Music devices with E-Ink Displays

Does anyone know of any eurorack modules / desktop devices / guitar pedals that use E-Ink displays?

I came across the the light phone, and immediately thought that would be an interesting format for a music device.



Hey, interesting timing! A friend and I are collaborating on an arduino/atmega328-based euroack module that will have an e-ink display and I’m almost done with the hardware design. It will be a 4 cv-in / 1 gate-in / 4 cv-out / 4 pot module with this adafruit display

This is my second time laying out a eurorack module (first was a 4-hp SMD redesign of the Bastl Kompas, which I’ll share somewhere soon). This means my design might have some oversights, below is my schematic if you’re curious. I’m especially unsure about the DAC op-amp buffering/scaling I pulled from

Given that my collaborator isn’t equipped for SMD work, I designed it as a through-hole. Note that the huge hole in the middle of the board is a temporary placeholder for where the screen will be.

phoretic_schematic.pdf (145.1 KB)

Anyways, we aren’t exactly sure how we’ll program it yet, but are very excited about the idea of making the slowest sequencer to eurorack.

If it ends up working and folks are interested doing some programming for it, I’d happily send out some pcbs. And of course all of this is based off of amazing open-source work by Bastl, Mutable Instruments, and many others, so I’ll be sure to post all the kicad and gerber files.


Supposedly the Arturia MatrixBrute has a little e-ink display for displaying preset info. Couldn’t find so much about it, but here is a snippet of it in action:

And I got my e-ink eurorack module prototype assembled. Still working out how to properly program the DACs and the screen in unison, so nothing flashy to show at the moment.

Wanted to share the progress though because maybe it stimulates ideas of how e-ink and all its limitations (latency, screen flashes on reset, etc) could be compelling as part of an instrument.


The first thing I thought of was the Alesis Ion palm pilot type screen. I love this idea.

Beautiful design! Panel looks great

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Did this move forward? I’m very curious to learn what the status of this project is.

Hey, cool to hear you’ve had this on your mind. It has sorta been sitting on my shelf waiting to be programmed. That said, my collaborator just got his components and pcb, so we’ll hopefully start diving into using it soon.

I did do a v2 of the PCB though, which:

  • uses an Anni Albers graphic on the panel. Her typewriter art felt like it fit here
  • fixed some fundamental mistakes in the power part of the circuit; I’m still learning this stuff :slight_smile:
  • added 4 buttons to use some unused multiplexer channels
  • added an alternative “audio” out so one can run mozzi on it. This whole project is a sort of starter project for my collaborator and I want to make it a more open-ended intro to arduino in eurorack, so having audio generation capabilities sounded fun. Pretty sure with mozzi running and the limited arduino hardware you couldn’t use the e-ink screen.
  • make the SD card on the e-ink hardware more accessible; though you still need to remove the module from the rack.
  • add jumpers that allow you to use the 4 outputs as trigger outs instead of DAC CV outs. This reduces the parts list cost and allows one to play with programming trigger outs which can be easier to handle than programming CV outs.
  • added an indicator led that shines through the panel

I also figured out how to draw images from the SD card.

[drawing an image with incorrect settings still looks cool]

As for how to use the module
This is still largely open :slight_smile: My best idea, though maybe a bit complicated to program, is to create a CV looper that interprets image files as CV levels. Inspired by some of the experimental music notation posts on this forum and this crazy show I saw at KM28 in Berlin where a cylinder with Oramics-style lines controlled, as it spun, leaf-blowers that were playing accordion reeds. The e-ink display would display the image and the CV outs would loop through the CV levels. Knobs could control length, start/end, etc. I was hoping to start from someone else’s CV looper code but haven’t found any good starting points yet. Bastl’s CV looper code, while open source (!!) is a little hard to dive into

Also, a friend of mine suggested making it i2c compatible but I don’t think the single serial line on the little ATMEGA328 could handle controlling an e-ink screen and talking i2c. This could be re-designed to use a Teensy and include i2c, and not be so slow, but I kinda like the constraints (because I haven’t showed much constraint in other parts of the design) and isolation from the rest of the digital world


Well that looks beautiful! Thanks for the link, I wasn’t aware of the artist and her work looks lovely, so thanks for that. It does fit your design a lot.

