Thursday, August 30, 2012

Roland TR-909 drum machine four page brochure, 1984

Roland TR-909 drum machine four page brochure from March1984.

Last post of August - end of the summer. Wanted to post something kinda special - at least to me any ways.

My TR-909 is special to me. And this TR-909 brochure isn't far behind. In my scale of all things "special", these two items fall somewhere between a good steak and my dog. Yup. That special.  :D

And I don't think I'm the only one that puts their 909 just behind their dog in specialness. I'm a firm believer that you can tell just how special something is by how good the Wikipedia page is. Not how long or detailed. Just how 'good'. And the TR-909 page is short, but pretty darn good.

Sure, Wikipedia tells me it still needs a few more citations, but that page is full of facts. And I love facts. Like first MIDI-equipped drum machine. And 10,000 units made.


Love 'em.

The brochure itself is just as awesome.  It's part of Roland's "We Design the Future" set of brochure that started printing around 1982 or so, the most recent of which I posted was the MSQ-100 and MSQ-700 digital keyboard recorder brochures.

The link to the MSQ-700 blog post includes links to other brochures in the series including the SH-101, and Roland's "Rhythm machines" - TB-303, TR-606 and TR-909. 

The 909 brochure shares many of the themes with the others in the series. The front cover is split in half, sporting a lovely photo of the machine on the bottom. The theme colours used in the other brochures are also present - light pinks and greens. But we get a real treat when we open it up to reveal that page 2 and 3 share an awesome black background colour. It works so well with the light-coloured 909 that it looks simply dashing!

These inside pages contain all those great facts I love so much, lined up down the left hand side next to a really large photo of the front panel. And, as is tradition with these brochures, Roland provides a number of typical use scenarios showing how the machine can be wired up with other great Roland products. Since the 909 has both a reliable SYNC jack as well as newly-introduced and not-yet-proven MIDI jacks, Roland plays it safe by including syncing scenarios using both technologies - bringing along for the ride an MSQ-700, MC-202 (! - another one of the favourites in my studio), and a JX-3P/Jupiter 6.

Well played Roland... well played.

The only beef with these middle pages is the cropped image of the 909 in the top right corner, on top of an image of a 909. Not sure we really need that profile shot.  Just makes the page look a little messy.

The back page has to be the most disappointing of any Roland back pages I've come across recently. The specs are fine, but the fact that Roland only promotes two other instruments - one of them being the lowly HP-400 Electric Piano - is a little bit of a downer to end such a gorgeous piece of art.

But them the breaks.

Like I said - its the end of August. And best of all, its 7:30 in the evening and it's still +34 degrees C out.  Booya! Time to go enjoy.... an air conditioned movie theatre.

Finally seeing Batman. I know. About time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer "Each string is an orchestra" ad, International Musician 1978

Roland GR-500 Guitar Synthesizer "Each string is an orchestra" full page colour advertisement from page 99 in the January (UK)/February (US) 1978 issue of International Musician and Recording World Magazine.

Gah! How silly of me.

Here I thought that the first full-page advertisement for the GR-500 in IM was this "Play me a rainbow" ad.

I actually thought that the ad scanned above was only a half-pager because that was how I originally recorded it into my database.

What? A database? You thought I knew all these synth ad stats off the top of my head?!?!  That's crazy talk.   :D

Anyways, point being, I was delaying the posting this "half pager" so I could do my cute little "you thought this other ad was the first ad for this [insert instrument here]..." bloggy thing I do. Yah, I know. Cheesy. .

So, then the other day as I'm lining up my next few ads, I actually pay a bit closer attention to this one and figure out it's actually a full pager. Go figure.

Then it got me wondering - I wonder if readers at the time had the same problem - only seeing half of this ad. To me, the top half of this advertisement just doesn't fit in with the bottom half. The top is totally black and white, and the bottom is colour. My eye is immediately drawn to the colourful image of the GR500, and then that thick black-lined box around the top half of the ad acts like a barrier and my brain doesn't want my eye to cross back up to the top half.  Even with the large guitar neck imagery, the font used with it is so tiny and different looking that it too makes brain want to separate it from the bottom half.

