Korg T2 EX Importing PCM Samples and Floppy Drive Repair

Korg T2 EX
Korg T2 EX

Today I stumbled upon a fantastic deal for a vintage Korg T2 EX Workstation for $100 bucks. This 76 key workstation is a real beauty and sounds absolutely wonderful. I bought it for a number of reasons one of which was the key bed that plays very nicely and very similar to my Roland Fantom X7. I love 76 keys and thought at the very least, the Korg T2 EX would be a great controller.

First, there were a few issues with the Korg T2 EX which allowed me to leave the used music shop with a pretty cheap professional keyboard. The floppy drive appears to not be working properly because I’m getting the infamous “data error” that I’ve been discovering a lot of info about all across the internet. There doesn’t seem to be any cure for the “data error” floppy drive message other than replacing the drive with a different one. I may attempt to use an extra HxC Floppy Emulator I have to see if that would work with the T2, but with regards to Programs, Combis, and Sequences, the computer would work just fine. For now I can do without a floppy drive but eventually I would like to either get it fixed or replaced.

The Second problem was that there were no presets loaded into the Korg T2 EX. All of the data was basically set to INIT. The sales clerk did not have any disks and with the floppy drive not working properly, he wasn’t able to get any sounds working on the synth. When I tested the T2 EX, I basically had to dive into the Program editing and select the multisamples in order to check the sound. This actually gave me lots of distorted output because the gain on the wavforms was turned up high if correct. At home I was able to reload the Korg T2 EX with the default factory presets and everything then sounded excellent. Thank goodness as I didn’t want to deal with any static output issues. I’m already dealing with that on another project with the Roland S-50.

Third, the LCD Screen looked to be a tiny bit faded which may be correct, but I actually found the contrast to be quite good and not all that bad. In fact I didn’t see a problem with it but the sales clerk I suppose didn’t like the look. The body of the Korg T2 EX also had some stains on the top which I was able to remove completely with some cleaner at home. The Korg T2 EX looks almost in mint shape now and there’s practically not a scratch on it. Just like my Korg M1, the Korg T2 EX is built very well and it simply is a sleek looking keyboard.

As a result, the sales clerk decided to sell me the Korg T2 EX for a hundred dollars and thus I couldn’t pass up that sort of price. I also was able to get the original Korg Hardshell Flight Case which was in excellent condition. Overall the Korg T2 EX works good as new with the exception of the floppy drive “data error” problem. There is a replacement drive on Ebay for $75 to Japan but I’ve heard stories that even with a replacement drive you can still get the “data error” so until I crack open the Korg T2 and investigate, I’m reluctant to buy another drive.

In addition to the 75 keys and great sounds out of the Korg T2 EX, I was excited to see that there was a 1MB PCM Sample Ram area on board. It was quite easy to transfer WAV samples using SDS and software on my Apple G4 to the Korg T4 EX. The 16 bit Wav samples were dumped into the Drum Kit area of the T2 EX and I was then able to use them to create programs and combis with. You need to have the Disk Drive working in order to load PCM samples into the Multi-Sample area and not just the Drum Kit area if correct. I’ll be checking this out once I get the floppy drive fixed, but for now using SDS is extremely fast and I don’t mind using a Drum Kit or two for samples. I am using Elecktron’s C6 utility software to transfer the Wav samples and it has a nifty progress bar to indicate the speed and progress. I was pleasantly surprise to see that transferring samples via SDS was quite fast between my G4 and the Korg T2 EX. In fact it only took seconds to transfer one file which was amazing. I have zero complaints about SDS!!

The only disappointment I have found with the Korg T2 EX other than the non working floppy drive is the fact that when powering off the unit, you lose all of your sequences, patterns, and PCM samples in Ram. My Korg M1, X3, and N364 all retain sequences and patterns in memory. This means that I have to reload sequences, patterns, and PCM samples using a floppy drive or the computer each time I power up the Korg T2 EX. This actually really sucks but that’s pretty much how all the newer keyboards handle such data. With a floppy drive or the HxC Floppy Emulator that may not be such a big issue down the road. Other than that everything else is superb on the Korg T2 EX.

