Monday, April 27, 2015

Aries Music Inc. AR-328 Stereo Reverb and Output module "Make some space for your sounds!" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Aries Music Inc. AR-328 Stereo Reverb and Output module "Make some space for your sounds" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from page 46 in the March 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

It's been almost three years since I've blogged about Aries and their ads. Too long.... too long...

As I've mentioned in the past, Aries ads fell into two main categories - general ads about Aries instruments and ads dedicated to the promotion of individual modules. Aries AR-328 reverb module is the second individual module from Aries to be promoted in Contemporary Keyboard magazine. The first module showed up in the magazine four months earlier in November 1977 and interestingly was also an effects module, labeled "a first of its kind" - a voltage-controllable phase/flange module. (see image right --->)

That first module-specific ad didn't really have too much to say, but this second AR-328 reverb module ad is another story - the ad copy, over time, has become historically interesting for a few reasons.

The first is that it directly mentions the designer of the module - Ron Rivera. According to several sources on the Web including former Aries employee Mark Styles in a "tell me more about Aries modulars" thread on Muff Wigglers, Ron "started doing modifications, and then went on to design some modules" for Aries.

Ken Perrin, commenting on an August 2006 MATRIXSYNTH auction post thread for what can only be described as a mutant ARP/Aries modular monster built by Rivera, said that "Ron Rivera worked at Arp and designed many of the later modules for the Aries Synthesizer. Ron's company was called Rivera Music Services (RMS) and in addition to designing the Aries modules Ron designed a series of modifications and enhancements to the Arp 2600 and the mini-Moog". Indeed, a few RMS ads popped up in Keyboard magazine in the early eighties.

So, that's kinda cool.

Another historical reference in the ad is for a company called O. C. Electronics. "2 Cascade spring delays by O. C. Electronics are included -- giving this the cleanest and most realistic reverb we have found anywhere." A quick Google search brought up some great info on the company.

Accu-Bell Sound Inc's Web site includes a highly information "History of Spring Reverberation" page that includes some great information on the formation of O.C. Electronics from the previously Hammond-owned Gibbs Manufacturing in Jansville, Wisconsin in 1971. When Hammond moved their reverb production to another facility [called Accutronics] "employees at Gibbs decided to start their own reverb manufacturing company called O.C. Electronics, giving Accutronics major competition in the reverb market."

According to the site, O.C. Electronics was known by many service technicians because "of the popular sticker attached to each of their units stating: Made by Beautiful Woman in Janesville, Wisconsin."

Sure enough, another quick Google search brings up this slightly uncomfortable label image from an discussion thread:

Apparently there are "beautiful girls" in Milton, Wisconsin too.

Its hard to make out the actual 238 module in the ad photo. So comes to the rescue with some great hi-res photos of theAR-328 module itself, including side views with the circuit board. The site's general Aries page is also very informative.

Interestingly, the O. C. Electronics label on the reverb unit itself  does NOT have the "beautiful girls" sticker.

Maybe someone finally figured that one out.

End note: Effects modules make fun modulars.

You'd think I would have figured that out sooner considering I've had my Moog Modular with its lovely spring reverb module for a few decades or more. But honestly, in the early days I hardly ever hooked the reverb up. I was young... naive... I usually just pulled the audio into my mixer dry and sent the signal off to an effects rack. 

What can I say - I was set in my ways.

But now with my Eurorack modular (27U and growing strong!) I've started appreciating the large number of effects modules out there and how they can fit into the signal and control flow of a patch. The Moog Modular reverb module has just two jacks - input and output. But today's units are so much more controllable and I find there is something satisfying about controlling effects using control voltages.

Time to get back to the modular. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Roland Synthesizer System 100 Model 102/103/104/109 "Let's you start your own Synthesizer studio" brochure, 1976

Roland Synthesizer System 100 Model 102/103/104/109 "Let's you start your own Synthesizer studio" six page brochure from January 1976.

Sure. Call it hopping on the bandwagon. I don't mind.

I've made it no secret that I love the Roland gear - old and new.  So when Peter Kirn wrote of the rumor of Roland's return to modular with a small post that included the history of Roland's modular systems starting with the System 100 on, I just had to pull this gorgeous brochure from the shelf to share. I think I can say with certainty that no one expected just how deep down the modular hole Roland was going to go. As a Roland AIRA fan, I'm happy. As a modular owner, I'm even more happy. Wallet - not so happy. :)

Back to the brochure....

It has definitely seen better days - but it just adds to the character. I can imagine the original owner flipping through it, dreaming about what it would be like to own a whole synthesizer system in such a compact format. If you want to get a little more intimate with the different parts of the semi-modular System 100, this is still a good reference piece. Interestingly, this doesn't have a lot of information on the basic Model 101 unit itself. This brochure was really created to focus on the other pieces of the "synthesizer studio" - specifically:
  • Expander Model 102
  • Mixer Model 103
  • Sequencer Model 104
  • Monitor Speaker Model 109
Remember - the best way to view the hi-res scans is to right-click and select "show image" or whatever the equivalent in your browser might be. in October 2009 I blogged about Roland's "Build your own synthesizer studio" ad for the System 100 that appeared in Keyboard Magazine in 1977 and mentioned that there was also a write-up that appeared much earlier in the Spec Sheet section of the May/June 1976 issue (yes, there was a time when Keyboard magazine was only published every two months!). Although just a small write-up, it still gives a great overview:

"The System 100 synthesizer is composed of separate component banks: the Model 104 sequencer; the Model 102 expander; the Model 103 mixer; two Model 109 monitor speakers, and the basic Model 101. The basic unit itself includes a VCO, a VCF, an LFO, and an ADSR envelope generator. Other features are a noise generator, a high-pass filter, an audio mixer, and a test oscillator. A 37-note keyboard is standard. The Model 102 expander supplies the performer with a sample/hold circuit, an envelope generator, an LFO, and a VCA. The 104 module is a 2-channel, 12-step analog sequencer (both channels may be linked together for 24-step sequences). List price for the System 100 is $1,950. "

List price $1,950. Not bad at all for everything you got.

Until recently, the only time I had ever played on a System 100 was in a friend's basement a long, long time ago. He had the whole package. And it was a beauty. I remember being fascinated at both the look and the sound.

I say until recently, because just a few months ago I managed to find a System 100 Model 101 unit in my home town. You bet I jumped on the chance. It's in wonderful condition too.And the sound is exactly how I remember it. I've now started the long journey of tracking down the other pieces.

Until then, I can't wait to hook it up to the new Roland modular gear. Yeah... I'm already deep into Eurorack. So you can bet I'm jumping on the Roland modular bandwagon too. :)