Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Roland "Roland Rhythm Machines & Sequencers Vol. 1" catalog, 1985


 

 

 

Roland "Roland Rhythm Machines & Sequencers Vol. 1" eight page full colour catalog from March 1985.

Happy 303 day! The most happiest of happiest days! 

I'm gonna try and get a little 303 video ditty created before March 3 (I did - and posted!), but figured I'd scan something a little bigger than the normal one page advert or four page brochure and yap a little bit less about it. 

So here we have Volume 1 of the "Roland Rhythm Machines & Sequencers" catalog, containing not just the lovely TB-303, but also the TR-707, TR-909, TR-606, CR-8000 & CR-5000, SBX-80, MSQ-100 & MSQ-700, and JSQ-60. Say all that in one breath. 

One of the most interesting things about this brochure is the date - 1985. Roland was well on their way pushing the new MIDI standard, but they still had a few of their DCB and DIN devices on display.

But even more interesting is the inclusion of the TB-303. Most online resources would tell you that 303 production stopped, and the rest of the stock was sold off cheaply in 1984... so to see it pop up in a 1985 brochure makes me more than a little happy. Someone in a 1985 boardroom was saying "This MIDI thing is really taking off... but... just... in... case... we still have a few more of those 303s kicking around out there, let's put it in a catalog one more time. 

Enough yapping. Back to 303'ing. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

ARP "WonderArp" ad, Down Beat Magazine 1973

 

ARP "WonderArp" half-page black and white advertisement from page 25 in the June 21, 1973 issue of Down Beat Magazine.

To date, I've posted three of the many many ARP ads that were popping up in Downbeat magazine during the 1970s. Each one very unique, but yet they all go together like peas in a pod.

These include a '74 Jimmy Page as well as '75 Carpenters and Pete Townshend ads. Aren't they gorgeous?



Now here's a forth, much earlier 1973 ad featuring Stevie Wonder and the ARP 2600. It's much simpler in design and although it still has the 'call to action' mail-in portion, its not that distinctive circular design with the ARP logo bullseye we see in later ads. 

More interesting that the design is what's available in those mail-in sections. In the WonderARP ad we get checkboxes for:

  • send me everything you've got on all the ARP synthesizers, including free demo record
  • $6.00 for the 2600 manual
  • $1.00 for Odyssey manual
  • $9.95 (regularly $14.95) for a 45-minute cassette course on playing the Odyssey live
In the Carpenters and Jimmy Page ads, we get three choices
  • $9.95 cassette (as above)
  • free demo record
  • free full colour catalog. 
And finally, in the Pete Townshend ad we still get three choices, but they include a new item!
  • 213 page "learning music with synthesizers" for $7.50 plus 50 cents postage and handling
  • $3.00  "Who's ARP" silkscreened poster
  • free ARP demo record and catalog
From a collector's point of view, this is a treasure trove of information on what's floating around out there - and I'm always on the look out (for a half-decent price).

Demo records and manuals I got... but those other items... woooooo-weeee! I want 'em all.

First, there's that cassette on learning to play the Odyssey live. Never seen it in real life... but someone's gone to the trouble of taking what I believe is the cassette tape created by Roger Powell and published by ARP in 1973 and added pics from an ARP booklet to create a video. They've plopped it up on Vimeo - you can click on what I believe is the cassette cover below to hear the cassette.



The second item of interest is that "Who's ARP" poster. I've only seen one or two pop up in online auctions, like this photo I found online. 


The third document that catches my interest and I've never been able to get my hands on is that 213-page "Learning music with synthesizers" book. And even if I had it in my collection - fat chance of me scanning it. I can't sit still long enough to scan 213 pages! Go talk to mu:zines... patience of a saint, that one... (shout out!)

Luckily for all of you, if you had done a quick search online chances are you would have found a scanned copy like I did over at thesnowfields.com (PDF). Not the best quality, but a fun read if you are into that sort of thing. :)

Here's an image of the front cover of the second edition from 1974. 


