Hard Off Japan Used Audio Music Computer

Hard Off Japan

Hard Off is the name of the used music store that I frequent and buy most all of my second music gear from Nagano city, Japan. The attached photo was taken by me showing the downtown Nagano city Hard Off store. There are also two other Hard Off stores nearby that I also go to that get used music gear in on a weekly basis. To get the good stuff you need to hit the stores at least once a week. I find if I go on the weekend and then on either a Monday or Tuesday, I can intercept some really good stuff. Good deals on vintage music gear, audio equipment, and old computer devices can be found quite regularly. It’s also well known that the Japanese take really good care of their old stuff. Very often you will find accessories, boxes, manuals, stickers, etc. for the gear that you buy at Hard Off stores. In addition, there are used book stores called “Book Off” that are part of the chain. The names of these stores “Hard Off” and “Book Off‘ are classic examples of how the Japanese mangle the English language. It’s hard to keep a straight face when saying the names of these stores.

Typically, Hard Off Japan sells old music gear with a three month warranty against the item breaking. Items that have no warranty are classified as “junk” but I have found the store just doesn’t want to be responsible so they label good working items as “junk”. Generally, music gear without OS disks or support disks are labeled as junk so I one can get some really great deals. All of the items are shrink wrapped after they are carefully cleaned with air guns and cloths. You can test drive guitars, keyboards, and amps at any time of course. I also noticed that you can’t haggle very much if at all, but if you are a frequent customer like myself, they will throw extra things in your bag like cables, disks, guitar picks, straps, batteries, etc. About twice a year, Hard Off Japan will have sales in their store and they pretty much knock off 10-20% on all items. These sales last about two weeks and are generally not announced. Also, about once per year there is a complete remarking of price tags to account for the change of pricing or value of used items over time.

All in all, Hard Off Japan is a fantastic place to find used audio, music, and computer gear. I find the prices reasonable, but most of all, I find the used gear to be consistently in excellent condition with little wear. There’s always something new each week and it’s a thrill when you walk in and find that special item you are looking for on the shelf. This just happened last week when I found an almost brand new Boss RC-50 in the box just sitting there. Immediately I grabbed it and ran to the register. Things go sell fast there so you have to know your stuff before you buy. There’s usually no coming back for hot items.

Discuss at SynthJapan Forum

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Roland GP-8 GP-16 Guitar Effects Processors

Roland GP-16 Digital
Roland GP-16 Digital Guitar Effects Processor

Today I picked up a used Roland GP-8 and Roland GP-16 guitar effects processor for a total of a hundred bucks over at the music second hand shop. They were just brought in today and were in excellent condition. The GP-8 was in very good condition considering the age of the unit. The Roland GP-16 was in mint condition which was very surprising. I didn’t get any manuals or foot controllers, but I do already have an FC100 so that should work fine.

The GP-8 is mostly an Analog Effects Processor with basically 8 Boss stomp boxes in one unit. The Roland GP-8 Guitar Effects Processor is one of the earliest (1987) multi-effect racks with 8 effect blocks that included Dynamic Filter, Compressor, Over Drive, Distortion, Phaser, Equalizer, Digital Delay and Digital Chorus. The digital delay and chorus are both 12-bit. There is a slight bit of noise with this unit but nothing that a Noise Suppressor can’t take care of. There also is no reverb, but I can always get that out of the GP-16 or somewhere else.

Roland GP-8 Analog
Roland GP-8 Guitar Effects Processor

The GP-16 is a Digital Effects Processor that contains a Compressor, Distortion, Overdrive, Picking Filter, Step Phaser, Parametric Equalizer, Noise Suppressor, Short Delay, Chorus, Flanger, Pitch Shifter, Space-D, Auto Panpot, Tap Delay, Reverb, and Lineout Filter respectively. I heard a rumor that the Space-D is the same as the Boss DC-2 although that I believe was analog and not digital. So that’s probably the only difference between the DC-2 and GP-16 Space-D. The Parametric Equalizer, Chorus, and Flanger are really good on the Roland GP-16 as well.

I already have the Boss GT10 and GT8 pedal boards. I didn’t need the Roland GP-8 or GP-16, but for $100 together, I couldn’t pass them up. I’m really glad I bought them. Of all my pedal boards now, I think I like the Roland GP-8 Distortion the best. It really reminded me of the boss distortion pedals in my room when I was a kid in the 80’s. It’s really fantastic in my opinion. The Dynamic Filter, Compressor, and Phaser are also really good.

