Work in Progress

::: Simmons SDS V : Terms of Refurbishment :::

I had a Simmons SDSV in storage in the underground garage of our apartment building.  It's exactly like the other one I have written about here before.  It had the Kick, Snare, Tom, Tom, Tom cards and an MFB sequencer that i installed in the last two slots.  One day I went to the basement garage to retrieve it to loan to a friend for a recording project and got a surprise.  Much to my dismay, the cement ceiling of the garage had a leak and it happened to run along that ceiling to directly above the box i had stored the Simmons in.  I didn't even worry at first after the initial shock because i had wrapped the boxed gear in plastic for storage. This is where things got ugly...

Apparently the water had saturated the top of the box and began to run into the large wrapped bag protecting the gear.  I really couldn't believe it, the entire bag was FULL OF WATER.

Not just crappy rain water either.  I was mineral rich leeched water from the cement Which had solidified again and formed a crusty hard calcium like layer all over and inside of the Simmons.  After the shock, anger, depression, and acceptance of this catastrophe i decided with resolve that i had to save this instrument.  I felt like it was my duty to do so.  It took a long time to accomplish and a subsequently longer time to be able to get my thoughts together into a post on the subject.

So it begins.  Part One: The Damage Done

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::: IF :::

::: Garfield Electronics Mini Doc :::

While we are on the subject of Garfield Electronics gear... I have been trying to get this one going for a little while and i haven't quite figured it out.  I got it as 'completely working' from Ebay and of course its not.  Luckily i have another one that works great to compare it against.  As with most topics i discuss on this blog, it's impossible to find a manual let alone a service document for these.

Upon receiving this unit i noticed that the triplet triggers weren't firing but the straight divisions were.  When i opened it up the arpeggio trigger wiring looked completely different from the other unit i have.  So i reconfigured the wires the way i assume they are supposed to be and it didn't fix the problem.  I also replaced some caps that were leaking and obviously bunk.

At this point i decided maybe one of the chips had failed.  They are all cheap and easy to find so i bought one of each and plan to start at one end and hope to fix it before reaching the other!  These multi pin chips are a pain in the butt to pull so i am socketing the replacements...

More to come...

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::: if :::

::: Crumar Bit 99 : Part One :::

What an odd beast.  I remember seeing one back in the 90's at a local music store.  Remember those!?  Although the price was right I didn't buy that one because it had lost it's memory and was full of nonsense patches.  This type of problem makes many of these old instruments seem catastrophically scrambled. But upon inspection the scramble has a surmountable solution.  You can replace the battery and either sysex dump or tape dump the patches back in and often you are good to go.

The real issue with the more rare instruments like this one is availability of service info.  For instance it's easy to find ( almost ) any Roland service manual to trouble shoot a synth but Crumar and many rarer instruments can be mysterious about their ailments.

What are the power supply voltages supposed to be?

What was the final OS version?

How do i calibrate the voices so that they match and perform properly?

These are the mysteries that lie beneath the hood of this Crumar Bit 99.  It's built like a tank. The metal chassis is rugged and fully hinged like old Roland synths.  The voices are all firing ( nonsense at the moment ) and the display is working.  There are some messed up keys that i am still sorting out.  Some were broken but i used epoxy and toothpick pieces to reattach the hooks and re enforce them.  The other key problems have to do with triggering properly and triggering with velocity.  That's right!  this synth has VELOCITY on the keybed.

That my friends is why this is an awesome instrument.

It's much like the old Ensoniq Mirage keybeds which i have fixed many times in the past.  There's a spring that is stretched through a window at each key.  The spring moves from one contact to the contact on the other side when a key is pressed.  The CPU determines what the velocity of the key press was from the way the spring travels across the divide.  Pretty raw and clunky but it does work as long as the contacts are clean and the springs are not mangled.  Several of the springs are really mangled and barely working on this keybed so i am going to go scavenge an old parts Mirage keybed for springs.

But i have been unable to get the tape dump to take.  It fails half way through.  There are error codes that come up but without the service manual i don't know what they are!  The manual doesn't list any user issues or troubleshooting info.  It's otherwise a fairly well laid out user manual though!  I do have a sysex dump of the patch info and i will probably resort to that.  I read somewhere on the net that people have issues with the tape inputs on these so maybe this one suffers from that too.  I imagine it's lumpy power or old capacitor related interference.

