Monday, February 27, 2012

Oberheim "Fed up with playing only one note at a time" advertisement, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Oberheim "Fed up with playing only one note at a time" FourVoice synthesizer 1-page advertisement from inside front cover of  Contemporary Keyboard magazine May/June 1976.

I originally posted this ad with any blog content back in 2009. But, I've recently become more interested in Oberheim after a reader requested I post a few Oberheim ads and I realized that over the last couple of years, I've been jumping back and forth in the Oberheim ad-timeline, missing out a good chunck of the early 80s.

But, I had to re-familiarize myself with Oberheim and thought I had better start back at the beginning... or at least as close to it as possible. And figured it would make a few good blog posts.

This was Oberheim's first advertisement to appear in Contemporary Keyboard. It actually first appeared in the March/April 1976 issue on page 13, but in the next May/June issue the ad got the respect it deserved and jumped to the front inside cover. :)

In that May/June 1976 issue, readers also got a more technical taste of SEM modules (back when they were just called EMs) in the Spec Sheet section. Oddly, it was only providing the specifications for the Two-Voice, but it does give some great historical information on prices, configurations, and technical details. Yummy with a capital "Y":
"Oberheim Synthesizer. The Oberheim Two-Voice Polyphonic Synthesizer includes two synthesizer Expander Modules; an 8-position, 2-voice Mini-Sequencer with sample/hold; and a 2-voice, 37-note keyboard. Each Expander Module is a complete basis synthesizer and features two VCOs, a VCF, two envelope generators, an LFO, and a VCA. The 2-voice keyboard can operate in either polyphonic or monophonic mode. When operated polyphonically, two sets of control voltages from the keyboard drive the Expander Modules, while monophonic operation allows the performer to manipulate all four oscillators, two filters, and four envelope generators with a single control voltage. The Mini-Sequencer is an 8-position analog unit that also include a sample/hold circuit and a VCC (voltage-controlled clock). A 2-input mixer with master gain control for attenuating the output of the Expander Modules and headphone amp is also supplied. The Two-Voice Polyphonic Synthesizer can be purchased with a minimum configuration of one Expander Module for $1,195.00 list. An additional Expander Module can be attached for $500.00, as can the Mini-Sequencer for $300.00. The fully loaded package lists for $1,995.00. Oberheim Electronics, 1549 Ninth St., Santa Monica, CA 90401."
The ad only ran twice, before being replaced with Oberheim's August-only run of their "Some things are better than others" advertisement that featured their whole family of products arranged in a rather spooky floating pattern.

The following month, Oberheim wasted no time in promoting their new Polyphonic Synthesizer Programmer in  their "Ultimate Keyboard Machine" advertisement, giving their synthesizers the ability to store patches. That ad ran in the September/October issue of Contemporary Keyboard, as well as in the September/October issue of Synapse.

Readers of that September/October issue of Synapse were in for a special treat - a three-page interview with Tom Oberheim! CK readers had to wait until May 1977 for their turn.

In the article (which you can read online thanks to, Tom touches on his 13 years of computer engineering, being a choir singer, synthesizer polyphony and even musique concrete. Best quote:
"It's conceivable that you could have a voltage-controlled synthesizer some day for every key. But what if you wanted the ability to make each voice different? Can you imagine having seventy-two voices? Because I think in terms of having 72 expander modules there, or 37 modules, or even 30? There are synthesizers with 30-note keyboards; 30 expander moduels? Whew! I mean you couldn't, it's impossible!". 
I really want 72 SEMs now. :)

The What's Happening section of this issue also included some Oberheim content. The section was still quite small with only a sentence devoted to each tidbit of news, with a few ... thrown in between. So all readers got on Oberheim was "...Oberheim has added a patch programming ability to their polyphonic systems...".

Another quote that popped out at me in that What's Happening section was "...In a recent interview with Playboy, Davie Bowie said that his favorite group was Kraftwerk...".

This surprised me!

No - not that David Bowie/Kraftwerk thing - I totally get that.

It surprised me that people really do read the Playboy articles!  :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Korg Wavstation EX and Wavestation A/D brochure, 1992

Korg Wavstation EX and Wavestation A/D 8-page brochure from 1992.

