playing Benny Goodman's "A smooth one" on the DM48.

YouTube video 8

Brendan Power playing the DM48 together with his pitch bender and blues mouthpiece accessories. Prototype instrument.

YouTube video 9

John Shirley does looping/layering of bass, organ, and sax sounds, with a live drummer.

YouTube video 10

"Hornelectric" triggers some heavy electronic sounds (NI Massive) using the DM48.

Information/FAQ

Blows and draws
The pressure sensors can sense both positive and negative pressure, enabling both blows and draws.

Bending
Only one parameter is measured - air pressure. Traditional bending is therefore not possible. A pressure-controlled bending feature has been implemented on the DM48 - bends are achieved by strong blows/draws. Bending threshold and sensitivity are adjustable.

Feel/response
Compared to an acoustic harmonica, the DM48 is less expressive in many ways, as mouth geometry, hands, and classical bending/overblows cannot be used to modulate the sound. MIDI expression messages are however transmitted, such that sound intensity can be modulated after triggering a note. This can be heard in the demo videos.

Slider
Rather than mechanically redirecting the airflow, the slider is electronic. It has a shorter stroke length and thus a different feel compared to a regular chromatic. This may take some time getting used to, but has the advantage of being faster.

Peripherals
The DM48 is a MIDI controller without sound synthesis. Similar to a MIDI controller keyboard, a synthesizer (software or hardware) is needed to generate sounds. Adapters are needed to connect it to non-USB-devices such as iPads/iPhones. A third-party mini pitch controller and diatonic-style mouthpiece is available from Brendan Power - note that we do not sell these independently developed accessories.

Suitable synths
Like other electronic wind instruments, the DM48 will not be exciting to play with regular keyboard-type patches. Good results can be achieved, for example, with physical modeling synths that emulate wind instruments, either software or hardware. Although we found the acclaimed Yamaha VL70-m to sound great and work well with the DM48, one should keep in mind that that the VL70-m is a monophonic synth. Wind instruments in GarageBand, in particular on MacOS, are a decent option. The Acoustic Electro Waves wind synthesizer plugin for Reason is excellent together with the DM48, and works on both Mac and Windows machines. Together with Reason in demo mode (song loading disabled, but otherwise full functionality at no cost) it is a bargain at $13.

Harmonica sounds
Decent realistic harmonica sounds can be achieved with physical modeling synths as well as sample-based software instruments. However, the DM48 cannot in any way replace an acoustic harmonica - playing a regular harmonica involves more than note triggering and intensity modulation, and a lot of the expression is therefore lost.

Firmware
The firmware can be updated by the user via USB, and the current version is fully functional with a range of features and adjustable parameters. It may be noted that a static (but adjustable) velocity value is transmitted with all "note on" MIDI messages. Controller (MIDI CC) messages are however sent continuously at high rate and resolution. Dynamic velocity may possibly be added in a future update, but we do not consider this to be crucial as MIDI CC is the main way that sound intensity is modulated on a digital wind instrument.

Manual
More details can be found in the DM48 User Manual.

User forum
Please visit the DM48 Google Group.

Ordering & Contact

The DM48 started out as an enthusiast project, but due to many requests we are now producing more of them. We have a backlog of orders and the estimated waiting time is currently around 6 weeks. The price within the EU is 7250 SEK (Swedish kronor) including Swedish VAT, plus shipping. Non-EU customers avoid VAT and pay 5800 SEK, but local sales tax and import duties may be added depending on destination. Contact us on the email adress further down if you want to buy a DM48, and sign up to our mailing list if you want to receive updates about development and production:

Note that the DM48 is an advanced MIDI controller, and prior experience with synthesizers and MIDI is useful, if not necessary. Some suggestions on downstream setups are given in the manual, but we cannot provide support for products beyond the DM48 itself. Potential buyers are advised to carefully read the information on this page and in the manual.

The instruments are assembled by hand in our small workshop. They do not have the same type of smooth professional plastic finish typically seen on mass-produced electronics. The plastic casing on the DM48 is produced on a 3D printer, which gives it a slightly rough surface. It is more difficult to clean compared to injection molded plastic, but the lid can be removed for cleaning. The mouthpiece is manufactured in aluminum by precision CNC machining and has a smooth semi-matte anodized surface. The appearance of the production instruments is shown in the Introduction section above. Many other pictures and videos here show prototypes at various stages. Notably, the prototypes have a ceramic mouthpiece, as well as screws on the back that are not present on production units.

info@lekholminstruments.com

Development

CAD view.

PCB detail.

PCB detail.

Prototype assembly without mouthpiece.

Ceramic mouthpiece prototypes (now in aluminum).

The DM48 development team.