The CV looper based on the graphic sounds like a very nice idea. You got me curious on using e-ink screens for one of my projects; I’ll look into it, I’m not sure whether the refresh latency will be a good or bad thing. Unfortunately I can’t write code (well, anything else but XML which isn’t really code), but I’m really keen to learn how this project progresses and maybe get one of these when the work becomes available. Whatever it ends up becoming, the format you decided to use looks very interesting and enticing!

If you’re open to ideas, I would be more than happy to help. I’ve worked on other readily available modules and I’m always keen on collaborating on novel smaller designs pro bono. For instance, have you considered being able to use the module as an etch-a-sketch, using the knobs, to draw the designs upon which the CV looper will later work on? That would be simply beautiful. I can already think of a UX for this and how the looper should function, based on your Oramics idea which I think is exactly what this module should be inspired by.

Since you mentioned i2c, such compatibility would make it really fun to use with a Teletype. I can imagine a lot of uses for that, especially if you have an interest in bringing this into the family of modules that can work with Teletype (it’s a good way to get this community quickly fired up about the design :laughing: ). I do realize that it might be besides the aims for this design though.


Somewhat related, recent experiments by @yota:


right. I really like the display. very gentle for the eyes.

My plan is to use it to display:


Definitely open to new ideas and hopefully I can get the basic software sketched out to be able to iterate on ideas in a quick manner. If it gets to that and things are looking good, I could potentially build and ship a few units for folks really excited about this (at cost, which is ~75 euros), but no promises until things advance a little.
The etch-a-sketch is one that we’ve thought about. I think the latency could make things weird, but it might be fun too :slight_smile: I do really like the idea of a CV recorder/looper that is able to visualize the contents of a CV loop. Maybe this could be done on a graphical plane to have etch-a-sketch results.

These are beautiful! And I imagine look amazing on an e-ink display.
Seeing them gave me an idea:
one could use each horizontal line as a sequence of on/off gates to be outputted by a module (like the e-ink one I’m working on). This could potentially lead to interesting rhythmic outcomes. One could even have selection of which line of “gates” to play via CV or knob. It sounds like a lot of fun to play around with, especially if you can more or less roughly match the different sequences to a graphic, though 1 pixel lines might be hard to exactly match to the graphic. (does the ornament and crime have a similar app?)

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I realise this is an old topic, but I’ve recently got into the idea of music making devices with e-ink screens as well. I’m a SunVox user and would love a device like my faithful Jornada 720 with an e-ink screen, but alas the e-ink netbook/palmtop has not happened yet (I like a qwerty keyboard with SunVox, so I can map the notes to the keys I want). I find using normal (non-e-ink) screens in daylight horrible. In the meantime I bought an Android e-ink ereader called a Poke3 that will allow you to install standard Android apps like SunVox, plus I can obviously read my ebooks (currently reading Ann Leckie and NK Jemisin).

It’s not perfect device for SunVox, but here’s a the Poke3 running SunVox:

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Any progress with your project (20 characters of By the way)?

I love NK Jemesin, I have literally read everything she wrote, can also recommend the comic /graphic novel “far sector”
Sorry for OT :innocent:

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I did some research I to building an e ink laptop/tablet recently, but was disappointed to find that the tech for e ink really is not suited to this application. The magnetic bead ‘pixels’ are only rated for a certain number of refreshes before they start losing their charge. On an e reader, where they only need to refresh each page turn, that could take 15 years, but on the refresh rate that some of the fast e ink displays work at (15 times a second), this refresh limit could easily be reached in a couple of years with daily use.
It’s sad, because I really love the idea of an e ink laptop, both for extremely low power consumption and easy use in the garden, but the technology is just not suited to this application.

Of course, this is mostly speculative, based on manufacturer ratings, I don’t think fash refresh e ink displays have been around long enough for anyone to actually get an idea of how long they last. Would be really interested to see how your tablet Poke3 fares in the coming years.
And hopefully, the more places producing e ink phones and tablets, the more likely the technology is to develop into something that can handle these faster refresh rates.