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Controlling audio with a micro-controller can be difficult, really difficult. The Wave Shield, from LadyAda, makes it simple. There is a bunch of sample code on the LadyAda website to get you up and running fast once you build the kit.

The Wave Shield is just one component that will be integrated into an interactive piece that I will be documenting over the next few weeks for Make. I will reveal more about the project as soon as I figure it all out.

You can purchase the Wave Shield in the Maker Shed.

What You Get & What You Need

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The kit is really complete. All you need is an Arduino, an SD memory card, and a few tools to complete the build.

Tools you need:

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Solder Wick or de-soldering tool (optional)
  • Wire cutters
  • Fume Extractor – Make you own

Step 1: Solder the SD Card component

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The SD card holder is a surface mount component. Don’t let that scare you, it is fairly easy to solder. All you have to do is solder the 4 “side tabs” first, then take your time and solder the rest of the pins. I had added too much solder to one of them and it created a “bridge”. I heated it up and touched it with some solder wick and it was fine.

Apparently the (3) pins on the right side are not used, they are the really small ones, but I soldered them anyway.Step 2: Add some components

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At this point I decided to add as many components ass possible and still be able to solder them easily. I was able to add all the resistors and a few capacitors in one step. You may want to do them one-at-a-time, it just takes a little longer.

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Make sure to double-check all the resistor values, there are a lot of them!

Step 3: Add the IC’s

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Now it’s time to add the IC’s. There is (1) DAC (digital-analog converter) and (1) Op-Amp (operational-amplifier). Insert them and give them a quick solder.

Step 4: Add the regulator

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Next is the 3.3V regulator, it has (3) leads and must be oriented properly to work.

Step 5: More components

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Now it’s time to add the reset button and the ICSP header. These let you reset the Arduino manually, and reprogram the board with an AVR programmer.

Step 6: Adding the capacitors

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Next are the three electrolytic capacitors. You can solder them in “standing” or “lying down”. If you solder them lying down, you will be able to stack another board on top of the Wave Shield. Don’t forget, capacitors have polarity! They must be inserted the right way. The board is marked and so are the capacitors, double check the instructions and make sure they are oriented correctly.

Step 7: Add power connector

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The power connector is a simple solder connection, just make sure to use enough solder to hold it in since it will get some abuse.

Step 8: Add the volume potentiometer

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More simple soldering. Again, make sure you do a good job soldering since this will be used a lot.

Step 9: Adding the header pins

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Cut and place the 6 and 8 pin headers into the female sockets of the Arduino. Next, place the Wave Shield onto the Arduino, lining up the pins.

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Finally, solder all the pins to the Wave Shield.

Step 10: Increasing flexibility

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I really like being able to plug in different types of speakers into the board so I decided to add female sockets anywhere I could. This allows me to plug and play a bunch of different components without soldering.

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The yellow wires are where I added the sockets. I also added another one for the speaker connection.

Step 11: Upload the sketch

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You can download a few sample sketches from the LadyAda website. I chose the “Play All” sketch to upload. Also, you need to encode the audio as 16Bit WAV file. All the directions can be found here. It’s really simple to convert using iTunes, but there are a lot of other options documented.

Step 12: Test it out

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I plugged in my RuntyBoost that I made a while back, and it started to play music. Now all I have to do is figure out how I am going to make this work in the next phase of this build. Check back in a week or two. In the mean time, maybe I’ll see you at HOPE.


If you are wondering what music I am playing on my new Wave Shield, it’s a friend of mine. [Thanks!]

Marc de Vinck

I’m currently working full time as the Dexter F. Baker Professor of Practice in Creativity in the Masters of Engineering in Technical Entrepreneurship Program at Lehigh University. I’m also an avid product designer, kit maker, author, father, tinkerer, and member of the MAKE Technical Advisory board.


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