Boss RC-300 Loop Station is here!

Boss RC-300
Boss RC-300

Today I just splurged and picked up the new Boss RC-300 for use with my keyboards and guitar. It’s selling fast here in Japan and the store I nearby was holding one for me so I thought I would jump on it while it was available.

I haven’t fired it up yet, but the looks of it is very similar to the Boss RC-50 in size. I really don’t think it’s all that big but I’m speaking from a synth player perspective. I know guitarists fill up floor space more so it’s more of an issue.

I have the Boss RC-50 and use it quite a bit but I just had to get this especially after the review on youtube posted below. There are some features that I really am craving for and I think the RC-300 will due just the trick. I’ll try to post both a comparison between the RC-50 and RC-300 plus post a video perhaps of how I use it with keyboards. Stay tuned!

Here is the Boss RC-300 Loop Station Training Guide in PDF format:
http://cms.rolandus.com/assets/media/pdf/RC-300_Training_Guide.pdf

You can find the Boss RC-300 Loop Station Manual here:
http://www.roland.com/support/article/?q=manuals&p=RC-300

For those interested in comparing the Boss RC-50 and RC-300, you can download the RC-50 manual here:
http://www.roland.com/support/article/?q=manuals&p=RC-50

The Boss RC-300 Loop Station offers a lot of dynamic flexibility. I’m really looking forward to working with it and seeing how it compares to the Boss RC-50. I may even try and midi up my Boss RC-50 with the RC-300 to see if it syncs well. There could be lots of possibilities there.

UPDATE #1: I’m really loving the Boss RC-300. It’s super simple to use and sounds fantastic. Each of the three pedal groups can be individually controlled which I really like. In each group if you press the left pedal for 2 seconds you can undo the last loop or overdub you created. If you press down for 2 seconds again it brings back the loop you erased. The right stop pedal stops the loop for that group, but if you also hold it down for 2 seconds or more it will delete the loops in the group entirely. This is easy for deleting loops. Be careful though! If you accidentally step on the wrong pedal for longer than two seconds you can delete your loop. I did this once already. Otherwise, this separate group functionality is really easy to use.

Note that I use the Boss RC-300 for keyboards and it works really well. I sync the RC-300 with either my Korg EMX-1 or ESX-1 and then I have three loop tracks for additional sounds. It’s amazing what can be done now with all of this looping technology.

SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7 expansion board ROCKS!

SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7
SuperMAX for Yamaha DX7

I just received my new SuperMax expansion board for the Yamaha DX-7 mkI and wow! It sure changes the Yamaha DX-7 for the better. I get 64 new sounds that are programmed to take advantage of the new characteristics of the SuperMax chips and I must say I am really impressed. My Yamaha DX-7 sounds much fatter with voices that now can be stacked. There are 512 memory locations which means I can reliably store a lot of voices without them crapping out with the Gray Matter E! board that I previously had installed. The delay and detune features are fantastic for acquiring natural effects such as chorus. I also love the sound creator which allows you to invent new sounds by automatically combining random parameters between voices.

The best thing of all is the arpeggiator. Wow! This arp is incredible to have on a Yamaha DX-7. I’ve had zero problems with it and it operates exactly as it should. I really like it. I have two Yamaha DX-7’s so I can use one to create rhythms that are quite complex using the arp and stacking. The other DX-7 can be used straight for playing my favorite lead or melodic sounds.

Are there any bad points about the SuperMax? Well I’ve only used it for a couple of days and so far there is only one minor negative point. If correct that has to do with polyphony. The Yamaha DX-7 has 16 note polyphony so when you stack or split the voices this gets reduced rather quickly which results in clicks that can be heard. The clicks are common with any keyboard that is running out of polyphony as the same thing happens on my Korg M1 and T2. Indeed ghost notes happen when you completely step outside the 16 polyphony, but once you get the hang of your polyphony limitations, the SuperMax addition is golden and not a serious problem.