With the Roland GP-16 (1990), I particularly liked the Dimension Space-D, Chorus, Flanger, and Phaser effects. Just about all of the modulation effects are fantastic. The distortion is not as good at the GP-8 to my ears but still usable. The GP-8 sounds fatter and more full, while the GP-16 is a bit thinner, BUT, not as thin as my Boss GT-10 when I first plugged that in. The GT-10 I thought was really really tinny and had a lot of fizz. The GP-8 had no fizz at all in the distortion department and the GP-16 almost nil as well, but it did have something a little fizzy which I can’t quite put my finger on but not so bothersome as with the Boss GT-10.

Overall, I am pleasantly surprised by both the Roland GP-8 and GP-16. I didn’t expect to use them much for guitar, but rather for my older synths and keyboards. However, I think I’ll be taking the GP-8 for it’s wicked distortion the next time I’m out playing. I think the GP-16 should sound great with my keys and even my guitar synth. It’s pretty cool too.

I should also note that both the Roland GP-8 and GP-16 worked perfectly with Midi Quest Sound Librarian and editor. I tested them both today and I was able to transfer all Patch banks for editing. So effectively, I can now edit patches on the computer very easily for both processors. I also have the older Emagic Sound Diver for PC and noticed there is an instrument file for the Roland GP-8. I’ll have to try and see if that works, but for now Midi Quest is good. Both the GP-8 and GP-16 came with the original patches as well, so I didn’t have to go looking for them. Manuals were found on the UK Roland FTP site.

I STRONGLY recommend the Roland GP-8 for a great all around and cheap effects processor if you can find one in good condition. I would also recommend the Roland GP-16 but only after you get the GP-8. I also think both make great effects processor for synths too. If anyone can confirm that the Boss DC-2 is indeed inside the Roland GP-16, please comment. I’d love to know if this is true as I’ve never heard a real DC-2 to compare. The Roland GP-16 Space-D sounds sweet though.

In conclusion, the Roland GP-8 and GP-16 are still very good effects processors despite their age. The Roland GP-16 has some very unique patches and effect combos in it which I can understand bring some people back to them. The Roland GP-8 is just warm and friendly. I love it!

Discuss at SynthJapan Forums

New Synth Japan Forum

I have created a new forum called Synth Japan that will contain info and comments about experiences with various musical gear that I own. Feel free to post there if find the comments here a bit hard to follow. Lately, I’ve been getting more comments and needed a way to better post and organize info.

Please note that I’ll be getting additional categories up at the Synth Japan forum and moving some of my blog posts and comments there. Thanks! – Jim

Synth Japan Forums
http://www.synthjapan.com/

SCSIforSamplers SCSI Flash Card Reader Review

Triton Classic 61 SCSI Drive
Triton Classic 61 SCSI Drive

SCSI Card Readers (SCSICardReaders)http://www.scsicardreaders.com/
It’s been a little while since I received and installed the SCSIforSamplers SCSI Flash Card Reader for my Triton Classic 61 Keyboard and I wanted to write a review of my experience. At the time I purchased the drive, pictured in this post, I actually had a very bad experience with SCSIforSamplers. I felt it necessary to give it some time in order to digest everything and calm down so to speak..LOL.

The product I purchased was the CF-CARD SCSI Flash Card Reader and installation kit for the Triton Classic 61 keyboard. The price is expensive many will think, but I feel if you use the keyboard you are installing the unit to, then it’s overall worth the money for sure. I use the Triton Classic quite a bit and the CF-Card reader has been a very nice and worthwhile addition.

After ordering from SCSIforSamplers, I received very good communication with regards to delivery time, manual documents, plus a nice friendly thank you for my order. All was well. It took about a week to get the drive to Japan which I thought was pretty fast. The drive and installation kit was well packaged and documented.

Now I have built several computers and have cracked open many different synthesizers and musical oriented gear in the past. So, coming off my successful Roland Juno 106 project, I felt pretty confident that with reading the instructions I should be able to install the CF-Card reader with few if any problems. However, it didn’t turn out that way. The major problem I had with the drive installation concerned the parts pertaining to the SCSI area in the back. The instructions were clear, but not clear enough considering the parts sent to me were slightly different. I felt it was like a puzzle where you had to figure out how to assemble several pieces so that they would all “mesh” nicely together. Instead, it was like a Rubix Cube with me trying different ways to get things to connect well. As I progressed it became increasingly obvious that the parts, instructions, and experiences by others were not all in sync.

I also met a nice gentleman from the Korg Forums who had success installing a SCSIforSamplers CF-Card reader for his Triton and he kindly had photos posted on his gallery website. To my surprise, I noticed some small differences in the parts. Clearly, the instructions and the parts were in the ball park, but were not precisely the same. This explained why the SCSI section was not going together well. As a result I notified the SCSIforSamplers developer, who basically did two things that set me off. First, he told me there was nothing wrong or different about the parts. Second, he wanted me to ship everything back. That didn’t sit well with me. SCSIforSamplers could care less I thought and so I decided to continue trying to make it work on my own…somehow.

So, I elected to try everything in the book and finally one evening found the “secret” way to get all the parts together. It was and still is an “extremely” tight fit and I’m not all that sure I’ll be able to squeeze the EXB-MOSS board in there should I ever elect to do so. Nonetheless, the parts were close as depicted in the instructions. I just didn’t feel I was sent the exact same parts as evident when comparing to the previous gentleman’s photos. In the case of my installation, these small differences in part dimensions created a problem for the installation.

Overall, the SCSIforSamplers CF-Card reader works as advertised for the Korg Triton Classic. I would definitely recommend this drive to other Triton users and feel you will not be disappointed in the product. I also feel that in the beginning communication is top notch and packaging very well done. The only complaint I have is make sure things don’t go wrong. I am not confident that the developer of SCSIforSamplers understands that when changes are made to a product, however small, it can effect customers. Perhaps I am the only one who has ever experienced a problem with the installation.

So do checkout SCSIforSamplers if you are in need of an upgrade to your floppy drive. The device works and you’ll have great fun with the addition to your synth or keyboard. Most likely you will also not have any installation issues as most people seem to have positive reviews about SCSIforSamplers. I think they all got the same parts….LOL.

UPDATE: SCSIforSamplers has changed to SCSI Card Readers (SCSICardReaders)http://www.scsicardreaders.com/.

Boss RC-50 Synthesizer Loop Station

Boss Roland RC-50 RC50
Boss RC-50 Loop Station

Today I picked up a mint conditioned Boss RC-50 Loop Station at a nearby used music shop for $250. The only thing missing in the package was the CD-Rom and manual which is the reason why the salesman knocked off quite a bit from the original price. It’s amazing they do that because anyone can simply log onto the internet and find that information. They really reduce the price greatly no matter what’s missing it seems. Of course thats great for getting a reduced price on some nice music gear.

For a while I’ve had the urge to get a Boss RC-50. I’m a big fan of looping, originally with my guitar, but lately with sythesizers and keyboards. I’ve worked with the Boss RC-2, RC-20, Gibson Echoplex, Lexicon Jamman, and most recently the Digitech Jamman Solo. Both the Jamman Solo and Boss RC-50 are stereo. In Japan, the Boss RC-50 has always been very hard to find for anything except paying the retail price of $500. I figured when I saw this unit for half that I realized it was probably now or never.

The Boss RC-50 has lots of problems I’ve heard, namely with midi sync and any sort of tempo adjustment. With my experience using the Gibson Echoplex, I find that you most likely will have to use the Boss RC-50 as master in order to resolve most sync or midi issues. The ONLY looper I have ever used that worked flawlessly with midi sync as both slave or master was the Lexicon Jamman. The Lexicon Jamman is “the best” with regards to midi sync as far as I’m concerned. However, linking all my synthesizers up to midi is not what I am interested in right now.

The main reasons for acquiring the Boss RC-50 were several.

1. I like the fact that it’s stereo and that the sound quality is very good sonically.
2. I think the 24 minutes of loop/sample time is adequate for my live looping situations.
3. It’s relatively easy to transfer WAV files to/from the computer via USB.
4. Surprisingly, the footprint of this pedal board is smaller than expected. It’s not bad.
5. Using the Boss RC-50 in multimode with three tracks playing simultaneously is fantastic and probably the main reason why I bought it.

With regards to midi and adjusting tempo, I don’t really need to worry about that. I also do not have any issues with timing when playing by myself or with others. I don’t know why, but I don’t seem to have timing issues in or outside a band like some people do.