There will be updates!

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::: IF :::

::: A LinnDrum of Distinction :::

The Linndrum we have has a long and illustrious lineage!  It was originally owned by a good friend of mine who is now a great painter ( Alvan Long )!  He is also a drummer and was in several boston bands long before my time!  Here's a Pure No Wave Gem from one of those bands called  The November Group: :::

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So, some of the people involved in that band started a studio called New Alliance Audio.  After several years the Linndrum was packed up in it's road case and put into storage.

And it sat there for almost 15 years.  Those years took a toll too.  The batteries leaked, the capacitors went bad, and the foam from the road case became a rubbery dust that permeated everything!

When we pulled it out of storage i decided to send it to Bruce at FORAT for a refurb. He's the Linndrum expert!  He fixed the batteries, power supply, sliders and pots, EVERYTHING!

I love this machine and use it all the time.  It's built like a tank, has the OG JL Cooper Midi interface installed ( so it can sync to anything ), and it sounds great!  The Linndrum also had a great 'pocket'.  The shuffle is sexy and if you tweak the hi hat decay while it's playing you can create a great human feel.  It's a great middle ground between the bright and open Roland 808 / 909 drum machines and the darker Oberheim DX / DMX 8 bit eprom machines.

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Linndrum VSE

Linndrum WIKI

::: IF :::

::: Korg VC-10: A diamond in the rough Part 1 :::

This week i am going to start an extensive series of mods on an old Korg VC 10 Vocoder.  The Korg VC 10 has a reputation for being flawed in some ways but i think it has a lot of potential despite this.  I always felt that it had an ill defined sound over all.  It lacks a clear robotic synth vibe and also employs it's noise generator in a not always useful way. The demo is pretty dorky and kitchy but someone posted the original korg demo for this box and i think it clearly demonstrates the design limitations i'm referring to.  It wants to sound cool but it comes across sounding mushy and muddled to me...

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So, i did some research and found a good amount of info as to possible modifications, this first post will pertain to two major sound quality related modifications:

1,   There's a quirk in the way the 20 sound generators are treated. Channels 17 to 20 have their carrier input connected NOT to the generator/noise/external mixer, but rather to noise only. The problem here is that this noise signal is attenuated by the generator/noise mixer, resulting in that there will be no carrier to channel 17 to 20 if you turn the generator/noise mixer knob to the generator only position! (which you may often do). Yes, the four highest channels will be quiet! Performing this mod will increase the speech recognition and add the missing edge to the sound.

2,  The bias signal for the sound generator does not affect channels 15 - 20.  By routing the bias signal to all the channels you get a brighter and more well defined vocoder output as all the channels will behave together.  This will also increase the effect of adjusting the bias.  This requires adding a few resistors that are not there for channels 15 and 16 and rerouting the 100k resistors for the remaining channels 17-20.

*** On to the dangerous part! ***

1,  The process:  Locate and release PCB KLM-134 (the filter board).  Locate the wire attached to header H3-1 (noise in).  Cut or unsolder the wire.  Now locate IC1 on the same board.  Find pin 1 and follow the trace to channel 16.  Connect from this point to the (now unconnected) corresponding point of channel 17.  The channel numbers and the traces pretty easy to locate on the PCB.  That one was easy!

2,  The process:  On KLM-134, find IC1 pin 7 (bias).  Follow this trace to R2414 (100k).  Now locate Q115 (channel 15 VCA).  Solder a 100k resistor between bias and the base of Q115 (R2315 is connected to the base).  Then locate Q116 and solder a 100k resistor between bias and the base of Q116 (R2316 is connected to the base).  Channel 17 to 20 already have the 100k resistors you need, but they are connected to ground.  Find R2417, R2418, R2419 and R2420.  Connect them to bias instead of ground.

