Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sequential Circuits Inc. Customer Relations Representatives ad, Keyboard 1984

Sequential Circuits Inc. Customer Relations Representatives 1/4-page advertisement from page 75 in Keyboard Magazine December 1984.

In building upon last year's Sequential Circuits' "Happy Holiday Season" ad that I posted around this time last year, I thought I would also post this other 1/4-page ad that appeared 10 pages earlier is the same December 1984 issue. Sequential wasn't just spoiling Keyboard readers with their kindness in a holiday ad, they had also hired two full time customer service reps to directly spoil any musician who's MIDI systems included SCI instruments.


As far as I'm concerned, Sequential was at the top of their game at this time. Not only did they have these two ads peppered about in the back half of this jam-packed 108-page issue, but also had many other promos in the magazine including:
  • a one page color ad featuring their Prophet-T8, Six-Trak, Prophet-600 and Drumtraks.
  • an attached sound sheet that included "Sequential's newest product" on side-two. Unfortunately, my copy of the mag didn't include the sound sheet so I can't tell you what product that was for sure (my guess is the T8). But, according to the delicious cover of the magazine (more on that later), side-one looks like it was a recording by the awesome Wendy Carlos.
  • a two-page centerfold spread made up of a full-page color ad for the SixTrak AND a full-page color ad for the DrumTraks.
With all those ads, SCI was definitely the heavy-weight in this magazine, droppin' more hamiltons on ad-space than Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg do in Saturday Night Live's digital short "Lazy Sunday". 

And it was a good issue to be the heavy-weight in. On the cover is a classic photo of Dave Stewart of Eurythmics posing in a top hat above a red SH-101, and on the first page of the interview article, Dave is again posing, top hat off, mouth open and apparently getting ready to take a bit out of a Casiotone MT-41.

Both photos include Dave Stewart's portable studio, just one of the many topics the article covers. Even if you tossed out all the various photos and ads strewn about the article, you still get a good five solid pages of text on the musician and the band.  '*This* is what Keyboard was all about for me.

None of that Men's Health crap where you get a photo of Ashton Kutcher on the cover, and yet can only find about three quarters of a page of content on the guy. Maybe there was more, but I couldn't even easily find the table of contents to check. So many of the pages in that mag have replaced actual content with lazy info-graphics, its hard to flip through the mag quickly and make out what giant numbers might actually be a table of contents, and what might only be just some big number indicating "the number of times more bacteria found inside a bachelor pad than in a single woman's appartment" (the number is a big giant14 btw - eeeeeew!).

Just another sign that we truly live in an ADD-world.

And with that - the holidays begin. Thinking of taking a week or two off blogging like I did last year. Not sure yet. We'll see how the weekend goes.  :)

Happy holidays everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Korg Wavestation & Wavestation A/D brochure, 1991

Korg Wavestation & Wavestation A/D 8-page brochure from 1991.

Christmas is getting closer and time is running out. Added on to the regular pressures of work are the pressures of buying gifts (I dislike the whole obligatory gift thing), holiday get-together events (I have a general hatred for all humans), extra food eating (too many calories) and the extra exercise that has to follow (recipe for injuries). Bah humbug!

I get even more tired just thinking about it. Need to de-stress.

And lately, what are best ways to de-stress during the holidays? Well, if it isn't kicking a feral troll's ass or stompin' a goblin cutter while adventuring through "The Legend of Drizzt" board game with a few select geek friends, then the next best thing is mindless scanning. It takes me about ten times as long to scan any given ad or brochure because as soon as I start scanning one, I usually end up lazily paging through related reference info in other magazines and promo material. Good times... good times... the only thing missing is a hot tub and bubbles (not good for paper. Or scanners  :)

So, what starts with a Korg Wavestation 2-page intro ad, quickly turns into page-flipping/ebay-buying/scanning marathon sessions that could well provide blogging fodder well into mid-February.

And so it continues with this 1991 Wavestation & Wavestation A/D brochure. Flipping to the back of the publication, it looks like it might have been printed as early as March or June of that year, depending on how you read the print date/code on the back. It reads "1991 0306C0CGH". So, that 0306 could be either the month/day or day/month.

Either way, its still a fairly long time after the original Wavestation brochure came out (date code is 1990 0203CFOTH), and yet you have to give Korg creds for keeping to the original design while also making positive improvements. And, if it's unclear, I'm talking about both the brochure AND the Wavestation A/D itself.

Much like the A/D kept to the original synth design with all the same functions and capabilities, so does this brochure keep to the original by using a similar textural background. It also uses a very similar writing style and includes a lot of the same charts and diagrams. Recycling at it's finest!

