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How reliable are your hardware synths?

Anything about hardware musical instruments.

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AusDisciple
KVRist
 
210 posts since 6 Oct, 2013, from South Australia

Postby AusDisciple; Wed Jun 18, 2014 2:54 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

Over the years, I've built up a reasonable collection of synths both analog and digital and, as a general rule, they have been very reliable. While the list of repairs below might seem significant, keep in mind that this is over a period of more than 25 years and includes many synths not in this list that have not faulted at all.

Like Ghettosynth, I'm a qualified repair tech and if something goes wrong, I'm generally able to fix it. I used to work for a music sales and live production company many years ago and they were (and still are) Roland agents so I was able to get parts and schematics for my Roland analog gear quite easily. In 1991, I was GIVEN a Roland System 700 sequencer by a friend who had a complete System 700 and two sequencers, one of which didn't work. He said I could have it and if I could fix it, I could keep it.
It turns out Roland were able to supply me a schematic for it for free and I traced the fault down to a single 4000 series CMOS chip which cost me a couple of dollars from Dick Smith Electronics. I already had the parts to build a simple +-15vDC regulated supply so that sequencer cost me almost nothing.

Other faults I can remember over the years are the floppy drive in my SY77 dying but that was just a belt and easily fixed. It did develop a strange fault where the whole synth would freeze and none of the buttons would work. That also turned out to be quite simple and was a bunch of dry solder joints on the power supply PCB. Easily fixed.
While I was at it, I pulled all the PCBs out and resoldered the joints on the switches, some of which had become difficult to make activate due to dry joints.

My DX7 developed a faulty volume pot and I actually found an exact replacement in the most unlikely of places.... an old telephone with speakerphone function. The speaker volume control was the exact same part as the DX7 volume slider!

My System 100 synth developed a strange fault where the expander oscillator would go WAY out of tune and the audio would drop to almost nothing. That was also a simple repair and was just corrosion on the PCB connectors. That was easily fixed by disconnecting all the connectors and spraying them with Deoxit D5.

My JX3P developed a couple of faults. The first was with the PG200 and that turned out to be the result of something having been spilt inside it before I had purchased it. It turned out to be non corrosive and a cleanup with alcohol fixed that one. The JX itself later developed a fault where the LEDs would start to flicker randomly and the sound would become all garbled before stopping completely. That was caused by a faulty bridge rectifier in the power supply which was trickier to diagnose than to repair because the bridge got hot and the output voltage dropped leading me on a rabbit trail looking for a short somewhere else. Turns out it was an internal fault in the bridge itself.

There's one mechanical fault that I still have to get around to fixing and that is replacing some of the rotor bearings in my Leslie cabinet. However, I've been using VB3 for Hammond duties lately and keep putting that repair off!! I must get around to it though because running guitars and synths through the Leslie is fun! I also want to do some surround experiments using the Leslie mic'd with four mic's.

Over the course of a couple of decades, my Juno 106 developed the now well known 80017a voice chip noise. The first time I fixed this, I was still working for the Roland agent and was able to get a new replacement chip from them quite cheaply. Only recently (a matter of months ago actually) it developed the same fault again with another of the voice chips. This time though, I pulled the faulty chip out (quite a task in itself unless you have a decent desoldering station) and gave it the acetone soak treatment to remove the resin coating. Before reinstalling the chip, I soldered in an inline socket so I can remove it easily if it completely fails in future and needs total replacement. For now though, the acetone soak has fixed it.

There's no doubt a few other things I've forgotten but, overall, I'd have to say hardware has been quite reliable for me. There's the usual routine things like noisy pots which are usually easy to fix with a quick squirt of Deoxit D5... DO NOT use this on slide pots though. It WILL jam them up!