I gotta tell ya. I'm all Wavestation-ed out. It's been a good run of blog posts, but I think my curiosity has reached its limit.

Actually - I thought I was already done with everything "Wavestation" on the blog. I even ended that last blog post with what I thought was a relatively witty Madonna/Britney Spears analogy that I was quite proud of. All wrapped up nice!  :D

But then I came across this brochure. Gah. Maybe it just looked too similar to the 1991 Wavestation/Wavestation A/D brochure I posted back in December, camouflaged, hiding from the world. Well, too bad. Like a crazy-assed Toddlers and Tiaras mother, I'm gonna shove this baby on stage whether it wants it or not.

Again - I'm surprised this brochure didn't get produced until 1992. I always thought the Wavestation EX came out *before* the A/D, as a response to customer feedback that the original Wavestation didn't include drums and other more basic sounds. The last sighting of the Jan Hammer Wavestation ad that appeared in July 1991 included additional EX ad-copy: "Now with expanded memory and more sounds". Also, the ad that followed in August 1991 featured BOTH the EX and A/D, suggesting they may have come out at approximately the same time. The Wikipedia page for the Wavestation includes 1991 production dates for both, and always seems to list the EX before the A/D in tables and such.

But then why did the Wavestation-Wavestation A/D brochure come out in 1991, but this brochure with the EX didn't appear until 1992? Also, why did the Spec Sheet for the A/D appear in March 1991 but the Spec Sheet for the EX didn't appear until November 1991.

Was it just that the additional awesomeness of the A/D, including an extra RAM bank and analog inputs, give it a leg up in getting promoted over the EX? Huh.

Hey - I seriously just noticed something on that Wikipedia page. Near the bottom of the page, it says that Korg's OASYS and Kronos also include wave sequencing and vector synthesis! I quickly jumped over to Ebay to check prices... oh. nevermind. The OASYS, released in 2006 still commands about a $5,000 price tag, and the Kronos is running at about $2,500.

I think I'll stick with my Wavestation A/D.

Okay, *now* my Wavestation curiosity has come to an end. And just in time - been getting a few requests lately - mostly for Oberheim stuff. Time to jump back into the 80s.

I'll end with a summary of my Wavestation posts. A good run.   :)

July 1990: Wavestation 2-page "Make Waves" intro ad
September 1990: Wavestation 1-page "Make Waves" ad
April 1991: Wavestation "Portraits" Jan Hammer ad (July 1991 version includes EX info)
August 1991: Wavestation A/D and EX "Top Ten Reasons" ad
November 1992: Wavestation SR "15 Sounds" ad
November 1993: Wavestation A/D and SR "5 And A Half Amazing Racks" ad

And, don't forget about the brochures!

1990: Original Wavestation brochure
1991: Wavestation and Wavestation A/D brochure
1992: This Wavestation EX and Wavestation A/D brochure

Monday, February 20, 2012

Korg Wavestation A/D and SR "Five and a half amazing rack systems" ad, Keyboard and Electronic Musician 1993

Korg Wavestation A/D and SR synthesizer "Five and a half amazing rack systems" 1-page advertisement from the inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine and page 79 in Electronic Musician November 1993.

Man - is it nice out.

*And* it's a long weekend.

*AND* I have a geek date to play Legend of Drizzt.  

*AND* I'm currently building a new table-top to fit onto my studio desk. I've had one of those Quik-Lok WS500 workstation desks for quite a few years. Not the most stable workstations (people can't dance in my studio because it makes my Tannoy's and computer monitor bounce), but very useful and serves my needs.  I used a Korg Z1 as a large master controller that sat on the upper arms, and then had a small wooden board on the table portion of the desk that held a keyboard, mouse, Mackie Control, and a various midi/audio in-out devices. Needless to say, it was getting very crowded.

And now that I've recently upgraded to a laptop, I need to make room for that. So, I took out the Z1 and put the 17" laptop on the open arms. Nice fit. And my master keyboard has now become a much smaller Korg MicroKey and sits on the desk now - closer to me than the laptop keyboard. Figure I input notes a lot more than I use the laptop keyboard. We'll see.