The A/D also improved upon the original Wavestation through additional waveforms and effects algorithms, as well as adding those awesome analog/digital converters. Aside: A trademark sound from my main set included using a Dead Can Dance vocal riff (shush!) sampled into my Emax SE. Then, I would route the sample through the Wavestation's inputs with the vocoder effect, triggering both the sample and the wave sequence at the same time. Re-sample and repeat. Spectacular!

And this brochure definitely improves on the first brochure. The first thing to be noticed when looking at this brochure is that it is oriented vertically, while the first Wavestation brochure was horizontal. I have a love/hate relationship with horizontal brochures - from a design perspective it is creative and fun, but it doesn't always feel natural and is sometimes uncomfortable to hold. This second brochure is definitely easier to hold, open, and read. Also, readability is enhanced significantly in this brochure now that the textured background is removed from pages with actual information. Nothing beats black text on a white background. So much easier easier to read, especially with such a small font.

Well - I just thought of another one of my great stress reliefs. Watching Survivor! Time to hunker down in my pre-xmas-gift snuggie and watch Ozzy take victory! Go Ozzy go! 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Korg Wavestation brochure, 1990

Korg Wavestation 6-page horizontal brochure from 1990.

And here you have it.

Instead of walking out of my local synth store with an actual Wavestation one sad day in 1990, I walked out holding this six-page brochure in my hand, my head held low. With probably only $100 to my name, there was just no way that keyboard was leaving with me. I was an angry elf that day. But yet strangely satisfied that I managed to actually get a live demo of the machine.

Well... to tell you the truth, this isn't the *exact* brochure. My original brochure, which I still have, is all tattered and torn - much like my heart that day. This second scanned copy is one that recently appeared in my mail box.

And what a great little brochure it is. Sure, the font is a little small and the copy can get lost against that speckled background - but it includes some great info, not to mention a print date. I like that.  The diagrams and charts are clean and are not only informational, but great eye-candy.

It would be a long time before this poor grad student would finally scrap together enough coin to get my hands on a used Wavestation A/D. And even after I did, much like my grandmother who would instinctively pocket buttons whenever she came across them even though she had a collection of thousands and couldn't possibly need any more, that feeling of 'want' is still so powerful in me today that every time I see a used one in a music store or online I instinctively want to purchase it. Like a squirrel collecting acorns before hibernating. 

Anyways, after the relatively good response to my last blog post (one retweet and two emails - LOL!), I knew the Korg Wavestation had an equally large influence on others. As with most marketing and communications professionals, I calculate that every tweet or email is equal to three billion actual responses.  :D

And if my rule-of-thumb calculation of nine billion responses doesn't convince you this thing is awesome, you can find other references to the Wavestation's immense greatness online. For example, In 2009, Music Radar listed the Wavestation as #7 in it's "10 greatest synthesizers of all time" article. Bam!

Also - according to the Wavestation's rather well-written Wikipedia page, "Keyboard Magazine readers gave the Wavestation its "Hardware Innovation of the Year" award, and in 1995 Keyboard listed it as one of the "20 Instruments that Shook the World". Pow!

The Wikipage includes some great history, including Dave Smith's involvement in the Wavestation's development:
"The Wavestation was designed by a team which included Dave Smith, who designed the Prophet-5 and, along with Roland, helped to invent the MIDI protocol in the early 1980s. His synthesizer company, Sequential Circuits, was purchased by Yamaha in 1988. The division was renamed DSD (intended by Yamaha to stand for Dave Smith Designs). The team, ex-SCI engineers Dave Smith, John Bowen, Scott Peterson, and Stanley Jungleib, then went on to Korg in May 1989 and designed the Wavestation, refining many Prophet VS concepts."
Makes me happy that other SCI engineers got creds too.

Well - I think you'll find my write-ups get smaller through the holiday break. Just too much work to do, and then time for a break. But I have a few more to go before Xmas.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Korg Wavestation Introductory Advertisement, Keyboard 1990

Korg Wavestation introductory 2-page advertisement from the inside front cover and page two of Keyboard Magazine, July 1990.

Okay. I know what you are thinking. Wavestation? Vintage ad? But I just had to scan and post it.

You see, my buddy had just popped into town. During our early years we were in an electronic band together and we were both greatly influenced by early Keyboard, Electronic Musician, and other music magazines. Until the Internet, those magazines were where we got 99% of our info from. What synths our favorite bands were using, what news synths were coming out. You know what I'm talkin' about.

