Getting Started With VMUSIC2




The VMUSIC2 is a complete MP3 player module from FTDI, Inc. which makes it easy to integrate MP3 functionality in to your next microcontroller project. It has two interfaces: SPI or UART (serial)

Some example applications:
1. Make your robot talk and play sound effects based on some condition or trigger
2. Add sound to your models and dioramas; Provide some interactivity or history to your piece
3. Interactive art installations
4. Spice up your Pinball or other arcade machine
5. Use the module to load a script from a flash drive defining an animation, such as playing back a sound file while performing some mechanical routine as used in animatronics. The play time is output in seconds which can be used for (crude) syncing (HINT: This last one is what I have planned for a later instructable)

The documentation from FTDI describing how to use this module is not laid out very well and I had some trouble getting started with mine. While looking for information, I have seen many posts in various forums from people also having trouble getting started, so after finally getting mine running, I decided to create this instructable to help others.

This instructable will cover getting connected and controlling your VMUSIC2 module from hyperterminal. I recommend starting out this way because it will allow you to get familiar with the commands and get a feel for how it works before connecting it to your microcontroller. I will follow up with another instructable on controlling it from a microcontroller.

Step 1: Introduction to the VMUSIC2 Module

The VMUSIC2 module is based on the Vinculum VNC1L USB Host controller from FTDI and the VS1003 MP3 encoder/decoder from VLSI. The VMUSIC2 allows you to plug in a USB flash drive filled with MP3s and play them from your microcontroller.

This module is inexpensive and comes in an enclosure that can easily be mounted in a panel cutout to give a professional look to you project.

The main advantage to using this module is that it only requires a few pins to control it, and the software overhead is very small. This allows your microcontroller to focus on the rest of your project (monitoring switches, etc...) while the MP3 is playing. It also means you can get away with using microcontrollers with less program memory and fewer I/O. Another advantage is that you don't need to know anything about programming for FAT32, USB host, or MP3s.

While the VMUSIC2 module is designed for playing back MP3s, the USB host interface can also be used to access (both read and write) any files on the flash drive. When I get to the instructable where I connect this to a microcontroller, it will be apparent how useful this is.

You are going to need the following items to complete this instructable:
*VMUSIC2 Module from FTDI.
*RS232 to RS232-TTL-3.3v converter (if you connect this module directly to your PC serial port, you risk damaging it. See step 3 for a suggestion)
*5V power supply
*A computer with hyperterminal (included with windows) or some other terminal program

Got everything? Good let's take a look at the module:

Step 2: Programming the Firmware

I ordered my VMUSIC2 module directly from FTDI. The biggest source of my frustration was that I found that my module had no firmware installed. Of course, I thought it was a problem with my connections, so I went on a wild goose chase trying to figure out what I was doing wrong! And I didn't realize that I could upgrade the firmware from the USB drive, so I ended up doing it the hard way. This instructable should spare you that.

Also, the default firmware is not set up to be friendly with hyperterminal. So, we will be modifying and updating the firmware.

First, go to the Vinculum website and download the latest Reflash(FTD) file there. Also get the VPROG Re-flash Utility (not used in this instructable, but will be helpful if you have trouble) and the Firmware Customizer from the Applications and Utilities section further down the page.

Start up the Firmware customizer and load the Reflash(FTD) file that you downloaded. You will see a summary of the programmed options in the firmware. Click next to begin editing the firmware.

(I have included screenshots of the sections that I have changed)

This is a summary of the options that I chose:
UART: 9600 baud, 8 bits, No Parity, 1 Stop bit, and No flow control (this one is important)
IPA Mode and Extended Command Set

Now, just click next through the rest of the options. You will be asked for a unique 3 character identifier for your custom firmware. I created two different firmwares and used these IDs; COM for hyperterminal friendly (this one) and MCU for the microcontroller friendly version. We are only concerned with the hyperterminal friendly version for this instructable.

Now, save your new image somewhere and name it FTRFB.FTD. You might need to change the file type in the drop down menu to save an FTD file. A ROM file will not work for this instructable as it cannot be flashed from the USB drive.

Now, copy the FTRFB.FTD file that you just created over to the root folder of the flash drive you are planning to use.

Alternately, you can name the original file something that will help you identify it later, and then just rename it to FTRFB.FTD after copying it to the flash drive. It MUST have this filename or the bootloader will not recognize it and reprogram itself.

Step 3: Getting Connected

The first step is to connect the VMUSIC module to 5V and ground. Refer to the picture below for the pinout.