Luckily for Roland, even if some readers only "got" half of this advertisement, this issue of International Musician also included a FULL PAGE promo of the GR500 only a page or two away. The GR500 promo was at the end of an 18-page Chase Musicians supplement (aka the London Synthesizer Centre Report) - a large advertising sectional promoting the new London Synthesizer Centre that opened on Chalton Street just a short six months previously in June 1977. I've blogged a bit about this supplement before - can't find the post at the moment though. Chase must have spent a ton of cash on promoting pages upon pages on ARP, Octave, Korg, Yamaha, Elka, and of course, Roland.

The GR-500 promo page is written almost like a review of the instrument with good sized paragraphs explaining every feature of the GR-500. and, boy, is it ballsy. Just read this introduction:
"FOR YEARS, guitarists have dreamed of new sounds. Now there's a whole Galaxy of new sounds waiting to be discovered. Roland have built a guitar synthesizer!

In the last ten years millions of pounds have been spent developing effects pedals and special pick-ups to improve guitar sounds. Now they are all OBSOLETE!"
Ballsy or what? And you know this statement must be true, because that last word was in capitals AND bolded.    :)

US readers of International Musician would get another lucky break with even more GR-500 goodness through the appearance of  an actual "balanced" review of the GR500 the following month in the February (UK)/March (International) issue of International Musician and Recording World.

US readers only? Confused? So was I for a bit. It seems that before IMRW split into what looks like totally separate magazines for their UK and US audiences, US readers got the exact same magazine as the UK - UK advertisements and all. But, apparently this Feb/March IM magazine was the "first ever US issue" running at a measly 86 pages.  This US issue has no price label or month-of-issue date on the outside cover, so I'm thinking in these early days it may just have been packaged in with the full 202 page UK issue for the US peeps - maybe as an early way for local US advertisers to hit the US readers. An experiment of sorts.

Anyways, before I got sidetracked, I wanted to mention the two-page GR-500 review that appeared in this first US issue. Written by Dave Simmons, it is almost as glowing as the Chase advertisement that appeared the month before - with detailed info on the guitar itself, as well as on the four main sections of the synth unit - Polyensemble, Bass, Solo melody, External synth. A good read.

The UK really had a monopoly on the GR500 advertising circuit. There is very little to be found on this side of the pond. Shame that is.

End note: Another interesting thing about the January/February issue of IM - there is ANOTHER Roland advertisement by a different synthesizer store in London - Macari's - that uses the exact same photo as this scanned ad - except in black and white. This Macari's ad is letting readers know that from January 14-21 they can view a special exhibition and demonstration of Roland instruments staged by Macari's and Brodr-Jorgensen at their London store.

Makes me wonder if BJ's strategy was to play stores against each other. And it also makes me wonder if BJ pitched in on advertising costs for these dealer ads.

Interesting stuff!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roland GR-500 guitar synthesizer "Play me a rainbow" ad, International Musician 1978

Roland GR-500 guitar synthesizer "Play me a rainbow" full page colour advertisement from page 179 in the March (UK)/April (US) 1978 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

The rain is gone, and the sun and heat are back. I'm keeping this one short so I can enjoy the rest of my day!

Yup - the love-fest for Roland continues with this juicy full pager for Roland's GR-500. And Roland must have known it was a gooder because they kept it running from March to December of 1978 in most if not all the issues.

I had never come across the beast until a new employee showed up at my local music store and found that we had analogs in common. After we both became pretty sure that either one of us was out to rob the other, I had the chance to go see his home studio. And the first time I walked in, I tripped over one of these sitting on the floor. then I tripped over another. After the initial shock, he told me he had a third in the closet.

And can you believe, I never actually got to listen to one because he moved out of the province before I had the chance.


*slaps forehead*

I really enjoy the layout of this advertisement. Nice a clean, with that iconic photo of the synth module in the foreground and the custom guitar behind. The green hughs, probably partly due to the age of the magazine, give it a slightly sea-sick appearance. But don't let that get in the way of enjoying this ad.

The ad-title is cute and reads well on the page. The ad-copy the same - if maybe a little on the sappy side to go with the "Play me a rainbow" theme. I'm usually not a fan of statements like "Roland gives you music" or "Open up a new world of creative possibilities" but in the context of the rainbow... meh... I don't mind it.

But, like most Roland ads at the time, its the Brodr, Jorgensen (BJ) connection that makes me love this ad the most. That logo with the three quarter notes and the crown (by appointment to the Royal Dutch Court) is really hip. I could see it blown up to huge proportions - like three stories tall.

And, although three logos is kind of repetitive (two on the machine and the third on its own), the third logo really is required to balance the whole ad.

