Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Rivera Music Services Engineering Brief and Photo Sheet for Minimoog Modifications, 1980





Rivera Music Services 12-page Engineering Brief and Photo Sheet for Minimoog Modifications from January 3, 1980.

Engineering brief also available as a PDF (4MB).

It's a lot of text, sure, but if you are a Minimoog modding freak or just a modding addict in general it's well worth the read!

These scans all began (that rhymed!) when someone in the Moog Fan Club Facebook group asked if anyone had a close-up photo of the Rivera Music Services (RMS) Chromatic Transpose Minimoog mod. I knew I had a glossy photo sheet of a fully modded RMS Minimoog somewhere that I could get a sweet close-up scan from, so I went digging and in the same sleeve was this engineering brief as well.

And what do you know... it comes with a price sheet. That's some historical gold, right there. And a good reason to scan everything and post. :)

A lot of the content of the engineering brief actually appears in the "RMS Modified Minimoog" brochure that I posted about a year and a half ago. But there's a lot that's different too, including prices!

So, it made sense to do a small comparison between the two docs... and I guess readers of the blog are coming along for the ride.

For a start, the engineering brief contains a whole new first section of mods called "Updates" that RMS said would increase the stability and reliability of a stock Minimoog. This included options for:
  • New stabilized oscillator board - $320
  • Octave range buffers - $70
  • Power supply updates I - $80 and II  - $40
  • service check $55
*None* of those are listed in the brochure! Excellent stuff.

The next section in the brief is called "Custom Features", with an array of options that "provide new and unique sounds, functions, and control capabilities". This includes a number of features also found in the brochure I posted earlier. I've included prices for each feature with brochure prices in brackets for comparison:
  • Fine tune control:
    Osc 2 - $40  (brochure: $55)
    Osc 3 - $40  (brochure: $55)
    Master tune  - $40  (not in brochure)
  • Beat tune  - $105 ($89)
  • Ribbon controller with pitch wheel reassignment  - $190 (not in brochure)
  • Chromatic transpose with assignment switches  - $185  (brochure: $189)
  • Preamp mode - $35 (brochure:  $29.50)
  • Distortion - $50 (brochure: $49.50)
  • Sync (Osc 2 and 3) - $170 (brochure $174.95)
  • Contour (Osc 2 and 3) - $100 (brochure $79.50)
  • LFO 4 - $150 / $180 with LED (brochure $149 includes LED)
  • Modulation pedal  - $90 (not in brochure)
  • Keyboard trigger  - $125 (brochure $129)
The final section in the brief is called the "Interface Capabilities" which added features to allow your Mini to "patches involving other synthesizers, controllers, processors and studio equipment. Again, most of these were available at the time the brochure came out as well:
  • External CV assignment - $90 (brochure $129.50)
  • Oscillators, filter, and keyboard CV and date outputs - $200 (brochure $124.50)
  • V-trig to S-trig conversion cable - $40 (brochure has built this into the Mini as a V-trig input jack  - $49.50)
  • Separation of keyboard and console - $250 (not in brochure)
I originally estimated the date of the brochure at 1981, and I was hoping I could compare prices to this engineering brief dated January 1980 to get a better date estimate. I figured if prices in the brochure were higher, then an '81 date would still make sense. If prices were lower, then I'd probably date the brochure a bit earlier... maybe 1979 or even 1978 

But they aren't uniformly more or less when compared! For example, the Fine Tune Control mod costs less in the brief than in the brochure, but Beat Tune mod costs more in the brief than in the brochure. Gah! 

It's also interesting to note a few features from the brief don't appear at all in that brochure - the whole service section, but also the modulation pedal, keyboard separation, and the ribbon controller. The pedal and ribbon controller are just external hardware I believe, no real "modding required", so I can see those being left out just to give more space to actual mods. 

And the separation of the keyboard from the synth is not really a mod - its more a massacre of sorts and probably couldn't really be done by your friendly neighbourhood tech. So that, and all those service mods could probably be excluded from the brochure without too much worry too. 