After powering up the VMUSIC2, insert your USB drive with the FTRB.FTD file on it.

You should see the lights blinking. It will take about 20-30 seconds to program the new firmware. Do not remove power while it is flashing or you will have to go the more expensive and complicated route I went through (or worse -- you loose the bootloader completely.) The light should glow RED for a second or two and then stay a steady green once flashing is complete. Don't be impatient. It will be pretty obvious while it is programming. Normally, there is no activity light on the USB flash drive upon start up. The lights will be going crazy while it is programming and verifying.

Disconnect the 5V from the VMUSIC module.

You are now ready to hook the rest of the signals up and start talking to it with hyperterminal.

This is where a bunch of information is unclear in the documentation. First of all, the VMUSIC2 UART interface is 3.3V logic. You will need some type of converter for your connection. I am not going to go into too much detail on how to do this, because there are many options. One of the easiest is to purchase a Nokia DKU-5 cellular phone data cable and modify it by cutting off the Nokia connector. This cable is a USB to RS232-TTL3.3v cable based on the FT232R. There is no CTS or RTS handshaking signals in this cable, which is one of the reasons that we modified the firmware for no flow control.

There are several articles on the internet that tell you how to modify this cable and it is useful for many purposes. It doesn't matter what converter you use as long as it is designed for 3.3V TTL, not 5V. Prepare for the next step by making sure that you have installed the drivers for your converter (if USB.) It should be showing up in device manager. Make a note of the COM Port assigned to it.

If enough people have a problem with this step, I will create a separate instructable based on the nokia cable. But this cable is extremely popular in many modding communities and the mod is pretty well documented. I am using a different (more expensive) converter right now and do not have access to my nokia cable ATM, otherwise I would add it here.

UPDATE: Found a good article explaining different options and sources to cheap cables. I don't know how I missed it, but the TTL-232R-3V3 from FTDI is practically made for this purpose. Check out thisthis link for other options (you might even have something lying around)

Before connecting anything else to the VMUSIC2, again, make sure the power is not connected.

Connect the RXD on your converter to the TXD on the VMUSIC2
Connect the TXD on your converter to the RXD on the VMUSIC2
Connect the GROUND on your converter to the GROUND on the VMUSIC2
Connect CTS on the VMUSIC2 to GROUND (This is not optional. You will be able to send commands, but you will receive no responses if you do not connect this signal to ground.)
RTS can be left disconnected
RI is left disconnected

Now would be a good time to load the flash drive up with some MP3s (I renamed mine 1.mp3, 2.mp3, etc... to make it easier) and also delete the FTRFB.FTD file from the flash drive. The firmware can only read DOS filenames. This means 8 characters for the filename and 3 for the extension. I believe you can leave off the extension and just use all eleven characters for a filename, but that might break in future firmware, so I don't advise it.

Leave the 5V line disconnected. We will be connecting it again in the next step.

I want to make a few final notes regarding this section just to make it complete, as it will not be relevant in future steps:

If you do have a converter capable of RTS/CTS flow control, this is actually preferred. If you ever need to reload the firmware the hard way, this is absolutely necessary. The bootloader only supports this mode. There are two reasons that we turned this off, however. The first being that most people are going to find cheap cables that do not support this, and programming a microcontroller to handle RTS/CTS flow control is a bit more complex and requires more IO and software overhead. Most libraries do not support it, so just turn it off. If you run into trouble flashing your firmware, you are going to need an RTS/CTS capable serial converter to recover it, though.

To use RTS/CTS flow control, swap the two signals between devices. This means RTS on the converter should be connected to CTS on the VMUSIC2 module, and vice versa.

Finally, RI is Ring Indicator, which can be pinged to wake the VMUSIC2 module out of standby. We will not be using it here and it is not used in firmware recovery. Just leave it unconnected.

The pinout of the VMUSIC2:

Step 4: Start Talking

Start up hyperterminal or whatever serial communication program you like and create a connection on the com port of your converter with these settings:

9600 Baud Rate
8 Data Bits
1 Stop Bit
No parity
No Handshake or Flow Control

You might also want to turn on local echo so that you see what you are typing. The VMUSIC module does not provide remote echo.

Once you have a connection established, connect the 5V on the VMUSIC.

You should see a prompt that looks something like this:

Ver 03.64-COMVMSC1F On-Line:
No Disk
No Upgrade

Now insert your flash drive, and it should report that a device is detected on Port 2 (P2) and give you a D:\> prompt indicating that it is now ready to accept commands!