But, that small board was now really crowded with the addition of the keyboard. So, off to the store to buy a much larger 44"x30" piece of wood. Now everything fits nicely. The less cluttered look really makes me want to be in the room and create music again.

 I'll post a pic or two on my Retro Synth Labs blog in the near future.

Anyways, point is this will be a short blog post for all the reasons above. And ptobably my next blog post too. :)

Okay... time to be honest. I'm getting waaaaay past my comfort zone as I venture more into the early-90's. And I'm not just talkin' synthesizer ads - that includes many synthesizers as well.

I found that by this time, more than a few of the big synthesizer companies were just pumping out too many of what I considered to be just derivative versions of previous synths (if I'm using the word derivative correctly?!?!). Sure they would add a few new features, more ram/voices/etc... but nothing really "new". E-mu was in full swing pumping out their Proteus series, Roland with their JVs, Yamaha with their SYs (actually, not too shabby), and of course Korg with their 0x/Ws.

Don't get me wrong - they were nice sounding machines. They were workhorses. They were powerful. But I just didn't find them fun.

Sure, there were a few interesting things popping onto the market - the Wavestation stuff, Roland JD800, E-mu Morpheus, Kurzweil K2000 and the Waldorf Wave - but they were the exceptions that proved the rule.

Luckily there was more fun to come. I just had to wait for big and small companies a-like to get their butt in gear and release things like the Korg Prophecy, Doepfer A100 gear, QuasiMidi Raveolution, and Access Virus... it would just take time.

Until then - we got this. Korg's 1993 holiday push for it's five and a half racks.

It got good play in the November and December 1993 issues of Keyboard Magazine appearing on the inside front cover, but then got kicked into the back-half of the magazine in the January and February 1994 issues when Korg decided that their new Korg X3 workstation needed inside-front-cover attention. In Electronic Musician, the "Five and a half amazing racks" ad ran for a similar length of time, but never hit cover status as far as I can tell. Boo.

At least Korg had the courage and respect (hee hee) to list the Korg A/D and SR first. Even before the newer X3R and 5R/W. Makes me happy.

Korg was using the shotgun approach this holiday season - spraying pellets of rack-goodness at all types of musicians from the professional musician with a six-figure advance to the amateur home recordists in need of an under-$1000-all-in-one-box solution. And when I say all-in-one-box, I mean it. That little 05R/W had a built-in MIDI interface for MAC and PC. Okay, maybe the synth-gear world wasn't as stagnant as I made it out to be earlier.

I'm not too sure how long the SR and A/D  remained in production after this ad was released, but the Wavestation's Wikipedia page gives the Wavestation series an end date of 1994.

Almost hurts to see the Wavestation brand end with this ad - sharing advertising with an X3R. Bah!

It's kinda like Madonna sharing a stage with Britney Spears.   :)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Korg Wavestation SR "15 sounds" ad, Keyboard and Electronic Musician, 1992

Korg Wavestation SR "15 sounds" 1-page advertisement from inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine and page 48 in Electronic Musician, November 1992.

Talk about good timing.

This ran exactly a year after the last Wavestation A/D and EX ad ran in Keyboard, and just in time for the Holiday buying spree! And Korg probably figured out that since the Wavestation SR was a lower-cost rack-mount, it probably had a better chance of getting permission from the spouse for purchase and entry into the house. Plus I'm sure the spouse got something of equal value too...  :)

The ad had a good run. It spent the whole holiday season - November 1992- February 1993 in Electronic Musician (albeit not near the coveted front of the magazine), but Korg opted for a more spread-out approach in Keyboard. After appearing in the November issue, there was a month break before re-appearing in February and March. And then, didn't make another appearance until June. But, if you look a little closer, there often seemed to be a possible reason for its absence. And on purpose or not, it allowed the SR to lengthen its eye-ball run considerably in Keyboard.