Anways, it never fails that while maintaining our 20+ year tradition of gear-store/movies/pizza habit, our conversation eventually turns to the topic of synthesizers. But this visit, the conversation mostly revolved around iPad apps.
Aside: He's always wanted a Fairlight, and discovered the Fairlight app while in town. It wasn't long before sounds from Art of Noise's Moments in Love was making a come-back in my living room)
But in between spurts of iPadding and Netflixing (did I just use Netflix as a verb?), we also talked about my recent Korg infatuation. I was talking about Korg's evolving ads and it soon became apparent that it wasn't a 70's or even 80's Korg ad that had one of the biggest effects on me. It was this two-pager for the Korg Wavestation.

I can't remember half of my good friends' names, but I can clearly remember looking at this two-pager, as well as other Wavestation ads, thoughout the second half of 1990 and beyond. And I can remember walking into my favorite local gear store and the keyboard guy pressing his index finger on a single key and hearing the enormous and complex sound that emerged. I even remember that guy's crazy hair. But most of all I remember having to walk out empty-handed. Well - I did take the six-page brochure. Still have it. Can you guess what my next post is?  :)

The thing that stood out most for me was that the Wavestation wasn't a workstation. I disliked workstations at the time. Still do for the most part. Especially that miserable M1 - 80% because I knee-jerk to most really great mass-appeal ideas (not really a "plus" for someone in my occupation), 10% because it didn't have a resonant filter and 10% because of all those patches that became go-to signature TV commercial sounds (yes, I realize the hypocrisy of that last statement - I'm aware that Wavestation sounds became TV and movie soundtrack staples as well as the Apple Mac start-up sound).

But the ex-Sequential Circuits crew that designed the Wavestation had the balls to make this thing pure synth. Sure, they used the internal architecture from Korg's M- and T-series, but as far as I'm concerned, they gave that system new life. And they had the balls to not even include drum sounds in the original keyboard. I never missed drums, and tend to not touch the drums too often when programming on my Wavestation A/D.

In my opinion, the timing was perfect for bringing wave sequencing to the masses. What the Wavestation did for Korg at the time, is like what punk did for rock music.

Heck - Dave Smith was, and still is, punk with a capital P-U-N-K.

He took Korg technology and made it his bitch. He turned it upside down. He, along with Bob Moog and a few others, brought hardware back when few others would dare.

A "P," thats "PUH" and a "U"-"N"-"K", "UNK". Put those guys together and you got PUNK.

But I'm getting away from my point. Errr... what was my point? Oh yeah.

I *had* to post this two-pager introductory ad that appeared on the inside cover and page two of Keyboard magazine (a page position that Korg held for quite some time). I had to post it so you could see a great example of how Korg ads had evolved from the 70s and the 80s.

Sure, that second page has yellowed a bit compared to the heavier-duty magazine inside cover page. But even today I still get all gushy looking at it. It was perfect then and it is perfect now. Enough info to start me drooling. Enough info to make me hang around home as much as possible until the next issue of Keyboard came in the mail so I could check for a Keyboard review of the beast. Enough info to make me go back to my gear store every weekend so that I could hassle them into keeping one from walking out the door until after I could check it out.

And can you guess what the first thing that workstation-loving keyboard guy with the crazy hair said to me: "Doesn't have drums... or a proper sequencer".

Nice sell job. And I honestly thought he knew me better than that.  :)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Korg "How to get fat sound from a thin wallet" family of synthesizers ad, International Musician 1978

Korg "How to get fat sound from a thin wallet" family of synthesizers two-page advertisement including the 800 DV (Maxi Korg), Mini Korg 700s, 770,  Poly 1000 (Polyphonic Ensemble P) and Poly 2000 (Polyphonic Ensemble S) from page 12 and 13 in International Musician and Recording World November 1978.

Crazy late in the day. I know. That's just the kind of days it has been around here.

I'd like to take full responsibility for this ad - as if I was blogging about this long string of Rose-Morris ads after each first appeared back in 1978, and the company was actually listening to what I had to say. :)

First, the bad. For some reason, Rose-Morris has decided to ignore the new crop of Korg gear they had just launched in an ad three months earlier - including the MS-20, MS-10 and VC-10. How could they go back to the older products? MS was the future! In the US, once those MS/VC ads started running, they didn't stop for over a year.

Gah! Maybe they put out that ad before instruments could make it into the UK? Or maybe they had to get rid of old stock...  :)

But because this ad is just so great, I can forgive Rose-Morris for circling back to Korg's older gear.

For starters - the ad-title. Unlike some of the older ads, this one makes sense. It's also a great play on words. Witty and all that stuff.

