Thursday, January 28, 2021

Roland MKS-50 Polyphonic Synthesizer Module "The newest Juno synthesizer..." brochure, 1987

Roland MKS-50 Polyphonic Synthesizer Module  "The newest Juno synthesizer..." four page colour brochure from 1987.

Oh man - first post of 2021 - and what a way to start! The MKS-50!

Like the Alpha Juno 1/2 brochure that came out the previous year, and that I blogged about back in September 2019, this little feller follows Roland's classic (and consistent) "We design the future"... eeeer... design. My favourite part being a lovely front page that includes a large title and creatively placed featured piece of gear.

In this case the MKS-50 is floating above what looks to be silvery sheets of paper of some sort. This ties back nicely with the photograph used on that Alpha Juno brochure where the two synths are sitting on top of a similar type of paper.  

Okay - let's talk about the elephant in the room. That huge burn mark that starts on the front page, and actually makes it's way to the second and third page as well. It was sent to me this way. Honest. I don't even smoke. Now, usually I would do a little photoshop magic to remove these types of blemishes, but in this case I kept it in. Sure, that's partly laziness on my part, but also because its indicative of how many brochures are sent to me in this type of condition and, well, I kinda cool in its own way. This brochure has seen some dark times. It encapsulates 2020.  Poor thing. 

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure the MKS-50 was my first Roland module. I had a a few Roland keyboard synths including an Alpha Juno 2 at the time, but as space started getting slim, I began to actively hunt down rack version of synths that I already had and then would dump the keyboard version when I found it's rack equivalent. And it was when I stumbled across what eventually became my MKS-50 that I first came in contact with another most incredible piece of gear - the PG-300 Programmer (it's in the brochure, too!). 

I cannot stress enough how important Roland programmers were to me and many of my friends. You gotta understand that many synths from this time period replaced the visual feedback that came with one-control per function operation for some type of small display - the DX-7, Sequential Six-Trak, Korg DW synths, Kawai K's... the list goes on.  The Alpha at least had the giant alpha wheel to help quickly dial in the specific parameter you were looking for, but it was still annoying as heck.   

Having that PG-300 gave me the immediate visual feedback I'd been missing with the Alpha Juno - and I was hooked! And it's built like the MKS-50 - like a tank! I started tracking down other programmers for my other synths, managing to grab the PG-800 for my MKS-70 as well as the PG-1000 for my D-550 before the secret was out of the bag and prices of the programmers started to skyrocket. Never managed to grab an MPG-80 programmer for my MKS-80 and now that prices are hovering around the $2000 mark, chances are slim I'm ever gonna get one. 

I don't even think there are any hardware alternatives. I've read that the Virus TI can be programmed to pump out the right sysex to program an MKS-80, but like I've already stated above... I'm lazy. 

And don't even start on software editors. Ugh.