Synth Repair

::: Boris Blank Rules :::

This is going to be a large quote of a post.  I love the band Yello.  So much so as to have all of their records on vinyl! Apparently Boris Blank's Fairlight III is for sale.

Totally refurbished to boot!

Here you go:

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"Every Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument has a story behind it. Hugely expensive when new, their unique sounds and legendary user interface were used by music pioneers who changed the sound of music forever.

At a cost around $65,000 in 1985 (which could have bought you a very nice house) the list of Fairlight III owners reads like a who’s who of musical innovation of the time. Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, Kate Bush, Thomas Dolby, Hans Zimmer and Pet Shop Boys were owners in the UK, with many studios catering for those who didn’t own one. For a complete list take a look at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairlight_CMI

The particular system being offered here belongs to Boris Blank, the musical part of Swiss band Yello. One could argue that during the 1980’s Yello used the Fairlight more, and more interestingly than virtually anyone else. Every hit single they had (and there were quite a few) used the Fairlight CMI extensively..

So, if you ever lusted after one of these legendary instruments, here’s a chance to acquire one with some serious street cred!

Yello Fairlight III. Signed front panel. There will be Boris's sounds included, as well as all the libraries listed below, in 4 x hard drives. Boris is on holiday at the moment, however his assistant has promised some more photos and goodies when he returns!

Offered for sale is a very rare, vintage classic Fairlight CMI III computer musical instrument workstation in excellent condition. The system is a late model, in three rack units which are 8U, 8U and 5U for the hard drive enclosure. It has the latest and best in technical innovations, whilst still retaining the classic legendary sound of the CMI. The system is switchable for 110, 220 or 240V so will work ANYWHERE in the world.

The system has the latest 9.34 music software, has 16 voices, mono graphics card and monitor, and 24 output router.  Instead of the usual 14 Mbytes RAM memory fitted as standard from the factory, this unit has a brand new 32 Mbyte card, which is the maximum possible in these systems. It also has a digital sampler module and a Turbo-SCSI card: It is therefore fully optioned with the last and best revisions of both hardware and software. There is no music keyboard, however any MIDI keyboard or external computer/sequencer will work brilliantly. I can supply a colour graphics card at additional cost if desired, to enable the system to run with many flat LCD screens. If required, the original mono graphics can be re-installed in minutes..

There are four hard drives installed. Three are original, with Boris's sounds, and the forth is "My" collection of libraries I normally include with my systems for sale. These are as follows:
 Complete Fairlight library, Prosonus Strings, Brass, Percussion, Sound 
Genesis strings, plus many libraries collected over the last 25 years 
dealing with top producers and musicians. These include libraries from: Pet 
Shop Boys, Trevor Horn, Hans Zimmer, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Art of Noise and many, many others. The complete Fairlight IIX library is also included.

The floppy and WORM drive work intemittantly, however these were only used in the 1980's before more reliable and cost-effective storage emerged. Therefore there is no warranty on these parts. The only other points of note are that some of the keys on the alpha-numeric keyboard are beginning to lose their legends (see picture), and the graphics pad is worn in places. I have however adjusted the keyboard so that the worn spots on the pad doesn't cause problems.

The system has been serviced, will have a full set of manuals on CD, all leads, latest firmware, and come with 3 months warranty (apart from the two drives mentioned above).

Please note you’ll see other Fairlight systems advertised, and some might be less expensive. However, do some research before you buy. What may look like a bargain might not look so appealing when its obsolete parts finally give up. This applies specially to earlier systems.  This system is complete, fully functional, and will work straight out of the box. I worked as product specialist and studio manager at Fairlight in Sydney during most of the 1980s, and have been involved in re-building Fairlight CMIs for over 25 years. I have sold and supported well over 45 of these classic samplers. If you are in any doubt, please type “Peter Wielk Fairlight” into the worlds favourite search engine and see what comes out.

You might be apprehensive about owning a big piece of technology, however the Fairlight CMIs were designed to last – no new technology comes near it for build quality. All the cards and modules of a series III are plug-in which makes servicing a breeze (and also helped push the original price up). In the unlikely event of a board failure, this can simply be swapped out for a replacement from me, to either repair or replace. I have a huge amount of spares, since I bought most of the factories old stock and spare parts. I also do repairs at board level, and re-manufacture parts when unavailable. I have been supporting these incredible systems for many years, and hope to continue this for many more…

I have tried to describe this system as accurately as possible. However, please feel free to ask any questions, or if you’re passing through Sydney, you would be very welcome to have an extensive demonstration. Lastly, these systems were designed and built with no compromises, reflected by their US$75,000 price tag when new. The sound is completely awesome. You might buy a sample CD of the Fairlight sounds, it will sound NOTHING like the real thing.