Finally, I have heard great things about looping with Ableton Live. It’s probably the best way to loop “IF” you are into computers and are they type that doesn’t mind lugging your computer gear on stage and configuring it. Some people really have a system down. I am old school perhaps and I also work everyday with computers on the job, so I prefer to work with dedicated hardware at the moment. I don’t deny though that Ableton is likely the best solution if you want a ton of looping features. The Gibson Echoplex is great too by the way if you can still find one. It’s a mono looper though.

For small footprint guitar pedals, the Digitech Jamman Solo and Boss RC-2 Looper are great devices. I have both and they are great tools. I haven’t tried the Line6 M9 or M13, but I’ve heard they are great basic loopers as well. Roland I noticed has a countdown happening on their website, so maybe we’ll see an update to the Roland Looper line within the year or early next. For now though, I’m having a blast with the Boss RC-50 Loop Station with my Synth and keyboard gear. It’s easy to loop a quick drum track and throw a bass line on top of that. Then it’s great fun to kick in with a rhodes sound and practice away.

I practice a lot of jazz, funk, rnb, and gospel progressions on the keys, so it’s fun to lay down a groove to practice my chords, runs, and movements with each style. While sequencing is certainly possible, I sometimes just prefer to loop sections using the Boss RC-50 now and jam on that for a while. I can also save the WAV phrase files for later if I happen to like the groove and wish to develop it further into a song. It’s great fun.

What’s your favorite looper?

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Roland S-760 Digital Sampler in Japan

Roland S-760 Digital Sampler
Roland S-760 Digital Sampler

Today I managed to locate a used Roland S-760 Digital Sampler at a remote used music shop near Nagano City here in Japan. The unit was in excellent condition and it had the manuals, but no disks. The gentleman at the counter said it was junk and I said to myself “Are you kidding?”. He sold it to me for $35 because he said he couldn’t get it to work without the disks. I wanted to say if he had heard of the internet at all, but instead I slapped down the cash and walked away with a fine Roland S-760.

At home I found some english manuals in PDF format from Roland and then later found the System OS 2.24 disk needed to fire it up. Sure enough, the Roland S-760 started up beautifully and I was all ready to go. I even noticed I had the OP-760-1 board in the back and the memory fully expanded at 32MB. Amazing!! I still don’t have a Roland MU-1 Mouse yet, but I did manage to install SoundDiver 3.0.5.2 for Windows which has the Roland S-760 and S-330. I connected the Roland S-760 to SoundDiver and everything worked great!

A friend of mine had several Rhodes samples which I loaded into the Roland S-760 and they sounded fantastic! I then connected an MO Disk Drive to the SCSI on the back and saved the samples to an MO disk. I also saved the system, but I am not sure if you can boot off an MO or other drive with the Roland S-760 yet. I know you can with the Roland W-30. The MO drive was very quiet and fast when both saving and loading files I thought. So after I boot up the S-760 using the Floppy, I can then load up all the different Rhodes Performances rather quickly.

It’s been a fun couple of weeks. I never thought I could score a Roland W-30, S-330, and S-760 all for $200 in near mint condition. Indeed I have to work with SCSI and older gear, but the sound quality is really really good. I also find it a lot of fun playing around with older gear as well as someone who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s just amazing at how little people will take for this stuff here in Japan. If you check out the rest of my blog, you’ll notice all of the great deals I’ve been finding lately.

Check out Synth Japan forums for more discussions.

Please check out the comments below for updates on this post.

Portable Sequencer for Roland SH-01 Gaia

Yamaha QY-10 Portable Sequencer
Yamaha QY-10 Portable Sequencer

Today I picked up an old Yamaha QY-10 sequencer from the local used music shop for $10. The case is an actual VHS case which I thought was pretty cool. I bought the Yamaha QY-10 because it was very small, takes batteries, and was a nice cheap solution use along with the Roland Sh-01 Gaia. I also know Yamaha Sequencers rather well owning an RM1x and RS7000. Actually you can use it with any synth of course, but because the Roland SH-01 is portable, it works best for me with the SH-01. There are probably better solutions, but I thought the Yamaha QY-10 would be fun to try. It’s a pretty old sequencer, but it seems to do patterns and songs pretty well. It’s just something to plug into the Gaia on the road and work with.