The Korg T2 EX is a beautiful workstation. The 76 keys and sounds alone are worth what I paid for it most definitely. I find the 1MB PCM Sample area is golden for creating a custom 808, 909, SP1200, LinnDrum, etc drum kit or one shot sample loop set. The C6 software retains the loop info embedded in the Wav file beautifully so the samples loop great thus far. The Floppy drive will also allow me to get more out of the sequencer and load up some custom PCM multisamples hopefully in the near future. Also, there are four midi outputs on the back which are outstanding for controlling several sound modules at once. That’s always a good thing! The Korg T2 EX is a real solid keyboard and I’m so excited I found it.

Stay tuned for additional PCM sample and floppy drive repair updates as I venture further along with the Korg T2 EX.

UPDATE #1: The Korg T2 EX works with the HxC Floppy Drive Emulator. Awesome!! I installed the HxC Floppy drive emulator into the Korg T2 EX, made some configurations to the floppy drive cable and HXCSDFE.CFG of the emulator. Presto it worked flawlessly! I converted some DSM-1 .DSK images to .HFE files and the HxC Emulator loaded up the PCM samples perfectly. I now can dump all my .DSK PCM images to one SD Disk in the HxC. I have further testing to do with regards to saving data but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll update with more info shortly. If your Floppy Disk Drive is broken on the Korg T2 EX, the HxC is a fantastic and powerful replacement solution.

UPDATE #2: I finally fixed the Korg ERROR: Data Error issue with my floppy disk drive. The problem I discovered was that the floppy drive would not take and format any HD disk I gave it. So on the Korg Forums I found an Omniflop .img patch disk which I copied to a floppy disk formatted with Omniflop. I then put this disk into the T2 EX and presto it loaded the program/combi sounds without issue. I then formatted that same disk using the Korg T2 EX and again it worked beautifully. I took the blank formatted floppy and made a copy of it using Omniflop saving the Korg_T2_Blank_IMG file to my computer. I then was able to take any old or new HD Floppy disk and create a new formatted disk using Omniflop and the blank image I created. Thus I found that the “Data Error” was a result of the Korg T2 EX Floppy Drive not being able to format any HD disk, but once I gave it a preformatted T2 EX floppy disk it work great. My T2 EX Floppy Disk Drive is now back in operation with a ton of pre-formatted T2 EX Blank disks to feed it. Awesome!

UPDATE #3: I found a bunch of DSM-1 formatted .dsk PCM disks on the internet and managed to use CopyQM to create Korg T2 EX compatible floppy disks. I ran CopyQM on Win98 using regular HD disks and had no problems copying all the .DSK files to disk. The PCM Sample disks all work and sound great on the Korg T2 EX.

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ROLAND MDC1 Dance and MVS1 Vintage Synth Modules

Roland MVS1 MDC1
Roland MVS1 MDC1

Wow! I found an incredible deal on a couple of outstanding fun synth modules over the weekend. I managed to snag a rare Roland M-DC1 Dance module and a Roland M-VS1 Vintage Synth Sound Module in near mint condition for $25 bucks each. I guy had them sitting on the bottom shelf collecting dust way in the back and it was just pure luck that I found them. Both sound modules contain sounds from the popular JV Expansion cards for the JV series sound modules, but it’s nice to have these in dedicated module form. Both sound fantastic, but it’s the Roland M-DC1 that is particularly fun to play with showcasing all the early 90’s House, Rave, and New Jack Swing sounds on it. If you hook up a controller like the Roland PCR-300 or 800, you can program in the NRPN values and tweak the sounds very easily. You can’t save them internally, but you can dump them for later use, but I find just tweaking them live to be quite easy to do. These two sound modules already sound great and should provide some useful layering. I’m particularly excited to land the Roland M-DC1 though as it was discontinued long ago and is difficult to find for a good price.

