Psychologists, neuroscientists and vision researchers regularly make use of computer-based experiments. Most assume that the computer itself can accurately event mark when a stimulus is presented or a response made and that it can do this with millisecond accuracy. However testing has shown this expectation is often misplaced. Presentation, synchronization and response time event marking errors can be caused by many factors. Whether you make use of a commercial experiment generator or write custom software, you are likely to succumb to such errors. Inconsistent event marking can lead to spurious conditional effects, poor replicability and bad science.

The mBBTK v2 hardware and software is used in labs across the world and encompasses Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, Language and Vision research among others. It is the gold standard for TTL event marking/TTL triggering. Be sure of your research results prior to publication.

There are currently three models of The mBlack Box ToolKit v2 (event marking version) available: The Entry, Pro and Elite.

The mBlack Box ToolKit v2™ (event marking version) key features 

The mBBTK v2 is an easy to use fit and forget solution for TTL event marking/TTL triggering in psychology experiments that use EEG, fMRI, Eye Tracking or any study where you need to event mark with sub-millisecond accuracy.

The mBBTK v2 (event marking version) is designed to act as your eyes and ears and event mark exactly when a stimulus appears, a sound is made or a response button is pressed. Objective, independent and right first time every time.

With up to 48 input channels there is a sensor to cover every type of stimulus. Any input channel or sensor can quickly be paired with any of the 24 TTL event marking/TTL trigger output lines using our PC Software. What's more all event marking data is simultaneously recorded in real time for later analysis.

If you want to run standalone without a PC, no problem. Simply download between 1-10 onboard profiles. Sick of wires? Then you can control the mBBTK from across the room using Bluetooth! Show me a worked example.

      1. Set-up – Hook up external stimulus sensors (opto-detectors, mics, TTL) and a response pad.
      2. Event Mark – Use a wizard to select a stimulus pattern to automatically event mark.
      3. Analyze – Replay your stimulus, response and synchronization event marks across up to 48 channels.

If you don't want to use our software, or run standalone, the mBBTK, can switch into headless mode where it can act as a parallel port replacement enabling you to event mark straight from your own experiment generator (identical command set to our USB TTL module).

Remember the mBBTK v2 is a dedicated self-contained hardware device that is designed to record onsets, reaction times and TTL event mark physical events in the real world as they occur with sub-millisecond accuracy. It has been specifically developed to help researchers address timing issues related to their own paradigms running on their own hardware. Where required it can even take over all presentation, event marking and response timing duties from your experiment generator and own hardware meaning you can be sure of sub-millisecond presentation and response timing.

Wizard driven software makes real-world event marking quick and easy. For example, to event mark a visual stimulus simply attach an Opto-detector to your screen and pair with a TTL out signal that will tell you the exact onset, duration and offset on your own equipment. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3!

1. Opto-detector placed on black/white block

2. Schematic showing a simple visual stimulus event mark in an EEG study

3. Easily pair events in the real-world with a TTL event mark on your equipment

Need more real-world event marking complexity, no problem. Combine multiple Opto-detectors, with microphones, sync signals and response buttons! Show me a worked example.

In this example a visual stimulus is linked to Event Mark TTLr out 1, an auditory stimulus to TTLr out 2,
a TTL start or sync signal from STIM from TTLr in 1 to TTLr out 3. The four USB Response Pad buttons
are linked to front TTLf in's 1-4 and to TTLr out's 4, 5, 6, and 7 respectively

Just some of the causes of event marking failure in computer-based psychology experiments are shown in the diagram below. What | Why | How

Idealized experiment shown top, what may happen on your own equipment bottom (click to enlarge)

Key features

  • Up to 4x opto-detectors to event mark visual stimulus onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x mics to event mark sound onsets and durations
  • Audio pass through Left and Right for detecting sounds as they go out from your computer
  • Option for a 1-8 button response pad
  • 24x rear TTL input channels/lines (TTL triggers) - 24 bit port
  • 8x front TTL input channels/lines (TTL triggers) - 8 bit port
  • 1x front TTL channel/line for one-shot TTL signals (TTL trigger)
  • Event mark on up to 24x TTL output channels/lines (TTL triggers) - 24 bit port
  • 48-way breakout board (24x TTL in/24x TTL out)
  • API & SDK guide. Printed documentation detailing our software API which allows you to control the mBBTK v2 from your own applications and decode event marking data
  • Optional high quality aluminum carrying case
  • Platforms supported:
    • Microsoft Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2 (32/64), Windows 7 SP1 (32/64), Windows 8 (32/64), Windows 10 (32/64), Windows 11 (64 bit)
    • macOS / iOS#
    • Linux#
    • Android#
#BBTK Microsoft Windows software Apps not supported directly. Full API provided for control over serial regardless of platform used.