Here's a photo of the Juno 106 voice board with the acetone soaked 80017a chip in its new socket....
Image
ghettosynth
KVRAF
 
3976 posts since 13 Oct, 2009

Postby ghettosynth; Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:14 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

AusDisciple wrote:Over the course of a couple of decades, my Juno 106 developed the now well known 80017a voice chip noise. The first time I fixed this, I was still working for the Roland agent and was able to get a new replacement chip from them quite cheaply. Only recently (a matter of months ago actually) it developed the same fault again with another of the voice chips. This time though, I pulled the faulty chip out (quite a task in itself unless you have a decent desoldering station) and gave it the acetone soak treatment to remove the resin coating. Before reinstalling the chip, I soldered in an inline socket so I can remove it easily if it completely fails in future and needs total replacement. For now though, the acetone soak has fixed it.

Here's a photo of the Juno 106 voice board with the acetone soaked 80017a chip in its new socket....
Image


Just to be clear on this, while removing the epoxy with acetone might work, it's not a guarantee that the module will come back to life. There are several aftermarket replacements for these. And AusDisciple is right, you really shouldn't try to remove these unless you have the proper desoldering tools.
ghettosynth
KVRAF
 
3976 posts since 13 Oct, 2009

Postby ghettosynth; Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:20 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

goldenanalog wrote:8)


8)
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AusDisciple
KVRist
 
210 posts since 6 Oct, 2013, from South Australia

Postby AusDisciple; Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:21 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

ghettosynth wrote:Just to be clear on this, while removing the epoxy with acetone might work, it's not a guarantee that the module will come back to life. There are several aftermarket replacements for these.

Indeed. That's one of the reasons I put the SIL socket in. In this case though, it has worked. If it does fail again, I'll most likely be going with one of these... http://www.analoguerenaissance.com/D80017A/
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masterhiggins
KVRian
 
553 posts since 30 Dec, 2004

Postby masterhiggins; Wed Jun 18, 2014 3:40 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

Aloysius wrote:It's kind of a romantic idea to have a lot of hardware imho.


That was kind of my idea when I asked the question. I know that with hardware you can have a lot of fun twiddling stuff without having to stare at the screen. But the more I think of it, it probably won't help me achieve anything different than software music-wise (I know sonic quality is always going to be debated). Occasionally there's a YouTube video of someone rocking out on a studio full of analog hardware but that's very rare. Most of them make completely average music and just sweep filters for about 30 mins. Even Adrian Utley makes the Minibrute look boring. I guess I don't really need it. I do find myself being more fascinated by the Blofeld because it's so flexible. Sure it doesn't sound gut-punchingly analogue, but it's interesting enough to keep me amused for longer periods of time. :)

I probably won't get more than just 1 hardware synth, and that will probably be VA/digital. I just can't imagine myself having to deal with tech problems with several synths (potentially).

I really wish that a company would come out with a "hybrid" synth like Arturia Laboratory, except one that doesn't suck. One that is tightly integrated, fast, dynamic, with no software bloating. I'm surprised that the market doesn't have more competition for that sort of thing. There are a lot of people who like to use hardware synths because of the feel/workflow, but not necessarily the sound.

Anyway, thanks for your responses!

-Sam
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Uncle E
KVRAF
 
6378 posts since 21 Nov, 2000, from Southern California

Postby Uncle E; Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:11 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

masterhiggins wrote:I really wish that a company would come out with a "hybrid" synth like Arturia Laboratory, except one that doesn't suck. One that is tightly integrated, fast, dynamic, with no software bloating. I'm surprised that the market doesn't have more competition for that sort of thing. There are a lot of people who like to use hardware synths because of the feel/workflow, but not necessarily the sound.


Try out Maschine Studio. I'm not a big fan of Massive but it's worth using for how well it's integrated into Maschine (Maschine even comes with it now).
Redeem the 11% "FORUM" or 16% "GROUP" coupons at:
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goldenanalog
KVRian
 
812 posts since 7 Dec, 2005, from somewhere between analog and digital

Postby goldenanalog; Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:48 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

8)
Last edited by goldenanalog on Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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cryophonik
KVRAF
 
4018 posts since 6 Sep, 2006, from Elk Grove, CA

Postby cryophonik; Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:11 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

I can't recall ever owning a hardware synth that wasn't reliable. Aside from things like breaking off a knob due to my own carelessness, or the occasional dead memory storage battery, labels getting worn down over time, and other minor issues that come with time/use, every synth I've owned has been pretty much hassle-free.
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masterhiggins
KVRian
 
553 posts since 30 Dec, 2004

Postby masterhiggins; Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:14 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

goldenanalog wrote:
masterhiggins wrote:Polyphony in use is between 5-10 notes - not that much, but they're pretty good notes


Weird. You get less polyphony with wavetables? I thought Blofeld had 25. Are there any other reasonably-priced digital tabletop synths that I should check out? I know there's the Access Virus TI, but we're talking another $800. :?