In the December 1992 issue, The SR turned up in the Spec Sheet section of Keyboard - a good replacement for an ad in my books - and free! I'm doubt Korg gets a courtesy call before a Spec Sheet blurb their gear appears, but it would have given them good reason to switch out the SR ad and use the Spec Sheet appearance as a substitute:
"Korg rack-mount synth. Korg has introduced the Wavestation SR, a single-space rack-mount synthesizer with 550 sounds (600 performances with optional program card). With three RAM banks and eight ROM banks, the SR contains a collection of performances from the Wavestation library. The unit is also compatible with Wavestation program cards and Korg's 0/1W PCM cards. The SR's multi-sets can play a complex split layered performance on each of 16 MID channels. $1,399.00 Korg, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590. (516) 333-9100. Fax (516) 333-9108."
That December 1992 as well as the January 1993 issues of Keyboard also had two other ads that may also played a role in giving the SR ad the boot. The first was that Korg included a two-page, horizontal ad for the O/1W that appeared on the inside-front cover and page 1 of the mag. You had to turn the magazine sideways to read the ad properly. A great way to grab attention.

The second was an ad for the Korg M1-PlusONE - a board that put "four megabytes of killer new PCM sounds like screaming electric guitar, celestial ebony flute, classic rock organ, and world percussion*" into your M1. The asterisk at the end of that sentence continues the voice list at the bottom of the page: *Also contains new PCM samples of acoustic guitar, electric piano, solo violin, rap percussion, harp, analog synth, marimba, string bass, assorted ethnic percussion, glockenspiel, and more.

Killer glockenspiel? Really? But I respect their attempt at keeping "synth hot-rodding" alive.  :D

Anyways, point being, that ad was "a sound partnership" ad by Korg and InVision Interactive (pun intended I'm sure). And maybe both this ad, and the O1/W two-pager in the mag, resulted in the SR ad getting punted.

The SR ad then got great ad-space in the February and March 1993 issues of Keyboard appearing on the front inside cover and page 3 respectively. .

The ad's April 1993 absence was no doubt due to Keyboard's cover feature that month - the "M1 Monster Sound Round-Up". Korg did the right thing by choosing to run a "lowest price ever" ad for the Korg M1 where the SR ad appeared the month before (page 3). Good work.

The May 1993 absence of the SR ad was easily made up for by its appearance in the "Short Takes" review section of Keyboard. Jim Aikin's review actually clocks in at just under one page if you include the full length photo of the front panel running across the top of the page, and does more than any ad could have making people think "happy thoughts" about the SR:
"The best thing about the Wavestation has always been its distinctive sound. Or sounds, actually. While it's known for rich, swirling pads, ferocious one-finger grooves, and hair-raising special effects, the kind of thing that other synthesizers can only do weak imitations of, it will produce detailed electric pianos, punch basses, crisp clavs, vibrant solo winds, and a wide range of other standard timbres just as easily. It's hard to program a Wavestation sound that doesn't have character."
Can't beat that kind of introduction.

The ad then made one final showing in June 1993, a full four months after it stopped running in Electronic Musician. Eight months long - not a bad run with only January and April missing out on anything SR-related.

The Wavestation brand had now been running close to three years. Hard to believe Korg wasn't done with it yet...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Korg Wavestation EX and A/D "Top 10 reasons" ad, Keyboard and Electronic Musician 1991

Korg Wavestation EX and A/D "Top 10 reasons" 1-page advertisement from page 1 in Keyboard Magazine and page 23 in Electronic Musician August 1991.

My brain doesn't always work properly. Names are a good example. Once I start using the wrong name for something, I can't shake it. Humans. Gear. Magazines. And even when I correct myself, its like I'm reinforcing the wrong name, not the right one. This may be why you will often read "Computer Musician", when in fact I'm referring to the magazine "Electronic Musician". I equate "Electronic Musician" more with computers, and as I write quickly, I'll often flip back and forth between the two names. Gah. I think I've cleaned up everything now.   :)

Anyways, you will remember that the last time the Jan Hammer "Portraits" ad ran, it included a small band of text that referenced the fact that the original Wavestation now had expanded memory and more sounds. I suggested that they were referring to the new EX version of the keyboard, and sure enough, a month later Korg came out with a new ad that promoted both the Wavestation EX AND the Wavestation A/D.