I can’t imagine EVER going back to a stock Yamaha DX-7 after adding the SuperMax expansion board. It totally adds everything I’ve ever wanted on the DX-7 plus more. Note that I also have the E! Gray Matter Expansion board on my second Yamaha DX-7 and I must say the SuperMax knocks it out of the ballpark. I can’t wait to convert the E! Grey Matter over to the SuperMax once I find another expansion board. It’s not that I don’t like the features on the E! Grey Matter board, rather the board itself is just too unreliable for me. Perhaps I have a faulty board, but whenever I power it off for a period of time and then turn on the DX-7 the voices are all messed up. ( Note my battery is fresh and works great! ) It then takes time to load the voices in again and change my settings. The SuperMax is much easier, more reliable thus far, and much more user friendly. I just love it.

Finally, the SuperMax expansion board is super simple to install. No soldering is required. You just carefully pull out IC14, IC 20 and IC21 and then insert the SuperMAX in place of the missing chips. You can then save for original chips for when you either remove the SuperMax for selling or if you get another old DX-7 that needs chips. Don’t throw away or sell your old chips. You’ll never know when you might need them again.

MEMORY EXTENSION: 512 Memory locations for sounds and functions.
ARPEGIATOR: the most sophisticate on the market today!
DELAY: use a new process!
SOUND STACK: 3 multitimbral stacking modes (8×2, 5×3 or 4×4) with VOLUME, COARSE TUNE and FINE TUNE settings on each voice.
SOUND CREATOR: the most powerful and effective way to create your own sounds on DX7!!
ROLLING MODE: allows using up to 4 sounds per patch!!!
VELOCITY CROSS-SWITCH: allows switching from one sound to other by velocity.
TEMPERAMENT: can be set on each key on the keyboard
– And many other features: programmable MASTER VOLUME, KEYBOARD ZONES, several MIDI-OUT modes, MIDI DELAY, LOCAL CONTROL, MIDI implementation update (OMNI MODE, MIDI-OUT channel selection, “all keys off”, …)

Roland SH-101 Synthesizer in Red

Roland SH-101 Red
Roland SH-101 Red

Well, I finally broke down yesterday and bought a used Roland SH-101 in Red from a good friend here in Japan. As many of you know I usually find pretty good deals in Japan on synth hardware and even find free keyboards. This allows me to save up a bit more for synthesizers that are quite a bit harder for me to find or acquire. Such is the case with the Roland SH-101. I paid a fair amount for this Red Roland SH-101 beauty. Actually for a red one I think I got it much less then what they are going for in mint condition so I think overall I did pretty well. I know I will never sell the SH-101 and will likely use it a lot with my other synth gear. I’m looking forward to also connecting it to my Roland SH-1 for some cool layering and to trigger the SH-1 with the SH-101 arp and sequencer via CV. That should be really fun.

Why buy the Roland SH-101? Well for me personally I love synthpop as someone who experienced and grew up listening to it in the 80’s. The basslines, melodies, and other sounds you can get with the Roland SH-101 work very well with synthpop and so I knew I had to have one. I bought the red version simply because that is what my friend was selling and the price was almost the same as what the grey version was selling for so I thought why not get the red. I actually like the red color and it will look nice up against my black Roland SH-1. I also have a Yamaha CS-10 too so it will be interesting to compare the sound. Furthermore, playing the Roland SH-101 along with the Polyphonic Roland Juno-6 and 106 will be a blast too. Creating some synthpop grooves and melodies should be loads of fun.

Another reason why I bought a Roland SH-101 is both my young daughters are getting heavily into synthesizers and synthpop in Japan. Synthpop is actually quite popular in Japan and I feel it will be unique and exciting for my girls to work with older and often easy to use analog synth gear. Note I have taught them well to respect the gear in case those cringe that I’m letting a couple of young kids use an expensive Roland SH-101…laugh. They love the Roland SH-1 because of all the buttons and sliders which allow them to learn and understand how to create the sounds. Synthpop is also rather easy to play for kids compared to classical or jazz keyboard so the kids can get into “band mode” rather quickly. Both my kids are in elementary school so I can only imagine what they’ll be doing once they hit Junior High.