Also, only about 200 systems were built, and they were sold to the most influental musicians and producers in the world. The sounds of the Fairlight CMI formed the soundtrack of the 1980s. So, if you’ve always lusted after one, here’s your chance to own a part of music history!

Please note price is in Australian dollars, and excludes freight. I have an account with TNT couriers here in Sydney and ship many systems every year. I will ship for my cost. Please mail for more exact figures to your location. All shipments can be tracked through TNTs own site. IGNORE EBAYS SHIPPING PRICE CALCULATORS: THEY ARE WORSE THAN USELESS !!!!!!!

There are many currency conversion sites online. Australian residents please add 10% GST.

Lastly, due to the number of frauds and scams on ebay, please contact me if you have less than 10 positive transactions. I won't even consider shipping until funds have cleared this end, so please don't ask. I am sure any honest bidder will not resent this precaution.

Extra information:

This system is multi-timbral, in that it can produce 16 different sounds at any given time. It also has dynamic voice allocation, meaning that although the device is 16 channels, one could play for example, 16 voices of piano in one bar of music, 16 voices of brass in the next, 16 of vibraphone in the next, and so on. Each sound is output through it's own dedicated router output, of which there are 24. A loom will be provided to interface the first 8 "routputs" with your mixer. This differs from the earlier CMI IIIs, as they had only one monophonic output per XLR. As producer and Fairlight programmer extrordinaire Andy Richards (look him up for credentials) once said: "Having a router is like having a Fairlight and a half

Horizontal Productions in sunny Sydney"

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:::IF:::

::: Roland Juno 106 Restoration :::

I always enjoy trying to improve the functionality and or update / repair the instruments i own but recently I have been in the process of taking on more repair work for other people.  This can be intimidating but i like the challenge and i always learn something. Some friends of mine had a Juno 106 that finally died after  years of touring and gigging.  Apparently this Juno 106 was a frankenstein made out of 2 previously corpse-d Juno 106's that the band had been using previously.

Amazing and yet common story for the Roland Juno 106 as they have parts that are bound to fail and there's many of them in circulation.

When i received the Juno it was totally deceased.  It wouldn't even turn on.  As i started at the beginning ( the power supply ) i began a long journey that took me to every board in this beast.  As will many Rolands of that era, the Juno 106 is nicely made and laid out inside.  it's relatively easy to work on and retains the Roland style of sophistication and simplicity.

On to the process:

The AC wires from the receptacle to the PSU were rotted out so i replaced them.  After that step i noticed that the power transformer was toasted.  Once i sourced a replacement transformer from a parts machine ( Roland HS-60 that someone had pulled the voice chips from previously) i at least had some voltage!

But thats where i met my next obstacle.  The regulators on the supply were down.  This an easy fix and i soon had AC to DC conversion at all the required voltages from the PSU.  When i reconnected all the other boards the regulators immediately started overheating .  This was a bad sign and meant that the other boards had problems yet to be deciphered.  I reconnected each board one at a time and found out that the Voice Module board ( the most important one! ) was shorting out the power supply.  A little research informed me that when the 'Voice' chips in Juno 106's fail they sometimes become a short that persists.  It doesn't cause the unit to shut down or the fuse to blow.  It just goes supernova!  Based on how hot it was getting within minutes i can see what had brought this instrument down.  The short had occurred in the module board and the power supply allowed so much current to pass that the regulators and the power supply were destroyed!  Pretty catastrophic!  This probably didn't take long either and it was only minutes from when the synth stopped making sound at a gig until it had melted itself to death.

Side note, There were several problems i eventually addressed to bring this baby back to club awesome.

1, The bender assembly was trashed and just sloppily banging around inside the bender housing.

2, There were 2 sliders on the ENV / VCA section that were broken off and had screws jammed into them ( they still worked apparently! )

3, One of the voices was dead.  And once i got that sorted the CPU on the voice module board was toasted and wouldn't trigger voices properly.