Step 5: TODO: Firmware Commands

This is going to be rather lengthly, so will get updated as I have time.

Here are a few quick commands to try:
DIR (Lists the files in the current folder)
CD <directory name> (changes the current directory)
VPF <filename> p(lays the MP3 file <filename>)
VP (pause and resume)
VST (stops playback)
V3A (Play all files in current directory)
VF (Skips to the next track)
VB (Skips to the previous track)
VSV <byte> (sets the volume. Valid values are between $00 max volume and $FE min volume - that's hex. That's 0 to 254 decimal. It doesn't say it, but I bet $FF is simply MUTE.)

Now, check out the Vinculum website and download the Vinculum Firmware User Manual. This one manual covers several different firmwares. It is laid out well as a reference if you are already aware of a few things. First of all, most of the firmware varieties are based on the generic VDAP firmware, and special firmwares simply extend upon that. The VMUSIC2 uses the VMSC firmware, which provides commands specific to MP3 playback and communication with the VS1003.

Section 6.8 of the firmware user manual is specific to the VMSC firmware. This is the section you will be most interested in. Sections 6.0 to 6.8 are universal commands, mostly for disk access, file access, and maintenance. There are also some bits of information about using other peripherals in the USB port, such as printers, HID devices, etc.. Table 3.1 lists the various device classes supported by each firmware.

Only port2 is connected on the vinculum, so limit your exploration to that port. It should be noted here that plugging your computer into the USB port on the VMUSIC may result in damage to either the VMUSIC2, your PC, or both. The hardware in the VMUSIC does not support this, even though the VNC1L chip does.

Also, the VMUSIC module should be able to support just about any USB Mass storage device. I have only tried it so far with a USB flash drive, but according to the manual, it should work with USB Hard drives, Cameras (in mass storage mode), card readers, etc... There are some restrictions, however. These are explained in the firmware user manual.

It supports FAT12, FAT16, and FAT32, but FAT32 long filenames are not supported. Sector size must be 512; various cluster sizes seems to work fine. I tested this with an 8GB USB disk with no problems, but some of the commands will not output correct values when the drive is larger than 4GB.

Right now, we are mainly concerned with the VMSC specific commands as well as a few of the VDAP commands (for navigating the file system.)

Again, I will revisit this section to help make some sense of all this. But, you now have enough information to start playing around with your module. I would basically be retyping the user manual, anyway, as it is pretty clear once you know where to look. I have successfully created a text file in the format of an INI file, inserted data into the separate sections, and then read it back one section at a time, all using hyperterminal only. It is very easy and I bet you'll have it all figured out before I even update this!

Have fun!



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    27 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I recently bought a VMUSIC2 but have used the VDIP1 USB host before.
    They both use the VNC1L chip.
    I contacted FTDI about whether the VMUSIC pins are 5V tolerant - they are...

    Here is the response from FTDI tech support:

    "The VNC1L inside of the VMUSIC2 has 5V tolerant inputs, however the outputs are referenced to 3.3V, with a minimum Voh of Vcc-0.4 (or 2.9V). You’ll need to check the datasheet of the device you are connecting to the VNC1L be sure these levels meet their minimum Vih."


    8 years ago on Step 3

    just a note: if you make up a cable with a Nokia DKU-5 using this guide, the RXD and TXD wires on cable go to the RXD and TXD pins respectively on the vmusic - not the opposite as implied above. i.e. Cable pin 6 - Vmusic pin RXD Cable pin 7 - Vmusic pin TXD Cable pin 8 - Vmusic GND


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Hey all...

    Mentioned code for the PIC16F676 in my last post. Eventually got around to posting it all online - no need for PM's you can download schematics and code right here:

    Hopefully it'll serve as a good base for anyone doing a similar project.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Also been having a deal of trouble with my VMUSIC2. All is now solved.
    Heres a few bits of information that might help others:

    Regarding FIRMWARE:

    Many units come shipped with a VERY OLD FIRMWARE that does not work with some/most/all(?) usb sticks.
    NONE of my sticks worked which also meant I could not upgrade using the "regular" file-on-a-stick method.

    Regarding REPROGRAMMING:

    Files and software are available from the vinculum website!

    To reprogram using a standard com port you need an max232 (or any rs232 <-> ttl level convertor) chip. You need to hook up ALL FOUR WIRES (tx and rx alone won't work - I tried). That is RX->TX, TX->RX, CTS->RTS, RTS->CTS. If any of the wires are wrong you'll get "failed to read ack" or "failed to synch". This way is alot cheaper than an ft232r cable, but it works just as well!