Written by David Friend, Alan R. Pearlman and Thomas D. Piggott, the book is based on programming the ARP Odyssey but, as said in the preface by Mr. Friend, "the theory and techniques can generally be applied to any synthesizer". And he's not wrong. Filled with tons of diagrams and drawings, the book is broken up into three parts - Theory, Operation and Applications. Like I said... a good read. 

Now that I've got those out of my system... back to scanning...

And I've scanned one page. That's enough for today.

Friday, February 12, 2021

ARP / Mu-tron price lists, 1980



ARP / Mu-tron price lists from January 1, 1980.

Given that I'm a HUGE fan of price lists, you'd think that I would have pushed this out the door a lot sooner, but I just never got around to it.  Even more surprising, I'm not gonna focus on the prices at all*.

* I reserve the right to change my mind

Instead, when I looked back at these scans I became more curious to the relationship between Musitronics and ARP, and quickly found that the history isn't remotely close to being as bright and rosy as I had wanted it to be. 

TO summarize... according to Wikipedia, Mu-tron, short for Musitronics, was a musical effects company founded by Mike Beigel and Aaron Newman in 1972. Beigel was an engineer who had been working on a synth project at Guild Guitar Company when the president of the company was killed in an accident. The new president wasn't as interesting in synths (what the heck?!?!) so Beigel and another former engineer new Newman from GGC, pulled the envelope filter outta that synth and called it the Mu-Tron III. 

By 1979 Musitronics had 35 employees and was churning out a number of effects units out of a retrofitted chicken coop. Eventually, they decided to sell to ARP Instruments on a royalty basis, but unfortunately ARP folded in 1980, before they could collect any money. 

Okay, I summarized a lot. 

But even if my severely summarized ditty isn't bumming you out enough already, Musitronics tried to keep going as Gizmo Incorporated, but it ended when Aaron Newman suffered a heart attack.

FACK.

I hate everything about this story. But the connect between these two companies is important history, the details of which we don't hear much about. So, here are two scans to help keep those companies connected just a little bit longer.

Okay - let's end this on a happy note - LOOK AT THOSE ARP SYNTHS.

There - much better. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Roland "We design the future" MC-202 Microcomposer brochure, 1983











Roland "We design the future" MC-202 Microcomposer 8-page colour brochure from 1983.

Happy 2/02 day! And I got a doozy for ya. Behold the magnificent MC-202 "We design the future" brochure.

Over the last couple of weeks, we've heard a lot of about hedging. In particular, GameStop's share price skyrocketing, messing with hedge funds that poured huge amounts of cheddar into shorting Gamestop's stock. And then those hedge funds having to hedge those shorts by buying stock at an ever increasing price, making the stock go even higher. Or, at least that's how I understood it. Don't @ me if I'm wrong.

Point is... Hedge. And I'm thinking this MC-202 brochure is kinda symbolic of Roland's hedge against MIDI. I'm not saying Roland was against MIDI - NOT AT ALL! They were definitely on the forefront of the technology. I just think, like any good company would and should, they were hedging their bets. 

More on that in a bit. But first, for some background info (and because its simply amazing!), we need to flip through the brochure.

Like most of the "We design the future" brochures, we get that classic front page - a large red title, large artistic image, that lovely logo top left. Flip to page 2 and 3, and we continue Roland's classic brochure format with a large image of the featured piece of gear and some great marketing info. Yum!

But then something weird happens. We turn the page to what should be the back of the brochure.

WHAT THE? 

More info? That's right - no back page here. Instead we get two more pages on how to use the MC-202 specifically. So awesome. Lot's of diagrams. Lot's of info. Read through that an you are pretty much an expert on programming the MC-202. 

*throws manual in garbage* Thank you very much. 

Okay...  NOW let's flip the page and take a look at what's on that back page...

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! EVEN MORE INFO!

