Thursday, May 23, 2019

Moog Minimoog "The Moog for the road" brochure/poster, 1974


Moog Minimoog "The Moog for the road" eight page colour brochure/poster from 1974.

I've sweated over blogging about this brochure/poster for a long time because I was never sure exactly how I was going to scan and post such a unique piece of marketing material? The problem is that it is both a brochure and a poster. Let me explain.

The piece starts off as a brochure - with a front cover, two inside pages, and a back cover. Great. Cool. I can scan that easily enough and post the scans as I normally would for a brochure (which I did above).

The other side is a poster, where the two upper quadrants are specs and features and the two bottom quadrants make up one big awesome photo of the Minimoog. Again - Great! Cool! I can scan and post that side as chucks of a poster.

Here's the problem...

Because of the way the piece was design and folded,the two inside pages on the "brochure-side" are actually upside down!

You will also notice that those two top quadrants (the inside pages for the brochure side) are also a bit shorter, The designers purposely did this so that tag line "Minimoog... a whole new freedom of expression" from the bottom of the "poster" side can be visible on the "brochure" side!

Not only is that a cool design feature, it's also functional, giving a great visual cue to the reader to flip up those two inside brochure pages to reveal the poster right-side-up on the other side! Genius!

The piece is gorgeous and quite a departure from the Minimoog "The INstrument of the pros" brochure from just two years previous.

Don't get me wrong - I loved that 1972 brochure with its amazing illustrations. But this 1974 brochure's professional photography, less busy design and unique brochure/poster fold makes for one of my favourite historical pieces - not just from Moog, but for all synths.

Just gorgeous.

Happy Birthday Mr Bob Moog.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer Version 2.0 "Believe the unbelievable" brochure, 1998

Propellerhead ReBirth (RB-338) Techno Micro Composer Version 2.0 "Believe the unbelievable" four page colour brochure from 1998.

No. This isn't a repeat. Although at first glance it very well looks like it. That lovely shiny silver front and back cover, the wire-frame imagery that gets peppered around the inside pages and the line diagram of the software interface on the back. Its fun to see how the writers decided to keep a lot of text in the brochure.

But as you can see, by the time Version 2.0 rolled around, there was a lot of new features and functionality to talk about.

First - the software itself. They had delightfully added a TR-909 drum machine, a compressor and a cool little synchronized filter (that was actually introduced in version 1.5!). That's in addition to the two TB-303s, a TR-808, a digital delay and a distortion that was initially released in Version 1.

But more exciting to me as a two-bit historian and archivist though, is how the company updated the wording in the brochure to reflect its closer association with Roland's instruments.

For example, in the first version of the brochure, Steinberg/Propellerhead were very low-key in their association. They let the images in the brochure speak for themselves and instead of directly referring to the TB-303 and TR-909 would use Roland-speak words like "bassline" and "303 sound".

But by Version 2.0, Propellerhead decided to makes its association with Roland a little more concrete by directly referring to the TB-303, TR-808 and TR-909 in its opening paragraph in the brochure. What changed? Well, according to the the Rebirth Museum Web site (which no longer exists but can be accessed through the Wayback Machine thank you very much), quite a few downloads of the alpha version of ReBirth came from Roland HQ in Japan, who then reached out and eventually stipulated that the following be added to the packaging and splash screen.
"ReBirth was inspired by the TR-808 and TB-303, originally created by Roland Corporation. Their unique sounds and visual images have been re-born through digital simulation by Propellerhead Software."
And while something similar exists in the V1 brochure, its not exactly the same.

But by V2, Propellerhead had included this exact phrase (with the inclusion of the TR-909) in the second iteration of the brochure. And then some:

Could it be that the V1 brochure was printed prior to the agreement between Roland and Propellerhead? Cool thought.

Either way, as mentioned on the now defunct Rebirth Museum Web site, Propellerhead considered this a "thumbs-up" by Roland and a good reason for Propellerhead to strengthen its association with Roland in V2 of the brochure.
"Propellerhead Software regarded this as a blessing from Roland, as it was considered an "unofficial thumbs-up" and their acknowledgment provided strong marketing leverage. In a sense, Roland's stamp of approval legitimized ReBirth as something that met the standards of Roland quality."
This story is now canon in Propellerhead-land, but I wonder if Roland has the same memory of events.