The Roland SH-101 is a fantastic synth and I usually hear nothing but rave reviews about it. Sure the sound and style is not for everyone but I’m glad this Holiday season I’m finally able to pick one up. It’s kind of a dream come true for me. I’m just hoping it all works as advertised when I get the SH-101 early next week.

Here is Trans-X “Living in Video”. Later in the video you can see the Roland SH-101 is used by the lead singer. My daughters and I love this group and listen to their songs in the car all the time here in Japan. 3D Dance is another favorite by Trans-X.

Here’s a good video of the Roland SH-101 in action for those not familiar with it.

UPDATE:

Well it seems I was sold a red SH-101 with a dodgy power switch. There is NO WAY the owner would not have known about this so I’m a bit disappointed in them and will not be purchasing from them again. Buyer beware when purchasing from “akahardoff” @ http://myworld.ebay.com/akahardoff . I purchased an MKS-50 before and that transaction was good so I bought from him again, however, this power switch clearly is having problems. I should be able to fix it, but now I know why it was sold so cheap. There were problems and they weren’t clearly communicated. I’m batting 50/50 with this individual right now so buyer beware with akahardoff in Japan.

Roland D-50 static noise cured with DeoxIT

Roland D-50
Roland D-50

A few days ago, I found a used Roland D-50 in excellent condition but it had a lot of crackling, static noise, and pops when using photo headphones and stereo outputs. The sales clerk at the used music shop here in Nagano-city Japan had no idea what the problem was so he sold it to me for $50 bucks. I honestly didn’t know what the problem was nor did I really know how to fix it either. In addition, I already have two working Roland D-50 synths and couldn’t believe I was bringing a third one home. I thought I could at least use this one for parts to keep my other two D-50 keyboards running. Thus I thought it was a good deal and a good reason to get it.

The first thing I did when I got home after confirming the static problem was to get out some DeoxIT and spray the volume and aftertouch sliders. I then sprayed all of the output jacks as well. The keyboard remained noisy with some snap, crackle, and pops but after about 3 to 4 hours the Roland D-50 became eerily quiet. I tested out all the keys with several different sounds which all work and sounded fantastic. It seemed like the DeoxIT spray cleared up the problem. I can now say that after a couple of days of extensive playing, the Roland D-50 is as good as new now. So I feel really lucky to have found this working Roland D-50 for such a low price. Now I need to determine if I really need a third working Roland D-50 in the house. Currently I have my “best of” Valhalla patches in it and they sure sound great. It’s amazing at how analog the Roland D-50 can sound with the right patches. It’s one of my favorite keyboards for sure and one I’ll always have in the studio.

Here is “Synthfreq” doing a short example of the famous patch “Living Calliope” on the Roland D-50.

Roland XP-80 Workstation Red Epoxy Problem

Roland XP-80 Workstation
Roland XP-80 Workstation

This past weekend I received a free Roland XP-80 workstation that powered up just fine but with no sound. The reason was that under the keys, a gooey substance was oozing from under the keys which had them stuck together. After careful review, I found that it was an epoxy of sorts that was breaking down and under hot humid temperatures would change to a red or pink gooey substance. Many of the weights for the keys had already fallen down and some of the epoxy was seeping into the other areas of the keyboard. Fortunately, the Roland XP-80 did power up and for the most part, the epoxy was confined only to the key areas. Thus I feel a successful repair of the key bed on the Roland XP-80 is possible.

Another lucky find, (from a used sales shop I frequent in Japan), was that the sales clerk neglected to check for expansion boards. So in addition to a free Roland XP-80, I also received for free an SR-JV80-10 Bass & Drums board, SR-JV80-11 Techno board, and an SR-JV80-03 Piano expansion board. Amazing!

Update #1: So far I have removed all of the black and white keys. I cleaned them with a special cleaner in Japan which I can’t decipher the name of. Cleaning the keys was tedious but ultimately the cleaner worked. I found that my black keys all had weights, however, I am missing eight weights for the white keys. I read that someone was able to use 10g fishing weights as a replacement. I weighed the metal piece under the key and indeed the weights are 10g. ( without key attached ). Putting the keys back together should be the easy part. Currently I am cleaning the metal chassis and should hopefully have the Roland XP-80 ready for testing by Thanksgiving.

