DAFM synth ARCADE YM2151 - DIY kit

DAFM Synth is a FM multitimbral synthesizer serie based on mythical YAMAHA chips used for home consoles, arcades and 80s PCs sound.

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Now the DAFM synth ARCADE YM2151 has been redesigned as a DIY friendly kit. This is a nice project that comprises soldering of through-hole components.

This kit can be found on Tindie:

Assembled version with case and knobs can be found here:

What is it?

Sound synthesis through Frequency Modulation (FM) allows to obtain unique sounds that defined a whole musical generation during the 80's and 90's.

The model ARCADE uses the YM2151 Yamaha chip that was used in almost all the arcade machines in those years.

Why did you make it?

This synthesizer is the perfect mix for lovers of retro video games, and makers who want to introduce themselves in the musical experimentation.

Includes presets from iconic arcade videogames like Street Fighter 2; Space Harrier; Ghouls'n Ghosts; Final Fight; OutRun; R-Type, Shinobi; Double Dragon; Golden Axe; Altered Beast; Marble Madness; Forgotten Worlds; Fantasy Zone 2 DX and Ninja Spirit. These presets can be found in Bank 0. Bank 1 is used for loading up to 128 presets from the SD Card. Check the Datasheet below for the details.

All the parameters that defined these presets in the YM2151 chip can be controlled through MIDI CC messages. Check the Datasheet below for the MIDI CC implementation chart.

What makes it special?

The YM2151 has eight channels with four operators per channel. The operators can interact according to eight different algorithms. Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release (ADSR) envelopes, frequencies and low frequency oscillators (LFOs) can be modified to obtain the whole range of FM sounds.

The YM2151 chip is accompanied by the YM3012 stereo chip that allows converting the digital signal into clear and clean analog sound. Having the separate DAC allows the DAFM synth ARCADE to output a louder and cleaner sound.

The synthesizer is operated through 2 rotary encoders and has a complete menu that is shown in 4 blue OLED displays. Thanks to the beautiful tactile keyboard of 12 notes you can try the different patches as they are created. There is also the possibility of changing the octave and thus test the full sound spectrum of the Yamaha chip. Once created, the presets can be saved in the RAM memory or in an SD card as DMP files that can be opened with VGM trackers like Deflemask.

The stereo sound output is 3.5 mm audio jack, has a MIDI input to connect a keyboard, sequencer or any MIDI instrument and can be powered with a USB Type B cable (5V).

DAFM ARCADE_user quick guide_v1-98.pdf

User quick guide including MIDI CC list

Adobe Portable Document Format - 163.64 kB - 07/04/2021 at 20:59


  • 1 × PCB Electronic Components / Misc. Electronic Components
  • 1 × 220Ω Resistor Resistor for MIDI Input Circuit
  • 1 × 1N4148 diode Diode for MIDI Input Circuit
  • 1 × 6N137 Optocoupler Optocoupler for MIDI Input Circuit
  • 1 × 8 pin IC socket IC socket for 6N137

View all 26 components

  • 1
    Warm-up: Be ready for soldering!

    Please be careful with soldering. Too cold and you will get cold joints with false contacts. Too hot and you could destroy the soldering pad and break connections. Try to use flux to help you. Use the right solder tip, the right iron and the right temperature for your soldering wire.

    Here you can find a tutorial for through hole components soldering:

    Through hole components soldering tutorial

    If you have any performing issue after finishing soldering, check the TROUBLESHOOTING part at the end of the list.

  • 2
    PCB Top

    We’ll populate only the top of the board – it’s the side with the KASSER SYNTHS and ARCADE YM2151 logos. Here’s a shot of the completed board for reference.

  • 3
    MIDI In

    220Ω x 1 (red, red, black, black, brown)

    Resistors are not polarized, so it doesn’t matter which way around they go in. Bend the legs into a staple shape,and fold the legs over once you’ve inserted them into the board.

    You don’t need to fold them over too much, it’s just so they don’t fall out when you flip the board over. It’ll make it easier to solder and snip off the legs if you don’t.

    10kΩ x 1 (brown, black, orange, gold)

    Solder and snip.

    Diode 1N4148

    The 1N4148 has a see-through glass body.  It is part of the MIDI input circuit. Solder and snip. Watch out, the diodes are polarized, so pay close attention to which side the line marking on the diode body goes – it’s marked with a thicker white line on the PCB.

    5 Pin DIN Connector

    8 Pin Socket

    It’s for the 6N137 optocoupler. The side the notch goes is marked on the board by a broken line on the ICs outline.

View all 13 instructions

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