The incorporation of new gear wasn't the only reason ReBirth users were excited for V2.0. As can be seen in the brochure, ReBirth allowed users to create their own front panel graphics and, even more important (and fun!) for me, create custom sounds. Along with an "exchange platform" for songs and mods.

Propellerhead's ReWire functionality was also introduced in V2. Initially code named "TopHat", ReWire was created to connect  audio and synchronization between ReBirth and Cubase". And, it eventually became a standard for other companies that wanted to sync their software to Rebirth.

And this leads me into one of the biggest, yet subtle changes to the V2 brochure. Along with ReWire came the ability for a lot of musicians to sync up ReBirth with other professional software. So, it made sense for Propellerhead to boost the "professional appeal" of ReBirth in the "Functions Overview" section.

Take a closer look and you will see that in V1, the first bullet point in this section highlights Roland's machines. And rightly so, since its ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE ROLAND GEAR!!!!!
"Two bass line synthesizers, one "analog" drum machine, a distortion box and a delay."
But in V2, those instruments have been bumped to bullet point #3. And what has made it to the number one feature in the overview?
"16 bit, 44.1 kHz audio quality (stereo)."
Yup. The instruments took a back seat to audio quality.  Okay, not really - just in the bullet points.

But it still makes me nervous, and I sometimes wonder if that was some kind of foreshadowing.

Anyways, that's enough thinking for today. Time to play with ReBirth 2.0 on my Windows 10 laptop. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Moog PianoBar "Fall in love with your piano all over again!" brochure, 2003

Moog PianoBar "Fall in love with your piano all over again!" two page colour brochure from approximately 2003.

Well, here's a rare beast - a Moog PianoBar brochure!

I haven't run into this particular piece of literature anywhere online that I can remember - just in my local music store in the early- to mid-2000's.  My "guy" at the store knew I had a Moog Modular, Minimoog and Taurus pedals and would often put other Moog literature aside for me, including this brochure. This is the same awesome dude who gifted me his Sequential Circuits belt buckle, among other things. I've been frequenting that store for what must be over 35 years - and he's still there. And still a great guy.

Anyways, enough personal nostalgia.

If you aren't familiar with the PianoBar... um... that makes two of us. Sure, I'd heard of it. But never bothered to do any actual in-depth research into the thing. Then recently, I was hanging out in the Moog Fan Club Facebook group and one of the members posted some up-close-and-personal photos of the device in its carry-case. Serial number 0009 no less! Wowza.

Now, is that gorgeous, or what?!?!?!

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah...I'm not familiar with the PianoBar. So, I pulled this brochure out of my archives. And that led me to become even more curious, so I did some research and this is what I've found out so far...

According to a 2005 Sound on Sound magazine review article on the PianoBar, it was "Moog, in concert with Buchla" that came up with the piano-to-MIDI converter. A New York Times 2016 article celebrating the life of Tom Buchla seemed to corroborate this by indicating that Buchla consulted with Moog to begin manufacturing the PianoBar in 2002.

But, I'm also finding references in forums indicating that it was more a Tom Buchla innovation that was then marketed by Moog.

For example, in the MusicPlayers forum under the question "What ever happened to the Moog PianoBar", member "The Real MC" commented "To be fair, the PianoBar was actually a Buchla product. Buchla gave it to Moog to sell."

Also, A CDM post from September 2005 indicates that "the device is actually the brainchild of synth legend Don Buchla, not Bob Moog as you might assume."

In any case, I dig any occasion where Moog and Buchla team up.

The brochure itself provides plenty of detail into how the PianoBar operates.
"What makes the PianoBar unique is the revolutionary, patented Scanner Bar, which sits ever so slightly above the piano's keys leaving the touch and feel wonderfully unaffected.  The Scanner Bar is less that 1/2" thick and rests against the fall board out of the way of the flying fingers. It contains sensor for each key that use infrared to detect their motion. The Pedal Sensor rests underneath the piano's pedals to register their motion. The Scanner Bar and Pedal Sensor work together to capture the full range of your expressive touch - from resounding chords to delicate passages."
How unique was it? That Sound on Sound article I mentioned earlier provides some great historical perspective for us by listing a few competing products.
"Approached in the right spirit, the device opens doors that hitherto simply weren't accessible to the piano player, unless you had the ultra-expensive Bösendorfer or Steinway systems, or the less expensive, yet still pricey, Yamaha Disklavier system. All these, of course, are built into the piano and therefore not transferable, unlike the Piano Bar. The ability to extend the sonic palette of your humble Joanna is, if not mind-blowing, pretty marvellous."
Pretty f**king unique.  :)

So, I was gonna stop there, but I've had a glass of wine and my ribs have another hour in the oven before I transfer them to the bbq for the finishing touch. So, lets keep this boat rockin'.