4, The power supply and transformer were dead.

5, The jack board where the outputs live had issues too as there was no audio from the main outs but the headphone jack had been working.

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On to the work!

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So it took a lot of research and work but this instrument is now rockin' again!  I've burned it in for 24 hours and it still sounds great so it's time to release it to the wild!

Here's a list of all the work i ended up doing:

1, The power transformer was blown and replaced.

2, The voltage regulators in the power supply were toasted and replaced.

3 The CPU on the voice board was toasted and has been replaced.

4, The bender assembly was broken and has been replaced.

5, The 2 broken sliders have been replaced and have original matching caps as well.  i also lubed all the faders with teflon fader grease so they feel less gritty and more similar.

6, There was blown parts in the jack board that were replaced ( hum and dead outputs ) and all the outputs are now making music!

7, The power cable input could not be switched to IEC 3 prong because there is not enough room to put a deeper receptacle in without being dangerously close to exposed AC points.

8, The main culprit of this catastrophe was a dead 'voice' chip ( Roland 80017A ).  When these go they sometimes become a short.  this is what took down the power supply and many of the other parts that needed replacement.

9, lastly, i replaced the end cap chassis screws so this synth will be more structurally stable and hopefully last another 30 years!

I forgot how specific the 106 vibe was.  Too bad they are so prone to failure.

As always, thanks to Doug at synthparts for synth parts!

::: IF :::

::: So this happened : The Fabled Simmons SDS 6 In the Wild :::

Today in the shop i have a Simmons SDS 6.  This one is serial number 105.  Seeing as there was only 109 of these ever made i'd say this is practically a Chupacabra! It was shipped to the US from Europe so the power supply had to be changed to see 110 volts.  The transformer has two primary coils that were hooked up in series for European voltage but once they are changed to a parallel configuration it should be fine!

The manual also says to use a 1A fuse in the US.

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There's not much info on these in the world ( google ).  I have the manual and schematic here with this one which is helpful.  The circuit boards are riddled with modifications that were probably done on the production line.  This one doesn't have MIDI but supposedly a few had been updated to support it.  There's a few videos on youtube that show off how utterly awesome this is to program and watch:

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I doubt i'll ever see another!

Here's an add for the Simmons SDS 6 ( thanks Simmons Museum! )

Other Resources:

Simmons.net

Simmons WIKI

::: IF :::

::: Sequential Circuits Max Firmware Upgrade :::

It's a tech kind of weekend! A while back I met a guy named Bob Grieb on the sequential circuits yahoo group who was working on a firmware and memory upgrade for the Sequential Circuits Max.  I am a huge fan of the SCI Multitrak as posted here and the Max is basically the same synth in a smaller package with less programming capability ( no editing grid on the faceplate ), performance features ( arpeggiator and wheels ), and an even less colorful color scheme! ( I'll have one totally 80's football font on grey sparkle please!!! )

As soon as Bob had kits available i had him ship me a set so i could do some tech work on the weekend.  It consisted of a PCB, a new larger ram chip, an eprom with updated OS features, some chip sockets, and a few diodes, resistors, caps, and wires to assemble.  He posted instructions on his site to assist in the process as well.  Its not too complicated but there's several steps that are pretty hard if you are not comfy soldering multi pin chips.

1, First i needed to remove the 2 old non writable ram chips from the mother board.  Thats right, the original OS didn't allow you to rewrite the basic patches, although they could be edited via midi and were remembered while the unit had power.  The same went for the sequence memory: lost at power down.  This was the hardest part of the process.  The memory chips are right next to the CPU and had a very tight space between them for desoldering.  I chose to use a liberal amount of solder wick to pull the solder from the joints.  it took a while but finally the two chips literally fell out without damaging the board!

2, I then assembled the new PCB.  Theres a socket for the new ram and the new OS eprom as well as a set of pins on the bottom that sit in the old eprom socket.  I then added the other components to the board and checked to see if it fit into the socket on the mother board without touching anything.  It looked good and i actually attached a small bit of foam to the bottom of the PCB to relieve the weight of the whole assembly resting on the eprom socket.

3, after attaching the 5 wires for os, ram addressing, and power to the new PCB i was ready to start the Max up!  That wasn't too bad once i got past the chip removal!

At startup the max loads it's basic patches and default sequences from the new ram location on the new chip. Then it goes through the voice tuning routine as it always would.  Pretty smooth actually!

I also did a few other maintenance things while i was inside the max:

1, I gave it a thorough cleaning.  30 years can leave a lot of dust!  I also noticed that the metal supports for the mother board were totally untreated metal and they were corroding.  They were covered in a fine dust of rust and it was gross.  So i scrubbed them in the sink and let the whole bottom plate dry in the sun for a while.  I then used a can of Rust-Oleum clear enamel to coat them.  This will hopefully help keep them from corroding more in the future.

2  I also removed and cleaned the small red window that covers the led display.  I re-taped it on all four sides so it will keep dust out more effectively and look better.

So, the Tauntek SCI Max firmware upgrade adds many features.  Here's a list of them:

1) 100 downloadable programs (Max had 20 that could be downloaded)

2) Storage for ~3200 notes in two songs (Max could store about 500)

3) Unison mode (Max did not support Unison mode)

4) Battery-backed storage of downloadable programs and songs

5) MIDI chan and a few other parameters are also non-volatile

6) Three sets of programs in EPROM, loadable on request:

a) Max orig 80 programs plus Six Trak Unison programs

b) Six Trak orig 100 programs

c) Multitrak orig 100 programs, without chorus and velocity sens parameters

7) Current voice parameters, including any CC changes, can be stored in program #99

8) Program #99 can be copied to any other program.

9) MIDI receive buffer increased from 64 bytes to 128 bytes

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Pretty RAD!

:::IF:::

::: Roland Jupiter 6 Europa Replacement Power Switch :::

The title says it all!  So i went to turn the JP6E on the other day and i got nothing.  After freaking out and thinking i must be doing something extremely stupid for a few minutes, i decided to get out the volt meter.  To my surprize, the power switch on the JP6E was not working.  How often does that happen>?  Well, At least they are findable on the web thanks to Doug @ Synthparts! And this synth is so well designed you don't even need to heat up the soldering gun to do this work!

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Sometimes i need an easy fix so i can get back to the MUSIC!

::: IF :::

::: Roland Filter Comparisons :::

So, there's a lot of confusion around what classic Rolands sound like other Rolands.  And on keeping with my previous post on The History of Roland I figured i would put a concise thread together. First there is a master chart:

ROLAND FILTERS

There's also a short cheat sheet jpeg for the big boys of Roland fame borrowed from here::

roland-chips

So, in my experience the Jupiter 6 and MKS 80 are very similar in sound ( i've used an MKS80 rev 4 ).  not particularly 'deep' but capable and very useful.

But the Jupiter 8 sounds DEEP.  Like DISCRETE transistor DEEP.  It's beautiful sounding no matter how ugly a sound you make.

This is something the Juno 60 can do too in it's own way. Tight Big Clear Fast.  But it's oscillators aren't as big feeling and they are DCO so they don't drift in any real musical way.

The JX 8P / MKS 70 / JX 10 are in a separate category all together.  They are a bit grungier in sound and vibe and you sometimes have to work harder to get them to sing but it is in there.  It's just not obvious at first or easy to squeak out.

The Juno family is split into two groups.  The Juno 6 and 60 are almost identical.  The Juno 106 / Alpha / and MKS 50 are thinner and less deep than the jupiter 6 and 8.  The Juno 106 kicks ass above the others in this class though because it has all the tactile control and good MIDI implementation ( MKS70/MKS80 have decent implementation, the Jupiter 6 has barely any and the Jupiter 8 had none! )

So, you pick your battles with old hardware i guess.  I happen to love the JP6 Europa because it's more MIDI slick than a Juno 106 and sounds way better.  Plus you can do great interfacing with it!  For instance, you can trigger the arpeggiator from an external analog source and the Europa JP6 will transmit the arpeggios created via MIDI.  this is really fun for creating bass lines and other bouncy 80's bits on multiple instruments rhythmically generated from an 808 for instance...

food for thought...

::: IF :::

::: Simmons SDS-V of the Future :::

I've promised these and so fresh for 2013 here they are!  Extensive photos of the inner life and workings of a Simmons SDS-V with the MFB SEQ-01 sequencer built in. But first, a little background.

Simmons electronic drums were developed by Richard James Burgess and Dave Simmons.  Burgess' idea was to make a fully electronic drumset that could be played  by a real drummer or a sequencer.  He pioneered this idea while working on the first Landscape album From the Tea-Rooms of Mars... To the Hell-Holes of Uranus ( a great soundtrack styled listen BTW ).  In 1981 he produced the Spandau Ballet hit, "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)".  It was the first breakthrough hit with a real drummer playing the now famous hexagonal pads and the first production Simmons SDS-V brain.

They offered a Kick drum, Snare drum, Toms, and even High Hats and Cymbal modules although the Cymbal and HH ones are super rare.  Seven of any combination could be housed in one brain and triggered via octagonal pad, sequencer, and even acoustic triggers attached to drums.  There was even an open/closed HH pedal input to trigger 2 different variations from the HH module.  You could program your own sounds via the front panel of each module with full controls for 3 presets on the front and one 'factory' set inside that are all adjustable.  The Brain did double duty of allowing trigger inputs while offering basic mixing of the internal sounds via a stereo and mono output ( with individual out as well ).  These brains quickly became cult like in their status and were used in everything from jazz bands by Bill Bruford to rock groups like Def Leppard ( by the one armed Rick Allen ) and of course funk and dance groups like Prince.

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And i never get bored of this song:

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I had picked up an SDS-V brain with a Kick, Snare, and 3 Tom modules.  But there was those two empty slots at the end... hmmmm... Then it occurred to me, What if i turn this Brain into a full DRUM MACHINE!!! Lo an behold, a few Googles later yielded my plan of attack.  I could fit a modern modular sequencer into this old brain and make an instrument of the future past! There's some technical hurdles to surmount in adding a sequencer to the SDS-V brain.

1, The MFB SEQ-01 is designed to work in a modular synth case.  the SDS-V case is of equivalent hight but the mounting holes are not lined up. So, more accurately, the MFB fits vertically and horizontally but the mounting holes don't line up.  To avoid damaging the original mounting setup i opted to temporarily put  washers over the adjacent screws to hold the sequencer in.

2, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be routed to the trigger or sequencer inputs on the SDS-V cards. I had a few options here.  One was to connect the sequencer outs to the Simmons' native sequencer inputs.  The other was to hook it up to the trigger or pad inputs.  I opted to use the trigger inputs ( counter intuitive, i know! ) because this gave me a gain adjustment on the face plate of the brain for each trigger from the sequencer to the drum module.  The SDS-V drum modules are very dynamic and it's useful to be able to hit them with sequencer trigger more or less to taste.

3, Lastly, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be powered and it runs at a different voltage than the SDS-V. I had MFB modify the Seq-01 to run on 15 volts in the SDS.  Then i connected the power from the +/-15 volt rail in the Brain to the power input on the MFB edge connector.  Pretty straight forward!

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Photos by J-poo.

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Future plans for the SDS-V:

1, So, there's one quirk in the Simmons SDS-V design i'd like to point out.  The audio outs are wired pin 3 hot.  This is the XLR wiring convention used by many old British companies and it's the opposite of the US convention of pin 2 hot.  Reversing this would be great to more easily interface with other equipment.

2, I'd eventually like to disconnect the back panel sequencer jacks from the SDS-V modules and instead wire them to the MFB SEQ-01 outputs.  This way the sequencer outs  could be used to drive more than just the Simmons modules.  there's actually 12 sequencer slots and the Simmons SDSV can only hold 5 cards with the sequencer installed. Maybe someday!

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References:

Simmons SDSV with MFB SEQ-01

Simmons SDS-V - Wikipedia

Simmons Synth

::: 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 :::

::: Korg MS-10 Power Upgrade :::

Hello! It's tech time again, Today I'm performing an IEC power receptacle upgrade on a Korg  MS-10.  It's a similar but easier process than the one I did for the Moog Rogue previously.  The MS series is often equated with the MS-10's big brother the MS-20.  But the 10 has it's perks as well.  First off, it shares a similar semi modular design which became popular in the mid 1970's.  This allowed basic sounds to happen easily without patching but also allowed more complex routing to be patched as well.  This one has been moded slightly as you can see by the green wires that go from the mod wheel to the patch bay.  It came like this and I never felt the need to change it.  The wires connect the mod button to the patch bay in more places than it would have stock.  Secondly, the Korg MS-10 sounds HUGE.  The low frequency extension on this single oscillator synth is Awesome.  I think it's far 'warmer' and 'deeper' than the Korg MS-20.  I always assumed this was due to the fact that it only has a LPF and not a HPF/LPF.