Update:
I have to say after playing quite a bit with the Roland M-DC1 Dance module, if you are into getting that vintage 90′s dance or new jack swing sound, this module IS IT! The M-DC1 is fantastic and it instantly transports you back to the 90′s for sure. What I really like about it are all the “stabs” you get int his box. The late 80′s and on through the 90′s had lots of orchestral stabs in grooves and the M-DC1 really nails them perfectly. I have quite a bit of gear now and honestly I’d say if I had to have one box for the 90′s, I’d say the Roland M-DC1 is the one to have. It’s really good and extremely easy to lay down 90′s house and new jack swings grooves with.

Korg N364 Workstation – A Great Sounding Synth!

Korg N364 Workstation
Korg N364 Workstation

I’ve had my eye on a Korg N364 Workstation for a while at a nearby used music shop here in Nagano-city, Japan. Ever since I started working with my older 1993 Korg X3 I’ve been really liking the functionality and sound of the Korg X and N series synths released during the 1990’s. The Korg N364 was released in 1996. What I also like about these two synths which are very similar, is how well the sequencer is put together and quite easy to use. The Korg N364 later introduced an arpeggiator and RPPR Pattern Play which made the sequencer more fun to use as well. The sound out of the Korg N364 is really really good and after giving the Korg N364 a trial run, I new I had to have it alongside the X3.

What’s interesting is how expensive the X3 and N364 are on Ebay. I bought my X3 back in the late 90’s for about $400 and the N364 I picked up for $350. On Ebay though, the Korg N364 is going for between $600 and $800 which is pretty steep. The X3 is a little less but close. The N364 that I bought has two common issues unfortunately. First, the LCD Backlight is no longer working. I’ll likely have to buy a new backlight and solder a new one inside so that I can see what I’m doing in the dark. I did this with the Roland W-30 recently and it worked great. The other problem is with the Floppy Drive. The belt inside is shot and I today I had to order a new one. I recently replaced the Floppy Drive Belt on my X3 and now it works great so I’m hoping to get the N364 Floppy back on it’s feet shortly. When I opened up the N364 I noticed the Floppy Drive had the same 26pin cable arrangement as the X3, however the X3 Floppy Drive is DD while the N364 is DD/HD.

Until I get the Floppy Drive fixed, I’ve been transferring files to and from the Korg N364 using a few programs. On the PC, I use the free XEdit v3.13 which allows me to load up X3 and N364 PCGs to transfer to the N364. I can also convert PCGs to Sysex as well. On the Mac, I use both Midi Quest and Sysex Librarian which both work great. Currently I have the N364 loaded with all the factory preset programs and combis. Unfortunately I don’t have the preset RPPR sets loaded but that’s no problem as I plan to create my own. Until I get the Floppy Drive fixed, there is actually no alternative method for importing the RPPR files. Pretty much everything else can be loaded via Sysex or Xedit using PCG files. Sequenced songs and patterns can be transferred via sysex so it’s easy to back those up. One of the great things about both the X3 and N364 is that the RAM saves the songs and patterns internally. You don’t have to save to disk to retain your work on power up. This is awesome and a big reason why I like these two synths.

I’ll update this article when I get the replacement LCD Backlight and Floppy Drive Belt for the Korg N364. It should be as good as new very soon although it plays great already. Both the Korg N364 and X3 are wonderful workstations. I recommend to check them out if you can find one at a decent price.

The sound though is really really good.