According to Electronic Musician's June 2004 review of the PianoBar by Allan Metts, the cost of the PianoBar was $1,495. And in the end, gave the device these ratings:
PROS: Accurate piano tracking with no significant latency. Easy, noninvasive setup. Capable sound set.
CONS: Pedal Sensor moves too easily and needs height adjustment. No MIDI SysEx dump capability. Cable attaches only to the left side of the Scanner Bar.
That 2005 Sound on Sound review I keep referencing listed it at a UK price of 899.99 pounds, along with this:
Pros - The only viable device to let virtually any piano output MIDI.
 - Opens up all kinds of sound-layering possibilities.
 - Relatively straightforward to install if you're lucky.
 - Very fast triggering with no dicernable latency.
Cons - Can be fiddly to install and calibrate, depending on your piano.
 - Some piano actions are too far gone to make the Piano Bar usable.
 - Very dependent on the mechanics and tuning of your piano.
And remember that 2005 CDM post I referenced earlier? It indicated that Moog had a sale on the PianoBar at one point bringing the price down to $995.00 US!
"...Moog Music this week is introducing its “Be the First” promotion. Be the first, second, or third person in your U.S. metro area (Moog has identified 364), and you can get the PianoBar for as little as US$995. (You also have to be a school teacher, gigging musician, or someone else who can convince other people to buy them, so you can’t get the discount and take it to your cave — the Phantom of the Opera is totally disqualified.)"
A September 16, 2005 Synthopia article provided even more details on the price structure of the sale:
"If you are the first school, teacher, gigging musician, church, or studio to purchase the Moog PianoBar and are in position to share your enthusiasm for the product, your purchase price will be $995, a $500 savings off the published price. If you are the second qualified person in the metro area, your price will be $1095 – a $400 savings. If you are the third qualified person, your price will be $1195 – still a $300 savings!"
A common reference that come up when I started researching the PianoBar was Bruce Hornsby. Seems he was a big fan, and in a September 2009 interview with Keyboard Magazine it's explained that Bruce used it to play softsynths from the piano:
"You’ve been using the Moog Piano Bar to control soft synths from the piano and expand your sound palette beyond piano and voice, like on the new song “Invisible.” What is it about the combination of acoustic and electronic timbres that you find so alluring?
It all stems from the fact that I always hear an orchestra playing in my head. Not on all the songs, but often on ballads, like “Mandolin Rain,” “Here We Are Again,” and “Continents Drift.” If I’m playing bluesy, you’re not going to hear any MIDI, because I’m not hearing an orchestra in that stylistic setting. But “Invisible” is a perfect example of dialing in the Bob Moog. I’ve done a lot of solo concerts over the years where I’d show up in a new town to a piano supplied by Steinway. But it wasn’t MIDI’ed, so originally I’d put a Korg M1 on top, playing it with one hand and the piano with another. I used the sound “Overture,” which I came to find out that my old friend Bruce Springsteen used as well."
"Dialing in the Bob Moog." I like that phrase 0- going to have to start using it.

You can see the PianoBar in action in this excellent Spectrasonics YouTube video. Note that that lovely Moog PianoBar logo on the right side of the keyboard bar in a few shots.

Even more "legit", here's a 2003 Moog demo of the PianoBar. Audio not as good, but the coolness factor is through the roof:

Time for me to "Dial in the Bob Moog" on my modular.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Steinberg Cubit "Visual Song Processing" advertisement, Keyboard 1989 / Cubase "Buy it! Boot it! Love it! " advertisement, Electronic Musician 1990

Steinberg Cubit "Visual Song Processing"full page colour ad from page 65 in the May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine and Steinberg Cubase "Buy it! Boot it! Love it! Or your money back!" half page black and white ad from page 112 in the March 1990 issue of Electronic Musician Magazine.

I don't do it often, but today I have two scans. And for good reason!

