Thursday, September 26, 2019

Korg DS-8 "Eight Advantages" brochure, 1987

Korg DS-8 synthesizer "Eight Advantages" four page colour brochure from 1987.

Well, after posting that relatively interesting Korg 707 brochure back in March, how could I not follow up at some point with Korg's other FM-based synth that came out around the same time - the DS-8.

In that post, I touched upon Korg's easy-to-use interface in order to bring Yamaha's FM synthesis to us simpletons. If you look behind the curtain though, you'll find what's really pulling those FM strings - the Wizard of Opp! Otherwise known as Yamaha's FM Operator Type P (OPP) chip, also otherwise known as the YM2164.

Here - I snarfed this photo from the Wikipedia page for the chip:

The chip could be found in the DS-8 as well as the Korg 707, along with a few Yamaha synths from the time period.

Now, putting aside the amazingly interesting fact that Korg used Yamaha's chips in the first place, I did some research into the chip itself, and quickly learned its actually an "enhanced" YM2151 chip (aka OPM or FM Operator Type-M chip). The 2151 was Yamaha's first single-chip FM sound generator that could be found in the DX-21, DX-27 and DX-100, and interestingly also found its way into many non-Yamaha products such as arcade games and pinball machines, and even a few of Sharp's home computers.

But, the Korg 707 and DS-8's multi-midi support required slightly more enhanced abilities, and that's where the enhanced YM2164 chip shines.

A bit more digging, and I quickly realized that quite a few other Yamaha chips exist. A small sampling include the:

YM2154 - made for the Yamaha RX-15 drum machine, apparently for the PCM sounds of the rhythm samples.

YM2409 and YM2412 -  used in the Yamaha TX16W, Yamaha's first sampler

YM2414 -  found in the purely magical Yamaha TX81Z, which is what gave it the ability to choose from 8 different wave forms rather than just using 4-OP sine waves.

How cool is that! I love learning new things. And makes me want to collect Yamaha synths based solely on chip sets!  Check out this comprehensive list of Yamaha chips/feature sets that someone has begun to put together.  Lots more chips and gear in that list!

I find it interesting that Korg chose to make the DS-8 and 707 look so different from each other. I get that some features had to be different - the DS-8 joystick looks very Korg, but the 707's performance wheels make much more sense when the keyboard is hanging from your neck.

But in a era when so many manufacturers were making a generation worth of instruments look very similar to each other such as Yamaha's DX/TX synth and rack series or Roland's MKS rack series, Korg intentionally made these two synths look *very* different from one another.

Just an observation.  :)

Friday, September 6, 2019

Roland Alpha Juno 1/2 "An easy to operate synthesizer with excellent sound quality" brochure, 1986

Roland Alpha Juno 1 /2 "An easy to operate synthesizer with excellent sound quality" six-page colour brochure from January 1986.

Well, since I was discussing Junos in my last post, I figured I may as well keep the theme going by scanning this brochure featuring the next generation of Juno - the Alpha series.

Although not technically a "We design the future" brochure, it keeps all the design aspects of the series, except for the tag phrase itself, which had been phased out years before.  We get a cover page with the giant Roland logo, a large red title and a photo that incorporates some kind of cool background - in this case some kind of semi-transparent folding screen or paper. So I've tagged it with the "We design the future" label anyways.

And, as expected, opening the brochure up reveals a large photo of an Alpha Juno syn... wait a second! In this case, when you open the brochure, you first see a smaller barn door-type page that has the right side of the Alpha Juno 1 on it along with some gold nuggets. The cool thing is it fits perfectly with the left site of the Alpha Juno 2 on the pages within, giving the illusion of a full image of the Juno 1.

Confused? It's a bit hard to explain so I've included a short gif below of what you see when you open the cover page.

Now, when you open that inner page up, it reveals the inside pages that include a large three-page image of the Alpha Juno 2!  That's a great way to problem-solve the issue of trying to fit photos of both large synths on just the inside pages.

The Alpha Juno series of synths were an evolution of sorts for Roland synths. Their DCOs produced significantly more wave forms than previous synths like the MKS-80 and JX-8p, and they had a distinctive 8 parameter envelope. The brochure rightfully highlights both of these features, but only after highlighting the different between the two Alpha synths themselves. Those three differences being:

1. Keyboard size - the Juno 2 with its 61 keys, and the Juno 1 with 49.
2. The Juno 2 had velocity and pressure sensitivity - a no-go for the Juno 1.
3. The Juno 2 had the luxury of a M-64C cartridge for extra patch storage, while the Juno 1 had to suffer with cassette tape back up.

