Thursday, May 13, 2021

Novation Drum Station brochure, 1996



Novation Drum Station four page colour brochure from approximately 1996.

So, it's looking like May could become Novation month. Well, the last half of May any way. I've been drilling down into their brochures and I'm really liking what I'm seeing. But first, a little house-keeping....

I haven't posted anything for almost a month a half. And that last post was my April Fools number - its been about two months since my last real post about the BassStation (one word).  I know I've had droughts before but this time I actually have a reason. I got a job. No really... a REAL job. Digital marketing of course. But this time with a dash of business development involved too.  Anywhooos, point being that time is becoming a little more limiting. Let's hope I can keep this going. Probably means keeping 'em short and sweet. 

Now back to this lovely brochure. 

After Novation's mind-blowing launch of the BassStation (one word) around 1993, it was hard to think they could follow it up with something that, personally, I found even more mind-blowing. Mind-melting even. That product - the Drum Station (two words). 

Novation called their sound creation system A.S.M. - short for Analogue Sound Modelling, and state in the brochure that the technology "re-created with stunning realism the original character and flexibility of the TR-808 and TR-909 drum sounds". Weirdly, although the acronym A.S.M. is peppered about the first half of the brochure, it isn't until halfway down the second page that we actually learn what it stands for. 

Instead of spending time on needless definitions, Novation decided to go straight to the jugular of P.C.M.-based systems on page one, explaining just how crappy and un-variable sampled sounds are. 

"Yesterday's analogue drum machines, while not as authentic sounding as today's digitally-sampled equivalents, have the character and warmth which PCM-based systems just can't seem to replace. What's more, a sampled version of an analogue drum sound loses all the variability of the original as the sound is "frozen" in just one of the myriad combinations of the editable parameters which the original machines offered." 

Bam! That's how you hit 'em where it hurts. 

The intro goes on to explain that this is why there has been a resurgence of analogue drum sounds (true) and that the TR-808 and TR-909 are the much sought after "dream machines" (also true). 

And with full control over parameters, these sounds could be as varied as the originals. 

So how did it sound...? Unlike the BassStation (one word), which I'm already on record saying it doesn't sound much like a TB-303, this thing was a dream machine. Sure, no sequencer - it had to be controlled through MIDI (and most likely a computer sequencer). But who cares. It cost a lot less than a TR-808 and TR-808 - even at 1995 prices. 

So yeah. Love it. 

The brochure itself is lovely too. A gorgeous front page that has the Drum Station (two words) floating over top a black reflective texture of some sort. Very reminiscent of Roland textures from their "We design the future" period of the 80s. Inside we have a really large photo spread of the front face, a cool block diagram and lots of juicy info. Back page - the specs in a black font in a large light yellow box with rounded corners. 

I mention the colour and shape of that box because I have an older version of this brochure that is slightly different. On the back page that box is square and black, with a white font. Exact same info in the exact same order. Just a different colour theme.

And that's not the only difference. This version of the brochure has that cool "Future Music Platinum Award" logo and blurb on the front page with a July 1996 date. The other version of the brochure doesn't have that award info, suggesting it probably came out earlier - maybe even 1995 when the machine was first released. 

If you can find one of these (the machine, not the brochure) for a decent price. Definitely worth picking up. Great sounds. Rack mountable. Lots of tweaking. 

Yum!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

MMC-202 "Understanding Technology Series" advertisement, Sequencers! Sequencers! Sequencers! Magazine 1983


MMC-202 "Understanding Technology Series" full page colour advertisement from page 263 of the 1983 Third Quarter issue of Sequencers! Sequencers! Sequencers! magazine.

Okay - what's not to love? The much loved MC-202 upgraded to MIDI?  

It was hardly a secret that just before the launch of MIDI, Roland was already nearing production of their MPU-401 Midi Processing Unit interface and breakout box for many brands of personal computers including Apple, Commodore, IBM/PC and AT... even the MSX and Sharp X1. But Roland's accompanying family of MSQ series hardware sequencers were still months away from production and they needed something out there fast. 