I had actually scanned each one separately a while back and written little bits to form into future blog posts, but then this morning I noticed a tweet from Steinberg announcing it was Cubase's 30th anniversary. And I thought... heck - that's a bandwagon worth jumping on! So I went back, checked, and sure enough... this Cubit advertisement first showed up in the May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine

(Aside: That May 1989 issue of Keyboard Magazine isn't just exciting because of this initial Cubit ad. Its also the now-legendary CYBERPUNK issue.)

It wasn't just on this side of the pond that Stenberg was rolling out its successor to Twenty Four  III (aka PRO24) sequencing software - Cubit was being rolled out in Europe in magazines such as Music Technology  and Micro Music with large three page advertisements as well. Check out Mu:zines for those ads!

But the Cubit advertisements lasted for only a few months before Steinberg shut them down. The reason? According to Cubase's Wikipedia page, a trademark issue was forcing Steinberg to change the name.

And better for it too!

Well, it didn't take long for that name change to happen. How do I know? Well, for one, the Cubase ad includes quotes from three different 1989 magazine reviews - and those aren't the only reviews that came out soon after the Cubase name change. 

Music Technology magazine out of the UK was one of the first with their review. It was actually a two-part review that ran in the August and September 1989 issues running in at over 8000 words. And the reviewer Nigel Lord still didn't manage to cover all of Cubase's features.

In his verdict, he writes: 
"Quite honestly, this is the most impressive piece of music software I have yet encountered for the ST. And I certainly cannot conceive of it being possible to develop a more sophisticated sequencing package for that machine. As with most genuinely worthwhile designs, the transition from well-crafted tool to creative instrument is quite seamless - the features which give it a claim to both these titles being universally well thought-out and meticulously presented. Not only that, but it's a delight to use and one of that increasingly rare breed of technologically advanced designs which positively encourage the user to experiment and get to grips with it."
Not bad. Not bad at all. 

Sound on Sound's review also came out in their August 1989 issue. And I gotta say after reading David Hughes' verdict, we are starting to see a pattern...
"I like this program a lot. Cubase is a natural successor to Pro24 and I would strongly recommend Cubase to any existing Pro24 owners, who should remember that they can save quite a substantial amount of money if they take part in the part-exchange scheme that Steinberg are offering. I would also recommend this program to those musicians looking for a fully professional system with the potential for expansion. Cubase has this in abundance. I've used the review package for over a month now and Steinberg will find it difficult to prise it out of my hands. I feel that I've written some of my best music with Cubase, and consequently don't want to lose a single note of it. I enjoyed the sheer depth of this product. You simply won't exhaust the possibilities in a single night. It will take a great deal longer than that, I promise you."

Keyboard Magazine's October 1989 review by Jim Aikin was a little more low-key, but still very positive. In addition to the quote used in the Cubase ad I scanned, we get a little bit of software sequencer history along with Jim's conclusion:
"The impact made last year by C-Lab's Notator has forced other Atari sequencer developers to put some muscle in their hustle. With Cubase, Steinberg proves that they're up to the challenge; it's fully competitive with anything that Notator has to offer, except in the area of notation printout - and let's face it, that's not Notator's strong point either (me: Ouch!). Dr. T's KCS Level II still leads the pack in terms of sheer editing power, but its user interface is starting to look a bit long in the tooth, though there have been some strong enhancements in version 2.1..."

Interestingly, the ads for Cubase took a while to get into magazines. I'm not sure if this is because Steinberg had spent their 1989 marketing budgets on the earlier advertisements, or maybe they were just waiting for the Mac version slated to come out in early 1990 to be closer to production? 

No matter, because according to Steinberg's earlier Twenty Four software advertisement, there was already a base of 30,000 users. And many of those 30,000 users would have read those early positive reviews or started to see the software pop up in music shops.  

And the proof is in the pudding - or whatever that saying is.  30 years later Cubase is still going strong. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Roland TR-505 drum machine "The first step..." brochure, 1986

Roland TR-505 drum machine "The first step in forming your own personal music system" four page colour brochure from October 1986.

Well, its May the 5th.


505 day.

Sure, it's not as flashy as 808 day. Not as bouncy as 303 day. Not as Latin-y as 727 day. But dammit if I'm gonna ignore the baby of the Roland XOX family today.