A quick Google proved what I expected - people seem to love this thing.

Vintage Synth Explorer has a GR-500 page with a small write-up, but its the comments section that really provides some good info. For example, apparently there is a "3 'patch' memory 'floorboard' called the PC-50 that was available for the the GR-500".That peaked my interest and before you knew it, I was on Wayne Scott Joness' Vintage Roland Guitar Synthesizer Resource Web site. And in particular, the GR-500 page. And it is quite the resource. Specs, detailed info, nice photos, and a ton of videos showing off its functionality and performance. Nice.

You can also find some excellent history on the never-disappointing Sound On Sound Web site. The August 1999 article written by Norm Leete and simply titled "Roland GR-Series" provides some great historical and technical information on the GR-500, GR-300 and all of their brothers, sisters and cousins are mentioned.

Like I said at the beginning - I'm keeping this one short. Want more information? Google is your friend.   :)

Hello sun - here I come! What... no rainbow?!?!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Roland MC-8 Micro-Composer "If you can hum a tune..." ad, International Musician 1978

Roland MC-8 Micro-Composer "If you can hum a tune..." two-page black and white advertisement from page 240 and 241 in the August (UK)/September(US) 1978 issue of International Musician and Recording World Magazine.

I've been infatuated with a certain beast lately. No, not the MC-8. The Titanoboa (I can see all of my Facebook friends rolling their eyes and groaning as they read this. It may have been the topic of a status update or two).

You can blame the History Channel really. They have been hyping the Titanoboa - Monster Snake TV show recently and I finally got to watch the full two hours while hiding out from the world last Friday night.. 

I can't help but think the MC-8 is kinda like the Titanoboa of the sequencer world. A rare beast of another era, with analog synth fanatics drooling over every feature and function when finally digging one up in the back corner of a pawn shop or a retro synth studio somewhere.

And like the respect the Titanoboa gets from scientists, this ad is giving the MC-8 the respect and real-estate that it deserved at the time. Spread out amongst two pages, with a HUGE ad-title and an image of the actual machine so large you can make out some of the labels and settings on the front panels. Yum. And, that UK two-pager also ran for three consecutive months. Nice.

Meanwhile, in the US, Roland decides to give this Titanosequencer only a half-page. Boo! Makes me a little cranky.

The actual ad is a bit of a mixed bag. The beauty might lie in its ugliness. Probably much like Titanoboa itself.

The ad-title is big. I mean *really* big. And because the ad-copy is so much smaller, it gives the illusion that the ad-title is even bigger.  Plus it's in full-on caps, which makes it even harder to read.

Someone even figured this out, but rather than try and fix it, decided to make matters worse by increasing the size and boldness of the first letter of the first word (IF) as well as the M and C in MICRO-COMPOSER.

But, that's not even the dog's breakfast. Look at that ad-copy. Ironically, all that verbal diarrhea is to explain how *easy* the MC-8 is to operate and make music. I'm serious. Read it. I'd give anything for a bullet point. Or eight. Anything to make this thing more readable.

And then they go and throw around terms like crotchet and minim. Good lord. I'm going to stop there. If only because every time I see the word "crotchet" I giggle because it sounds dirty.

So, the ad may not be a design and readability success, but historically it is the bees knees. Mostly because of what is missing.

Other Roland ads that were running in International Musician during this time period, including this awesome "Groupies aren't everything" advertisement and even larger multi-page/multi-instrument promo spreads, included contact info for their European distributor Brodr, Jorgensen (U.K.) Ltd.

But there isn't any evidence of BJ in this MC-8 advertisement. This one is pure Roland with only Osaka identification. And pointing readers to their "local dealer" for more info.

Interesting stuff.

I wish I had something witty to say about Titanoboa to end this post. If I think of something, you, the reader, will never even have known this sentence existed. But coming up with something before this goes live is probably 1 in a million.

Much like coming across the fossils of Titanoboa. <--- see what I did there.  :D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roland "You simply don't outgrow the best" family ad, 1978

Roland "You simply don't outgrow the best" full page black and white family advertisement including the MC-8 MicroComposer, and SH-7 and JP-4 synthesizers from page 5 in the July 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

 Like I was saying at the end of my last blog post on the introductory MC-8 advertisement, with all of Roland's diverse products it must sometimes just cheaper to throw them altogether into one large ad. And today's advertisement is the one I would have linked to, rather than this 1983 Roland ad. But I hadn't posted this ad yet. So, here it is now.  :)

I love family ads. I used to call them 'orgy' ads, but I was uncomfortable with the term. Plus, I really don't think the instruments were doing too much of the nasty (hmmm - maybe someone should start a "synthesizers humping" blog.