Both machines luckily had the alpha dial - a great (and fun!) way to edit data. I'm definitely Pro-dial. I love it just as much as I love the Alpha's filter.

Last, but not least, no Alpha Juno post would be complete without mentioning its most famous sound... the hoover!

If you've been living under a rock, then you can catch up quickly by reading this wikipedia entry on this unique sound.

There. I mentioned it. Happy?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Roland Juno-60 "We design the future" brochure, 1982

Roland Juno-60 "We design the future" four page colour brochure from September 1982.

I saw an interesting graph the other day. Not sure where I first saw it, but it spread quickly on social media. Luckily it didn't take me long to track it down.

The graph was part of a great article titled "Why Do Vintage Roland Junos Continue to Go Up in Price" by Dan Orkin and tracked the site's historical used prices for the Juno-106, Juno-6 and Juno-60 from 2014-2019. Not surprisingly, all three show a positive price trend. Also not surprisingly - while the Juno-106 and Juno-6 have been climbing at a similar pace, the Juno-60 has been slowly gaining even more ground in comparison.

Ignoring the obvious bad choice of capitalization in the title of the Reverb article, and not ignoring the obvious good choice in linking to my Juno-60 advertising scan, Dan does great job of summarizing why these three synths deserve all the recognition they get. Lots of great references and links all around the Web too.  Top notch - worth the read.

Without giving too much away, a big part of what the Juno's rawk are their great sound and an easy-to-use interface. Most importantly, as Dan writes, "many devotees claim that the -60 delivers the most aggressive or distinctive sound, which may contribute to it claiming the highest prices."

For me, that's exactly why.  :)

You can find these Juno devotees on lots of sites giving high praise to the Junos, including Vintage Synth Explorer.

While VSE gives the 106 five stars, users rate it 4.1 stars.

In comparison, the Juno-60 gets four stars from the site - but users rate it slightly higher than the 106 with 4.2 stars.

And for comparison, the Juno-6 only gets three stars (!) from the site but the user rating beats the Juno-106 by a hair at 4.11 stars.

The users have spoken!

Now, before I start getting off-topic and start ranting about those who rant about the ever-increasing prices of vintage synths and drum machines, the reason I brought up the graph was that it was a reminder to dig up this Juno-60 brochure for the blog. I knew I had it around somewhere.

The cover of the brochure follows Roland's standard "WE DESIGN THE FUTURE" format - Roland logo in top left with a big bold red title and lots of negative space in the top half, while south of the equator is usually a studio shot of the gear, maybe with a buddy or two included, and some kind of background or texture.

In this case that buddy is the MC-4 sequencer (a lovely choice) and the background texture is some kind of corrugated metal or plastic (another lovely choice).

Open up the brochure and BAM! A lovely centrefold screaming to be made into a poster. And specs. Lots of specs. Including the Arpeggio section. And one of my favourite modulator controls on any synth - the LFO trig button.

Back page is nothing to sneeze at either. A large photo of the rear panel including that pre-midi curiosity of a DCB connector. And further down... oh boy - small little promos for the lovely TB-303 and TR-606.

So far I've posted six other Roland brochures in the "We design the future" series including the SH-101, Jupiter 6, TR-808/606/303 Rhythm MachinesTR-909MSQ-700 and MSQ-100.

And to make it easy for you, I've created a "We design the future" label. One stop shopping!

Gonna leave it at that for now. But don't think I've forgotten about that rant. I'm saving it for later.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Boss BF-2, CE-2 and DM-2 pedal "Understanding Technology Series: Understanding Time Delay Effects" ad, International Musician 1982

Boss BF-2 Flanger, CE-2 Chorus and DM-2 Delay "Understanding Technology Series: Understanding Time Delay Effects" full page colour advertisement from page 25 in the May 1982 issue of International Musician and Recording World (North America).

I'm still deep into packing up all my stuff for my house demolition/rebuild and during one of my epic procrastination sessions I came across this advertisement and fell in love immediately. I know effects aren't my usual jam, but its not unheard of if you search my blog by the "effects" label. Moog, Roland, Korg and some others are represented.