Free Roland S-50 Sampler Found

Roland S-50 Sampler
Roland S-50 Sampler

Had an amazing day at the used music shop today. I strolled in not expecting to find anything and walked out with a free Roland S-50 Sampler. The sales clerk in the store knew I liked and worked on old synths so he figured I would find a good home for it. The Roland S-50 had several issues which from his perspective seemed hopeless. First, the Roland S-50 had no operating system disk. He didn’t think you could get them and he certainly didn’t know how to get them from the internet and create a new one. The S-50 also was rather filthy cosmetic wise and seemed like it was in crappy storage for quite a while. It powered up beautifully though and I later found out the floppy disk drive works great. There were also lots of stickers all over it which had autographs on them but none were famous. When I brought the S-50 home I gave it a good cleaning and removed all the stickers. It looks good as new now. The sales clerk didn’t think the sampler would sell at all due to the OS and grime so he gave it to me for helping with some English translation stuff.

Later at home I managed to create a new Roland S-50 V2.0 OS disk and the sampler booted up perfectly. I also have a copy of the S-Director Sequencer software for the S-50 in addition to almost the entire collection of S-50 disks. I also found an old CRT monitor to hook up to the S-50 which is essential to further editing of the samples. It came with a cool Roland hard shell case which will fit my second Roland D-50 perfectly. I really like those stock Roland hard shell synth cases. I’ll probably have to later open up the Roland S-50 and give it a good internal cleaning but for now everything works great. In addition, I’ll probably attach the second HxC Floppy drive emulator that I have in order to use the S-50 without floppies. That should be great to rotate through a large number of sample images.

The sound of the Roland S-50 is really excellent. I am a HUGE fan of the Lo-Fi samplers of the later 80’s and early 90’s. I know the Roland S-50 is not the most popular of the bunch, but with my setup and multitude of samples, it suits me well. One thing I really like about the S-50 is that it’s super quite when powered on. My Roland W-30 is noisy with the power inverter that hums when running. It’s annoying to listen to that all day. The S-50 doesn’t have that noise which is utterly fantastic. My early Roland sample gear now consists of an S-50, S-330, S-760, and Roland W-30. All are fun and interesting in their own unique way.

Korg Wavestation SR Vector Synthesizer

Korg Wavestation SR Vector Synthesizer
Korg Wavestation SR Vector Synthesizer

Just found and picked up a Korg Wavestation SR off Ebay from a friend here in Japan. I have a Yamaha SY-22 and really like it very much. I heard the Korg Wavestation SR was even better and could be midi’d up and controlled by the SY-22. That should be pretty cool to run those two together.

I’m particularly fond of 80’s and early 90’s music. The Korg Wavestation covers that period well with a sound that often reminds me of Jan Hammer and Depeche Mode who both have used the Wavestation. In Japan the Korg Wavestation is particularly hard to find so I was excited needless to say when I found one on Ebay sitting right here in Japan. I know it’s suppose to be tedious to program and all, but I feel the presets are pretty darn good and the SR Rack version has pretty much most if not all of the sounds of the previous Wavestation releases. This should be good enough to get me that Wavestation 90’s sound.

I also know there is a Korg Wavestation Software version, but if you read my blog you’ll know I prefer hardware as I am rather old school. I do use software editors, librarians, and sequencers for my synths, but for sound I just like working with hardware I suppose. The Korg Wavestation SR Rack version was released in 1992 which was the year before I migrated to Japan in 1993. I’ll write more about the Korg Wavestation SR once it arrives early next week.

Here is a great taste of what the Korg Wavestation SR can do found on Youtube. Enjoy!

Snagged a Free Yamaha DX-7 MkI

Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer
Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer

As I mentioned in my previous article about the Yamaha CS1x, I managed to acquire a used Free Yamaha DX-7 over the weekend in prestine condition. The main reason besides being a frequent customer of this particular used music store in Nagano, the Yamaha DX-7 was not functioning properly. The sales clerk couldn’t fix it so he thought it best to just get rid of it. What I particularly liked about it was the fact that it was in near mint condition. When I got home I opened it up and there wasn’t one scratch or dust bunny inside. It was virtually brand new and perhaps a bit strange to be in such great shape. Cosmetically on the outside it was in spit shined mint condition as well.

