MUSES-α & MUSES-β DVB-T/C, ISDB-T, DTMB & ATSC Modulator Boards Review – Part 1: The Hardware

V-Bridge Muses digital TV modulator boards launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, with the cheaper $200 MUSES-α board modulating video from a PC, and $600 MUSES-β turnkey solution capable of broadcasting HDMI or AV + stereo input to various digital TV standards including DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, and ISDB-T/TB without the help of a computer. The company sent me the two hardware kits for evaluation and review on CNX Software, and today I’ll start by showing off the hardware I received.

muses-dvb-atsc-modulator-package

I got 3 packages and a F-female to F-female cable, which means you can connect the board directly to your TV tuner without having to rely on actual RF signals, and potential legal issues that goes with it.pc-modulator-kit

The first package I open if for the PC modulator kit that include MUSES-α board, an “RF” board, as a USB cable to connect to your computer.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

MUSES-α board features Vatek A1 chip, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a power jack, and  headers for UART, I2C, TS, JTAG, RF board and GPIOs.

muses-alpha-bottom

The back of the board just has a Winbond flash.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The RF board is based on Texas Instruments TRF372017 IQ modulator PLL/VCO chip, and includes an F-male connector.

muses-alpha-usb-cable-tuner-cable

To get started you’d have to connect the USB cable, the coax cable to your TV’s tuner, as well as a 5V power supply.

The next package is the STM32 + LCD control board allowing to use MUSES-β board without PC.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

It’s made of off-the-shelf parts including DF Robots LCD keypad shield for Arduino, connected to an STM32 based board via jumper cables + some glue.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The “STM32F4xx” board is also an off-the-shelf STM32F407ZET6 ARM Cortex-M4 board found on Aliexpress for $15.50. So what you are paying for here, is not really hardware, but all the development work required for a niche product.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The third package includes the rest of the turnkey solution with an RF board, MUSES-β board based on Vatek B2 modulator and video encoding chip, and a video & audio input board with HDMI input, and 3 RCA connector for video composite and stereo audio input. All boards are already attached to an acrylic base, and the kit adds the top acrylic cover, some spacers and screws, and a 5V/2A power supply.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The RF board is exactly the same as the one used with MUSES-α board, and the AV input board features Explore Microelectronics EP9555E  for HDMI input and Intersil TW9912 for CVBS input.

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β board comes with a USB port, a power jack, headers for the RF and AV input boards, I2C, MCU connect, and a TS port. I must have a received a prototype board, so there’s also some rework that should be gone once the kit ships to backers.

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled - Click to Enlarge
MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled – Click to Enlarge

Assembly is quite straightforward:

  1. Connect the STM32 board to the “MCU connect” header
  2. Optionally add the top acrylic cover
  3. Connect the 5V/2A power supply
  4. Connect the coax cable to your TV, and add video and audio input(s) to the HDMI port or CVBS + stereo audio RCA jacks
  5. Scan the channel on your TV, and enjoy

That’s exactly what I’ll try in the second part of the review, once I receive some documentation from the company.

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StevecnxsoftPaul Taraneh Recent comment authors
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Atsc!!! Can’t wait till your review, so really a few connections and an out of box almost cable kit or no?

Steve
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Steve

Also worth noting that the MUSES-α board pictured on the Kickstarter page, unlike the one you have, doesn’t include the Ethernet connector (it’s unpopulated on the pictures on the Kickstarter site) and is not mentioned in the Kickstarter specs, so the Kickstarter versions may be USB only.