Thursday, September 26, 2019

Korg DS-8 "Eight Advantages" brochure, 1987

Korg DS-8 synthesizer "Eight Advantages" four page colour brochure from 1987.

Well, after posting that relatively interesting Korg 707 brochure back in March, how could I not follow up at some point with Korg's other FM-based synth that came out around the same time - the DS-8.

In that post, I touched upon Korg's easy-to-use interface in order to bring Yamaha's FM synthesis to us simpletons. If you look behind the curtain though, you'll find what's really pulling those FM strings - the Wizard of Opp! Otherwise known as Yamaha's FM Operator Type P (OPP) chip, also otherwise known as the YM2164.

Here - I snarfed this photo from the Wikipedia page for the chip:

The chip could be found in the DS-8 as well as the Korg 707, along with a few Yamaha synths from the time period.

Now, putting aside the amazingly interesting fact that Korg used Yamaha's chips in the first place, I did some research into the chip itself, and quickly learned its actually an "enhanced" YM2151 chip (aka OPM or FM Operator Type-M chip). The 2151 was Yamaha's first single-chip FM sound generator that could be found in the DX-21, DX-27 and DX-100, and interestingly also found its way into many non-Yamaha products such as arcade games and pinball machines, and even a few of Sharp's home computers.

But, the Korg 707 and DS-8's multi-midi support required slightly more enhanced abilities, and that's where the enhanced YM2164 chip shines.

A bit more digging, and I quickly realized that quite a few other Yamaha chips exist. A small sampling include the:

YM2154 - made for the Yamaha RX-15 drum machine, apparently for the PCM sounds of the rhythm samples.

YM2409 and YM2412 -  used in the Yamaha TX16W, Yamaha's first sampler

YM2414 -  found in the purely magical Yamaha TX81Z, which is what gave it the ability to choose from 8 different wave forms rather than just using 4-OP sine waves.

How cool is that! I love learning new things. And makes me want to collect Yamaha synths based solely on chip sets!  Check out this comprehensive list of Yamaha chips/feature sets that someone has begun to put together.  Lots more chips and gear in that list!

I find it interesting that Korg chose to make the DS-8 and 707 look so different from each other. I get that some features had to be different - the DS-8 joystick looks very Korg, but the 707's performance wheels make much more sense when the keyboard is hanging from your neck.

But in a era when so many manufacturers were making a generation worth of instruments look very similar to each other such as Yamaha's DX/TX synth and rack series or Roland's MKS rack series, Korg intentionally made these two synths look *very* different from one another.

Just an observation.  :)

Friday, September 6, 2019

Roland Alpha Juno 1/2 "An easy to operate synthesizer with excellent sound quality" brochure, 1986

Roland Alpha Juno 1 /2 "An easy to operate synthesizer with excellent sound quality" six-page colour brochure from January 1986.

Well, since I was discussing Junos in my last post, I figured I may as well keep the theme going by scanning this brochure featuring the next generation of Juno - the Alpha series.

Although not technically a "We design the future" brochure, it keeps all the design aspects of the series, except for the tag phrase itself, which had been phased out years before.  We get a cover page with the giant Roland logo, a large red title and a photo that incorporates some kind of cool background - in this case some kind of semi-transparent folding screen or paper. So I've tagged it with the "We design the future" label anyways.

And, as expected, opening the brochure up reveals a large photo of an Alpha Juno syn... wait a second! In this case, when you open the brochure, you first see a smaller barn door-type page that has the right side of the Alpha Juno 1 on it along with some gold nuggets. The cool thing is it fits perfectly with the left site of the Alpha Juno 2 on the pages within, giving the illusion of a full image of the Juno 1.

Confused? It's a bit hard to explain so I've included a short gif below of what you see when you open the cover page.

Now, when you open that inner page up, it reveals the inside pages that include a large three-page image of the Alpha Juno 2!  That's a great way to problem-solve the issue of trying to fit photos of both large synths on just the inside pages.

