Meebleeps Freaq FM

I just picked up this kit and hope it integrates into my ever-expanding tabletop setup. I’ll probably try to swap out the lighted switches and 8x8 led matrix with some other colors. Hopefully the matrix is compatible with the ones readily available from Adafruit.

I look forward to having it sit on my desk and play some generative bleeps and bloops. I should probably dig into the manual, but I have plenty of time as I think this is shipping from Australia.

It’s a two operator FM synth capable of playing two notes at a time. I haven’t heard it get percussive, but I think the ops can generate noise.

No, MIDI might be a bummer, but it does have sync in and I have an RK – 006.


Oooh, this really tugs on the build-it-yourself small desktop synth heartstrings. Now to spend too much time looking up all the demo videos and sounds.

I’ll be sure to post up a video when I get it hooked into my setup. I might try to swap the matrix LED for another color.

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The Freaq arrived in about a week from Australia to Washington State, USA. I probably should have taken some pictures of the build process, but alas … words will have to do.

The box was a nice matte black with a brand sticker. The unit ships with all the necessary parts neatly bagged and labeled. A single page quick start guide lists the part names and values. I’ve assembled many kits over the years and the Freaq is well thought out and easy enough for a beginner to wrap their head around. I chose the blue ring switches and blue matrix LED.

The main build doc lives online. I don’t have wifi in my shop, so I downloaded the PDF and kept that handy while I assembled the Freaq. Certain resistors are not labeled with values on the PCB, and I had to do a double take on R LED and R ISET before soldering them. The photos in the build guide may not match the look/placement of the components on the PCB revision you are shipped, but the board is sparsely populated so nothing is too hard to track down. The silkscreen print was a little small for my pathetic eyes to read, but you’ll manage.

The 100nf coupling capacitors are of the ceramic disc type. I was tempted to replace them with box type caps as I am always worried that I’ll crush or crumble those little buggers. Just a personal preference I guess.

The build was straightforward and took about an hour or two. You are guided through the process of aligning the buttons, LEDs, knobs at different points which is great. The matrix LED isn’t soldered to the PCB directly, so you can swap it out (which I intend on doing).

The Freaq fits nicely into my ever growing pile of desktop synths. The build feels nice and solid once complete. I recommend sticking some rubber feet on the bottom, as the hex screws holding it together protrude from the bottom of the unit.

The main I/O is accessible from the top of the Freaq as opposed to sticking out the back on the majority of my mini synth collections. The USB connection (used only for power) sticks out the front, so if you decide to use it to power your Freaq (instead of the dedicated power jack) you’ll need to do some creative cable management. Maybe a future model will flip the orientation so that the USB connector is on the back.

The Freaq uses a wonderfully bizarre 8x8 matrix LED for displaying parameters. I love it! I was very close to implementing the same thing in an FM synth I’m designing, so I’m happy to see the idea in reality. Most of the knobs serve dual duty with a “function” key giving you access to another layer of controls. You can decide which voice your changes apply to, or apply them to both voices. It was unclear to me at times if modifying a “shift” level parameter and backing out caused the device to re-read the “normal” parameter position. I felt this the most in the interaction of the “mutation” and “density” controls. I’d “shift” into the “density” parameter and when I let go of the “func” button I’d often feel like the “mutation” parameter would get shifted. It’s hard to say with so many things going on between the two voices.

The sound quality is beautifully lo-fi FM. The sequence length for each voice can be adjusted independently between 1-16 steps (visualized quite nicely on the 8x8). FM has alway been a bit of a mystery for me from a sound design perspective, so I’ll need to spend a little time familiarizing myself with the Freaqs 2 operator layout and routing options. I find the strength of the Freaq resides in just turning knobs and listening for interactions. I have not experimented with the parameter lock functionality as of yet.

When plugging a 3.5mm cable into the audio out, sound only comes out of the right channel. I decided to bridge the output channels on my Freaq after reaching out to the developer (who is super cool by the way).


The following is a list of thoughts that crossed my mind while building and playing the Freaq. I love that people are making unique devices and chasing their own visions. What I want may not be what the developer intends, and I fully support that.

  • The Freaq has two FM voices and I wonder if more info could be displayed if a multicolor 8x8 was used. Red for voice 1, blue for voice 2 or something similar would be cool to see.

  • I would like the “mutation” parameter to have a destination. As of now, I believe it is locked to the note/scale settings, but I would personally like to be able to mutate other parameters over time. I’m adding this functionality into my own FM synth design and is not a trivial design choice.

  • Some capacity to save a patch would be nice. The Arduino Nano has 1k of EEPROM, so maybe we’ll see some capacity to save our creations to the device. Otherwise, you’re creating from scratch each time you fire it up.

  • A volume control would be nice, and seems to be lacking from many of the DIY synths I’ve purchased. There appears to be plenty of room on the PCB for an additional opamp and output circuit in a future revision.