Both of these mods sound complicated but are very easily seen in the schematic here:

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Korg-VC-10-Channel-inputs-s
Korg-VC-10-Channel-inputs-s

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gallery columns="4"
gallery columns="4"

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While i was inside the VC-10 i found a few other curious things that i will be discuss in a future post. I had to order more parts to do these bits!  It was filthy in there too, so i disassembled the bottom plate and did a thorough clean below the key bed.  It's sounding way better to me with the first round of mods.  I should have done a before / after recording to reference...

To Be Continued!!

PS: These are the main sites i used for reference, technical info, and modification ideas:

Korg VC-10 Flaws & Features

Korg VC-10 Modifications

Vocoder Historical Notes

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It's a Cat's Universe, and we are merely playthings...
It's a Cat's Universe, and we are merely playthings...

::: IF :::

::: Welcome to the Summer-Dome :::

XBS has been busy... jammin... fixin... jammin' n fixin'... Still totally obsessed with some of the Midnight Starr, Deele, etc etc...

::: Thanks Don :::

So, this is what came out this week when we fired up the synth army.  The original idea was to get some David Frank style bleep bloops a la Beat Street going:

http://youtu.be/9pMzUcB-QoU

...But it ended up being slower and more groovy which is still fun by me.  It's more summery and less on the John Carpenter tip we've been on too.  Usual suspects include Oberheim DSX Sequencer, Arp 2600, SCI Pro One, Mirage sampler ( OB-DPX-1), Linndrum LM2, Oberheim DX Stretch, Simmons SDSV, Roland JP-8...

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[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/51223006" iframe="true" /]

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One of these days i'm going to just get a talk box and become Roger Troutman and drop some really beautifully vapid loves jams all over the ground. Zapp is great in the summer time.  I love running to some Roger jams.

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PS, D.F. has content on his site now:

David Frank | music production

COOL!

::: IF :::

::: Nature Never Knew Colors Like This :::

I like this one a lot.  It may just be the cowbell in the chorus.  Moar Cowbell!!!!!  Usual suspects: Arp 2600, Oberheim OB - 8, DSX sequencer, Linn LM2 ( Thanks 4 tha Cowbell ), Oberheim DMX, Roland JP-8, SCI Multitrak... [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/49073000" iframe="true" /]

I made a video for this one as well ( imovie is really limited so i didn't do much editing ), using some borrowed footage from the old sci fi movie Hardware (1990 movie):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fp1mfvDmRms&w=420&h=315]

Not only may it be the poor mans terminator!  It has possibly the best movie description i've ever seen, " Inspired by a short story in 2000 AD, the movie depicts the rampage of a self-repairing cyborg in a post-apocalyptic slum. "  The bonus being cameos by LemmyIggy Pop, and Carl McCoy, famed weirdo and singer of Fields of the Nephilim.  Such a weird sleeper of a band.  The awesome thing about Carl's cameo is that he is playing a mysterious post apocalyptic scavenger in this crazy desert / spaghetti western outfit and that's how he actually dresses!

Wikkid!

PS: the post title is one of Iggy Pops lines from the film.  he's a radio DJ overheard in the cab driven by Lemme.  Desrcibing the weather no less!

PPS: I couldn't leave ou without a gif!

::: IF :::

::: Cold Wave Cold Gaze :::

We've been listening to a lot of old Talk Talk records lately.  The earlier stuff is straight british new wave while the later stuff is so outside and minimal yet super complex and evolving.  It can take years to parce the development of a band and or artist, especially Mark Hollis' descent into an erie drug induced madness and isolation on the later Talk Talk and then his one solo record. The reversed synth lines in this track remind me of the strange soundscapes that Mark Hollis would use on his more experimental records.  Tucked into an A Ha-esque British synth pop shell.  It's uplifting somehow, Like the Simple Minds and Tears for Fears stuff of that era always is...

somehow...

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[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/35143601" iframe="true" /]

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The usual suspects too! Oberheim DSX, Oberheim DMX, Simmons SDS V, Linn LM2, Roland - JP 8, Arp...

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This one is dedicated to Mr. Knapp...

Can i call u that?

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::: IF :::

::: Løøkn frra Raynbow :::

It's particularly rainy here for January!  In lieu of snow XBS is stuck inside staying dry, which is fine by ME! We are still lovin' synth-funk-electro-crossover longtime and we can take this opportunity to post another 'XBS of the week'...

