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Showing posts from October, 2017

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

Roland JX-10 Super JX (Part One)

And so it happened that I found myself with a Roland JX-10, or Super JX as they’re also known. Roland wasn’t kidding around with this thing. It’s basically two JX-8P’s lashed together inside a case so big it puts some aircraft carriers to shame. It has a 76-note velocity-sensitive keyboard with aftertouch, a pitch bender with LFO modulation control, and more buttons than a closet full of dress shirts. Like many mid-80s synths, the Super JX foregoes sliders and pots and forces the user to make do with the aforementioned buttons, as well as an alpha dial, which is oddly slow to react for some parameters. But you don’t buy a synth for its buttons, you buy it for the sound, and in this case the Super JX is really something special. Like I said, it’s two JX-8P’s in one machine, which means you can double up the sounds and create full, rich, layered sounds with up to 12 voices of polyphony. You can also split the keyboard if you like. It was Roland’s flagship synth at the ti

Technics SY-1010

The Technics SY-1010 is not the most famous analog mono synth on the Japanese block. It's not the fattest sounding, nor the most complex. In fact, it's a little on the thin side and downright simple. It has one oscillator with only one waveform, for crying out loud. It's housed in a lightweight plastic case that's prone to discoloration, and its keys are often so yellow a life-long smoker would be shocked. And yet I love it. It was my first vintage synth purchase in maybe 20 years. I had recently gotten back into hardware, thanks to the MS-20 re-release, and was being increasingly lured in by the tantalizingly low prices on Yahoo Auctions. I had yet to really learn the language of auction lots in Japan but I took a chance and was surprised when I won the bidding for this Technics synth for around $100. Something of a rarity even in Japan, the SY-1010 was sold in Technics showrooms in Japan in the late ‘70s. I imagine it must have been similar to the RadioS

Boy Meets Synth

I've been bitten by the synth bug. Although this is not my first time to collect synthesizers, I have never been so enthusiastic about acquiring them before. I spend quite a bit of my spare time checking auction listings, watching synth demos on YouTube, and mentally mapping out how that new piece of gear is going to fit into my already crowded studio. I have also taken up electronics repair as a way to care for my own gear, and so I think about synth repair almost as much as buying. And then of course there's selling gear to support buying more. It's a never-ending spiral of obsession and I love it. I'm also a musician and despite what you just read, I do actually make music with the gear I acquire. I started making electronic music when I was 12, when my parents bought me a Korg Poly-800. I have made experimental and industrial, acid house and breaks, techno and ambient, and lately dream pop and krautrock. Like many others, there was a time when I worked entirely