But still... I like consistency. Maybe some future RMS docs will help me out. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Roland Synth Plus 60 (HS-60) "A synthesizer for all music lovers" brochure, 1985



Roland Synth Plus-60 (HS-60) "A synthesizer for all music lovers" four page colour brochure from August 1985.

Some synths just don't get the respect they deserve. And I believe the Synth Plus-60 is the Rodney Dangerfield of synthesizers.

Here's what I'm talking about... the model designations found on the back of Roland's Jupiter range of synthesizers are JP-8, JP-6 and JP-4. But everyone and their mother refers to them by their front panel names - Jupiter 8 / Jupiter 6 / Jupiter 4.

Now compare that to the Synth Plus-60 with its lovely large flowing logo found under the right speaker on it's front panel? Pretty much every one and their dog refers to it as the "HS-60" - the model number hammered into the manufacturing label slapped on to the back of the keyboard.

Interesting side note: the JP-style model-naming convention was kept for the JU-6, more commonly referred to by everyone on the planet by its front panel name - the Juno-6.  But then Roland changed  up the model designation format. The Juno-60 model # you'll find on the manufacturing label is the actual name: JUNO-60. Same for the Juno-106: JUNO-106.

So then why oh why did Roland go back to the old model naming convention for the Synth Plus-60 and give this the ol' "HS-60" designation? And, even then why "HS" and not "SP" (for "Synth Plus"??)?  Inquiring minds want to know!

Back to the point - shouldn't that poor ol' Synth Plus-60 get the respect it deserves and be commonly referred to as such - SYNTH PLUS-60?  Even the big red letters on this brochure's cover makes it obvious that it was Roland's preferred name.

To make matters worse, this thing is basically a Juno-106 - that sought-after HIGHLY RESPECTED classic! But even back in the early days of the Internet, whenever I read info about the Juno-106 was mentioned on mailing lists like Analog Heaven or in groups like rec.music.synth, I would only see whispers about the HS-60.

No respect, I say!

So, why the diss? Well, I have my theory: 

Those damn speakers.  

They are a physical representation of everything professional studio snobs hate - THE HOME HOBBYIST.  

Technology has now advanced to the point where everyone is home hobbyist. They just have a different name now - Desktop musician. Or Producer. But at the time, it seems like Roland saw this emerging trend and came up with the HS-60 as one of their marketing experiments to get higher quality studio gear into the living room. 

The brochure itself illustrates how the company clearly went out of its way to market to the non-studio crowd. In other words, those in the house that wanted to create music, but may not have been comfortable around all those studio gadgets. 

For comparison, just take a look at these 1982 brochures for the SH-101 and Rhythm Machines  (click to view the blog posts and scans). 


   

Same lovely design format with big red letters and a large product image, but no booze or cool marble motifs. Nope! They've been swapped out for a classic "home style" theme that even included an obligatory house plant. 

(For the record, I love house plants.) 

The brochure copy fortifies the imagery found on the front cover with phrases like "simplicity and power", "naturally master" and "express your feelings". Words that invoke emotions that are just as comfortable in the living room as that photo of the HS-60 obviously is.

While other synthesizers at the time were praised for their ability to make space-age sounds, the HS-60 is compared to organ sounds and string instruments. Even when the topic of midi technology eventually makes its way onto the inside pages, references to the piano are listed before references to synthesizers or drum machines. 

But, here's the problem. Home hobbyists consciously or subconsciously want to be seen as professional musicians and studio engineers. That may be even more true today.  And slapping speakers and a sheet music stand onto a professional synthesizer probably didn't help those home hobbyists feel more "professional". So, the niche market that would be attracted to the Synth Plus-60 becomes even more... errrr.... niche-y. That would have been a tough nut to crack! 

So, will the Synth Plus-60 ever get the respect it deserves? This is a fully functional synth. With MIDI. And an external input. Except those damn speakers...

Well, Roland has built a whole new series of synths and drum machines that include built-in speakers - the Boutique series. 

But, they do hide those speakers, don't they.  Long Live the HS-60!     :)