Kawai Q-80 Sequencer buy one get one free!

Kawai Q-80 Sequencer
Kawai Q-80 Sequencer

Unbelievable! I went back to the store today where I recently purchased my Roland W-30 and Kawai K4r. I noticed in the junk area was a mint condition Kawai Q-80 which in my opinion is a great little sequencer. The price was $10 which included the Kawai Q-80, manual, and adapter. I went up to the counter to buy it and the guy told me he had another one he would give me since I was interested in the device. He told me I was a frequent customer so he would allow me to buy both for $5 each.

The Q-80 is a 32-track sequencer with 26,000-note capacity and a built-in 3.5″ disk drive. Extensive and complete editing, real-time and step recording and quantizing with up to 10 songs. A new “motif” function allows up to 100 stored musical phrases or “motifs” for use or insertion into a song at any time. The Q-80 works well in the studio and for live performances. The Q-80 can also store MIDI system exclusive data to disk from other synths. (1988)

Also the 32 tracks all have their own mute buttons (8 buttons across and 4 rows to toggle through). The beauty is that each track can be any length so no copying short sections out against other longer ones. Plus it holds 10 songs worth of tracks in memory when you power it off and it has a floppy drive for backup which doesn’t need to be used in order to run the sequencer.

With both units, the floppy drives work fantastic. Both sequencers were in mint condition without any sign of wear. Plus I got adapters for both along with manuals. The LCDs were in pristine condition and everything worked just great. Will I use these extensively? We’ll see, but with the price at $5 bucks each, I just couldn’t pass them up.

Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer

Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer Module
Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer

Today I picked up a “like new” Kawai K4r 16bit Digital Synthesizer Module at a local second shop in Japan for an amazing price of $20. I couldn’t believe the price and they even had the module sitting over in the junk section. I think they either thought it sounded like junk, or they looked it up and couldn’t find any info. Whatever they thought, they basically let me walk out the door with an almost mint condition Kawai K4r Synth. Not only that, but the Kawai K4r came with a Ram Card, set of manuals, power adapter, and an extra Rom Card titled “Synthetic Productions – Masteram Series Voice Card for Kawai K4 Volume 1”.

Honestly I had never heard of the Kawai K4 or K4r until today but for $20 I had to give it a shot. The sounds are pretty good, but after reading about this synth module, there are quite a few cool sounds and editing capabilities under the hood. It will be fun to go through all the presets, card voices, and do some preliminary programming with it. I can say that a few of the pads, basses, and sfx sounds are fabulous that I quickly listened to. At the price I bought it for I feel it’s going to be a really fun synth to work with.

All in all, it was a pretty good week picking up a mint Roland W-30 and Kawai K4r for a total of $100 bucks. My thinking is that they must have come from the same person because they were both produced in 1989 if correct and the they were both in mint condition. It’s going to be a fun weekend jamming with these two machines.

Later I’ll write some additional comments and thoughts about the Kawai K4r synthesizer as I learn the ins and outs of how to program with it in addition to just playing around with the presets. Stay tuned!

Roland W-30 Music Workstation Found!

Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation
Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation

Yesterday I picked up a “mint” condition Roland W-30 Sampler Workstation from a used audio shop here in Nagano City, Japan. The W30 was in mint condition with all the manuals, system disks, and sounds disks. Not only that but the manuals and disks were practically not even used as they were in pristine condition…amazing! Also included was the KW30 SCSI kit manual and floppy disk. Inside the chip was indeed installed. A case was also included. The entire package I bought for $80 which I thought was a great deal considering the KW30 chip was installed with all accessories. The manuals were in Japanese of course, but I can read Japanese so no problem there.

At home I was able to scrounge up an old 4.36GB SCSI hard disk which I was able to connect and sure enough, the Roland W-30 was able to communicate with the HD. I then was able to format the HD which took about 30 minutes and it indeed formatted to max capacity of 80MB. I then tested saving and loading various sounds and everything worked very well. I also tested an IOMEGA 250MB Zip drive with a 100MB zip disk and the Roland W-30 would not communicate with it at all. Some have had success with the Iomega Zip 250 drive, but from my experience it doesn’t work. I saw a Fujitsu 100MB SCSI Zip drive at the same used audio store for $5 bucks so I’ll probably pick that up for testing. I’ve heard that SCSI 100MB Zip drives will work fine.