  • My synth collection has quite a few DIY devices, and many of them have the “bare PCB” aesthetic of the Freaq. Not everyone has access to a 3D printer … but I’m hoping someone steps up and designs an enclosure for the Freaq.

  • The Freaq does not have MIDI implementation. That would have been a nice touch given the large number of parameters at play. It does sync with other gear via the “sync” input. You also have the option of setting how the Freaq interprets the incoming sync signal which is nice.

If you’re looking for a fun project to build that generates lofi FM goodness, this is a great project. The engine is gritty and takes to external FX well. The Freaq does a great job of making FM sound sculpting more accessible and hands on.

The sequence keeps running.

You fiddle with knobs and the sound changes.

Happy accidents happen.

You try to chase a sound down and find something else.

It’s an enjoyable experience and that’s the most I ask for out of my little synths.


Thanks so much for a really comprehensive write-up and kind words! Since you put so much time into this I feel it’s only fair for me to share my thoughts here too :slight_smile:

It is indeed a happy accident machine - partly inspired by the many happy accidents I’ve had with my Digitakt over the years!


All fair points raised! I hope to make this a bit more consistent as I develop the product & manual so that the documentation matches the boxed components 1:1

Colour Display

It would be super cool :slight_smile: haven’t played with RGB or bicolour arrays yet but may explore it for future products (although it may require a new MCU - the nano’s 2KB of RAM is pretty squished!)

Mutation destination

This is on the roadmap for future updates. I left it out of release because there is so much ‘hidden’ modulation going on already (sequence changes, LFOs, potentiometer positions, parameter locking, multi-layer voices etc) I felt like it would be even more difficult to connect what you can see on the UI to what you can hear. If this happens it is likely to be an additional algorithm mode to separate it from ‘standard’ mode’

Saving Patches

I agree - this is also on the roadmap. just need to find a user interface that is not too cryptic! first iteration is rec+voice to load, then twist a knob to select patch # and press rec+load again to load it. same thing with rec+LFO to save.

In some ways this is at odds with the philosophy of the device which is designed to celebrate impermanence like a buddhist sand mandala :slight_smile: but some people want to use it live and in that context you really need to be able to load a patch!

Volume Control

There is plenty of room on the PCB but not as much on the front panel so probably would need to be a larger markII device. same goes for a power-switch - some people who built the open-source project added both of those features to their own builds


I have a prototype laser-cut wooden enclosure which looks beautiful but makes the USB port inaccessible due to the high position of the nano’s USB port when mounted in the DIP socket. It is difficult to make something look great and not solder the nano to the board and still retain access to USB for power & update, but watch this space :slight_smile:


Midi in/out is on the feature list for future MarkII product :slight_smile:

Thanks again for the write-up!


I also appreciate the detailed and thoughtful review / write-up. I also enjoyed the tune you shared. Funny enough, I was thinking of this device as something for feeding my M8 Tracker.


Hi Meebleeps,

From your comments, I understood there is a MKII planned. I have a suggestion for the UI - it would be useful if the input is only accepted when the function button is released. So that it’s possible to cycle through the options without immediate effect. As an example, after changing the tonic one up, I want to change it back one down after a few bars, it would be great if my stepping through the tonics is not yet audible, until the original one I ultimately land on / release the button.

For a feature, it would be great to have the voices run at different speeds, if only at fixed ratios to one another. I’m not sure how feasible it is, input wise.

I want to add that I really enjoyed building the machine, and that it’s generally fantastic. It’s a really amazing and enjoyable product.

Two wording issues:

  • In the manual, under “Density”, it says “fully clockwise” - should this not be “anti-clockwise”?
  • The front plate has a “LFO Depth” and a “Depth LFO” option. I know it makes sense, technically, I just found it looks a bit unfortunate.

The built manual is great, I was able to surprise myself with getting it right on the first try. (edit)

Last thing I noticed is that one LED is erratic on my matrix, the topmost right corner one. It does sometimes flicker when passing it, so I’m not sure if this is a software or hardware issue. Does not impact functionality.

Thank you for this fantastic machine!


Hi Stefan,

Sorry I just saw this reply :slight_smile:

We are on the same wavelength - all these things are on the V1.2 roadmap!

re the UI of cycling through options - agree, especially tonic, waveforms, lfo destinations. plan is to hold a button + twist a knob to cycle through the options, then change setting when you release the button

re ratios: yes will be adding per-track clock division (already have it in the eurorack sequencer-only version). likely hold [VOICE]+turn [SEQ LEN]

re erratic LED: that is the sync pulse input indicator and behaviour is by-design but on the list to change :slight_smile: it will change it so it doesn’t update & interfere with the display when adjusting parameters etc.

re wording, on density thanks, I’ll check that out :slight_smile: on LFO depth, yeah didn’t think of that :grimacing: