What’s Old is New Again.

Keyboard Setup Based on Vintage RMI 300B “Electra-Piano”

Remember me saying that Tom, the guy who sold me the Pax tape echo chamber is pretty cool?  Well … periodically he texts me links to good local deals on second-hand gear.  He seems to know exactly what kind of equipment I’m interested in, and he has a real nose for good deals.  I have added him to my contact list as “Tommy Tape Echo”.

A little over a month ago, he tipped me off to this really cool vintage keyboard from RMI (“Rocky Mount Instruments”).  I picked it up from a guy in Oakville that day for a couple hundred bucks.  Then, a few weeks later, when I finally got together with my experimental jam band, I put together a setup that looked like this (click the image to enlarge):

Retro Keyboard Setup

Korg MS-20 (Kit), Arturia Microbrute, Mackie 402 Mixer, EHX Small Clone Phase Shifter, Boss RE-20 Space Echo Pedal. All supported by the monstrous RMI 300B "Electra Piano"

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An Observation: Synths With Revised Filters.

Some of the world’s most respected, coveted synthesizers went through production revisions that audibly impacted the instruments’ sonic character. Here are four such synths that come to mind:

  • Korg MS-20
    Korg MS-20 (from Synthgear.com)(to quote Korg’s MS-20 Kit press release: The original MS-20 used different VCF circuits depending on the date of production. Units produced in the earlier period used a filter noted for its distinctive distortion and self-oscillation, while the filter used in later units was a low-noise design with a more mellow character.) The earlier filter is known as the “Korg 35″, while the later revision is a more conventional OTA-based filter.
  • ARP Odyssey
    ARP Odyssey (from Matrixsynth)(The Odyssey is notorious for bearing three different filters in its lifetime. The first Odysseys shipped with a Moog-style ladder filter. ARP was threatened with legal action so they quickly replaced it with a buzzy 2-pole filter, which was quickly replaced by a unique, aggressive sounding 4-pole filter.
  • Sequential Prophet-5 (rev. 2)Sequential Prophet-5
    Rev. 1 and Rev. 2 Prophet 5s used SSM ICs for their VCOs and VCFs, while the Rev. 3 Prophet 5 used CEM ICs. Some say the Rev. 3 Prophet 5 sounds weaker as a result.
  • Roland MKS-80 Super Jupiter
    The infamous Supe Jupe rack’s filter had an agressive, high-resonance character (IR3109, same filter as the Jupiter-6).MKS-80 Super Jupiter with MPG-80 Programmer But Rev. 5 units (serial number 511800 and up) used Roland’s new IR3R05, the same silky smooth filter that would find its way into the JX-8P, Super JX, and MKS-70.

Korg MS-20 KIT – now SHIPPING!

Korg MS-20 Mini Pieces

Korg MS-20 Mini Promo Shot

I have ponied up for Korg’s new MS-20 Kit. The vendor in California tells me he has the much-publicized limited edition vintage analog semi-modular synth reissue-as-a-kit in stock, so I expect it to find its way into my grimy clutches within the week.

Upon receipt of the kit, I shall immediately join forces with the “Love”-ly and talented DJ Güber for an evening of kit assembly and frivolity. Watch this space for one of the first ever customer MS-20 Kit unboxing / assembly / test / MS-mayhem videos.

See you then! I can’t wait!

Gear News

SYNTHS RECENTLY ACQUIRED: Ensoniq ESQ-1 and Ensoniq SQ-80.

GEAR RECENTLY REPAIRED: Korg Zero 8 (touchscreen issue) Info here

YOU GOTTA CHECK OUT: the Novation Launchpad Mini. My original legacy Launchpad started acting crazy (“drawing too much power”) and I have a gig tomorrow night. A Novation guy stated on Gearslutz that this is typically due to a hardware fault, but since I have a gig tomorrow night, I just went to Long&McQuade and picked up the new Launchpad Mini for just $99 – after all, I need something schnell! After configuring its bootload option to “Full Power” it looks simply gorgeous. The LEDs look far brighter than the original Launchpad. Better still, unlike its full-sized predecessor it is small enough to perch on the panel of many synths, and thanks to its rubber underlay it won’t slide around. I’m pretty sure I’ll be keeping the Launchpad Mini. Once I repair my original Launchpad I’ll sell it – cheap. The two pics below show how nicely the new Launchpad Mini nestles itself atop the panel of a synth. Click for full size.

Launchpad Mini atop Ensoniq SQ-80

Launchpad Mini atop Ensoniq SQ-80

Launchpad Mini atop Korg DW-6000

Launchpad Mini atop Korg DW-6000

FINALLY! I just finished setting up my new, temporary workspace. I took a couple pictures just before I started doing some urgent work on some new material. I still have some oddball boxes and gear to deal with, but at least it’s a workable space. I was able to leave my large-format 24-channel mixer in storage, opting instead for the inputs of the MOTU 828mk2 expanded out to the Behringer ADA8000 via ADAT optical. I can control the mix of all 16 inputs using MOTU’s CueMix FX software from the iPad via TouchOSC. Check these pics out, and click on them to see in HD!

Studio Nebula

From here you can see most of the keyboards. Leftmost stand, top to bottom: Roland VK-09 organ, Yamaha CS40M synth. Three-tier stand, top to bottom: Roland JX-3P, Roland Juno-106, Roland Jupiter-6 (this is the Killer Roland Rack!) Z-frame station, top to bottom: rack including Yamaha R100 reverb, Alesis Micro Enhancer, Behringer ADA-8000 Ultragain A/D converter, DigiTech DSP128+ processor, Bellari RP-282 compressor; keyboards including Korg DW-6000, Ensoniq SQ-80 (beside Boss RE-20 Space Echo twin pedal), Ensoniq ESQ-1. The desktop rack to its right contains: Emagic Unitor 8, Novation Supernova II, MOTU 828mk2, power bars, Emagic AMT8. Also visible on far right of desk surface (closest to front of photo): Korg Poly-800-II.

Studio Nebula Chair

Other visible gear: Yamaha NS-10M studio speakers, spring reverb tank, Presonus Central Station, Yorkville SR300 amp, Mackie Control Universal + Extender + C4, 30" Dell monitor, Mac Pro under desk.

Trouble with Zero8 disassembly

I am experiencing the dreaded Korg Zero8 touchscreen fault, and I’m stuck simply trying to take the thing apart. I can’t seem to remove the chassis from around the LCD… Here’s where I’m at:

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These seem to be a far cry from the great results seen at http://www.prodjforums.com/forum/showthread.php?p=89456

Here is the infamous misaligned touchscreen flexprint cable alignment problem (click to enlarge):