The Roland W-30 boots fine with the Floppy Drive, but since I had the Hard Disk working I thought I would try to boot from the HD. This did not work despite following all sorts of instructions and trying different methods. After research and testing, it appears I need to find a different HD that can boot the W-30. Although my HD works for saving and loading sounds, it does not work as a boot drive.

I also was successfully able to tape the left hole of High Density Floppy Disks and format them as DD disks without any problems using Windows 7 Professional. I used the Sdiskw software to then load and create sound images from sources on the internet. I was able to establish a very simple workflow to transfer soundsets found on the internet to the Roland W-30 using the Sdiskw software. The only issue however is that I have yet to find a way to load and transfer WAV files. Most likely though I will simply sample directly using the inputs of the Roland W-30. The computer drives me crazy with regards to music and so far the Roland W-30 has been very simple to work with on it’s own.

Why did I buy it? The price was a bargain for this popular 1989 Keyboard Workstation. The sound is really ( I mean really ) good with the right samples and their is some functionality you can’t get on some of the newer samplers to date. For my purposes, the Roland W-30 is a real gem. For example I found a great Hammond Sample today and it was a blast playing that on the Roland W-30. Yes, the memory is limited, but honestly if I want backtracks I just use my SP-606, Roland X Series, or Korg Triton to do that. I basically wanted a keyboard that I could sample sound bites and then have fun editing and playing them expressively on the keys. There is so much you can do with the keyboard, sequencer, and editing functions.

The Roland W-30 is such a joy to play. Everything on my W30 works flawlessly and the condition is mind boggling. Somebody must have just locked this up in their closet for the past 20 years. Japan is such a great place to find used vintage gear I must say.

As I discover new uses and techniques for the Roland W-30, I’ll be sure to post comments to follow-up this article. Right now I would like to find a Hard Disk to book the Roland W-30. I would also like to have a Zip drive that works as well. With that said though I do have an HD that is saving and loading sounds. Plus my Floppy drive works great with the possibility that I might pick up a backup drive from Route66. I also would like to find a work flow for loading my own wav files from the computer, but for now I’ll just record direct. That should suffice for now and it might even be the best and fastest way to do things.

Stay tuned for more updates and feel free to comment or email if you have any specific questions about the Roland W-30 Music Sampler Workstation. I am so glad I bought it!

Does the SD Card HxC Floppy Emulator work on the Roland S-330 and W-30 Samplers?

Roland S-330 – YES!
Roland W-30 – YES!

Check out Synth Japan forums for more discussions.

Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia

Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-201 Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 GAIA Japan
Roland SH-01 GAIA

Roland SH-201 versus SH-01 Gaia.  I own both of these synthesizers and here’s what I think.

First, I bought the Roland SH-201 used for $500 bucks over a year ago, so I definitely got it much cheaper than paying full price for the Roland SH-01 Gaia.  Personally, for what you get, I think the price should have been the other way around to a certain degree.

For my purposes, I actually prefer the Roland SH-201 over the SH-01.  Here are my reasons.

1.  The Roland SH-201 has software that fully supports the creation and catalog of sounds on the computer.  The software is really good.

2.  Via the software, you can split the keyboard any way you like.  This makes it great to play a bass sound on the lower part of the synth, while cranking out a lead solo on top.

3.  If you plug in an iPod with backtracks, you can more easily create a sort of one man band using the Sh-201 since you can split the keyboard better.

4.  You also can save your own created arpeggios to the user slots on the SH-201.  This is what the SH-01 should have had and I’m mystified as to why they dropped it.  User arps is a must for me.

5.  You get an extra octave over the 37 keys on the GAIA.  Yes, it’s longer but the synth is really not that much bigger and the SH-201 is still light weight.

6.  If you only use two layers of sounds ( which most people will I’m guessing initially ), then the SH-201 will get you close to the great sound of the Gaia.  Sonically, the Gaia is better, but not by a wide margin in my opinion.  I also think the SH-201 is a bit grittier which I personally like for Rock oriented synth stuff I sometimes like to play.  Some think basses are slightly better sounding on the SH-201 as well, but that is subjective I know.