Better go register that domain right now... nah. Too lazy.

Anyways, where was I... oh yeah... orgy.  "Family" just has a better ring to it.

So many of the synth greats came out with family ads - here's just a few to remind you of some.

Granted, this Roland ad may not have had the luxury or even availability of a good Photoshop production artist. Or, what looks like a lack of any type of artist for that matter. Its hard to believe this ad and that earlier MC-8 advertisement came from the same company.

But, no matter, this ad still holds a place in my heart because of its ad-copy.

For one, unlike most Roland ads you come across today, the company is still climbing its way to the top of the synthesizer pile. No, its not at the bottom. But its not at the top either:
"We know these things because the greatest performers in the business are switching to Roland."
Did you catch that word: "Switching".

You don't hear that word come from a company like Coke. You heard it from Pepsi - the underdog at the time of the Pepsi Challenge.

Second, Roland, along with many other manufacturers, were just at the start of the digital revolution. A revolution was that was ramping up quick. And their customers were  already getting caught up in that digital revolution in other parts of their lives - data and word processing. And, just like in that MC-8 ad that came out earlier, Roland throws out their magical term "music processing":
"They're thinking in terms of systems... modules... interfacing... music processing... a whole new world of electronic music". 
It's watching companies like Roland evolve (Oberheim's words), merging the new world with the old world, that really turns my crank. Don't get me wrong, I love my fully analog Moog Modular. Wouldn't trade it for the world. But the most fun I have with gear is when I'm interfacing my Roland TB-303 and TR-808 with other DIN Sync and MIDI gear using tools like the Roland MPU-101. 

In fact, when I think of Roland, I think of "interfacing" more than "music processing" - like most people that got caught up in the 101/202/303/808/909 phenomenon.

All these years later, how could Roland have known that "interfacing" old Roland gear with new Roland gear would still be just as important to so many people?  :D

Monday, August 13, 2012

Roland MC-8 MicroComposer introductory ad, Contempoary Keyboard 1977

Roland MC-8 MicroComposer introductory 1/2-page advertisement from page 38 in the December 1977 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

I figured since I have recently been on a bit of a Roland sequencer kick, I probably should go back through the company's history a bit to scope out some of their earlier sequencer beginnings. And this is one of the first you will come across - well, in Contemporary Keyboard anyways. Roland got a lot of mileage out of this ad, also running it the following January, February and June 1978 in CK, and also running it in the January/February 1978 and May/June 1978 issues of Synapse Magazine.

The MC-8 Wikipedia page tells me that it was actually introduced into the market early in 1977, so there could very well be older ads from other magazines. That page also tells me how "revolutionary" the MC-8 was at the time with its note keypad and 16kb/5200 notes, "a huge step forward from the 8-16 step sequencers at the time". And it also mentions the price: $4,795. Gulp. No wonder only 200-300 units were ever sold.

While doing a bit of surfing to catch up on this wonderful beast, I came across an interesting blog dedicated to the MC-8. Most of the posts seem to be from January and February 2010, but it still has a lot of good juicy info, including links to videos by notable users like Chris and Cosey, links to interviews by artists such as Cosey Fanni Tutti (London, 2010), and articles on the MC-8 by notable engineers and artists like Chris Carter. Yeah. Um. I'm a bit of a fan. :) But seriously, lots of artists, engineers and others are there. Check it out.

That last link above is to the March 1997 Sound on Sound retro article on the MC-8 to mark it's 20th birthday. It's an amazing read, going through the early history and the people involved, including fellow Canadian Ralph Dyck (and no, it's a big country, I didn't know him :) But yeah, read that article. I'll wait...

... still waiting...

Okay. Back. Good.

The actual ad is really crazy awesome too. It looks like it could have been produced yesterday. The title font especially. And I really like the direction the ad took. Remember, this thing was revolutionary at the time. The most familiar sequencers at the time usually had 8-16 steps. So Roland needed to explain how this beast worked. And they needed to do it well.  And as far as I'm concerned, they did. From the ad:
"You've heard of word processing...and data processing. But have you heard of "music processing"?

