Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Roland TR-727 drum machine "The Rhythm Composer that keeps you in the groove..." brochure, 1985





 

Roland TR-727 drum machine "The Rhythm Composer that keeps you in the groove..." four page colour brochure from October 1985. 

Hey! Has it really been 20 days since 707 Day!?!?! Well golly-geeeee! 

Happy 727 day, peeps!

No better way of celebrating than by scanning this lovely beast from the archives. (Yes, I also flinched when I used the word "beast" to describe a vintage brochure of a vintage drum machine). But there ya go. What's done is done.

The 1984-1986 period was an awkward one for drum machines. It was like watching your teenager go through puberty. You wanted to look away, but had to keep one eye on 'em to ensure no one got anyone else pregnant, make sure they washed their face, and wait it out until they grew into a fully (semi) functioning adult. 

In the case of drum machines, it was watching them make that transition from analog to digital, while keeping one eye on the cost of memory as it slowly came down.

Okay, not the best analogy. Let's just say there was a lot going on and a lot of moving parts. 

As 1984 ticked by and 1985 reared its ugly teen-age head out of the bedroom after a three day binge of Fortnite and McD's, it was just a matter of time before the intersection between the cost of memory and the cost of manufacturing hit that sweet spot. Someone got the bright idea that they could just swap out the digital sounds in a drum machine they had already manufactured, give the casing a new paint job, and slap it on the back, out the door, onto music store shelves.

And to that end, we had Boss come out with their Super Drums (DM-110) and Super Percussion (DM-220), Yamaha with their RX21 and RX21L, and of course Roland with their TR-707 and TR-727. 

Each pair housed in VERY similarly manufactured boxes, with their sounds switched out for alternative percussion sounds. 

It was an interesting and short-lived (experiment) solution to keeping the price-point of your drum machine down until memory came down to the point you could start really backing one single machine with tons of sounds. If I recall, it was Boss/Roland that managed to get their percussion-based boxes out the door before Yamaha, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. 

Anyways, enough about those other two - I've got brochure scans ready to rock for a later date. Today is the day to let the 727 shine. 

Quickly - we've got the classic Roland "We design the future" layout. Cover with large font up top and sexy photo on the bottom. And what a sexy photo this is - pairing the 727 with the Octapad PAD-8, looking longingly at each other in the subdued lighting. I can here the TR-727 softly whispering "come hither". Put some lace on that PAD-8 and this could be a Harlequin Romance book cover. Just saying. 

Let's face it, Roland was expecting a large audience of the 727 to be trained percussionists, and as a friend of many percussionists, I can tell you that they love to hit things. The PAD-8 becomes the perfect companion for programming a TR-727. Although with the rigid timing of the 727, it possibly could have ended up to be more frustrating in the end. 

With their interest peaked, the reader slowly opens the cover to reveal the inside pages. And it doesn't disappoint. The Roland TR font makes me so happy, as do the large photo and diagrams included! What's interesting is the shear amount of text packed into those pages - especially on the right page. 

So much so, that they really had to compromise the negative space of the pages to fit it all in there. 

Compare it to the 707 brochure and you can see what I mean. Subtitles are crowded in the 727 brochure, and even the line spacing of the paragraphs seem claustrophobic. 

But now I'm just quibbling. It's still lovely. 9.5/10. 

Now flip to the back page and we have that PAD-8 again. Coming back for some more of that sweet sweet 727 lovin'. And it looks like it brought it's friend along for a good time. 

Bow-chicka-wow-wow. 

The perfect upsells. 

Have a safe and happy 727 day. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Roland TR-707 drum machine "A brand new digital drum machine" brochure, 1985



Roland TR-707 drum machine's "A brand new digital drum machine from Roland "four page colour brochure from March 1985. 

Hey there! Happy 707 Day. My fifth happiest day after 303 Day, 808 Day, 909 Day and 606 Day. Oh wait... 202 Day. And 101 Day. Wait. 272 Day. Okay, my eighth happiest day of the year. 

But its still a great day! It beat our 358 or so other days. Not too shabby. 

All that aside... let's keep this short and sweet. Just like the 16 beat patterns found on this thing. 

Based on the classic "We Design The Future" brochure style of the period for Roland, this thing is gorgeous. It hits all the right notes. Large images. lots of breathing room. Cool red laser effect when you flip open the brochure. A marble. Yeah... even the marble. 

Like many of the other brochures in this series, the cover has a theme - in this case, some kind of metal thingy behind the 707. It's actually a little freaky on the eyes, ain't it? But that don't matter, because as soon as you open the brochure, you get that large image of the TR-707 and lots of info including the specs. 

But even better than the marble and lazer found on those inside pages is the back page. Because here we have the lovely older brothers of the the 707 - the TR-909 and TR-606. I love that even as MIDI started overtaking previous sync standards, Roland kept that fire burning under the TR-606. I can't fault them for that (606 Day beats 707 Day by three other days!!!

Like I said. Short and sweet. because I have a job now. A real one. And its fun too. 

Have a safe 707 Day! Enjoy!



Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Novation Super Bass Station brochure, 1997


Novation Super Bass Station four page colour brochure from 1997.

Sure, the BassStation was (is) cool. So what could be cooler? The SUPER Bass Station.

Want to know what is not cool though. For the follow-up, Novation decided to make BassStation two words. Super. Bass. Station. 

Grrrr....

Okay - with that out of the way. The first thing I need to point out is that I love Novation's consistency (except for that whole name thing). This looks amazingly similar to the Drum Station brochure I posted previously. Same design inside and out. 

Just look... two peas in a pod.

Front page: Same "floating gear on black reflective texture" look to it. 

But, unlike the Drum Station, this Super Bass Station brochure has not one, but TWO awards. The Future Music Platinum Award and The Mix Editor's Choice Award. Both from 1997, which is how I dated the brochure. 

The inside pages are also follow the exact same format too. Large image. Diagram and text. But I find the blue theme in this SBS brochure much more appealing. 

Even the back page has the specs in the same type of box as the Drum Station brochure. 

So, what made the Super Bass Station... so... er... super? 

Well, according to Wikipedia... 
"Super BassStation (1997) added an arpeggiator, noise source, ring modulator, an additional LFO bringing the complement to two, a sub-oscillator (an octave below Oscillator 1), analogue chorus and distortion effects, keyboard filter tracking, stereo outputs and panning, enhanced memory, analogue trigger signal output and more to the original design."
First, even Wikipedia wants to make BassStation one word. You are wise, Wiki... you are wise. 

Second... 

"and more...?" 

Okay, make me do some work. 

Looking at the specs from both the BassStation (one word) and Super Bass Station (three words), one other thing jumps out at me almost immediately...  

The envelope times have been increased quite a bit!

BassStation (one word)
Attack time: 1 ms to 5 sec
Decay Time: 3 ms to 10 secs
Release Time: 3 ms to 10 secs.

Super Bass Station (three words): 
Attack time: 500 us to 20 secs
Decay time: 1 ms - 20 secs
Release 1 ms - 20 secs. 

Nice.

There is one other thing that stood out - the Super Bass Station (three words) lost their CV and Gate inputs. There are only outputs now! But, I guess to make up for it, Novation added that Clock Out to sync that lovely new arpeggiator they added in. Fair trade I guess.  

Interesting comment about the arpeggiator. Novation specifically markets it inside the brochure as: 
"over 100 Arpeggiator patterns  - TB-303 types with slides through to 9/8 and shuffle." 
Okay, I get why they want to keep promoting this as a TB-303 sounding device. But really? 

REALLY?

:)

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