There's actually a pretty extensive article about the old Korg filters here.  It even covers the newer Korg Monotron filters as well.  The MS series started in the 70's with a proprietary chip usually referred to as the Korg35.  Later they went with a more off the shelf design that people think sounds different but not worse or better.

On to the details:

1, We aren't adding a transformer as the step down is already inside the unit.  So the IEC will better protect you and the instrument by adding a better ground and a more physically robust power input as the hard wired power cables on instruments like this inevitably get dodgy at one end or the other.

2, We will be making a hole in the shell of the Korg.  This is always scary but it gets easier with time, and having The Nibbler helps too!

3, This Korg also has a dodgy low F# key that i want to replace.  I bought one from Synthparts. Thanks Doug!

As always: Be Careful!  120 volts is enough to hurt you!

On to the pics:

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I am glad that worked out!  I will be doing this with a few more instruments in the coming months...

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::: IF :::

::: Roland Juno 60 Re-MIDI-visited :::

It's time, and i'm in the mood for the sweet smell of solder! The Juno 60 we have has had a basic MIDI retrofit for a long time.  It was made by a company called engineersatwork.  They make a lot of cool interfacing gadgets etc and their Juno 60 MIDI kit was cheap and easy to install, so back in the day that's what we did.  The kit replaced the DCB port on the back panel and required NO soldering.  It literally just replaced the port and did all the MIDI interface work.  It is very basic and only supports MIDI notes in and out on the MIDI channel of your choosing. The notes generated by the internal arpeggiator are as sent well.  This is an AWESOME feature. But it's been a long time and i noticed many more MIDI retrofit options popping up for various old instruments.  A while back i found this site where they are selling an 'almost' non destructive MIDI upgrade for Roland Juno 60's and Jupiter 4's. It's called MIDIpolis.

Why do this you ask>?  Well, the MIDIpolis upgrade allows the Roland Juno 60 to send and receive almost EVERY SINGLE PANEL CONTROL  via MIDI.  This is wicked!  Like a Juno 106 but sounds better and has an arpeggiator!  And yes that syncs to incoming MIDI too!  Specs are on the page, MIDIpolis.  The only thing it doesn't do is transmit the pitch bender.  But it does receive  pitch bend via MIDI!  BTW, What is with old Rolands of this era that makes it so hard to get them to transmit pitch bend info from the bender board?

And on to the guts;

So, there is soldering with this kit but it's designed in an ingenious way.  The new chip socket is soldered in piggy back fashion to the underside of the Panel Board B processing chip.  Roland Juno 60 Service manual here.  In this way it is allowed to mirror all the information coming in and out of that chip to the MIDI bus BUT if you remove the daughter board and MIDIpolis chip the Juno 60 works just as it would have originally.  Since i never removed the DCB port from my Juno ( it's bagged and tucked into the wiring harness inside ) it could still be returned to DCB factory functionality (( if you would ever really want to :-D )).

I put a lot of pictures in the gallery of the socket that holds the new board.  It's got 'forks' on one side that literally fit over the solder side tabs for IC 14 on Panel Board B.  It took serious care to make sure this was all lined up and seated nicely over all 40 pins. That's correct, 40 pins worth of  tiny cramped soldering.  Whew, i got it done though,   I actually re-soldered about half of the original IC 14 pins to make sure they were narrow and straight enough to fit into the 'forks'.  Take a look!

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PS:  Be careful!  If you finish and it looks like this, RUN!!

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::: WIKKID! :::

::: IF :::

::: To Oberheim DSX or not to Roland MSQ :::

Today i will compare two old but very useful hardware sequencers.  The Oberheim DSX and the Roland MSQ - 700.  I've posted a lot of ASCII about the DSX before so this post will focus mainly the Roland MSQ - 700. Previous Reading on the Oberheim DSX:

In or around 1983 while Oberheim was refining and updating the DSX Roland released the MSQ-700  It was the world's first MIDI-compatible sequencer!

This is not to say it's better.  The DSX kicked the MSQ - 700's bottom in the features department.  But the MSQ - 700 offered some great features in it's own right.  Here's a run down:

1, 8 tracks of full MIDI Data or DCB recording and playback. ( only one or the other sadly not both simultaneously! )

In MIDI mode Each track could have a full 16 channels of data and all associated controllers.  Very inclusive and very cool.  You could have a full multipart song sequence on each track for live performance purposes. You could also mix or merge from one track to another and quantize tracks after they are recorded non destructively via quantizing while bouncing them to an open track.