    To reprogram using an FTDI ft232r cable just match up the colors. The cable does come in a 2mm pitch variant which will hook up straight to the device without the need to make an adapter - could not get this in time myself though. Both the 5V and 3.3V cables will work and they WILL POWER THE DEVICE - no external power required in programming mode.

    Jumper (inside device) must be moved to put device in programming mode.


    Even if you've corrupted the firmware - DO NOT WORRY - the device will ALWAYS be reprogrammable using the jumper/cable method
    unless the device itself is broken.

    With a corrupted firmware you will only be able to reprogram using a cable - ie: file-on-a-stick method won't work.

    Regarding the #CTS-LINE:

    Using UART mode you will always have to hook up the CTS line for proper operation!
    The VMUSIC2 cannot transmit data unless you let it know that it's Clear To Send, ie: CTS=LOW/GND/0V.
    If left "floating" it is interpreted as HIGH - the VMUSIC2 buffer fill up and the device cannot initialize (or stops if already initialized).

    On the latest firmware the LED will flash RED/GREEN until CTS is pulled LOW.
    On the shipping firmware the device seems dead (no response whatsoever) until CTS is pulled LOW.

    Regarding OTHER ISSUES:

    1) My device was LOCKED IN UART MODE - moving the UART/SPI jumper HAD NO EFFECT and the device was still communicating in UART MODE. I am unsure if this was due to a hardware defect or a firmware issue.
    Seems alot of people have SPI problems - could be related?

    2) In UART mode #RTS was ALWAYS LOW - even when the device had nothing to send. Since I was using #RTS to detect and receive a character in my software-based "UART" code it did not work because of this.

    3) The firmware seemed to lock up from time to time for various reasons requiring a reboot before I was able to communicate with it again.

    I have not yet had time to try either SPI-mode or proper #RTS operation with the latest firmware.

    Regarding CODE REQUESTS:

    I have Microchip PIC code that will interface an PIC16F676 to the VMUSIC2 using both SPI (untested but should work) and UART (software based) modes. If interested you're welcome to PM me.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Urgent Reply Needed! I connected my vmusic 2 to the hyperTerminal previously and tried all the commands, they worked great. but now I have tried to connect it (vmusic2) to a pic16f877a mcu, and send a string saying "v3a cr" to it, i made all the connections, and interfacing circuits, but it didnt work. So I connected the vmusic2 back to the hyperTermnial but its not working now! the led keeps flashing red-green-red-green-.. even when i insert the flash drive, it doesnt send a prompt now, instead it send one weird character, different one each time i restart. What is happening?!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great job Retro! Ive followed the steps carefully, but when I reached step3 and inserted the USB. nothing happened, no blinking, no red, no green :( at the begging I used a samsung charger as a power supply, but looks like it wasnt enough for powering up the device, so I got an actual power supply, connected gnd to gnd, and 5V to 5V on vmusic2, but the led did not light green, is this normal? (I read the comments of other people, and I saw you guys are talking about CTS# pin being connected to ground, is this important at this stage?) then inserted the USB and also nothing happened. Is there a chance I ruined the module when I tried running it using the samsung mobile charger, although the problem with that was not enough current? Waiting for your response!

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I doubt that you damaged your module with the charger. As long as it was 5V you should be fine. No activity on the light almost sounds like you have the firmware already installed and just need to move on to the hyperterminal part. Either connect CTS# to RTS# on the module, or connect CTS# to ground. Be sure to look at joegangi's comment below. It sounds like your situation is identical to his. He was kind enough to return here to post his solution. Let me know how it works out. I should be able to connect one up again tomorrow to check anything you might need to help you along.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Dear Retro, I read all the comments and found them very useful, I ended up reflashing it the hard way. What made it really hard is that I have few days to finish a project I am working on, so i don't have time to order the cable and waiting 10 days till it ships. for those who have the same situation or just dont want to buy the cable, here is what I need to hook vmusic2 to the computer without the cable: USB-Serial adapter. Serial Cable Max3232 -voltage level shifter. The vmusic2 now works just fine. I was wondering if you can provide us with the instructable for connecting VMUSIC2 to a microcontroller (hopefully from microchip). The documentation's example is not very helpful. Many Thanks,


    10 years ago on Step 3

    I ran into some trouble here. I bought the TTL-232R-3V3 from FTDI, matched up the colors of the cable that came with the Vmusic2 and don't get any blinking light. What do I connect the ground to other than the USB cable that I got? What am I missing?