But Korg seemed to be running out of steam with the Wavestation brand in terms of advertising. Or maybe it was just the fact that the Wavestation was so different from other synths that it was selling itself at this point. Either way, Korg didn't push the EX and A/D as much as the original Wavestation. The ad ran off and on between August 1991 and November 1991 in Keyboard Magazine, and only seems to have appeared once in Electronic Musician in August.

A shame too, because I really like this ad. There is *a lot* to read - but it still seems short and snappy. And there also still feels like it has room to breathe. Good layout and design.

Plus it includes a few surprises. For example, Reason #5 includes a 1-800 number you can call and LISTEN to a special phone demo. Brilliant. I don't recall see this when I originally saw the ad back in the day, and am kicking myself that I never had a chance to call that number. Another great surprise is Korg's promotion of 3rd party sound designers in Reason #10. Always good to give 3rd party developers some props. But the best is Korg's offer of a free video demo of the Wavestation. Again, never took advantage of that opportunity. Still kicking myself.

Like the original Wavestation before it, regular readers of Keyboard would have found out about the A/D waaaay before the ad appeared. This was most likely due to its appearance at the January 1991 NAMM show. Although this time, the Wavestation A/D had to compete with a lot more new exciting gear for attention. The darling of Keyboard's NAMM article, titled "Retro Mania", was the new JD-800 and it's 59 sliders. And that opened the door to get Roland's other gear to the front of the line in the article too, including the JX-1, S-750, S-770 and Studio-M. Still, Korg's Wavestation A/D managed to get third-billing after Roland's Rhodes division. Not too shabby.

The Spec Sheet for the A/D appeared a month before the NAMM report in the March 1991 issue, coincidentally right at the beginning of the Jan Hammer Wavestation ad-run. It is interesting to see that even as the latest A/D is being hyped at trade shows, the original Wavestation was still being hyped in ads.

The Spec Sheet really gives a good introduction to the instrument:
"Korg rack-mount Wavestation synthesizer. Korg's Wavestation A/D is a two-space rack-mount version of the Wavestation keyboard. It features 32 digital oscillators, 32 digital filters, and 64 envelope generators and LFOs. Wave sequencing allows each oscillator to play up to 255 different sounds, or waveforms, in sequence. A programmable and constantly varying mix of up to four different sounds, each of which may also be a wave sequence, is available within each patch. Up to eight of these patches can be layered across the keyboard with velocity switching. A stereo pair of analog inputs allows external sound sources to be processed through the Wavestation A/D's built-in effects. External sounds can also be used as waves for processing through filters, amplitude envelopes, and pan control. Each input can be independently controlled using MIDI volume data. new effects that have been developed for the analog inputs include two vocoders and a combined compressor/limiter-EQ-noise gate. About $2,400.00. Korg USA, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590. (516) 333-9100. Fax (516) 333-9180."
Now, here is where things get a little out-of-step. Even though the A/D made it into the Spec Sheet in the March 1991, issue, it would be a full eight months before the EX upgrade would be announced in the Spec Sheet section. A full three months after this ad started to run.

This promo also included some good reference info including prices for both the EX model and the upgrade for the original Wavestation:
"Korg Wavestation upgrade. Among the 119 new sampled waveforms within the Wavestation EX are piano, drums and percussion, guitars, basses, flutes, and alto sax, bringing the total number of waveforms to 484. The EX comes with a program card containing 50 new performances, 35 new patches, and 32 new wave sequences. Also new are eight effects algorithms, including vocoder, pitch-shift, and stereo compressor/limiter with gate. $2,333.00; upgrade for current owners $110.00. Korg. 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590 (516) 333-9100. Fax (516) 333-9108."
I think I've mentioned it before, but if I haven't screamed it from the highest mountain top, I'm a big fan of the Korg Wavestation A/D. I've had one for quite a while, and while other rack gear has been moved from my main rack to the secondary "grave yard" rack, the rack screws on the A/D have never been unscrewed. I still spend hours online looking for new information on this synth, but one of my favorite stories appears on the Wikipedia page for the Wavestation, and explains how the A/D prototype was first developed using a hacksaw and a Prophet 2000 sampler.
"The Wavestation A/D was the brainchild of Joe Bryan, then-Senior Design Engineer at Korg R&D. A guitar player, he wanted "something that worked with a simple midi guitar that would merge the guitar, synth and effects, and could be controlled from one or two buttons on the guitar." The idea was of little interest to his colleagues at first. Nevertheless, he found a prototype of a Sequential Circuits Prophet 2000 sampler and literally hacksawed the analog-to-digital converter circuitry from it, soldered that and a digital interface to the Wavestation's ROM bus to create the first prototype of the Wavestation A/D. The prototype convinced Bryan's colleagues of his idea."
After this ad appeared, the Wavestation brand would go silent for exactly a year. Just enough time for mommy and daddy Wavestation to do what comes naturally (in the presence of engineers)...