This week brought to you by : Atlantic Star, Midnight Star, Calloway, and all the other post Zap purveyors of robo awesomeness

Let's call it a miami disco tribute to Midnight Star and their song Midas Touch!

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[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/34750316" iframe="true" /]

 

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All the usual suspects!  (( Jupiter 8 ( still in the shop ) Simmons SDSV, Oberheim DX Stretch, OB-8, Mirage Sampler ( love the mirage sampler )))

I borrowed the a capella for Midas Touch by Midnight Star and threw it on for fun.  I just used the first few verses and chorus...

The vocal version is here:

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[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/34748010" iframe="true" /]

 

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Happy Friday...

::: I.F. :::

::: Happy Jam of the Week :::

Well, we spent a few days cleaning out the cave and finishing up some repairs ( i almost got a JP6 done this week to post pics of but it's being petulant so that will have to wait until it is 100 % happy functional ) so we figured we'd heat up the troops and make some celebratory saturday music. TGIS!

This one consists of the usual compliment of suspects: DSX, OB-8, Mirage, SDS-V, Linndrum, OB-DX Stretch,

but the bonus is a JP-8 that we've been fixing up! ( it's doing the little chorus line and the sliding fast arpeggio at the end... )

sweet.....

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/34821284" iframe="true" /]

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::: IF :::

::: TR **DR** [[ 909 ]] :::

XBS has been making an effort to do more tech related stuff this month.  In for repair today is a Roland TR-909 in messed up shape.  Someone had tried to refurbish it and made most of it's age and design  related problems worse! 1, The main drum switches were replaced which is nice but they were installed sloppily and so out of true that the buttons don't fit in properly.  On further investigation the problem was often the fact that too much silicone was used to glue in the drum switch LED's so that the switch didn't fit flush to the switch board PCB.

2, The ribbon cables were re-soldered and rendered non functional because the ribbon cable ends were not trimmed evenly prior to soldering ( anyone familiar with multiconductor cable work knows that the trimmed end lengths of all parts must be exactly correct or else they break off immediately due to imbalanced strain distribution ).

3,  One of the new drum switches was actually bad so it was replaced with one of the original ones that was removed.

On another note, the previous owner did manage to get the Roland TR-909 OS v4.0 chip in and it works which is a huge relief as that would be hard for me to troubleshoot.  Also, the pots and small switches were done well when they were replaced and all seem to be working. =D

So, I have to say that this is one of the most annoying designs ever conceived by man from a standpoint of repair and maintenance.  The boards barely fit in on top of each other inside the case with some long shaft pots going through the switch board from the voice board.  Everything needs to be taken apart to get to the switch board and that's the one that gets the most abuse!  The switch board is also where the CPU and OS live, right next to the buttons all the 'house music' dudes are banging on.  The ribbon cables are soldered to the PCB on one end and have connectors on the other.  I wish they were connectors on both ends so you could replace a cable or work on a board without having an octopus of cables to be mindful of.  They also barely fit in the case around the boards that are barely in there to begin with.  The drum switch caps are so flimsy i don't know how they were ever on there solidly in the first place.  And the OS is pretty clunky and unintuitive to make music with.  Nothing like the OB or Linn ideas in language or execution.  It does sound Great though.  I just wonder how this was designed when all the Roland synths of that era that i've been inside are immaculately designed and completely modular for maintenance purposes!  Who knows!

::: IF :::

::: Future :: NOW NOW NOW!!! :::

Happy Nu Year! XBS figured we could end on a nice up note with the universally known center of awesomeness, Carl Sagan...

...yummmmmmmy BRAINS!!!

Love the Quincy Jones, Love the Chaka Kahn!!

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/32067358"]

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This one is DSX/OB-8, Mirage, Roland Jupiter 6, Arp-2600, Simmons SDS-V and Linndrum...

Oh yeah, Vocoder by Korg VC-10. A prelude to more fun!

Thanks and C U Next Year!