The Alpha Juno series of synths were an evolution of sorts for Roland synths. Their DCOs produced significantly more wave forms than previous synths like the MKS-80 and JX-8p, and they had a distinctive 8 parameter envelope. The brochure rightfully highlights both of these features, but only after highlighting the different between the two Alpha synths themselves. Those three differences being:

1. Keyboard size - the Juno 2 with its 61 keys, and the Juno 1 with 49.
2. The Juno 2 had velocity and pressure sensitivity - a no-go for the Juno 1.
3. The Juno 2 had the luxury of a M-64C cartridge for extra patch storage, while the Juno 1 had to suffer with cassette tape back up.

Both machines luckily had the alpha dial - a great (and fun!) way to edit data. I'm definitely Pro-dial. I love it just as much as I love the Alpha's filter.

Last, but not least, no Alpha Juno post would be complete without mentioning its most famous sound... the hoover!

If you've been living under a rock, then you can catch up quickly by reading this wikipedia entry on this unique sound.

There. I mentioned it. Happy?

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Roland Juno-60 "We design the future" brochure, 1982

Roland Juno-60 "We design the future" four page colour brochure from September 1982.

I saw an interesting graph the other day. Not sure where I first saw it, but it spread quickly on social media. Luckily it didn't take me long to track it down.

The graph was part of a great article titled "Why Do Vintage Roland Junos Continue to Go Up in Price" by Dan Orkin and tracked the site's historical used prices for the Juno-106, Juno-6 and Juno-60 from 2014-2019. Not surprisingly, all three show a positive price trend. Also not surprisingly - while the Juno-106 and Juno-6 have been climbing at a similar pace, the Juno-60 has been slowly gaining even more ground in comparison.

Ignoring the obvious bad choice of capitalization in the title of the Reverb article, and not ignoring the obvious good choice in linking to my Juno-60 advertising scan, Dan does great job of summarizing why these three synths deserve all the recognition they get. Lots of great references and links all around the Web too.  Top notch - worth the read.

Without giving too much away, a big part of what the Juno's rawk are their great sound and an easy-to-use interface. Most importantly, as Dan writes, "many devotees claim that the -60 delivers the most aggressive or distinctive sound, which may contribute to it claiming the highest prices."

For me, that's exactly why.  :)

You can find these Juno devotees on lots of sites giving high praise to the Junos, including Vintage Synth Explorer.

While VSE gives the 106 five stars, users rate it 4.1 stars.

In comparison, the Juno-60 gets four stars from the site - but users rate it slightly higher than the 106 with 4.2 stars.

And for comparison, the Juno-6 only gets three stars (!) from the site but the user rating beats the Juno-106 by a hair at 4.11 stars.

The users have spoken!

Now, before I start getting off-topic and start ranting about those who rant about the ever-increasing prices of vintage synths and drum machines, the reason I brought up the graph was that it was a reminder to dig up this Juno-60 brochure for the blog. I knew I had it around somewhere.

The cover of the brochure follows Roland's standard "WE DESIGN THE FUTURE" format - Roland logo in top left with a big bold red title and lots of negative space in the top half, while south of the equator is usually a studio shot of the gear, maybe with a buddy or two included, and some kind of background or texture.

In this case that buddy is the MC-4 sequencer (a lovely choice) and the background texture is some kind of corrugated metal or plastic (another lovely choice).

Open up the brochure and BAM! A lovely centrefold screaming to be made into a poster. And specs. Lots of specs. Including the Arpeggio section. And one of my favourite modulator controls on any synth - the LFO trig button.

Back page is nothing to sneeze at either. A large photo of the rear panel including that pre-midi curiosity of a DCB connector. And further down... oh boy - small little promos for the lovely TB-303 and TR-606.

So far I've posted six other Roland brochures in the "We design the future" series including the SH-101, Jupiter 6, TR-808/606/303 Rhythm MachinesTR-909MSQ-700 and MSQ-100.

And to make it easy for you, I've created a "We design the future" label. One stop shopping!

Gonna leave it at that for now. But don't think I've forgotten about that rant. I'm saving it for later.