Portable Music with the Boss Micro Br Recorder

Boss Micro-Br Recorder
Boss Micro-Br Recorder

Today I found and picked up a used Boss Micro BR portable music recorder here in Japan. It’s incredibly small and very light weight. I currently don’t have any recording devices other than samplers, loopers, or the computer. I thought about getting a larger recording device, but I always felt that the computer was probably the best choice for me so I tend to use that when I need to record.

There were several factors that prompted me to buy the Boss Micro BR. Originally I was considering the Korg Sound on Sound Portable Multitrack recorder which I still like, however I can only find it new and I’m not ready to pay full price for one yet. I basically bought the Boss Micro BR (unit only) for $50. The 128mb demo SD card was found inside but that was it. At home here I already have an extra AC Adapter plus a 2GB sandisk memory card that worked great although I’ve heard the Boss Micro-br only works up to 1GB. That’s fine for now though. I also had plenty of cables and the manuals are all available online which I prefer. Being in Japan, most manuals are in Japanese anyway so I obviously migrate to the internet to get the necessary literature.

Although I play the keyboard most of the time nowadays, I grew up playing and still play the electric guitar. I find that the Boss Micro-br is FANTASTIC for sitting anywhere in the studio, house, or even outside for playing. The Boss Micro BR runs on batteries and I can just sit anywhere and jam on the guitar to either the built-in drum machine or to backing tracks that I record. I even think it’s possible to create your own drum patterns using a Drum Pattern Arranger which is available via shareware. I can also use the available conversion software and either import or export WAVs and/or MP3s which is nice.

Basically though, the Boss Micro BR is a fun little unit. I grew up in the 80’s and the only thing close to this that I once had was the Tom Scholz Rockman which had that “Boston” Rock sound I recall. I never really used it much because I remember it being quite one dimensional with the “Boston” sound and there were other little quirks too like no drum machine and you couldn’t record on it. It was great at the time because I could jam on my guitar while walking around the house. It was certainly a novelty at best. With the Boss Micro BR I can get a very good amp simulator, great quality sound, and loads of effects. Plus I get a dedicated drum machine and 4 tracks to record ideas and/or back tracks. Through headphones the Boss Micro BR really sounds fantastic. Some people are critical of the distortion, but again coming from the old classic Rockman of the 80’s I find the distortion to be better than anything I’ve ever heard unless of course you are a big Boston fanatic…laugh.

I also will likely use the Boss Micro BR as a voice recorder and MP3 player. I tried both and it performs very well with these two functions. I also own another Voice-Trek recorder which I use quite a bit. Being in Japan, I often send MP3 voice messages to family and friends, so it’s nice to have a backup with the Boss Micro BR. I’m also constantly listening to music and knowing I have something I can use as a backup MP3 player is great. I’ll probably throw all kinds of music and podcasts on this. Plus you can use the Boss Micro BR as a means to slow down music for learning songs, chords and riffs for either the guitar or the keyboard. This works very well also. It will also be great to throw the Boss Micro BR into my Roland SH-01 GAIA case and have something to record or jam with on the go.

I bought the Boss Micro BR over competing brands simply because it had a rock bottom “used” price and it had some pretty good functions to start my recording with. Whether I move on to something else or not will likely happen if I encounter some major problems or find a used Korg SoS recorder for a good price. There may be something else out there as well and if anyone can recommend a good portable music recorder alternative, please leave a comment. I’d sure appreciate it.

Although Music recorders have been around for a few years now, it’s still a slight volatile market with updates happening every year or less it seems. I think the Boss Micro BR was released in 2006 if correct. All in all though it’s a fun little device and can be used and enjoyed in many different ways. Support from Boss seems to be good and so far I haven’t had any issues with learning how to operate the device. Some say it’s overly complicated, but as a synth player, computer programmer, and overall sound nut, I find it’s not that hard really. Like everything else, it just requires a bit of work to learn initially and then you’re off and running. Again, my expectations are low and requirements are simple, so perhaps that’s why it’s been a good match so far.

Should be fun doing some keyboard jams with it too!! Enjoy!

Precision Sounds Rhodes Wurlitzer MKS20 Samples Review

Precision Sound Electric Piano Samples
Precision Sound Electric Piano Samples

Today I just got a newsletter from Precision Sound about their Winter Sale which consists of 50 percent off on all Sample Sets until 31 December 2010. I’ve been waiting for this sale to come up so I could finally pick up some Samples sets to program into my Yamaha Motif ES and Roland Fantom XR Sound Module. I was primarily interested in the EP Electric Piano series samples which consists of the MKS-20, Fender Rhodes MKII 73, and Wurlitzer A200 Electric Piano. I recently purchased the GospelMusicians MKSensation and Neo-Soul Rhodes and I’m excited about adding to that collection with these new sample sets.

I’m a HUGE fan of the electric piano sound in jazz, gospel, Rnb, Funk, you name it. I don’t have a read Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, nor an MKS-20, so I feel (hope) these Sample sets will get me close if not there. At the moment I am programming these into my Motif and Fantom because those are my primary multisample based hardware keys at the moment. Once I have them in there, I’ll update my article here with some thoughts about how I think they sound and maybe make some comparisons to other sample sets like I mentioned above. These Sample Sets can be expensive I know which is why I waited for the Precision Sounds Samples to go on Sale.