So, definitely worth a short blog post. And besides, I have two really good reasons for posting this ad.

The first reason is that I love pedals. Especially simple pedals with one in/one out. Easy peazy. No question of how to insert them into your ol'skool mixer either. And there's no doubt these pedals sound delicious.

The second, and more important reason, is that I absolutely LOVE the aesthetics of this ad. Boss ads didn't always line up in concept and design with their Roland counterparts, but this one fits snug as a bug in a rug with Roland's "Understanding Technology Series" advertisements that got many-a-loin-a-swelling during this time period.

In other words, this ad shares blood with royalty.

Let me jog your memory... remember this lovely "Understanding Technology" 808 advertisement from mid-1981?

Or, an even better example is this lovely "Understanding Technology" 2-pager for the Jupiter 8 from the same time period.

Or how about this TB-303/TR-606 "Understanding Technology" classic from mid-1982?

And I bet each of those synths have been plugged directly into a Boss BF-2, CE-2 or DM2 pedal at some point by most owners.

You get the picture.

And in all honesty, I'm drawn to this Boss pedal advertisement even more because it's educational component is off the hook too. Just look at that diagram underneath the three pedals that explains in visual detail the time delay differences between the flange, chorus and delay, including the overlap in timing found between each one.

Well... back to packing.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

HAPPY 626 day! Roland TR-626 advertisement, 1988 / 626 ReBirth Mod

Roland TR-626 advertisement / TR-626 ReBirth Mod - HAPPY 626 day!

Well, I don't have a lot of TR-626 marketing material (you can read the original TR-626 ad blog post here.), but I wanted to celebrate the awesomeness of 626 day somehow. So I decided to merge it in with one of my recent fascinations: Propellerhead's ReBirth.

And what better way to combine these two fun activities than by creating a mod that substitutes the 808 and 909 drum machines in ReBirth with  ----- THE HORROR!!!! ----- a TR-626.

That's right, dammit. Deal with it.   :)

I've wanted to learn about making mods for ReBirth as far back as I've known mods existed - how to change the drum sounds, how to change the graphics, all of it. And it turns out the 626 is almost a perfect drum machine to port over because the number of sounds it contains matches pretty well with the number of sounds that the 808 and 909 modules in ReBirth contain. Its definitely not a perfect match (as you'll see) but it works.

Update: Reminder - I'm using ReBirth 2.0 and mod was created for V2.

Diving right it, I quickly learned there are quite a few limitations/idiosyncrasies that determine just how the sounds could be mapped out. The big ones included:

1. The basic functionality of each drum machine can't be changed. So, the top half (the 808) had to function similarly to the 808 in ReBIrth, and the bottom half (the 909) had to function similarly to the 909. So, for example, instrument selection on the top half could be done through something like that 808 dial, while the bottom half of sounds had to be selected through the buttons.

2. The template image file can be modified, but they need to be kept at the exact widths and heights, so the placement of all the dials and selection buttons can't really be changed. And dials had to be there, even if they ended up having no effect on the sound (more on that below).

3. Some sounds that have "Tune" dials, are actually just different samples. For example, the "Tune" dial for the 909 low/mid/high toms change the pitch of each respective tom sample. But the "Tune" dial on the TR-909 bass drum actually consists of four different samples, each with different amounts of low end. Efficient programming - but less variation for the 909 bass drum. BUT this opened up the possibility of slotting more than one sound into that drum selection.

Based on these "rules", I mapped out the TR-626 sounds across the two drum machines like this:

The actual TR-626 allowed a lot more control of each sound - for example, tuning of each instrument - and so some functionality was lost depending on where I decided to slot in the 626's sounds.  There's a lot riding on that selection!

So, let's look at each drum sound in more detail to see what I did.

TR-626 bass drums (slotted into 909 bass drum): 

As mentioned earlier, the 909 bass drum "Tune" dial is actually made up of four samples. So, I could slot the two 626 bass drum sounds here. This gave me two extra sample slots, so I added reverb on to those two 626 bass drum sounds to create the two extra samples. So, I renamed the "Tune" dial to  "SND" and with it you can select between these four sounds.