Front connectors

Front connectors and indicator LEDs
  • Up to 4x opto-detectors for checking visual stimulus onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x mics for checking sound onsets and durations
  • Audio Pass Through In and Out (Stereo) for detecting sounds as they go out from your computer
  • 8x front TTL inputs/TTL triggers & LED showing activity
  • Input for 1 to 8 button response pad & LED showing any button press
  • 1x one shot TTL input/TTL trigger
  • Active 1/2 LEDs for heartbeat/running confirmation
  • Bluetooth/synch LEDs show Bluetooth activity and connection status
Rear indicator LEDs
  • 24x rear TTL input/TTL trigger activity LED
  • 24x rear TTL event mark/TTL trigger output activity LED

Rear connectors

  • 24x TTLr Inputs/TTL triggers
  • 24x TTLr Event Mark/TTL trigger Outputs
  • USB Update Port for firmware updates
  • USB Host – Connection to the PC controlling the BBTK v2
  • Power switch
  • Power 9V DC 250mA – Power supply for the mBBTK v2

Sensors, modules & optional extras

High quality aluminum carrying case

Protects your mBBTK and additional modules from accidental damage.
We strongly recommend you consider purchasing the aluminum carrying case shown to help protect the toolkit and additional modules.

Black Box Toolkit USB Response Pad

Simply plug in to a USB port on your PC/Mac/Linux system and our response box will appear as a second keyboard. Press a button and a standard keystroke will be sent to your experiment. No need for drivers, no need to recode! Works out of the box with E-Prime, SuperLab, Presentation, Inquisit, PsychoPy or any other software that can accept standard keyboard responses. Also sends keystroke information to the BBTK v2 for monitoring response times. Finished in attractive carbon fibre effect plastic our enclosure houses up to 8 buttons in a range of colors and locations. Works in tandem with the mBBTK to TTL event mark/TTL trigger individual button presses and durations.

Black Box Toolkit USB Response Pad with Voice Key

All the great features of our standard USB Response Pad but with an integrated voice key. If your participants make a vocal response this also produces a standard key press and TTL event mark/TTL trigger! Simple to use and simple to setup with tunable vocal activation threshold. It's your choice whether to use it as a standard response pad or use it as a voice key. Works in tandem with the mBBTK to event mark individual button presses and durations or voice key activation.

API & SDK guide

Printed documentation detailing our software API which allows you to control the mBBTK v2 from your own applications and decode timing data. The mBBTK v2 is controlled via a virtual serial COM port over a USB connection using simple four letter commands.

BBTK digital microphone

Up to two can be used simultaneously for monitoring for auditory stimulus (adjustable trigger threshold).

Audio pass-through lead

2x 2m double ended 3.5mm stereo leads for breaking in to outputs from your computers sound card, e.g. when outputting to headphones or where mics cannot be used.

TTL trigger in lead

2x 2m double ended 2.5mm stereo lead for TTL input from BBTK USB Response Pad with Voice Key.

48-way TTL breakout board

Allows for 24x TTL inputs and 24x TTL event marking/TTL trigger outputs in addition to other input sensors such as opto-detectors, mics and response pads etc. Also includes 24x grounds.

Replacement opto-detector sensor and cable

Up to four opto-detector sensors can be used with the mBBTK v2 to monitor for the appearance of a visual stimulus.

Note: BBTK version 1 microphones, sounders, opto-detectors, external opto-detector modules and response pad should not be used with the new version 2.

USB host lead

Used for connecting the mBBTK v2 to the Host PC.