...give birth to baby.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Korg Wavestation "Portraits" ad featuring Jan Hammer, Keyboard, Electronic Musician 1991

Korg Wavestation "Portraits" 1-page advertisement featuring Jan Hammer from inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine and Electronic Musician, April 1991.

Hard to believe that by the time this Jan-Hammer-endorsed advertisement appeared, the Wavestation had already been in reader's minds for over a year. Sure, the introductory Wavestation ad may have first ran only nine months prior in July 1990, but readers of magazines such as Keyboard and Electronic Musician were hearing the wave-sequenced-buzz of vector synthesis technology months before.

For example, the original Wavestation Spec Sheet appeared a full four months earlier that the intro ad in the March 1990 issue of Keyboard Magazine. And Keyboard knew Korg had something special on their hands, because they opted to print a relatively large photo of the keyboard below the blurb. Only a few pieces of gear get that kind of star treatment:
"Korg WS Synthesizer: The WS Wavestation synthesizer is the first offering from the Korg R&D group in San Jose, which comprises mainly former Sequential Circuits personnel, including founder Dave Smith. The WS incorporates 32-voice, 16-bit digital vector synthesis, which was originally developed by Sequential for the Prophet-VS. Over 500 multisampled waveforms and sounds are included and can be linked together into user-programmable wave sequences. Dual programmable multi-effects, both joystick and wheel controllers, a 61-note velocity- and pressure-sensitive keyboard, 240 x 64-pixel graphic LCD, and RAM and ROM cards ports are included. About $2,500.00 . Korg USA, 89 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590. (516) 333-9100."
This is an awesome Spec Sheet that not only provides some good technical information and preliminary pricing info, but also shows that either Korg was taking good advantage of the Dave Smith connection in it's promotion of this synthesizer, or that Keyboard knew their shit when it came to the design of the instrument. My guess is probably both. :)

But that wasn't the only early sighting of the Wavestation. Not even close.

If you were lucky enough to pop in to the January 1990 NAMM show, you were way ahead of the game. I don't think I would be out of touch with reality if I said that the Wavestation was one of the top darlings of the show. Unfortunately for readers, NAMM news at the time didn't usually hit the gear mags until a few months later. In the case of the Wavestation, that was April - a month after the Spec Sheet appeared.

The April 1990 issue of Electronic Musician listed it under the heading "The Ten Products People Told Us We Had To See", recognizing it both for the addition of Sequential's vector synth technology and for its PPG-style waveform "scanning". Interestingly, in the same NAMM article, EM also gives nods to the newly introduced Yamaha SY22, another synth offering vector synthesis, by including "'s good to see that this type of synthesis didn't get lost in the cracks of MIDI history". Agreed!

Keyboard's April 1990 NAMM report gave the Wavestation top billing in the synth section of the article, and introduced the instrument with "Perhaps the most intriguing keyboard...". Not a bad start. They also reported on its PPG- and Sequential roots, also noting it's Prophet-VS-style joystick, and its MIDI-synchronization capabilities.

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn't point out that my man-crush (As my GF refers to Trent Reznor) was also featured in this issue of Keyboard Magazine, posing with his Emax sampler...

But that is enough history for one blog post...

This ad is a major shift in direction from the previous "Make Waves" advertising campaign. And I'm not just talking about design - but also the addition of an endorsement deal from none other than Jan Hammer. Personally, I only knew him from his Miami Vice soundtrack days (looks like he kept a shirt or two from the show), and even though I wasn't a fan, I sure as heck knew the soundtrack. Even more so, the music video. Not so much for his use of the Wavestation.