Plus, its been a while since I've blogged. For good reason though - I'm getting ready to demolish my house. Everything is getting packed up as we speak. Bubble wrapping synths and drum machines. Boxing thousands of old synth magazines and brochures. And trying to figure out what to do with 10 Commodore 64's. No kidding. Its slow going. But its happening.

But I jut had to take some time out to post this lovely Roland TR-505 brochure.

The layout of the brochure follows the format of all those other lovely Roland brochures - like these two for the TR-909 and TR-808 (click on images to view corresponding blog posts and full sized scans).


Same large lettering on the front page with a ton of white space around it. And a gorgeous, artsy-esque image below. This time, Roland chose to use a dark slate rock formation as the backdrop, and included two of the 505's siblings, the TR-707 and TR-727, to help pump up the TR-505's cred. This wasn't an accident (more on that later).

Flip the page and Roland gets directly to the point with a title that makes it clear who the target market for the TR-505 is.

Newbies and the price-conscious.

Hey, everyone has to start somewhere.

The intro also hits directly at the intended audience with words and phrases like "economical" and "extremely affordable price". And to drive home the point that you are getting lots of value for the money, Roland makes sure to highlight the large number of sounds, large memory and full MIDI implementation found on the TR-505.

Roland references the TR-707 and 727 early on when hyping up the sounds on the 505. Smart move, as its a great way to suggest that what you are getting is the best of those two worlds in one small package.

And guess what... turn to the back page and there they are again. Sure, its a great way to cross promote a few other Roland products (standard fare in these brochures), but also to again make that connection in reader's minds between the the 505 and its bigger brothers. Nice work!

Now... do I have to address the obvious question?  How did the 505's sounds stack up to the 707 and 727. Well, the logical thing to do is plug in all three and hit record on the video camera. But unfortunately all three drum machines are bubble wrapped and wedged into big carrying totes at the moment. So, that will have to wait until next 505 day.

So, I tried to do the next best thing, which was Google it and read a couple of forum comments on the topic. And well, you can guess how that went. Hint: humans are mean SOBs.

So, in the end I loaded up Reason and got my sample packs out. I compared the 505 and 707/727 sounds from two different sample packs, in case any samples in any given sample pack weren't recorded properly. In the end, there wasn't any perceived differences between samples in the different sample packs.

Here's my thoughts*:
*you have a right to your wrong opinion  :)

Bass drum:  ounds are different. The 505 bass drum has less low end than the two 707 bass drums.

Snare: 505 snare is definitely different than the two 707 snares. But all three have some punch to them. And definitely belong to the same family of sounds.

Low, medium and hi toms: Definitely different between the two machines. The 707's toms were longer, with a bit more natural hollowness (for lack of a better word) to them.

Rim shot: Surprisingly, almost exactly the same - with the 707 slightly lower in pitch.

Closed hi-hat: Definitely different. 505 slightly lower in pitch. But both work great to cut through a track.

Open hi-hat: Very similar. Surprised by that.

Low conga: 727 conga slightly longer and lower in pitch than the 505.

High conga: 505 and 727 similar in sound, with 727 slightly higher in pitch.

Timbale: The 505 timbale sounds slightly similar to the 727 high timbale sound, but is a shorter sample with less high-end at the beginning on the sound - less "snap". The 727 low timbale has no comparison.

Cowbell: There are hi and low cowbells on the 505 and only one on the 707. All three sound different, but are pleasing to my ears. I love cowbells!

Hand clap: The 505 and 707 hand claps sound similar, but are definitely not the same samples. The 707 might be slightly beefier and I prefer it.

Crash cymbal: The samples are different, with the 505 having a bit more "crashiness" up front before tailing off. The 707 has more of a steady tail, if that makes sense.

Ride cymbal: Very different samples - you can even see it in the wave form. The 707 ride has much more "ting" at the beginning of the sound than the 505 does, and a lot more body to it as well. I prefer the 707 sample.

Of course, there's a tambourine sound on the 707 that isn't included on the 505. And there are a lot of the 727 sounds that aren't included on the 505 including hi and low bongo, hi and low agogos , cabasa, maracas, short and long whistle, quijada and star chime.

But I think that Roland did a decent job of selecting to include congas and timbales sounds on the 505. Sure, they could always have added more... but remember -  the 505 was created with cost in mind.

Enjoy 505 day, every one!