USB-C host lead (C to B)

Used for connecting the mBBTK v2 to the Host PC, laptop, tablet or phone.

Replacement 48-way TTL breakout board lead

2x 3m 25 way leads used for connecting the 48-way breakout board to the rear of the mBBTK v2.

Replacement 9V Switch Mode PSU (suitable for international use)

Grounded PSU used for powering the BBTK.

Technical specifications

  • ABS plastic enclosure (280mm x 150mm x 85mm LWH)
  • NXP LPC1768 running at 96 MHz
    ARM Cortex-M3 32 bit processor (ARMv7-M architecture)
  • Internal timestamps stored with µs precision
  • Up to 128 MBit internal memory (16MB RAM) for storing samples (max 512,000 line changes) depending on model.
  • Line change detection and time stamping (only stores changes, e.g. a bitmap on an opto-detector is 2 line changes regardless of duration. That is, on and off)
  • 512 kB flash drive for firmware updates (mBBTK appears as a drive letter under Windows/OS X for easy firmware updates - copy a single firmware file across and reset. No need to flash firmware!)
  • LCD status screen (20x4 lines)
  • Rotary encoder for standalone control - turn and press to confirm (all thresholds stored and recalled digitally)
  • USB connection to host PC for Event Mark programming and uploading and analysis of timing data
  • Bluetooth connection available for wireless connection to host PC for Event Mark programming and uploading and analysis of timing data - depending on model
  • Non-Volatile RAM for storage of settings
  • Up to 10 on board Event Marking Profiles can be stored in Non-Volatile RAM for standalone use without a PC (no timing data is collected in this mode)- depending on model
  • Each profile can independently store sensor thresholds and opto blocking / Mic smoothing
  • Store a title, description and author with each profile
  • Can emulate a BBTK USB TTL Module to provide 8 lines of TTL output directly from your Experiment Generator (timing may not be accurate due to your Experiment Generator taking over timing duties and the mBBTK running in dumb mode)
  • Once programmed fully autonomous and unaffected by anything you do on the host PC
  • Can be used with low powered netbooks
  • Fully documented API for controlling the mBBTK from your own software (uses serial commands over USB Virtual COM port / VCP)
  • Powered by 9 V Switch Mode PSU (suitable for worldwide use)
  • Each of the standard sensors and lines has its own activity LED on the front panel
  • Opto blocking and Mic smoothing built-in and controllable via GUI (block CRT refreshes together for ease of analysis / smooth jittery audio waveforms)
  • Up to 72 input and TTL Event Marking/TTL trigger lines across a range of sensors (Elite model)
    • 4x opto-detectors (front panel)
    • 2x mBBTK digital microphones (front panel)
    • Audio pass-through In / Out (left / right channels – front panel)
    • 8x TTLf In (front panel Male 9-way D) - 8 bit port
    • 8x Button Response Pad (front panel)
    • 1x Voice Key TTL for BBTK USB Voice Key enabled response pad (front panel – shared with TTLr In 24)
    • 24x TTLr In (Male 25-way D on rear) - 24 bit port
    • 24x TTL Event Mark/TTL trigger Outputs (Female 25-way D on rear) - 24 bit port
  • 48 input lines or sensors
  • 24 TTL Event Marking/TTL trigger Outputs - 24 bit port
  • Breakout board for easy prototyping of TTL Input and Output signals
  • 20 kHz sampling rate*
  • Average input to event mark latency 41 µs (0.041 ms)

*38kHz sampling rate in USB TTL Module emulation mode when running as a parallel port replacement and controlled directly from your experiment generator. Note timing accuracy in this mode is determined by experiment generator used and not by the mBBTK sampling rate.

*Remember although the mBBTK is sub-millisecond accurate it can't automatically correct for any mistimings that are inherent within the experiment generator you use. When running in event marking mode all event stamps are sub-millisecond accurate.

Unless otherwise labelled, all products offered for sale by The Black Box ToolKit Ltd are for academic study and/or research use only.

Who are we

Founded in 2003 by a team of psychologists, software experts and electronic engineers we are dedicated to improving the millisecond timing accuracy and experimental rigor of researchers in the behavioral and brain sciences.

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