I probably could have called Roland in Japan and asked about a replacement key bed, but I originally thought someone had spilled liquor or some sort of candy substance on the keys. So I had already started to take apart the keys before I realized it was the notorious red epoxy problem. I still may have to in the near future remove the keys again and try to remove the weights on keys that still have the red epoxy in them, but for now I am aiming to test the overall operation of the Roland XP-80. We’re heading into the Winter, so perhaps this spring I’ll have time to properly remove the leftover affected weights.

The sales clerk understandably had no idea about the problem. As long as the Roland XP-80 had power I felt I could at least connect via midi so I accepted the big bundle of epoxy mess. The Roland XP-80 is now looking very clean and in excellent condition, so I’m feeling pretty good now about getting the keyboard back on it’s feet. I’ll update this article shortly as I progress.

Note that to the best of my knowledge, the red epoxy problem also applies to the Roland D-70 and JD-800 keyboards. I’m not sure if any others are but if I find additional info, I’ll update my post. Anyone else out there have any experience with red epoxy oozing from their Roland keyboard?

Update #2: I have now fully restored the Roland XP-80. It works beautifully now with no issues at all. While restoring the XP-80 I noticed the following things that may help others.

1. When replacing the keys, I found I had to also replace the green felt to prevent keys from sticking. This was easy to do.
2. After removing the plastic strips to remove the black and white keys, I used double sided sticky tape to place the plastic back into place.
3. I used 10g fishing weights to replace missing key weights.
4. DeoxIT was used to clean the contacts of the expansion boards and sockets. After cleaning I got no sample output distortion. Previously some of the expansion boards were not detected, but all that was cleared up by vigorously cleaning the contacts.
5. I also had to “generously” clean the carbon key contacts both on the PCB board and the Silicon strips in order to revive dead or weak sounding keys. This took a few times but ultimately all keys were brought back to life and the XP-80 sounds great.
6. I also bought a few tubes of cement to shut close the weights inside the keys to ensure they both don’t fall out or that any remaining epoxy doesn’t leak out.

The Roland XP-80 sliders, knobs, jog wheel, LCD Display, and Floppy Disk drive all work excellent. The Roland XP-80 is a fun keyboard and I’m glad I could get it back into playing shape. Hope this info helps others with the epoxy or other problem.

UPDATE: I have the Roland XP-80 up and running in perfect working order now. Here is a clip I recorded using the Jazzy Rhodes in the 60’s and 70’s keys expansion board.

Yamaha DX-7 Multi Effect Processor FX900 Review

Yamaha FX900 Simul-Effect Processor
Yamaha FX900 Simul-Effect Processor

Yesterday I picked up a near mint condition Yamaha FX900 Simultaneous Effects Processor for my second Yamaha DX-7 mki. I had already been using a Yamaha FX500 (little brother) with my first Yamaha DX-7 and thought the FX900 would work nicely. I was lucky to find one for sale at the used music shop I frequent. The Yamaha FX series works great with the Yamaha DX-7 because they were released during the time Yamaha was pushing the envelope with new digital technology in effects processing. Many effects processors today are emulating analog or amplifier sounds and while that is cutting edge of today, I wanted something around the time the Yamaha DX-7 was flourishing. The FX900 comes with 100 pre-set programs, 100 user-memory locations, and is based on 11 algorithms ‘built’ from four algorithm blocks. It’s a very warm but digital sounding effects processor that works wonderful with the Yamaha DX-7. It’s amazing how much the DX-7 comes to life with a decent set of effects.

While the FX900 is an excellent solution for Yamaha DX-7 effect processors it does have a couple of drawbacks. The first I found is that it doesn’t have a phaser effect. One could likely create one with the existing modulation effects but there isn’t a plain and simple dedicated phaser effect. Second, many of the presets use distortion so you’ll need to edit those to make them better for keyboards. Many don’t find the distortion to be all that great, but for the Yamaha DX-7 I actually think they are quite good especially if you custom program them to your liking. Guitar players are particularly strict about what they like with distortion and most people who review the FX900 are guitar players so keep that in mind. With regards to keyboards, particularly the Yamaha DX-7, the FX900 works extremely well with all effects on board. The Yamaha FX900 was a very expensive professional effect solution back in the day so it definitely delivers quality pro effects.

