Chiptune players have been around since the early ’50s, and while their popularity died out decades ago, their popularity has come roaring back. Today, many 8-bit chiptune machines are designed around the NES and Game Boy systems, as well as OPL synths and VSTs, which typically use Yamaha’s YMF262 or YM3812 chips. A new platform from Hackaday user Natalie makes use of an ESP32 module and a YM2612 — a sound chip found in Sega Genesis, Master Drive, and Mega gaming systems.
The MegaGRRL is a portable VGM file player, as Natalie explains, “It uses the original chips and has a playback engine focused on accuracy and supporting as many features of the VGM file format as possible, all controlled by an ESP32 running FreeRTOS using the ESP-IDF framework.” The playback engine for the MegaGRRL is as accurate as those old systems and sports as many of the features of the VGM files as possible.
Inside the MegaGRRL’s 3D-printed enclosure are an ESP-WROOM-32 module, along with several sound chips, including a YM2612, YM3438, and an SN76489. It also packs an ILI9341 240 X 320 display, a TPA6111A2 headphone amp, an MCP23017 I/O expander, two DC-DC LM2735, MCP73832 battery charger, two PCA9634 LED drivers, a microSD slot, and several action and navigation buttons.
As with most every project people have undertaken, the MegaGRRL is still a work in progress, and development is underway to rectify some shortcomings in version two of the system. According to Natalie, “New prototype PCBs have been assembled, a case has been designed and 3D-printed, and the VGM playback core is functional, with progress continuing on a UI.”