2, The MSQ - 700 can sync internally or externally via MIDI, DIN Sync, or from time code on a tape.

3, It's built like a tank, solid steel all but for the side panels which are plastic but painted silver!

Roland fails is in a few serious ways, and these are where i prefer the DSX in all it's non MIDI glory.  There is no facility on the MSQ for real time sequence manipulation so you can't play and mute tracks while a sequence is playing.  Nor can you transpose or edit on the fly like the DSX can.  This is a total bummer for those who like to let the basic structure loop and drop things in and out and transpose the whole thing for fun on the fly.  The MSQ- 700 also lacks CV Gate compatibility in lieu of Roland's proprietary DCB.  The problem with DCB, besides it only being implemented on a few Roland instruments like the Jupiter 8 and Juno 60, is that it is so limited in comparison to MIDI that it's not worth the effort to use it since Jupiter 8's and Juno's can be easily Midified to a level where you can transmit via MIDI all the front panel controls for each like the Juno 106 ( which doesn't sound nearly as good ).

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[slideshow]

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References:

Roland MSQ700   ( This is a great article about the MSQ - 700 )

MSQ - 700 FAQ 1

MSQ - 700 FAQ 2

::: IF :::

::: Moog Rogue Power Upgrade :::

It's a tech kinda week.  We have a few communal instruments that we have bought as a band over the years.  This is one that has been all over the place.  It's seen many US shows, East and West Coast, and even to the UK ( TWICE! ).  You should have seen the insanely ugly power adapter from European to US power duct taped to the awful moog wall wart.  We probably went through 3 of those crap power supplies over the years as they always get munched on stage.  I guess thats why everyone eventually does the internal power supply mod for the Moog Rogue. Here's the breakdown:

1, This mod adds a standard IEC jack so that you can just PLUG IT IN!

2, We are adding a 120VAC to 24VAC transformer ( BONUS: the DC rectifiers and other power supply elements are actually in the Rogue already )

3, We are adding a fuse to protect the peeps and the circuit as there will now be 120VAC in the box ( i settled on a 200ma slow blow or mdl fuse ).

4, The transformer is wired to the place on the board where the power input jack was so you can still turn it on and off.

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All Photos by J-Poo!

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Here's a little background and some other resources i referenced while doing this mod:

Basics:

Moog Rogue - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This site posted a wealth of info in the mod:

Moog Rogue Power Supply

And once that is done this is an interesting resource for getting your Rogue up to speed again:

Moog Rogue Trim Pots

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::: IF :::

::: Fully Upgraded and Updated Roland Jupiter 6 Europa :::

This is an exciting post!  I have been working on this project for months in baby steps and it's finally ready!  So here's the deal, I bought out a guy's analog collection basically to get a Roland Jupiter 8.  Included in the deal were a Roland TR-909 which i already posted about here: (  ) and a Roland Jupiter 6 which is todays post! This is quite a specimen!  When i received the JP-6 it was mostly working and very updated.  It has the Europa mod which brings it's brains up to 21st century MIDI capabilities.  The previous owner made wood sides to replace the stock metal ones, which i'm glad he also held on to.  The body went to  customsynth.co.uk  and was totally repainted and re-screened.  There was one large knob missing.  I tracked one down and did a course of the Retr0Bright process to get them all back to the original grey as some had yellowed due to sun damage.  The 2 prong power receptacle was replaced with a 3 prong IEC style one.  All of the sliders and pots have been replaced.  All the voices tune and STAY TUNED ( I burned this JP-6 in for 5 days in the studio and it was still in perfect tune at the end ).

In fact, when i looked under the hood the only functionality issues were in the Bender Board where the LFO 2 was non functional.  There were just some bunk components that were in need of replacement.  It's sweet to look at and is probably the most pimped out JP-6 i've ever encountered.  On a side note, the previous owner painted the bender board caps blue which is cool but i tracked down some of the original white ones to see if they looked better.  I actually settled on a mix where the 'Wide' and 'LFO 2' buttons are blue and the 'VCO' buttons are white but still have the others just in case.