A few other vintage alternative effect processors that I feel that would work great with the Yamaha DX-7 are the Yamaha SPX90, SPX50D, Boss SE-70, and the Korg A1. I used to have a Boss SE-50 and while it was very good with the Yamaha DX-7, I didn’t particularly like the interface much. I’ve heard the SE-70 is a bit better. I haven’t seen a Yamaha SPX90 around here in my neck of the woods in Nagano, but there is a brand new looking Yamaha SPX50D sitting in a used shop down the street. I may pick that up as I’ve heard it’s very similar to the SPX90. It may be fun to try that with the Yamaha DX-7 and see how it fairs. I also have a Korg A1 which I like with the Yamaha DX-7 but I also use that for a lot of other instruments so it’s pretty well tied up at the moment.

Right now I am perfectly happy with the Yamaha FX900 and it’s probably the best multi effects processor I’ve used with the Yamaha DX-7mki thus far. The sound is just amazing, especially in stereo. Note I run the Yamaha DX-7 mono out to a single input of the Yamaha FX900. I then run stereo out from the FX900 to two inputs on my Yamaha Mixer. I then pan the two channels to get a stereo sound and wow! it’s fantastic.

If you are looking for a good digital effects processor produced around the time of the Yamaha DX-7, the Yamaha FX900 would be one of many great choices. The smaller FX500 would also work very well. Without effects, the Yamaha DX-7 can sound really dry. If you haven’t heard a Yamaha DX-7 through a decent effects processor you need to fast! It’s wonderful and definitely lifts the level of the DX-7 to a much more usable status in today’s music. I now feel the Yamaha DX-7 is back in business with the big boys! Have fun!

Korg ESX-1 Sampler – Back in the 80’s Groove

Korg ESX-1
Korg ESX-1

This week I found a great deal on a used red Korg ESX-1 Sampler. After watching a few videos on Youtube from “harlemnightsmusic” using the ESX-1 for creating those retro 80’s drum classics I became pretty intrigued by the possibilities of this retro red device. I also bought a Korg EMX-1 ( the blue one ) which has been fantastic with creating drum patterns and using to drive my Roland MKS-50. You can checkout the video below of “harlemnightsmusic” playing some beats along with Roland Juno 106 for some synth parts.

The Korg EXS-1 I bought was the original “SmartMedia” version. To my knowledge there is no difference between the SmartMedia and the SD Card version of the Korg ESX-1. I picked up the Korg ESX-1 Smartmedia version for $150 which is substantially less than the SD card one. I already have a sizable collection of Smartmedia cards so I figured the ESX-1 SM version would work well. My blue Korg EMX-1 also uses Smartmedia cards. In Japan they are quite cheap on the used market. I run across them quite often. I also still have the original tubes in the ESX-1 and may elect to upgrade them but for now it’s a great sampler with a lot of possibilities. I personally feel the Korg EMX-1 and ESX-1 are great little gems and along with my analog gear will use them quite a bit.

You can check out my article on the Korg EMX-1 here:
https://jimatwood.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/korg-emx-1-electribe-the-80s-machine/

I also have the Korg ES1 MKII Sampler with an article here:
https://jimatwood.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/korg-electribe-es1-mkii-sampler/

This is a great Youtube video of the Korg ESX-1 and Roland Juno 106 together in action. Great stuff!

SOS Band – Just be Good to Me (kick = LinnDrum)
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
Loose Ends – Hangin’ on a String
Klein & MBO – Dirty Talk
My Mine – Hypnotic Tango (solo clap = Oberheim DMX)
Yazoo (Yaz) – Situation
Yazoo – Don’t Go
Afrika Bambaataa & Soul Sonic Force – Planet Rock
2 Live Crew – Me so Horny
Ice-T – Reckless