-Sam
goldenanalog
KVRian
 
812 posts since 7 Dec, 2005, from somewhere between analog and digital

Postby goldenanalog; Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:26 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

8)
Last edited by goldenanalog on Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
goldenanalog
KVRian
 
812 posts since 7 Dec, 2005, from somewhere between analog and digital

Postby goldenanalog; Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:39 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

8)
Last edited by goldenanalog on Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
ghettosynth
KVRAF
 
3976 posts since 13 Oct, 2009

Postby ghettosynth; Wed Jun 18, 2014 5:52 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, but what is the appeal for blofeld if you aren't playing live? It's a digital synth with only a few knobs. I mean if you're really after Waldorf's wavetable stuff, I can see that, but, if it's just a choice among "tabletop synths", I'm not sure that I get the appeal.

What I get out of hardware is the immediacy and/or the sound. This pretty much rules out anything without knobs unless the sound can't really be duplicated with software. When I purchased the G1, it was so that I could take a digital modular live. Today I would probably use Reaktor. Playing live, though, it still a good reason for hardware because it's usually more durable than computers.

It doesn't have to be analog either, I don't have one anymore, but the Yamaha DX synths are actually very immediate with their almost button per function interface.

Watching the blofeld videos reminds me of farting around with the K2000, it's like using a computer with a tiny little screen, a very limited operating system and no keyboard or mouse. It doesn't sound bad, but it sounds like a plugin to me.

I'm not really a fan of DSI instruments, but I'd still buy this over a blofeld. You get analog filters and a a lot more immediate control of the synth, which are two good reasons to go hardware, even today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9_LRcxPKU4

I also think that these are fantastic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGQhZyqIg0A

One thing that really hit home for me after buying a lot of hardware that I ultimately didn't find inspiring and eventually sold off, is that I just bite the bullet and buy the best instruments that there are for a specific purpose. I'm very happy with the analog polys that I've kept. I think that some of the new ones are really great instruments because the developers made the right choices, but, I think that there's a lot of mediocre stuff and it's not always price related.

Also, I don't mean to scare people away from vintage analog, I agree with the previous poster that said that they're worth the hassle, they are. Sure, be wary of problems, do your research first, try to buy locally, learn about what you want to buy before you buy it, but, there are still some really great instruments out there.

If any tabletop will do, then ask yourself what you're really going to get from the hardware. If you aren't playing live, I agree with Uncle E, get maschine, or push if you use live. Push has really changed my workflow.

Some hardware is meaningfully different than software, other hardware, is just fixed software running on an embedded computer.
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Axis1~SL61
KVRian
 
697 posts since 6 Jul, 2008, from Lost in the wilderness

Postby Axis1~SL61; Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:06 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

ghettosynth wrote:
goldenanalog wrote: 8)


8)

:D
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masterhiggins
KVRian
 
553 posts since 30 Dec, 2004

Postby masterhiggins; Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:34 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

Well I know this is an extreme example but I'm talking about these kind of sounds:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdXWsv41lx8

You're not going to get those out of an analog synth. :D

I know there are analog sounds you're not going to get out of Blofeld, but I find these much more interesting, reminiscent of older digital fm/wavetable synths, which really feel more at home for the kind of stuff I'm doing.

-Sam
Last edited by masterhiggins on Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
goldenanalog
KVRian
 
812 posts since 7 Dec, 2005, from somewhere between analog and digital

Postby goldenanalog; Wed Jun 18, 2014 6:36 pm Re: How reliable are your hardware synths?

8)
Last edited by goldenanalog on Wed Jun 18, 2014 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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