::: Have a look at the pics :::

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I promised myself i would sell this piece and i'm sticking to it!  I have an identical O.G. JP-6 ( this earlier version MIDI In and Out/Thru only ) that this originally was and i'm too emotionally attached to it to sell it. :-D...

It will be offered up soon on the AH list.

and or Ebay!

Analogue Heaven

eBay

THANKS!

::: IF  :::

::: Oberheim DSX ( Part Deux ) :::

So i finally organized the Oberheim DSX photos i've been intending to post for a while. It's a pretty slick design for a Z80 world.  And it's a nice size as well as it matches up perfectly with all the other Oberheim kits of the era. I've already discussed it's functional attributes here:

So, it's totally RAD! on a historical note, MIDI came out just after this unit ( 1981 ) and Tom Oberheim was one of the synth designers on the american side ( along with Dave Smith of SCI ) to convince other manufacturers to adopt MIDI...

Here are some pics:

I have the DSX clocked to a Garfield Electronics Dr. Click II ( Thats the red cable connected to the clock in within the gallery! ) which is a topic for another post!

As ALWAYS, Thanks Paul!

Electrongate Products

::: IF :::

::: Oberheim OB-8 Innards :::

I've been meaning to post these for a while!  The OB 8 is the main instrument i play when making music in the cave.  It is interfaced with the DSX and they together form the basis for all my sequences.  The OB is usually pretty happy but once in a while it goes haywire and loses it's mind for a minute.  I've found that if i change the keyboard mode from whole to split to double and then retune the voice boards it comes back on line pretty swiftly.  It's definitely an electrical connection or solder joint somewhere.  I did a bunch of touching up when we took these pics and it's been much happier since.  i never did locate one ' bad spot ' but i poked and prodded until i was pretty sure it is somewhere on the top voice board in the control section to the left.  Pics mostly by J-poo!

Other Info:

The OB-8 ( much like the previous Oberheims ) was a work in progress.  Many didn't have factory midi or were retrofitted ( often midi I/O was cut into the left wooden side panel.  Later versions had a different silk screen on the front that denoted two sets of control features referred to as 'page two'.  This one has factory midi but no page two screen.  The voice two boards were configured with 4 voices each and communicated to one central CPU.  The boards were designated in an upper and lower fashion much like Roland's polys of the era. Each board could have a unique patch for sophisticated layering and more dense tonalities!

The left side wood panel had 8 pots that were used to pan each voice left to right.  This seems strange at first but can be very useful.  It allows you to have two patches at one time mapped to different outputs or lets the two cards be moderately panned or hard panned for a wide thick stereo spread with one or two patches.

More on the web:

Oberheim OB-8

Electrongate Products

I'll do pics of the DSX in the next post...

::: 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 :::

::: 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 :::

::: It's Passion :::

XBS loves getting new Vinyl.  Especially if its really old and was never played!  We just scored an original Mirage Records copy of It's Passion by The System  for one dollar and it RULES!  This reminded me that there have been no XBS posts on The System yet.  It's a travesty!!  XBS will do more we promise!  XBS will post that performance from MIAMI VICE at some point as well...

XBS owes a lot of art time inspiration to this band.  More than making some fun jams back in the day, they also inspired our love of Oberheim and the pre midi sequencing capabilities of  'The System'.

So, The DSX is the sequencer and it can control a DX or DMX drum machine and one Oberheim poly at the same time.  It can do 10 tracks of polyphonic ( 16 voices ) to an OB X, Xa, SX, or 8  via 'computer interface' and 8 CV / Gates on the back panel for mono synths simultaneously ( US scaling and polarity ( invertible! )).  It could record up to 6000 notes, record patch and controller type changes on a dedicated data track, and do real time transposition and track track muting!

So much fun!

Our OB-8 has midi so the DSX can actually control anything in the studio!  We upgraded the brains with some help from, you guessed it, Paul at Electron Gate!

http://www.electrongate.com/dmxfiles/products.html

::: [[START]] NERDY DANCING ZONE :::

::: [[END]] NERDY DANCING ZONE :::

We've been saving that dry hump macintosh gif for ever, now it has a raison d'etre...

Here's an awesome jam from the first System record. Note they have a PPG in the video for no reason i can guess other than they are dancing in space!!!:

http://youtu.be/FqeQ_PfKMAo

David Frank  is a Special and Visionary dude.  Thanks dude!

::: IF :::