With the Roland MC-8 MicroComposer you can store... add to... delete from... re-structure, and play back through a synthesizer as many as eight voice lines of your own musical composition. And you can do it instantly, as easily as pushing buttons on a ten-key adding machine. We call in music processing."
By comparing the MC-8 to other more well known - and probably just as revolutionary - machines at the time, something that was so complicated that users "have sweated blood over and cursed this machine through the years" (Chris Carter's words, not mine), would become much more familiar. Instant recognition.

I wasn't sure just how "well known" word processing was back in the 70s, but a quick Google search and I had my answer. According to the Wikipedia page for Word processing:
"The term word processing was invented by IBM in the late 1960s. By 1971 it was recognized by the New York Times as a "buzz word".[5] A 1974 Times article referred to "the brave new world of Word Processing or W/P. That's International Business Machines talk... I.B.M. introduced W/P about five years ago for its Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter and other electronic razzle-dazzle."
LOL! Who can argue with "razzle-dazzle"? The world was a-buzz with "word processing", and Roland was definitely smart to use it to explain the MC-8.

Another tidbit in the ad that got my attention was the little tag line underneath the Roland logo.
"The largest, most diversified line of electronic musical equipment in the world."
Although this is good in theory, and probably for Roland's bottom line, it does prove difficult in the advertising and marketing departments. With so many instruments to advertise in Contemporary Keyboard alone, it must have been hard for Roland to keep a long sustained advertising campaign going. For example, during the MC-8's tenure in the mag, there would be months without an MC-8 ad because Roland also needed to promote their GR-500 guitar synth, VK-9 organ, their effects line (re-301, re-201 and re-101), and a wack of others.

Its no wonder that at some points it's just a lot cheaper to put out ONE BIG FAMILY PHOTO.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Roland MSQ-100 MIDI Digital Keyboard Recorder brochure, 1984

Roland MSQ-100 MIDI Digital Keyboard Recorder 4-page colour brochure from 1984.

Do you think the Roland MSQ-100 had a bit of an inferiority complex? It's  bigger brother the MSQ-700 was probably getting a lot more attention at the time, with its larger foot print and sleek white design. And the MSQ-700 also had that DCB port - immediately putting it on the same level as Roland's slowly aging, but still awesomely spectacular top of the line Jupiter 8.

But as far as I can tell through Google searches, the diminutive MSQ-100 is still as sought after today as it's bigger brother for its MIDI -> DIN SYNC abilities, apparently allowing it to sync your TB303/606/808 with the rest of your MIDI gear. I couldn't tell you. I've never had one.

But I can tell you for sure that this brochure rocks my socks. That front cover is enough of a reason to dig this thing. I'm not sure who actually piles up their Jupiter 6, JX-3P and Juno-106 like that, but I guess Roland needed to fit them all into the photo. It's almost like that 106 is photo-bombing the rest of them.

The inside of the brochure has some great reference information as well, but oddly, Roland chose to use green text on a purple background for the promotional part of the blurb. I can understand if you missed it at first when you glanced at the scan, but its the in the middle of the two-pager. Luckily the rest of the text is black and a lot more readable.

This brochure shares a few other features also found on the MSQ-700 brochure. First, that back page is being used for the promotion of a few other pieces of Roland gear. In this case, the same synths that are doing the front cover pile-on. We get some good juicy photos with some decent specs. 

The other thing this brochure has in common with the MSQ-700 brochure is the fact it includes the print date on the back. In my blog post for the MSQ-700, I mentioned how this helped show that Roland was still using their awesome tag line "We design the future" all the way into March 1984. And now, with this brochure, we see it used as late as June 1984!

I know that three months doesn't sound like much, but when you are talking about anything remotely related to the fast pace of MIDI development, three months can seem like a life time.

For example, the April 1984 issue of Keyboard included an article on the January 1984 NAMM show, and as Dominic Milano states, you could almost hear the chant "MIDI MIDI MIDI". It was apparently a gong show. And, according to Dominic, "Roland was at the head of the pack by a fair distance with MIDI-equipped everythings".

The list of products Roland showed was extensive, and most included MIDI. These including the MKB-1000 MIDI keyboard-controller, JX-3P, JP-6, MKS-10 piano module, MKS-30 synth rack, MSQ-700 sequencer, JSQ-60 DCB interface, MD-8 MIDI-DCB converter, MM-4 MIDI through box, GR-707 MIDI guitar synth, TR-909 drum machine, MPU-401 MIDI processing unit, and last but not least, Juno-106.