7.  You still get the D-Beam, Ext In, Phrase Recorder, and all the other bells and whistles that the Gaia has with the exception of the effects.  Most will probably just plug in an external effects processor to compensate.

8.  The Roland SH-201 can be found at blow-out prices if you act quickly.  Later on, the demand might hike it up once people realize that “perhaps” it is a nice synthesizer after all.

While I slightly prefer and recommend the SH-201 over the SH-01, the GAIA does have some notable pluses.  The sound is better by most accounts, you get the three tone layers and effects palette, plus it definitely is more portable if you need to hike around with it.  It’s also arguably better looking.  You also get the USB stick connection and it’s new, so support may blossom, although Roland so far has been very weak and slow with marketing this product.

All in all, if I could only choose one synth to buy, it would be the Roland SH-201.  There’s just more functionality to it and sonically, not that much off the Gaia so far.  Perhaps my view may change later on.  Stay tuned..

Fun with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia

Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer
Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer

A little over a month ago I picked up a brand new Roland SH-01 Gaia Synthesizer at Shimamura Music Store in Nagano City Japan.  It was the very first model they received and the owner whom I know well was kind enough to hold it for me.  Why did I buy it and what do I think?  Here are some initial thoughts.

PROS:

1.  The Sh-01 is compact, lightweight, sleek, and battery powered which means it will be the synth I pack with me to my daughter’s dance and skating events.  I can sit on the bleachers and jam away for a couple of hours.

2.  You can save all your work on a USB stick plugged into the back of the unit.  Data can be transferred to and from the computer.  This is great.

3.  There are knobs and sliders for everything on this synth.  Much like my Juno-6 and Juno-106, I’ll be able to adjust all the needed parameters three fold!

4.  The three tone layers are fantastic.  I can layer motion sounds over static synth pads and then even have a third layer for additional elements over that.  Getting a nice thick and layered sound should be easy.

5.  The on board effects are outstanding thus far, especially the Bit Crusher effect which I use quite a bit.  There are reports that Chorus is missing, but I should be able to create that by other means.

6.  The sound DOES live up to the hype.  It’s a great sounding synth which is why I’ll definitely be keeping it despite the many CONS written below.

7.  Has an audio Ext In which is great for attaching my iPod with backtracks and audio tutorials.

8.  The D-Beam Controller is surprisingly good and usable on the Gaia.  I really like it so far, especially when use with effects.

9.  Easy to shift the keys down an octave or two, so having only 37 keys is not that bad.  The keys are full size and great by the way.  You can definitely “run” fast when soloing.

CONS:

1.  The SH-01 is Polyphonic BUT not multitimbral.  This sucks in that I really wish I had at least two to split sounds with.

2.  There is no way to split the keyboard probably due to point #1 above.

3.  You cannot create user arpeggios or save them as there are no user slots.

4.  You can create and save real time phrases using the built-in recorder, BUT, once you change the patch, the sound in the phrase changes too.  This really sucks because it means you can’t layer a solo over a background patch.

5.  USB storage capacity is fixed which means you can’t go any higher than 1GB.  This is ok, but you would think it would be possible for more, but nope!

6.  Roland still has not released the CB-37SY case for this synth yet.  They’re late!!  I have one on order at Shimamura but no word yet on it’s release.

7.  No software available for the Roland SH-01 Gaia yet.  Is there one in the works?  Not sure, but I think a librarian will be needed with how easy it is to create new sounds on the Gaia.

8.  Some might not like that fact that the board is only 37 keys.  See my “Pro” point #9 though.

9.  Despite the nice feel and sound, I do think Roland over priced this unit a little bit.

Overall, I am happy I purchased the Roland SH-01 Gaia.  It is hard to get one where I live and not many appear to be arriving in stores.  I would like to see Roland support it more with software, extra sounds, and perhaps some additional sound creation tutorials.  In the end though, I am very happy with the board for the main reason of being able to carry it around and playing it while on the go.  Ultimately, the Roland SH-01 Gaia makes for an excellent synth to create new sounds, but also as a lead solo synth on top of your other gear.