First a page titled "Play Bach" that puts those programming chops we just memorized on the previous two pages to work to actually churn out some Bach on the MC-202. No kidding.   And across the street we get a page devoted to the "Expandability of the MC-202" which includes a Who's Who list of kick-butt Roland products while describing what's going on on the back panel of the 202.  

Wicked. 

Then. FINALLY. We turn the page and get the classic brochure back page that Roland is known for. Info on Roland's TB-303, TR-606 and SH-101. 

Interestingly, all these devices on that page have one thing in common (besides being Roland gear):  

No MIDI. 

MIDI was just around the corner and by 1983 Roland, who was a big developer of MIDI technology, had already started on the design of Roland's first MIDI interface - the MPU-401. But what if MIDI didn't take off? What if it was a dud? 

I believe Roland spent significantly more resources, print ink and page real estate on this MC-202 brochure to hedge that MIDI bet. I realize, in the grand scheme of things, the cost of this brochure would pale in comparison to the cost of the development of that MPU-401 interface. It's really more of a symbolic hedge after spending significantly more money on developing Roland's next gen non-MIDI gear - the TB-303, TR-606 and SH-101. 

Yeah, sure, I have no data to back any of this up. It's just a hunch. 

But I did just hedge my comment by saying I have no data to back any of this up. :)


Aaaaah. Hedging.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Roland MKS-50 Polyphonic Synthesizer Module "The newest Juno synthesizer..." brochure, 1987





Roland MKS-50 Polyphonic Synthesizer Module  "The newest Juno synthesizer..." four page colour brochure from 1987.

Oh man - first post of 2021 - and what a way to start! The MKS-50!

Like the Alpha Juno 1/2 brochure that came out the previous year, and that I blogged about back in September 2019, this little feller follows Roland's classic (and consistent) "We design the future"... eeeer... design. My favourite part being a lovely front page that includes a large title and creatively placed featured piece of gear.

In this case the MKS-50 is floating above what looks to be silvery sheets of paper of some sort. This ties back nicely with the photograph used on that Alpha Juno brochure where the two synths are sitting on top of a similar type of paper.  

Okay - let's talk about the elephant in the room. That huge burn mark that starts on the front page, and actually makes it's way to the second and third page as well. It was sent to me this way. Honest. I don't even smoke. Now, usually I would do a little photoshop magic to remove these types of blemishes, but in this case I kept it in. Sure, that's partly laziness on my part, but also because its indicative of how many brochures are sent to me in this type of condition and, well, I kinda cool in its own way. This brochure has seen some dark times. It encapsulates 2020.  Poor thing. 

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure the MKS-50 was my first Roland module. I had a a few Roland keyboard synths including an Alpha Juno 2 at the time, but as space started getting slim, I began to actively hunt down rack version of synths that I already had and then would dump the keyboard version when I found it's rack equivalent. And it was when I stumbled across what eventually became my MKS-50 that I first came in contact with another most incredible piece of gear - the PG-300 Programmer (it's in the brochure, too!). 

I cannot stress enough how important Roland programmers were to me and many of my friends. You gotta understand that many synths from this time period replaced the visual feedback that came with one-control per function operation for some type of small display - the DX-7, Sequential Six-Trak, Korg DW synths, Kawai K's... the list goes on.  The Alpha at least had the giant alpha wheel to help quickly dial in the specific parameter you were looking for, but it was still annoying as heck.   

Having that PG-300 gave me the immediate visual feedback I'd been missing with the Alpha Juno - and I was hooked! And it's built like the MKS-50 - like a tank! I started tracking down other programmers for my other synths, managing to grab the PG-800 for my MKS-70 as well as the PG-1000 for my D-550 before the secret was out of the bag and prices of the programmers started to skyrocket. Never managed to grab an MPG-80 programmer for my MKS-80 and now that prices are hovering around the $2000 mark, chances are slim I'm ever gonna get one. 

I don't even think there are any hardware alternatives. I've read that the Virus TI can be programmed to pump out the right sysex to program an MKS-80, but like I've already stated above... I'm lazy. 

And don't even start on software editors. Ugh.