Big Briar Inc. Model 231 Touch Ribbon "Play Expressive Leads With A Touch Of Your Finger" black and white 1/4-page advertisement from the bottom-right corner of page 24 in the April 1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine.
Here, for your enjoyment (and mine!), is another Big Briar (Bob Moog, President and owner) advertisement. Back in January I had post two other hip and happenin' Big Briar alternative controller 1/4-pagers - the Model 331 Touch Controller and Model 500 Theremin Controller.
[click the images above to view the blog posts and higher-res images]
This time around we got your classic touch ribbon controller - with two independent control voltages. One by sliding your finger along the ribbon (usually pitch) and another by varying finger pressure. Nice.
The actual touch ribbon device is hard to make out in the ad photo, but a few attempts at Google searches didn't bring up any other images of the 231. Boooo!
One of the main reasons I was really excited to post this ad was that I was going to make my first real Retro Synth Ads' video using my Moog 956 ribbon controller and my Moog Modular that just got serviced by a tech that I recently found in the city that does great analog synth work (techs are getting harder and harder to find in my neck of the woods). But, believe it or not, as I was carrying the ribbon controller between rooms, I accidentally caught the ribbon on something and snapped it right at the end connection point. Gah.
Dumb - and probably expensive - move.
Good thing I just found a great tech. I know what's next on my list to bring over there. :)
So, instead of a lovely video, I thought I would explain why I finally had to take my Moog Modular into the shop in the first place.
First, I gotta say, I've had very very very good luck with my Moog Modular over the years. The thing is older than me and has been to the doctor much much less. But, last time I set it up for some super-fun-Electribe-sampler-time, I noticed that the keyboard wasn't triggering the gate within the modular. CV was getting through. Just not the gate.
Now, before I get into the problem-solving aspects of the modular, I should probably explain a bit about how controllers are connected to this beast of a beast.
This modular can connect up to three controllers (keyboard, ribbon, etc) through the back of the main cabinet. The three connectors are rather large 8-pin "military" Amphenol connectors that look right out of a Terminator movie. My tech guy was actually a little surprised when he saw them. He is a calm dude, but I noticed his eyes get slightly wider when he saw them.
Below is a photo of the back of the cabinet with the connectors labelled 1-3. The other two 10-pin connectors push power to other cabinets (I have one extra cabinet, and you can read more information about my particular modular including its modules in this blog post.
When you connect a keyboard or ribbon controller through the back of the machine to one of the first two connectors, you can then use the 911-902 coupling switch panel on the front of the modular to direct the particular controller's cv and gate to either the "left" or "right" VCA and "left" or "right"envelope without the need of patch or trigger cables. In the photo below, you can see the switches on the left side of the modular.
So, for example, if you have the keyboard connected into controller #2 on the back of the cabinet, you can then use the white switches to route the trigger of #2 to either the "left" or "right" envelope and use the green switches to connect the selected envelope generator to the "left" or "right" voltage controlled amplifier. Like I said, a few less patch cords and trigger cables getting in the way.
In the photo above, on the right side of the front panel, you can also see the "pitch-trig" panel. The three sets are direct outs for the "pitch" (CV) and "trigger" outputs of the connectors at the back - so that you can have full modular control of the signals to any module using patch and trigger cables.
Okay, now that we know the background, back to the problem: gate wasn't getting from the keyboard into the triggers for 1, 2 or 3. CV was working fine.
I'd tested all the actual modules before taking it in and they were working fine on their own, so we figured the most likely culprit was the keyboard. Familiarizing ourselves with the schematic diagrams for the 950 Keyboard Controller, he opened the keyboard up first.
After a bit of testing, and a few missteps, we realized that the keyboard was actually functioning fine. A few electrical components that looked a little iffy were replaced and we closed 'er right back up.
Logically, we figured that there must be a problem with the cabinet itself, so we opened 'er up next. First from the back, and then the front-bottom. Again, familiarizing ourselves with the various schematics, he began testing all the connections to ensure that correct signals and voltages were getting through the system.
|back - notice the empty upper row|
that would have housed the
|front bottom - totally open. Hinges on|
the bottom row of panels makes
for easy access.
We were scratching our heads.
And then we both kinda turned our heads towards the connector cable itself. I think we both mentally slapped ourselves in the forehead.
Sure enough, when he opened up the connector he found the wires stripped and tightly twisted around each other from my obvious continued mishandling during set up and take down over the years. Below is a photo of the connector after he cut the end of the wires off. After a quick stripping and re-soldering of the wires, everything worked like a charm.
It's always the little things eh? But at least we got to test a lot of the system and determined everything was still running smoothly.
Well, if you are still reading, I'd like to point out those two empty power connectors in of photo of the open back of the modular. That can only mean one thing...
Time to go on the hunt for more Moog modules.