The layout is also great. Only five products have been wisely chosen to promote - and each includes a nice large photo. There is also a nice large sub-title for each, and a small descriptive paragraph with just enough white space to make it easy for the eye to separate the content of each instrument from the others. But the best thing is that Rose-Morris/Korg has decided to finally use bullets to highlight the main features of each instrument. What a great way to get a lot of good reference info, including recommended retail prices (!), into a small amount of space. Kapow!

Plus - look at that font size. Finally, I can actually read this without putting on my reading glasses (did I just give away my age-group?). The font choice is a little unorthodox, but it is still readable, so I'm not gonna complain. Even the logos, although smaller that in previous ads, are easily seen in the bottom right hand corner. There is no doubt who's ad this is. Great stuff.

Looking over old ads, I can't believe I haven't actually looked into who Rose-Morris is anyways.

I found a bit more history about Rose-Morris in a Korg "40 years of gear" article in the November 2002 issue of Sound on Sound magazine. Near the bottom of the Web page is a call-out box called "The Establishment of of Korg UK" where it explains that Rose-Morris was a British company established in the 1920s, and by the 80s were very successful with a number of stores, distributing for Korg and many others. They also had a few of their own product lines including Vox.  But in the late 80s, things weren't looking so good for Rose-Morris, and in 1992 Korg acquired  a major stake in the company and changed the name to Korg UK.

Interestingly, I found a Rose Morris Web site that sells music instruments and they do write in their About Us section that they have a 90-year history. So, it could be that the name was kept alive or resurrected at some point. If anyone has more info on this, please comment!

Another great SOS article I ran into online was written by Gordon Reid in April 1998 called "Korg Minikorg Family (Retro)". It includes some great history and reference information on a number of the instruments that are highlighted in the past few Korg ad blog posts, including the 770, 700s, 800DV, M500 Preset, Poly 1000 (Polyphonic Ensemble P) and Poly 2000 (Polyphonic Ensemble S).

The best thing about that article is how it explains Korg's "unorthodox terminology" used on many of these synthesizers. For example, the "Traveler" was the name used for Korg's combined dual 12db/oct low-pass and high-pass filter. "VCF" just wasn't good enough.  :)

Thank-you Sound On Sound for keeping this history alive on your Web site!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Korg "A universe of sound" family of synthesizers ad, International Musician 1978

Korg "A universe of sound" family of synthesizers ad including MS-20 Monophonic Synthesizer, SE-500 Stage Echo, VC-10 Vocoder, MS-10 Monophonic Synthesizer, SQ-10 Analog Sequencer, PS3300 synthesizer, PS3100 synthesizer, GT6 Guitar Tuner, and EM-570 Echo Mixer from page 16 and 17 in International Musician August (UK) 1978.

 Hello! Now were talking!

Rose-Morris is really starting to kick it into high gear - and it didn't hurt that Korg had something new to talk about - most excitingly the MS-10 and MS-20 synthesizers, as well as the VC-10 Vocoder. IM readers started hearing about these instruments in August 1978, but readers of Contemporary Keyboard wouldn't start gazing at these instruments in Korg ads for another three months ( November 1978).

But, in my opinion, it would be worth the wait since those US ads consisted of those awesomely recognizable one-pagers that ran for an insanely long number of months. These ads would eventually make it into IMRW, but not until March 1979:

Like I was saying - this 2-page ad is a treat. Gone is the often crowded text found in the two previous IMRW ads - "Seven hundred and fifty words..." and "Synths for all the music you'll ever need".  The font is still a little small, but that is a small price to pay for a bit of white space. Aaaaaaah - room to breathe.  Each new instrument is given it's own little space with a sub-title, paragraph box and photo.

If I hadn't seen the ad, but heard the title was "A Universe of Sound", I would almost expect someone to take the easy road and plaster this ad with space imagery. But no! Three big cheers to the designer for maintaining some level of dignity. I'm thinking maybe they learned a lesson from that earlier Korg accessories "Do you feel locked in..." ad.  :)

Also really interesting is how Korg is starting to take on a more dominant position in these ads. Korg products are starting to gain recognition and respect with readers, and so it makes sense that ads would want to take advantage of this. For example, the Korg logo is starting to get relatively larger in relation to the size of it's distributors logos. You see it in this Rose-Morris ad, and you also begin to see it this side of the pond in the Unicord ads. Compare them to earlier Korg ads where the distributors have equal billing or even a larger presence than Korg. Yikes.

I'm hearing it already - "A-ha! But in that last ad example, the word 'Korg' in the background of the ad is larger!". But I would have to reply that the word "Korg" and the logo-type "Korg" are two TOTALLY different things. And I'm sticking to that story :)

The other thing I find interesting is that even though this ad is promoting its new line of synthesizers, the PS3300 and PS3100 are still getting a nod. Including these older machines may not have been a good call considering all that new juicy Korg goodness that was also been promoted, but in defense of the ad, I'm guessing these older synths were either worth mentioning because they had already gained some good cred among musicians, or they needed an extra push because they weren't selling too many of them.

