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Showing posts from April, 2018

Roland JX-3P

I freely admit that the main reason I wanted a Roland JX-3P was because of the way that it looks. Those red accents. Those silver buttons. Those rainbow-like racing stripes. The DX7 and Poly-800 might be in a two-way tie for the most '80s-looking synthesizer, but the JX-3P is not far behind. However, unlike the two former synths, I absolutely adore the design of the JX-3P. It also doesn’t hurt that it sounds incredible. It has a shimmer to it, a heat haze glow that is unique among the '80s polys. Aluminum vapor. Summer days and gleaming fiber optics. Holographic alchemy. Magic, in other words. The relative rarity of the machine only adds to its allure. It’s quite possible that I never even saw a JX-3P in person until mine arrived at my door. I remember seeing pictures and thinking how odd it was that it had a separate programmer, the PG-200. Why not save everyone the trouble and just put those controls on the front panel like a Juno-106? It’s not like it saved the consu

Roland HS-80 SynthPlus 80 (Part 2 - Tact Switch Replacement)

It was time to change the tactile switches in my Roland HS-80 . It wasn’t in terrible shape but a few of the numbers were getting a little unresponsive, like the button equivalent of a cashier at the corner store more interested in their phone than your purchase. Looking around online, it was hard to find out just what tact switch was going to work . The HS-80 is the home version of the Alpha Juno 2, which uses two different kinds, one for the membrane buttons and another for the push buttons. But the HS-80 only has one kind—the push kind. So I cracked it open to see what I was working with. The HS-80 uses the 5mm tact switches exclusively. This is the same switch in the Juno-106. As I’m also working on a 106 restoration , I bought a big bag of switches on Wish for like a dollar. It was my first time using Wish so I wasn’t expecting much, but they were the right size and ended up working beautifully. Very tight and responsive. I undid all the screws and metal ground shields,

Yamaha CS-5

I decided I wanted to learn more about how synths work. I can solder and replace tact switches and internal batteries, but the hows and the whys, well, they’re still elusive. I wanted to know more. I asked around on Facebook for a good starter synth and people suggested the Korg MS-10 and Yamaha CS-5, as their circuits are relatively simple. A CS-5 in bad shape came up on Yahoo Auctions for not much money, so I pulled the trigger. The CS-5 is a single-oscillator monosynth from 1978. It was released a year after its big brother, the CS-10 , and was likely intended to be one’s first synthesizer. As an entry-level synthesizer you could do a lot worse. Although it only has one envelope pulling double duty for both VCA and filter, it has mixable waveforms (sawtooth and square), as well as pulse width modulation. Of course, there’s only one LFO (for now) but with the CS-5 you get sample and hold, and it’s a great one to boot. But specifications don’t mean much if the sound isn’t there. H

Synthesizers and Shinto

This is hard to write about. Not because I’m embarrassed or anything like that. It’s because it’s hard to put spiritual experiences into words, especially when they relate to the creation of music and the subconscious. But I shall try. I live in Japan. I currently live in the megalopolis of Tokyo but I spent three years in a small town in the mountains of Kyushu. Japan is dotted with shrines and temples, and this is much more true in the countryside. It’s especially true in Kyushu, where the native religion of Japan, Shinto, likely began. Shinto is an animistic belief system that assumes that everything has a spirit—you, me, trees, rocks, mountains, even the inanimate objects we make and own. And that includes synthesizers. It’s sometimes called a nature religion, and that’s also true, but I think it’s more about living in harmony with your environment, and whatever may be in it. Although Shinto and Buddhism (Japan’s other major religion) play a large part in the lives of the