But did you catch it? Yup. No mention of the MSQ-100. And yet the brochure print date was June 1984. That's only five months later, yet it wasn't shown at NAMM.  Even if just a prototype was available, you think they would have brought it out to the trade show. So that makes me think that Roland (along with MIDI in general) may have been on a really fast development pace with the MSQ-100.

Hope all that logic made sense.

Anyways, it doesn't look like the MSQ-100 got much attention in ads or promos either. That is, until it finally appeared in a Keyboard Report of its own IN JULY 1985!!! Yup. More than a year after its apparent launch. Luckily, Dominic wields the pen well in the full page review, which of course includes basic features and operating procedures, as well as my fav, its list price- $625.00. Yum.

That long delay before its Keyboard Report really only shows just how popular this little piece of hardware must have been. If it was over a year later that Keyboard decided to run a report on the 100, it must have still been on sale and in use.

Hmmm... Maybe I should pick one up.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Roland MSQ-700 MIDI DCB Multi-Track Digital Keyboard Recorder brochure, 1984

Roland MSQ-700 MIDI DCB Multi-Track Digital Keyboard Recorder 4-page brochure from 1984.

It's been too long, Roland. Too long. I haven't blogged about anything totally amaz-balls about Roland for over half a year. Eight months even. Time for a big Roland bear-hug.

For the longest time in the late 80s and I think even into the early 90s, there had been a MSQ-700 and a DrumFire drum trigger device sitting in a downtown pawn shop. I wanted them both for like forever. but never got around to buying them. I would go "pawning" every weekend with my bestie and they would be sitting there. Sad. And lonely.

And then one day after years and years, they were both just gone. GONE! And for some reason, my yearning turned to disgust and ever since I've had a serious illogical hate-on for the MSQ-700. Oh, I still wanted it, but just so I could sit there staring at it with squinting beady little eyes.

Over time, that hatred has died down a little bit. And it got a little better when this brochure landed in my sticky little hands. Doesn't that violet colour on the inside pages just sooth the soul? I think they paint prison cell walls that colour to keep the inmates passive.

Yeah, this brochure is ten kinds of awesome.

For one, it pulls Roland's "We design the future" tag line all the way into 1984. This tag line started life earlier in the 1980s as "We want you to understand the future", and could be found on such famous ads as this 2-pager for the Jupiter 8,  and the 1-pagers for the TR-808 and TB-303/606.

But I guess Roland found that tag line a little awkward, so they trimmed it up nicely into "We design the future" and around 1982 started slapping it onto brochures for their Rhythm Machines (hello 808, 606, 303!) and SH-101.


The new tag line also appeared in some Roland ads such as this 1983 2-page ad for Roland's whole family of products.

 But this MSQ-700 brochure was printed in March 1984 - showing that although the tagline was slowly being discontinued as early as 1983 (it didn't appear in 83's ads for Roland's Juno 6 or Juno 60  ads) it was still actively being used as late as 1984.

Looking inside the brochure, the first line really does pop out at you:
"The first MIDI-compatible sequencer in the world."
Really?  I knew it was an early one. But "the first"? I just had to do some Googlin'.

I quickly came across a great April 1996 Sound On Sound article on the MSQ-700 written by Steve Howell. It pretty much explains every little detail - including the fact that "MSQ" stands for Midi SeQuencer. It also notes that it was Roland's first sequencer, as well as an "underrated little sequencer from the early days of MIDI". But it doesn't mention that it was THE FIRST.

Another search result that temporarily distracted me from further blogging was Vintage Synth Explorer's Sequencer page. It has info on a wack of sequencers including a small section on the 700, but again, no mention of it being "the first" MIDI compatible sequencer in the world. That page also led me to Roland's manual archive page. Wowza. Bookmarked.

The "Music Sequencer" Wikipedia page also lists it as "one of the earliest multitrack MIDI sequencers (8tr)", referencing the Emulator Archives as its source. But when I clicked to go over to the Emulator Archives Web page, IT WAS GONE! This was definitely going to distract me from blogging.

A quick WhoIs check-up later, I found that  the domain expired on July 20, 2012 and is pending renewal or deletion. GAH!  I panic'd, jumped to Vintage Synth Explorer's forum page and wrote a small post asking if anyone knew what was going on.

