Skip to main content

Roland Juno-106 (Part One - Damage Report)

I had no intention of buying another synth, let alone a money-suck like a Juno-106, but there it was on Yahoo Auctions for only $500. I couldn’t resist, especially when the seller had it listed as “no voice chip issues.” Ha! More on that later.

I’ve been wanting a Juno-106 for ages to replace the one I sold in 2001 when I was "downsized" and needed money to pay the rent. It was probably my favorite synth of my old studio, which also included a Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, Korg Mini-Korg 700, and a Realistic Concertmate MG-1. Of course the Juno sounded great, but I also found it to be a reliable workhouse that could handle pretty much whatever I threw at it: bass duties, filter sweep pads, effects. The fact that I associate the 106 with reliability will tell you how long ago that was. This was before the great 80017A VCF/VCA IC die-off.

My new 106 arrived in a light gig bag with just a thin layer of bubble wrap between it and the elements.  I’m talking no box at all. That should have been my first clue that all would not be well. Plugging it in, I immediately noticed the tell-tale sound of an envelope that wasn’t closing properly. I entered test mode, cycled through the voices, and sure enough, voice six was hanging. It was faint, so I’m willing to give the seller the benefit of the doubt that he gave it a quick check and then said, “It works.” But the longer I left it on, the worse it got, until at last it was a crackly mess. This would definitely need dealing with.

I opened it up and there they were: a full set of black death ICs all ready to expire. I weighed my options. The easiest way would be to yank the board out and send it to Synth Spa in the US to have the chips refurbished. Synth Spa has a good reputation, and they told me they honor their work for 8 years. The service also includes calibration, which is something I don’t know how to do.

The kids are alright.
The next easiest option would be to buy clone chips from Analogue Renaissance in Belgium. A full complement of chips is about the same price as the Synth Spa service, but doesn’t include installation or calibration.

Lastly, I could try to resuscitate the chips myself, but it doesn’t look like fun. It involves soaking the ICs in acetone to remove the black resin coating, resoldering the tiny tiny surface mount chips on the IC, removing the old pin legs, installing new ones, and then putting sockets in the board. I would also need to buy an oscilloscope to do the calibration, which would be an added expense, plus it might not be the brightest idea to tackle something like a 106 on my first try. No, there were just too many opportunities for error, and considering all the other things I have to do to get this unit ship shape, I figure I’m better off leaving it to the pros. So I’m 90% sure I’ll be going with Synth Spa for this.

While I had the 106 open I squirted some DeOxit into the HML output switch, which was noisier than my junior high school students during lunch break. I noticed that the battery was looking a little old, so that will need to be changed out at some point. I also read about power issues resulting from dry solder joints in the power supply, so I’ll be tackling that down the road as well. But that wasn’t all. Oh no, we’re just getting started.

Looking at the main panel, I couldn’t help but notice the blue buttons. Or what must have once been blue buttons. The current shade was more like a high school sophomore’s hair after one too many applications of Manic Panic. The white buttons were on the grody side of yuck as well. I’ve looked into this, and it seems some people use varying amounts of hydrogen peroxide, while others have painted them to restore them to their original hues. More research is required. Of course, where there are buttons, there are tactile switches, and this unit will need all 34 replaced.

The conundrum of owning vintage gear.
The Juno-106 is lauded for its controllability. All those sliders make patch editing a breeze. They’re also prone to all kinds of problems. While some of mine glide just fine, others are stiff and raspy. I tried a little DeOxit down in the trenches but it didn’t do anything, and apparently this is actually a bad idea for Roland sliders. While there are new sliders available from LA Synth Co, it’s about a hundred bucks for a set, but that doesn’t include the highpass filter and bender board sliders. No matter what, I’m going to have to refurbish some, so I may as well save some money and do them all. If I break one or two, I can always order them individually. And then the neoprene slider dust covers will have to be replaced, possibly with felt.

Lastly, aside from the one dead key (likely dirty contacts), there’s a dent in the case just below the cutoff faders. Maybe someone lost their temper after realizing how much time and money fixing this thing up would take. I have no idea if the dent can be smoothed out easily without cracking the paint. I sure hope so. I’m already looking at quite a bit more money flying away than I had initially counted on.

After I decide what to do with the chips, I’ll place the order and probably clean the key contacts. The rest will have to wait until summer vacation, as I have quite a few other ailing synths in line for work before this, and I do also have a full-time job. But I have no doubt that it will all be worth it to once again have a clean and working Juno-106 in my studio.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Korg Poly-800 (Moog Slayer Filter And Battery Mod)

I’m trying to improve my electronics skills. I thought modding might be the logical next step from changing internal batteries and swapping out tactile switches. I’d like to add MIDI to my Korg Poly-61 and maybe improve the MIDI on my Roland JX-3P. These mods require skills above and beyond what I have now, and I certainly don’t want to wreck them in the process, so when a cheap Poly-800 became available on Yahoo Auctions, I snapped it up in the hopes of trying the Moog Slayer Filter Mod. As anyone who’s looked at a Poly-800 knows, there are no knobs on the front panel, just a few buttons and a lot of teal. I couldn’t do much about the teal but I could add two knobs to bring direct control of the filter and cutoff parameters to the fore. Seeing as it’s a Poly-800, and they sell for around $100 in Japan, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I killed it. I could always sell it for parts and get my money back anyway. Cosmetically, my new Poly-800 wasn’t in terrible shape. There was so

Roland HS-80 SynthPlus 80 (Alpha Juno 2)

Although I listened to industrial music all through high school, and loved groups like Front 242 and Skinny Puppy, my interest in electronic music really exploded when I discovered techno and rave in 1991. I loved the energy of it but mostly I loved the sounds. It was unabashedly synthy, and each song was seemingly built around one or two incredible sounds that just repeated. It was glorious. I loved all the hoovers, but especially the Dominator, so if you had put money down with a bookie in 1991 that I’d someday be the proud owner of an Alpha Juno synth then you’d be a winner today. Well, almost. Instead of buying a reasonably sized Alpha Juno or Alpha Juno 2, I had to go and get the HS-80 SynthPlus 80, the rather unwieldy and, it has to be said, ugly home version. Introduced in 1987, a year later than the original Alphas, this behemoth widened the case to include an amp and two speakers. Gone are the fetching membrane buttons, replaced with D-50-style black push-button jobbi

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