This ad continued to run for four months - April to July - and in that last showing in the July issue of Keyboard, we see a slight addition to the ad.

Let me read that again for you:

"Now with expanded memory and more sounds"

Whaaaaaat? That's right. As far as I can tell, that is the first sign that the new EX version of the Wavestation is just around the corner. It would still be a good four months before the Spec Sheet for the EX upgrade would appear... but this post is getting a little long, so will save that for my next one.

Oh - and end with this... :D

Monday, February 6, 2012

Korg Wavestation "Make Waves' ad, Keyboard/Electronic Musician 1990

Korg Wavestation "Make Waves" 1-page advertisement from inside front cover of Keyboard Magazine and Electronic Musician Magazine September 1990.

Well, we are already into the second month of 2012 and I have yet to circle back to the Korg Wavestation family of ads - an obsession that started at a much younger age, but was again re-ignited late last year when I posted the 2-page "Make waves" introductory ad. And what I later referred to my resulting behavior as "page-flipping/ebay-buying/scanning marathon sessions that could well provide blogging fodder well into mid-February".

This second advertisement, a direct descendant of the first, had began to appear in Keyboard Magazine immediately following the two-month run of the Wavestation intro ad in the September 1990 issue. Yup - the issue that had Public Enemy on the cover! The ad continued to run constantly between September 1990 and March 1991 in the coveted front inside cover page of the mag, usually next to an ad for the Korg S3 drum machine or a T-series ad.

And you have to remember - this is the 90s. There was another musician's magazine out there catering to the synth crowd - Electronic Musician. And Korg made sure they gave them some Wavestation ad-revenue-love as well. The same two-page intro ad appeared on similar real-estate in that magazine on the front-inside cover, and this one-page version of the ad carried on the tradition appearing on the inside front cover as well. Nice.

With such a long ad-run, Korg was wise to modify the advertisement during the second-half as more and more accolades for the Wavestation started to roll in. It was always a small change, but I think enough to keep the ad from becoming invisible to readers.

The first change in the ad appeared in January 1991 when the very top of the ad was sacrificed for a call-out box that included positive comments from Keyboard and Electronic Musician magazine.

I can't explain it, but I always feel uncomfortable whenever I see another magazine's name in Keyboard. Or Keyboard's name in another music magazine for that matter. I don't know why - it just feels dirty or something. Is this just me? Anyways - more on those reviews in a later blog post.

In that same January 1991 issue, it was announced that the Korg Wavestation had won the "Hardware Innovation of the Year award", as determined in the 15th annual Keyboard Magazine readers poll.

This nod to the Wavestation's beautiful internal and external design was immediately put to good use by Korg in the second modification to this advertisement that appeared in February and March 1991.  Again, bragging rights were added as a top of the page cut-a-way.

 The ballots appeared in the October 1990 issue of Keyboard, under the "Hardware Innovation" category (explained under the question: "Which hardware product set the standard this year against which others are judged?"). The Wavestation had some stiff competition, including the Alesis 1622 mixer, Buchla Thunder, Kat Drumkat, Lone Wolf Miditap, MOTU MIDI time piece, and Yamaha SY77. Readers also could write in their own piece of kit if they so chose.

And, on a similar note - guess who appeared under the "New Talent" category? Trent Reznor!

We know the results of the Hardware category, but how about new talent? Drum roll please.... Jane Child. Wait... what? She beat out Reznor by a fairly large margin apparently. And at a distant third was Oleta Adams, the "lounge gig refugee" discovered by Tears for Fears. Not sure how I feel about that. Grrr.

It is hard to believe, but by the time this ad ended its run in the March 1991 issue of of Keyboard, it had actually already been a year since the Wavestation first appeared in front of reader's eyes.

"What?" - I can hear you say it now. Okay, I can't really hear you, because that would be weird.

But yeah - a year! The ads may have only started running in July 1990, but readers got a preview much earlier.