Then, when I got my wits back, I did a bit more Googling and found out that the site was created waaaaay back when by Rob Keeble - the man behind AMSynth modules. I've since sent him an email to see wussup.

In the end, after all the searching, I didn't actually get my answer on whether this was actually the first MIDI compatible sequencer. But I had a fun time looking.  So, I'll have to take Roland's word for it. 

The rest of the brochure is classic Roland awesomeness. Big photos. Great diagrams. In a word, dreamy.

And, of course, a little bit of extra promotion on the back page. This time for their "newest" drum machine - the TR909, and also their Jupiter 6. Both include small descriptions and specifications.

Nice way to end a brochure. And a nice way to end a blog post. Time to enjoy today's great weather.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Akai S-612 "Sample a Sampler" ad, Keyboard 1986

Akai S-612 "Sample a Sampler" one page colour advertisement from page 61 in the July 1986 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

It's hard to believe I can ever forget how thick that July 1986 issue of Keyboard is. That is until the next time I have a good reason to pull it off the shelf again. We are talking over 170 pages of juicy Keyboard goodness  - this time with a big cover photo of Lyle Mays sitting in front of a big-ass Oberheim 8-Voice.

And whenever I do pull it off the shelf, I immediately forget that I have a blog post to write and end up sitting at the end of the bed flipping through the mag. Although I've probably gone through this issue of Keyboard cover-to-cover more than a dozen times, my eyes always find something new.

This time, I notice this one small little descriptive sentence used with the Keyboard News section in the table of contents:
"Synthesizer sales hit new high"
I immediately flip to the news page to find the info. According to the small article, imports of synthesizers, mini-keyboards and organs had increased over 890% over the last five years - from $21 million in 1980 to $280 million in 1985. With over 98% of these instruments coming from Japan.

My immediate thought was - man, the US must be pissed that Japan is importing all this synth-love. But then the article notes that the US industry was keeping up, with exports of American synthesizers and electric pianos rising 19% in number of units and 17% in value when compared to the previous year, "with increased shipments especially to Switzerland and Japan".

The same news page also had another little blurb on Roland gray marketers - something that Yamaha addressed in a full page "Special Announcement to Purchaser" advertisement back in the February 1984 issue:
"The war against gray marketers - unauthorized importers of electronic equipment - stepped up on March 28, when Roland filed suit against ABC International Traders. The suit alleges that ABC infringed the manufacturer's trademark and rights under the custom laws by selling equipment intended for sale in countries other than the U.S..."
Interesting stuff.

But enough about the magazine - how about this ad, eh? 

Finally! Akai's S-612 sampler getting some full-page solo loving. To date it had been relegated to a 1/2 page format - first in 85's black and white "Would you like a sampler...?" ad, and then in the first half of 1986 in the "Finally Sampling Made Simple" colour advertisement. To be fair, it also got to share the stage with it's synth brother the AX60, but this is the first time Akai had decided to give the S-612 its own full page space.

And for good reason to - the price. Sure, its the same $995 as in previous ads. But now the "optional" MD-280 disk drive is not-so-optional and is included WITH the sampler. According to the November 1985 Keyboard Report on the S-612, Akai was selling the MD-280 on its own for $299.00. (And, BTW, you could also get a set of 10 pre-recorded disks for $79.95 and a box of ten blank disks for $49.95.)

But now, that $995 gets you both the sampler and the disk drive. Not too shabby.

The ad itself isn't too shabby neither. We got a really nice to-the-point ad-title. A nice big photo of both the sampler and the disk drive - actually the best photo yet, showing off that legible front panel and all that is simple and great about the S612.

Again, Akai has chosen to (TM) the heck out of the term Sampler. In the ad-title. In the ad-copy. Everywhere. It actually gets a little tedious. But I guess when you are trying to protect a trademark, you can never go to far.

It brings back to mind (but in no way related except that lawyers were probably involved) the recent Jack Daniel's friendly cease and desist letter. If you happen to be friends with any PR people, no doubt they sent you an email with a link to this news item in another tedious attempt to show you how much of a PR expert they are. Oh wait, I sent that email around too. Ooops.   :)

But, as a collector, what I like most about this advertisement is the collateral material available - not just a demo-sampler cassette, but also a T-Shirt! When I see that, I start to drool on my keyboard, and while the keyboard is drying off, I have to add those items onto my list of collectable items.

To me, vintage synth t-shirts are right up there with belt buckets.