::: IF :::

::: DSX :::

Well, XBS was thinking about it and realized that we have our first ever sequence made on the DSX.  This was done right after we did the Electron Gate upgrade.  This replaces the old volatile RAM system witha a Static MRAM system to negate the need for a battery... I later figured out how to calibrate the DAC system for the CV Gate outs on the back.  They have a polarity switch for +/- gates and a simple trim that adjusts the scale for all 8 CVs simultaneously.  pretty simple actually provided no components are bad.  There is supposedly an Oberheim calibration cassette that you can load into the DSX memory that has programs instead of sequences to test the functionality of the unit.  I haven't found a copy yet but it must exist somewhere!

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/31929260"]

The Poly parts are the Oberheim OB-8 ( of course ) and the JP 6 via midi...

The bass is ARP 2600 and the mono synth lines are on a SCI P-1 I believe ( it was a while ago ).

Its got a LinnDrum and the Simmons SDS-V chasing it!

I was surprised when i got the DSX going and it actually worked!  I figured i'd make a song right away before something went wrong!  The scaling on the CV outs was a little out of cal so i didn't do ant real leads or move too far out of 'in tune' range!

::: IF :::

::: For the Love of the Halloweenadays :::

Hello! Well, it's almost time to start the last year evah, 2012!!!!

In celebration XBS plan to make lots of Carpenter-esque synth jams.  Here's what we made yesterday :::

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/31903174"]

Newly fixed Oberheim DMX being minimal with a Simmons SDSV and polysynth layering from OB-8, Mirage (DPX) and SCI Multitrack ( great sleeper synth )

Accompanied by some ANIGIFS as always!

...I.F.

::: It'sGOINGtobeaROLANDtypeofWEEKEND :::

XBS of the day... This one features the wonderful sound of ROLAND.  lots of Juno 60 tracks arpeggiated together over a Simmons type of rhythm track and a korg MS-10 bass...

This was before the data sliders were fixed!

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/29574028"]

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Happy Weekend!

I.F.

::: May the Voice Cards Be With You :::

Oberheim DMX Voice Cards and Original Packaging! I've been meaning to do this for a while: The DMX is different than the DX ( and every other drum machine design of the period ) in that it contains individual daughter boards for each drum sound.  Much like the poly synths Oberheim was making at the time the boards were easily removed for servicing and or replacement.  The DMX voice cards came in three varieties.  One basic drum card for drum and percussion sounds and two different cymbal variants.

The two spare cards i received with my DMX came with all the original packaging and Oberheim literature from the original dealer!

One is for "Electric Snare" which is shown.  The other is  "Electric Toms" which is currently installed in the DMX so i included a picture of the "DX Tom" card it replaced...

Side note: The DMX has TWO tom 'sets' as opposed to normal machines of the period.

Side note 2: The DX Stretch from the previous posts demo featured the 'timbale/conga' sounds on the Stretch portion of the machine.  I didn't usethe 'breaking glass, record scratch, and electric snare' sounds for that demo.

WIKKD!

I.F...

::: Oberheim - DX Upgrade :::

Hello! Today is the day.  I finally have the parts to upgrade the DX Stretch to have MIDI, MRAM Static Ram ( no more battery ), and the newest OS and Sync functionality.

This required removing the battery, old ram chips, and Z80 chip, installing the new CPU board above the tape sync board, and reconnecting all the ribbon cables in their new destination sockets.  Lastly i drilled out the side panel to fit the MIDI I/O jacks on the right side and placed the new function decals on the face plate.

The parts were supplied by Paul at Electron Gate of course!

Here we go:

[slideshow]

SWEET!

( Pics Via J-Poo )

::: Juno 60 Slider Repair :::

I've had this J-60 for almost 20 years.  It sounds crazy i know.  I got it in a trade back when these were practically free. It was an "i'll throw in this old keyboard" type of deal. So it's always been happy except for 3 or 4 sliders that were dry and got damaged by someone forcing them to move.  It doesn't look like anything was even spilled in there!  I located some replacements but upon further inspection i found i could refurbish most of the original ones.  This required desoldering them from the main board and disassembling them by un-pinching the tabs on the metal housing to get at the innards.  i then  flattened out the bent metal runners that had been mangled over the years.  After cleaning the parts and adding some new grease i reassembled them for reinstallation.

Here's some pics of the process...

Photos courtesy of J-poo

=D

I.F.