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Casio CZ-5000 (Part Two)

The last time I had my poor, battered CZ-5000 open, I tried to change the signal relay, a small component usually found in consumer electronics to suppress the thump sound heard at power-on. These are known to go bad in the CZ range, and can apparently cause all kinds of interference in the audio signal, from distortion and pops to volume drops and more. My machine was experiencing all these things, including an excessive amount of noise when moving the chorus slider. The signal relay drop-in replacement that I bought on eBay didn’t work so I cleaned the old as well as I could, re-installed it, and declared it fixed.

Well, that didn’t last long. I fired up the CZ-5000 recently to install some patches I found online and was disappointed to discover that my “fix” was no longer working, and all the horrible noise had come back. It was time to address this issue permanently. And, while the machine was open, I figured I may as well replace the old LCD screen, which had a column of bad char…
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Kawai K1r

Even the most casual reader of this page will have realized that my tastes skew towards the analog. However, I’m not an analog purist. Like a chef, I prefer to have a variety of spices at hand with which to season my music. (Can you tell I just ate lunch?) So to that end I have a Yamaha TX81Z and Korg DW-8000 in my kitchen. Erm, studio. Add to that now a Kawai K1r.

Actually this is the second K1r I’ve owned in my lifetime. The first one made a brief stop in my studio in the early 2000’s when I was searching for a new sound. I eventually settled on breaks made in the box but before jettisoning all my studio gear (yes, I do regret it) I remember managing to get not very much useful out of the K1r except some weird digital pitch-bent gurgles.

So why did I buy another one? A couple of reasons. First, I want all the synths. Not very realistic but it’s true. Second, I used to own one and I’d like to get the old studio back together. Third, I had a Yamaha TG33 for awhile and I really liked…

Korg Delta DL-50 Strings Synthesizer

I do love a good stringer. Ive worked on a Yamaha SK20 and a Roland RS-09 and RS-101. This time it’s a Korg Delta DL-50 Strings Synthesizer, a lovely machine from 1979. It came out as part of Korg’s series of three Greek letter-named polyphonic machines. There was the Sigma and Lambda, both of which were largely preset machines, and then the Delta, which arguably offered the most control (until the Trident came out in 1980 and blew it out of the water).

The Delta is fully polyphonic, no mean feat then or now. Before you get too excited though, it’s basically just a glorified organ. It uses three divide-down oscillators to create all the notes (plus one more for high C). So yes, you can hold down all the keys at the same time but you’re limited to a square wave. A very nice square wave, it should be noted, but just that one waveform nonetheless. The sound is further divided into synth and string sections, the former of which is pushed through a variable filter (low or bandpass), the l…

Roland Alpha Juno 2 - The Mystery Of The Whining LCD Screen

Eagle-eyed readers of this blog may remember that I had a Roland HS-80 SynthPlus 80, the home version of the Alpha Juno 2. I took the speakers out. But I also really liked the look of the original Juno 2. With its slim body and membrane buttons, it just exudes mid-80s cool. I had been wanting a new master keyboard to replace my Roland A-49, so after seeing YouTube star Espen Kraft using one I decided to sell off the HS-80 and get an Alpha.

It arrived clean and in good shape, and even came with a plastic hard case. Nice. However, I sometimes noticed a faint, high-pitched whine coming from inside the machine. It wasn’t present in the audio but was definitely audible when I put my ear near the casing. But then it went away and I forgot about it.

The Alpha Juno 2 was originally released in 1985. The younger brother (in age, not size) to the Alpha Juno, the 2 added an extra octave and touch sensitivity, something that makes it a great master controller even to this day. Unlike the Juno-10…

Yamaha PortaSound PSS-480

As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan of FM synthesis. It’s not that I dislike it. I believe it has its uses, and there are some sounds it does better than anything else. But I never went through an FM phase like a lot of other people seem to have. I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s so I love analog synthesis. I consider a two-oscillator monosynth solo with plenty of portamento to be one of the finer things in life.

Recently, I have come to appreciate what FM synthesis can do. And while I’m still not a huge fan of six-operator synths like the DX7, take me down to four and watch me come alive. My TX81Z can do things no analog synth can do, and while I didn’t have it for very long, the DX100 was more than capable when it came to bass. Solid, even.

If four operators are better than six, imagine how good two operators must be. Sadly, this is not the case but two-op machines are capable of some pretty incredible sounds. From bells to falling cooking pan-like noise, it’s hard to beat a…

Casio CZ-5000

Boroboro is a word in Japanese that means junky. When I opened up the box and first saw my CZ-5000, that’s exactly what I thought. Ugh, boroboro. The paint was worn and faded, there were scratches in the silk screen lettering, the screws were all corroded, and it had two or three large stickers plastered to the front, as well as a few other places where stickers had been improperly removed. It was also missing its volume and chorus slider caps. I paid $200 for this?

Sometimes I get a little carried away bidding for things on Yahoo Auctions. “Wow, that’s a good price,” I think and then in my synthesizer fever I tend to not inspect the pictures as well as I should. I had no memory of all those stickers in the posted images but I went back and checked and they were indeed there. I could try to place the blame on the low-res pictures Yahoo Auctions uses but really this was all on me. Live and learn.

I had wanted a CZ-5000 for awhile, ever since I first got a CZ-101. I love the Casio phase…

Boss DR-110 Din Sync Mod

Learning how to fix and mod gear has been good for me. Not just because I get to enjoy using the instruments once they’re finished but because it’s helped me get more comfortable with failing. No one likes to fail but it’s precisely by screwing up that we can actually grow and learn. The first time I attempted this Boss DR-110 Circuitbenders din sync mod I screwed up and killed it. This time, I didn’t.

The DR-110 is a lovely drum machine. Much like a poor man’s TR-606, it has a wonderfully buzzy and metallic sound. And, unlike the 606, it has a clap. And what a glorious clap it is. Maybe the best clap in all drum machinedom? Maybe? It also has a positively bouncy swing to it. I like it almost as much as the 606, and even more on some sunny days. I can’t say enough good things about it.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty difficult to use this gorgeous sound in your songs unless you use it as a master clock because there’s no slave sync. No MIDI, no din sync, not even just plain clock sync. An…