More on that in my next blog post.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Jeremy Lord Synthesizers SkyWave, International Musician & Recording World (US) 1978

Jeremy Lord Synthesizers SkyWave synthesizer 1/2-page advertisement from page 77 in International Musician & Recording World (US), February 1978.

I actually started writing this blog post back in September 2011 with my original intro made reference to Thanksgiving in Canada. But I kinda forgot about it after I sent a few emails off to people in the hopes of getting more info on it. I guess I never got anything back, and the post fell to the sidelines for a while.


Anyways, I've blogged about many of my favorite imports like the Thunderchild, Scorpion Stage (twice), and the more common Wasp synth, but this Skywave was one of my all time favorite import obsessions - for a while anyways.

You may have heard about the Skywave. Probably from someone trying to impress you with their synthesizer knowledge. Me? -I knew absolutely nothing about it except the existence of an actual ad. Ziltch. Nadda. So, as usually happens in these types of situations, I focus first on the ad itself.

This 1/2 page advertisement isn't exactly "art" with all the different font sizes and styles popping up everywhere, but the ad-copy itself becomes "art" to me because of that heaping pile of gorgeous, ridiculously yummy historical and technical information.

This was obviously the introductory ad for the Skywave, with its main purpose to get people out to the Frankfurt Spring Fair - and in particular Custom Sound Ltd's stand in Hall 5 to hear Case Bakker of H.B. Electronics demo the beast.

The title includes the word "rugged", and the word is mentioned again in reference to the flight case. Both references suggest Jeremy Lords Instruments was targeting touring musicians.

The ad also provides some juicy historical pricing and technical info.
  • A recommended retail price of 599 pounds (including flight case!). Nice.
  • Two VCOs
  • Square wave modulation
  • Graphic Waveform controls (?!)
  • Mixer section
  • Noise
  • External i/p
  • Touch operated illuminated selectors
  • VCF and VCA ring modulator
  • Sample and hold
  • Output EQ
  • Four LFOs
  • 49 note keyboard
  • And, most interestingly, a "3 dimensional joystick that controls keyboard modulation, pitch bend and sound volume".
Sounds like a formidable opponent to some of the other synths available at the time. But, alas, finding a real Skywave in a retail shop was probably as rare as this ad, and as rare as finding information online about the instrument. has a Skywave page with some specs, and a nice color photo of a Skywave showing off the lovely yellow and red accent colours. Another side view photo, along with a few other stats (only 10 made!) can be found on the blog side of the same site.

I found and interesting comment in the Theremin World forums made in 2008 by what looks to be a former employee, that explains what happened to the synthesizer and the company:
"I watched this happen synthesis, when low cost plastic keyboard synths from Japan wiped out the British Analogue Synthesiser producers (I was working for Jeremy Lord Synthesisers, which changed to making medical products as Lord Medical, because there was a near total collapse in sales of the expensive Sky-Wave Synthesiser)"
But the majority of information that pops up when you do an online search for the instrument is Jeremy Lord's son, Simon William Lord. His Wikipedia page describes Simon as "an english musical composer, record producer and musician" who has been involved in a number of projects, including a solo effort where he goes by the name "Lord Skywave". And not surprisingly, Simon has used a Skywave synth in his music.

His personal Web site,, includes a few songs from the Lord Skywave album released in June 2008, and states on the site that the album includes the Skywave synth. In fact, Simon's connection to his father (and the fact he used compositions from his grandmother) is such a great sound bite (pun intended) that the Skywave connection is picked up in many reviews., for example, really grabs onto this marketing hook in it's review of the album - and in the end gives it 4.5 out of 5 stars. And that isn't the only good review. According to the Wikipedia page, NME gave it 8/10, and Mojo gave it 4/5. Not too shabby.

I found some more recent solo work described as "Acoustic/Psychedelic/Screamo" on his MySpace page. And he has another MySpace page featuring some more collaborative "Electro/Pop" work under the name Black Ghosts.  Black Ghosts seems to be getting popular amongst the kids.

I spent a little bit more time online because I wanted to track Simon down and ask him a few questions about his father as well as his own impressions on the sound of the Skywave. But so far, no replies. :( 

If he does get back to me, I'll be sure to post an update to the blog.