Similar to the last Korg ad in IMRW, this ad was also part of a Rose-Morris advertising feature that spanned a series of pages. If you recall from the last ad, Rose-Morris didn't do a very good job of distinguishing their set of ads from the rest of the mag. But this time, they started off the feature-set of ads with this awesome photo:

That was a great splash of colour and a great lead-in to the Rose-Morris stable of products that followed.

Rose-Morris is definitely on a roll. And if you can believe it... it's gonna get even better!  :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Korg "Synths for all the music you'll ever need" family of synths ad, International Musician 1978

Korg "Synths for all the music you'll ever need" one-page family advertisement including PS3300 synthesizer, PS3100 synthesizer, 800 DV synthesizer, 700s synthesizer, Preset synthesizer, 770 synthesizer, Synthebass, Polyphonic Ensemble 1000, Polyphonic Ensemble "Orchestra" 2000, and Micro-Preset M-500 synthesizer  from page 13 in International Musician and Recording World (UK) July 1978.

This ad is proof that great things are often the result of small progressive increments. The best from Korg was still to come when it came to their ads in IMRW, but this one-pager was definitely an improvement over the earlier March 1978 2-page "Seven-hundred and fifty words..." ad.

One of the first thing you will notice about the ad is a thick grey line along the right edge of the page. It does look odd out of context. The thing is, this ad was part of a four page "Rose-Morris Advertising Feature" section in the magazine that also included ad pages on other products the company distributed - including Marshall amps (page 11), DiMarzio pick-ups (page 12) and Ludwig drums (page 14). That line is simply a design element that helped readers differentiate this series of ads from the rest of the mag.

The only other ways readers would know these ads were related would be the small text at the bottom of each ad that reads "A Rose-Morris Advertising Feature", plus a small, virtually unnoticeable form at the bottom of page 14 that readers could fill out to receive more info. Check a separate box for Marshall, DiMarzio, Ludwig and Korg. And don't forget your address!

But, like I said, it wasn't all bad and was an improvement over the last Korg ad. Rose-Morris did throw away the useless small talk that made up most of that previous Korg ad. They granted my wish and kept the ad-copy strictly instrument-related. In fact, I should be careful about what I wish for, because not only did they cram info about all the gear from the previous ad, but finally threw in a few more Korg instruments as well - the PS3300, PS3100 and Micro-Preset M-500. The US Korg ads had been pushing these synths  since March.

The cramped feeling is only magnified by some not-so-succinct ad-copy, an extra small font, and that grey side bar.  I can't decide if the lack of both the Korg and Rose-Morris logos were an oversight, or if there was just no room.

And, not to get really picky - but what is with that ad-title? "Synths for all the music you'll ever need". Does that even make sense?  

But, I'm getting all negative on Rose-Morris' ass. I'm actually really happy to see the appearances of the Korg PLS-series in this ad. Unlike in the US where PS ads appeared almost monthly between October 1977 and July 1978, PLS-series synth sightings seem quite rare in UK ads up to this point. And even better - unlike in the US where both PLS ads fail to mention the actual synth model names - both the PS3100 and 3300 get a nod in this ad.

Likewise - finding the Korg Micro-Preset in the ad was another big plus. I think the poor thing often got the short end of the stick. For example, check out this extremely small Spec Sheet promo in the May 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard:
"Korg Micro Synthesizer. This preset synthesizer has a 32-note keyboard. There are 30 voice selections, plus a filter, two-position portamento controls, two types of delayed vibrato, repeat, random repeat, modulation controls, and a pitch control. The price is $449.00. Unicord, 75 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
Yup. That's it. Just a couple of sentences.

I'm guilty of ignoring that little sucker too. Most of my interesting in these Korg ads has been about the PLS-series synthesizers as well. While doing some online research, it didn't take me long to come across a great February 2001 Sound On Sound article by Simon Lowther on the PS3100. It contains some good information on all three of the PLS-series synthesizers, including information on the voice architecture, resonators, modulation generators and patch panel. A great read!

The wikipage for the PS3300 also seems very good with sections on it's history, resonators, tuning, audio mixer and modulation, and keyboard and foot controllers. Use your Google chops to find more info.

I promise I'll be out of my negative mood soon. It could possibly have to do with my inability to grow any sort of moustache for Movember.   It kinda hurts.   :)

This ad was a step in the right direction. And the good news? The best from Korg was yet to come!