Currently I already have a working Yamaha DX-7 with the Grey Matter expansion board that I installed in it. The only problem is that cosmetically the DX-7 is really in bad shape being all dinged up and having some rust in some places. I thought at the very least I could transfer the insides of the working DX-7 to one that looked brand new I got over the weekend. I could then strip it for parts and use them when needed or simply sell the rest. The Yamaha DX-7 also came with the original case as shown in the photo which was cool.

So what it wrong with the new Yamaha DX-7? I am not sure yet. The problem is that when you turn it on, it becomes stuck with the “YAMAHA DX7 SYNTHESIZER” message in the display. Sometimes it says to insert the cartridge or that the cartridge protect is on. There is also no sound and the buttons do not respond at all. The battery in the DX-7 was recently replaced and I replaced it again just to make sure it was new. Later this week when I start transferring over the boards from my other DX-7 I plan to try and isolate the problem. At this point I am not sure what it is, but I’m sure I’ll eventually find the problem. If not, I hope to put together a near mint working Yamaha DX-7 and will likely part out the other one. We’ll see. I’ll update this article as I progress and will certainly post the problem and solution once identified. Stay tuned!

Yamaha CS1x Live Performance Synthesizer

Yamaha CS1x Synthesizer
Yamaha CS1x Synthesizer

Over the weekend I picked up a nice looking and in great shape Yamaha CS1x Performance Synthesizer. The used music shop was selling it for $75 so I thought that was a pretty good price. It came with the adapter and two manuals, but had no case. As a bonus, the sales clerk threw in a free Yamaha DX-7 synth with case which I’ll write about in my next article. That was a nice surprise.

The Yamaha CS1x was a relatively popular synth back in 1996 when it first came out here in Japan. At the time I was living in Yokohama and a store called Ishibashii had it on display for quite some time. They sold quite a few and thus it ended up in a lot of music here in Japan. The CS1x was a bit overshadowed though by the Yamaha AN1x which came out shortly thereafter and it was the AN1x that I eventually picked up back in 1998 used. The Yamaha AN1x is a better synth, BUT, the CS1x is great to have also if not for the fun factor and the fact that it was used professionally A LOT here in Japan.

When I played the Yamaha CS1x at the music store a couple of days ago, I was immediately drawn to it’s tweakable knobs, wheel controllers, and decent keys. The sounds were slightly more digital sounding than I initially expected, but that was easily rectified by tweaking the sounds on the fly. As a result I was able to get a better analog”ish” sound. All of the sounds a definitely geared more towards dance, but again that all depends on one’s creativity. Many of the sounds were definitely funky and suitable for hip-hop, fusion, and as I said any sort of electronic oriented music, not just dance or techno. Sonic wise the sounds are also a bit bright but you can fix that to get a deeper bass or warmer sound. The keys can be split or layered or stacked.

The arpeggiator is really where the CS1x shines. It’s a bundle of fun and it compliments any beat you put to it quite nicely. The Yamaha CS1x is pretty much a one shot synth meaning that you will need to either incorporate one sound into your setup or simply record it to audio tracks for multiple sounds. If you want multiple midi tracks you are stuck with primarily the XG sounds if correct. I have yet to experiment with that, but like the AN1x or even the JP-8000 synths of that era they are basically midi “one track” or “two track” ponies as I call them. That’s ok though as for what they do on that one particular track, they will do extremely well.

The Yamaha CS1x is going for real cheap these days and it has been used extensively by a lot of big name artists and bands. It’s a very “musical” synth that instantly can help you create inspirational grooves and melodies. The arp alone ( although it has no midi out ) is fantastic even though you can’t program it. For that old school flavor it’s perfect! If you ever see a used Yamaha CS1x, I highly recommend it. It’s a definite fun to jam with synthesizer.