    4 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    You left alot of detail out, but I assume that you are connecting up the 5V and ground on the VMUSIC2 module to some 5V supply, right? The FTDI cable is not going to supply power to the module. It is only for communication with it. You have to power the module separately. The ground from the FTDI cable will connect to the ground on your 5V power supply, And remember that the CTS signal of the VMUSIC2 needs to be connected to ground as well. So, you will have three signals going to ground.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    Thanks so much for the reply. I was not using a separate power supply. I thought the USB connection would power it. :P So, just to clarify, I'll need to connect a separate 5V from an independent power source to the 1st (ground), the 3rd (pos), and the 5th (gnd) pin even if there is already a black and red and green lead on there from the USB cable? Thanks so much for the help. newb here.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Woyzeck, also check out Joe Gangi's posts below. He was asking a similar question and he discovered on his own that the CTS and RTS should have been connected together. You should disconnect them from the FTDI cable first, though. Try that first since it is easier to do. Then look into the suggestion I made above.


    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    I just went and looked at the specs on the cable again and you are correct. It supposedly will provide 5V from the cable. It can supply up to 75mA which I would think would be enough to power the module. And connecting the colors together should have worked. I apologize for that. It sounds like you are missing even the loader and may have to do it the more complicated way. Thankfully, the FTDI cable does have all the signals that you need. You are going to need to go to the FTDI website and grab the VProg reflash utility that I mentioned above. You will also need to be sure that you have the D2XX drivers for your cable (should have come with your cable.) This will probably require that you go into device manager on your computer and choose update driver for the cable and manually choose the D2XX driver instead of the VCP driver that it would install by default. Once you do this, you should be able to use the VPROG utility to load the firmware in. An additional note to everyone: Sorry for such late replies. I just changed my email address on here because I wasn't checking the old email address very often any more and wasn't seeing your comments. Now, I should be able to get them right away.


    10 years ago on Step 3

    First off - thanks so much for writing this. The timing was totally serendipitous.

    Being a newbie, I'm having a little trouble with this step. I managed to load the firmware, but I'm not sure in what direction I should head next (regarding the TTL-232R-3V3). I do have a USB adapter (link) that I bought with a BASIC Stamp kit, from Parallax, that looks like it's based on the FTDI chip. Can I use that adapter?

    Thanks again,

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Step 3

    Unfortunately no. That converts USB to regular RS232 which will use the wrong voltages. The 3.3V is extremely important. Anything higher than that (5V or >9V for RS232) may damage the Vmusic2 module.


    10 years ago on Step 1

    I am wondering does it have a delay when changing songs, or it does it rapidly?

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I don't remember there being an unusually long delay. It isn't immediate, if that is what you mean. I don't have one connected up at the moment to check this for you, but a delay didn't seem noticeable to me at all.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I would not buy the Vmusic module. Many students, including me, at SPSU in Atlanta Georgia used this module for the Digital III class. The documentation was horrible, and the tech support would take days to get back with you. They had no clue how their own product worked. We would ask them questions about their documentation that were simple; it took days to get a response. After weeks of testing we finaly got the component to work, but it was wasted time due to their documentation being incorrect. We had to figure out how this product worked on our own using a frequency counter. Very unprofessional documentation, lack of flow charting their own work. The only useful thing they had was an example in Pic code, but if you do not know Pic and you're software runs on a different language, you're not helped. Maybe they've changed by now and gotten better. This was not the case in Summer of 2007. I would highly advise not using this product.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I can certainly understand your trouble with it. I had a lot of trouble getting started (I never tried to call their tech support, though.) And looking for information online just lead me to lots and lots of posts from people that hadn't been able to get theirs working, either. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the only game in town for a device like this. So, hopefully my instructable will help others that need to use it.


    10 years ago on Step 5

    Thanks so much for making up for the inadequacies of the manufacturer's documentation. I have two of the VMUSIC2 modules and neither one seems to be functional. Can you tell me if in a new, and presumably unprogrammed VMUSIC2, does the panel LED light when you apply only 5 VDC and Ground to these connector pins. The documentation implies that it should, but knowing what I know about this sort of stuff, the LED may be a programmed LED which will only light when it is told to. I went thru all of your instructions up to the point of putting the FTRFB.FTD file onto the USB drive ( a CRUZER 2GB) and plugging it into the VMUSIC2, applying 5 VDC, etc exactly as you describe and "No Dice" on either of the two units I have. Do you know if others have experienced out-of-the-box failures with these? Any ideas for my situation? Thanks Much, joegangi