The exact Precision Sound Sample Sets I purchased are as follows for those interested:

Dusty Electric MkII V2 – Fender Rhodes Mk II 73 Stage Piano
Funky Electric P200 V2 – Wurlitzer A200 Electric Piano
P20 – Vintage Digital – Roland MKS-20 8 Presets

If anyone has a questions or thoughts, please feel free to comment below. Thanks! – Jim

Roland Fantom XR with FAN-XR-UP1 Sample Tools Expansion Kit

Roland Fantom XR
Roland Fantom XR

Today I found a used Roland Fantom XR with the FAN-XR-UP1 “Sample Tools Expansion Kit” and all accessories for $500 at the used music shop outside of Nagano city, JAPAN. It was a real find and I really didn’t expect to get it, but there were a few things that made be make the purchase. First the Fantom XR came with the FAN-XR-UP1 “Sample Tools Expansion Kit” installed along with all the accessories found in the kit. The kit accessories included the Fantom-XR Sample Tools Expansion Kit CompactFlash Card, PC Card Adapter, CD-Rom (Editor), Fantom-XR Sound List (Leaflet), Guide to the Added Functionality (Booklet), and finally a sticker. In addition, the Fantom XR was fitted with one stick of 512MB memory and an extra 1GB Compact Flashcard was thrown into the bag. Finally, in the accessories bag was a manual for the SRX-12 Classic EPs expansion card which I later found was already installed inside the Fantom XR. BONUS!

I thought for $500 this was a deal that couldn’t be passed up. Plus the unit was in absolute mint condition. I almost didn’t see it as the guy had it in a glass case way at the bottom and kind of slid to the back. Although I am slightly more of a Yamaha Motif fan lately with my ES, I thought this would compliment it well. The Fantom XR works beautifully and I’m glad I picked it up. It’s true in Japan that people really go crazy over accessories and as expected the Fantom XR had most of the bells and whistles along with all the materials barely used.

Along with the SRX-12 Classic EPs expansion card, I’ve already thrown in some great Rhodes multisamples into the rack and it really sounds fantastic. The Fender Rhodes “bark” is there and that makes me happy. I downloaded and installed the generous Rhodes patches ( Set of 16 ) from Cesarsound on the RolandClan Forums. The link to the thread is here. These sound really good and load up very fast. Plus with the FAN-XR-UP1 “Sample Tools Expansion Kit” I can create and edit my own multisamples for the Fantom XR in no time. Fantastic!

As I dive deeper into the Fantom XR, I’ll post some updates to this article. Stay tuned!

Roland W30 LCD Backlight Replacement

Roland W30 LCD Backlight
Roland W30 LCD Backlight

After the success of my Yamaha SY77 “Cool Blue” LCD backlight replacement, I decided to see if I could upgrade a few other of my old keyboard if possible. Today I found a Roland W30 “White” LCD replacement backlight for a great price $26.00 on Ebay. There are other options around, but most are asking for $50 or more which I think is a bit much.

The great thing about this “White” LCD replacement, is that it should brighten up the Roland W30’s green LCD considerably. Note that this LCD backlight replacement can also be used for the Korg 01W and Wavestation A/D. I find myself playing in a lot of dark places and with the Roland W30 having a brighter display it should be more fun and less headache to work with. One BIG problem that will still exist is the power converter noise or hum in the Roland W30. I completely eliminated this whine from the Yamaha SY77 by replacing the LCD unit altogether, but I have yet to find the proper replacement hardware for the Roland W30. Until then, this White LCD Backlight replacement I bought from Ebay should suffice regarding the brightness of the display.

Once I receive and replace the Roland W30 LCD display, I’ll post some photos of before and after. As far as I know I simply need to desolder a couple of pins and the solder in the new replacement LCD sheet. Probably the most difficult or time consuming aspect will be taking apart the Roland W30 to access the LCD display. That was an all day job with the Yamaha SY77…laugh. Nonetheless, it’s kind of fun actually. Nothing beats the raw smell of those old vintage keyboards and synthesizers when you crack open the cases. Yeah right!

Enjoy! – Jim

UPDATE #1: Here is a video found on Youtube of someone replacing the old Korg Wavestation A/D backlight with a new “white” version similar to the one I purchased above. This video will show you the difference roughly of before (green) and after (white). It’s much brighter you can see. Awesome!

Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller
Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

It’s been a while since I’ve found anything decent in the used music shop I frequent in Nagano city, Japan, but today I found nice little ( or big ) gem.

Just this morning they got a mint condition Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller with midi cables, case, and adapter. They were selling it for $45, so I instantly jumped on it. The keys are slightly yellow and I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but it didn’t really matter as it played beautifully. Like I mentioned above, the condition is absolutely flawless. The things I like about the Roland A-33 are as follows:

1. The professional weighted 76-note velocity-sensitive keyboard is outstanding. It really feels great to me.

2. The two selectable MIDI Outs, one MIDI In, one MIDI Thru are very much needed with all the hardware sound modules I have.
3. Having the two key zones, Split and Layer modes allows for quick modifications to the keyboard setup.

4. The 32 user patch locations; 32 presets for use with GM/GS sound modules should be useful for custom setups.
5. Dedicated buttons for Octave Up/Down keyboard transposition, +2 octaves is very accessible. Awesome!

6. The A-33 is battery powered, has a Bender/Modulation lever for added expression and a Start/Stop button for sequencer control.

7. There is a Roland A-33 software application to help visually program the keyboard which is nice.

I don’t need any computer connectivity as I don’t use one when performing and if I do use the computer I send the audio through a mixer. The newer USB Keyboard controllers are not necessary for me although I do have an Edirol controller should I need that.

I’m really excited about finding the Roland A-33. It really feels great and when connected to a couple of sound modules, it’s very flexible. It’s a really nice set of keys for just a controller.

Update: Here is a list of CONS in case anybody is interested in the negative aspects of the Roland A-33.

No Aftertouch
The pitch bender is not smooth
Only one data entry slider
Keys are not full size (length is shorter)
No progam up/down button
Velocity sensitivity is not full range of MIDI velocity

I pretty much bought this for the 76 keys and the two midi outs. I think for the price and condition, I really couldn’t go wrong with picking one up to try out.