I can imagine the board meeting... 

Executive one: "We got all these MC-202 spare parts lying around!"

Executive two: "Remove the synth to make room to retrofit in some MPU-401 guts!"

Executive three: "Slap an extra "M" on to the name". 

Well... job well done, dammit!

Design-wise, this MCC-202 advertisement follows along the evolutionary path of many of Roland's other "Understanding Technology Series" advertisements, appearing shortly after the TR-808 and TB-303/TS-404 ads from the same time period. 

   

Sadly, this MMC ad was the last in the series to appear in print - a fitting end and big F-U to CV/Gate and a big hello to MIDI. 

Sure, the MSQ series, and in particular the MSQ-700 is always getting the spotlight when it comes to early Roland hardware MIDI sequencers, so not to many people choose to remember that when Roland founder Ikutaro Kakehashi and Sequential bossman Dave Smith unveiled the MIDI standard in 1983, it was Kakehashi who whipped out the new MMC-202 MIDI sequencer from his backpack the following day to a boothful of surprised music journalists and musicians. Walking over to the Sequential booth with MMC in hand, he connected it to the Sequential Circuits Prophet-600 and Roland Jupiter 6 that had just been connected and showed what MIDI could do. 

Kakehashi was soon touring with the MMC-202 where ever he was invited, demonstrating the little sequencer along with some of Japan's most notorious DJs.  It was no surprise that these demos led to over two years worth of huge sales  throughout Belgium as well as the Long and McQuade in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Cute little ergonomic buttons. Easy to program. What's not to love. <3

Friday, March 19, 2021

Novation BassStation "Analogue for the 90s" brochure, 1994

 


 

  


Novation BassStation "Analogue for the 90s" six page full colour brochure from 1994.

So... I decided to just randomly pull out a brochure. When I reached my hand in, all I knew was that I was in the "Kawai" - "Oberheim" section of the shelves, but that was it. 

The result? 

Novation BassStation! 

Not Bass Station. Not Bassstation. 

BassStation. 

Now, before I get into a bit of history, I thought I'd explain my scan placements above. This is one of those (technically termed) crazy-fold brochures. So, the top scan is the front page. When you open up that front page to the right, you see the two pages I've put up next. Then, what happens is you flip that second page out to the right (again), revealing two more inside pages - so I've got the second page again, but this time it's shown with pages 4 and 5 as it would if laid out in front of you. And finally the back page.

Get it? Good. 

I remember when this sweet machine came on the scene in 1993 - is was around the time that "Big Synth" was starting to dig the vintage stylez again. For example, in 1991 Roland rolled out the JD-800 with its distinctly analog-style interface. Used analog synth prices were also starting to rise (we complained back then!). 

And all of a sudden... Boom. Novation, outta what seemed like nowhere, pulls the covers off their BassStation. 

To hear Novation tell the story...

"When creating Bass Station, synthesiser developer Chris Huggett took the outer shell of MM10 and added the same Filter and VCA as his now legendary Wasp synthesiser to develop an instrument with it’s own unique sound and instant pedigree."

Nice. Wasp guts are cool. 

But what's not so nice? Novation's own use of  the two-word "Bass Station" in that online article ON THEIR OWN SITE. Wussup with that? I want consistency, dammit!

Anywho - it wasn't the Wasp guts that me and so many others were drooling over... it was the idea that this thing could sound like a 303!

More from the article 

"It was particularly celebrated for its ability to mimic the Roland TB303: a synthesiser that played a crucial role in the development of contemporary electronic dance music and helped define house music as we know it today." 

And those 303s were really starting to rise in price. An analogue MIDI synth that could sound like a 303 brought stars to my eyes.

But did it really sound like a 303? 

REALLY?

Look, I have two TB-303s, and a wack of clones. And when people ask me about my views on the clones I'm usually pretty generous with my compliments. "They are close enough" sums up most of my remarks.  

So... the BassStation? 

Close enough.  ;)

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.