Original 626 bass drum 1
Original 626 bass drum 2
626 bass drum 1 w/ reverb
626 bass drum 2 w/ reverb

The rest of the dials for the bass drum work as expected: "Level" controls volume, "ATT" simulates faster attach by adding high end to the beginning of the sound and "DEC" (decay) increases the envelope time of the sound and is most audible on the reverb tail of the two extra drum sounds.

TR-626 snare drums (slotted into the 909 snare drum):

The 909 snare drum in ReBirth is slightly more intricate than the bass drum - and is a really good example of how the programmers cut some corners to try and get as many variations of the 909 snare into ReBirth with limited processing power.

The final sound of the 909 snare in ReBirth is made from a layered combination of five samples from the "Tune" dial that give the drum sound more bottom end, and three samples from the "Snap" dial which incrementally adds more of that higher frequency 909 snare "noise" we all know and love to the final sound. The "Tone" dial seems to be adjusting the length of the envelop for the "Snap" samples.

I decided the easiest thing to do would be to insert the three TR-626 snare drums into the sample slots of  the "Tune" dial and label it "SND". Then I just used silence in the snap settings so that dial, and its corresponding "Tone" dial wouldn't have any effect on the snare drum sound in any way. The dials still appear because you can't turn those off, but I did relabel them "---" to indicate they didn't do anything.

As mentioned, the "Tune" dial has space for five samples, so along with the three original snare sounds, I added reverb to Snare 1 and Snare 3 and put those in the other two slots. So, the 'SND" dial can select between these five sounds:

Original 626 snare drum 1
Original 626 snare drum 2
Original 626 snare drum 3
626 snare drum 1 with reverb
626 snare drum 3 with reverb

The only other dial that functions is "Level", affecting the volume of the sound.

TR-626 low, high muted and high open congas (slotted into the 909 low, mid and high tom)

I've put the low, muted and open congas next to the snare drums. They fit well here and the "Tune", "Dec" and "Level" dials works as they should - although there isn't much decay adjustment on the mute and open high congos since they are such short sounds anyways.

TR-626 rim shot, clap, closed hi hat, open hi hat, crash cymbal and ride cymbal (slotted into the same spots as the 909 sounds)

Made sense to slot the same percussion sounds from the TR-626 into the rim shot, clap, hi hats, crash and ride cymbal spots. "Level", "Dec" and "Tune" dials work as they should.

TR-626 low timbale (slotted into 808 bass drum)

This was an easy replacement of the sample - "Level" dial adjusts volume,"Tune" dial takes out hign-end of the sample, and "Dec" shortens or lengthens the envelop of the sound.

TR-626 hi timbale (slotted into the 808 snare drum)

This was a trickier one. The 808 bass drum "Tune" dial automatically eq's the one sample, but the 808 snare drum sound is made from five samples under the "Tune" dial and three samples under the "Snap" dial.

So, to emulate the "Tune" effect of the low timbale, I created five different hi timbale samples that enhanced or cut some high end from the original sample. There was no use for the three sample slots used for the "Snap" dial, so I just replaced with silence for those and removed the snap label.

"Level" dial affects volume as it should.

TR-626 low, mid and high toms (slotted into 808 tom/conga switches)

Made sense to put the two sets of 626 toms into the switchable 808 tom/conga slots - one set when the toggle switch is in the down position, the other set with the toggle switch is up. "Level" and "Tune" dials work as expected.

TR-626 shaker, clave, low and hi agogo (slotted into the 808 rim shot, clap, clave and maracas switches)

These might have been the four hardest choices to make since it would mean that only two of the four sounds would be available at any one time. In the end, I chose to put the shaker, clave, low and hi agogos into these slots.

"Level" dials work as expected for each sound.

TR-626 cowbell, cup cymbal, china cymbal and tambourine (slotted into the 808 cow bell, cymbal, open and closed hi hats)

The last four percussion sounds of the 626 were slotted into these last four 808 spots.

All corresponding"Level" and "Dec" dials work as expected. The "Tone" dial for the cup cymbal removes bass frequencies of the sample as it's turned.

And that's that!

Is it perfect. Definitely not. But all in all, it was a fun little project and a great way to learn how the programmers of ReBirth managed to cram so much goodness in an efficient manner and how they cut corners to maximize processing power.

A nice balance, I'd say.

I've put the mod (for use with ReBirth 2) up on Google Drive until I get a chance to send to one of the ReBirth mod sites.

Here's a short video of my 626 Mod in ReBirth.  :)