Boss RC-3 RC-30 Synthesizer Looping

Boss RC-30 RC-3 Looper
Boss RC-30 RC-3 Looper

Although I already have both the Boss RC-50 and RC-300 Lopp Station Pedal Boards, I couldn’t pass up on an excellent deal involving a Boss RC-30 and RC-3 combo package. Some guy brought in both to the store a second hand Boss RC-3 and RC-30. The sales clerk asked if I was interested and I responded quickly when I found the price to be too good to pass up. These things are kind of expensive and honestly I think he got them mixed up with the RC-20 and RC-2 combo because he pretty much sold them near the same price as those used. I’m very happy with getting a great deal on these.

Today I hooked up the Boss RC-3 to my Roland D-50 and had quite a bit of fun with it. How I use the Boss RC-3 with synths is perhaps different than others. With the Boss RC-3, I transfer about ten 8 bar drum loop WAVs to memory slots 1 to 10. I then choose one and loop over the 8 bar groove. I then save the loop to a “DIFFERENT” slot so that I can then reuse the original drum loop again. For example, I copy a drum loop WAV file created in Audacity to memory slot #1. I then perform my overdubs and jam over the finished loop using the D-50. I then save the loop to memory slot #11. That way I have a finished loop in slot #11 and the original drum loop still intact at slot #1. This method kind of gives me 10 new drum grooves to work with instead of the factory drums in the internal memory which I don’t particularly care for. I also don’t mind being locked into an 8 bar groove in this example because that’s what I usually do anyway with creating a loop. Actually when using the Boss RC-3 or RC-30 I record both the A and B sections in one loop. I’m not a big fan of loop redundancy. I think if people were to create their loops a little longer it would be a bit more interesting, but that’s just me.

Note that when transferring WAV files to the Boss RC-3 there is a drop in volume. There are a lot of complaints about this around the web. The solution is to lower the volume in Audacity or your favorite audio editor. You’ll have to experiment with this but I found -20db to be about right for my particular WAV loops. When I transfer WAV files to my Boss RC-50 I don’t have to lower the volume at all, so clearly the Boss RC-3 has changed. In addition, you get latency when changing loop phrases. This is also well known and in my opinion quite deliberate of Boss Japan. I’ve been in Japan now for 19 years and can tell you the thought process coincides quite clearly with the decision to add latency to the RC-3. It doesn’t surprise me the RC-3 has such limitations and I highly doubt a firmware upgrade will fix it. If Boss Japan does decide to fix it, then be on the look out for a Boss RC-4. That seems much more realistic than a firmware update in my mind.

Anyways, the Boss RC-3 also works fantastic as an addon to the Boss RC-50 and RC-300 for use as a “free mode” looping device. I put the Boss RC-3 and RC-30 “BEFORE” the RC-50. I always use the RC-50 and RC-300 in Single mode so that I can easily record a Verse, Chorus, and Bridge or Vamp for synth songs. I use drum WAV files of predetermined lengths in loop 1, 2, and 3 on the RC-50. I then use a blank silent drum WAV for the RC-3 or RC-30 that matches the tempo and length of the files in the RC-50. When I now stomp on the RC-3 I can record a loop that will sync for 4 to 5 cycles of the RC-50. This allows me to add some color or flavor to the mix temporarily. The free mode effect allows slight shifting which lends to an interesting analog feel. I don’t play ambient stuff, but rather straight forward rock, synthpop, and up tempo oriented songs In most cases I don’t detect any drifting. Again that is due to use the RC-3 and RC-30 loops working in short cycles and not for the during of a song. This brilliantly extends the RC-50 or RC-300 with more looping options which is awesome. Also note that with the RC-30, the effects on board are more useful because you can use the dive effect in like a one shot mode over the RC-50 composition. It’s all hard to visualize perhaps so I might do a video here shortly of how I loop.

Other loopers I have here are the Lexicon Jamman, Gibson Echoplex, and the Digitech Jamman Solo. I use them all, but nowadays I primarily use the Boss looper stuff. I thought about getting a Boomerang III, but with no midi sync nor the ability to save loops it was quickly scratched off my list. As a synth player, midi and the ability to store my sketches are very important to me. Indeed the Boomerang III is probably the best by most, but without midi and loop storage it’s definitely not a good looper for what I do, although I do have my eye on it in case things change. Originally I bought the Jamman and Echoplex for the fantastic midi capabilities. The newer Jamman Solo had the first significant loop storage ability. The Boos RC-50 and RC-300 loopers I have found suit me well for synth looping. I really like them. Now adding the Boss RC-3 and RC-30 allows a lot of expansion possibilities and additional fun. If you haven’t tried looping check them out! I sure wish these loopers were around when I was a kid in the 80’s.

Roland S-50 Static Output Solution

Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil
Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil

My goodness! This Roland S-50 Sampler of mine has really been an interesting ordeal in getting the board back into shape and in near perfect working order. Probably if you do a Google search about the Roland S-50 Sampler Static Output problem you’re likely to easily find both my blog and name attached to it. You’ll also likely find several comments about what I “think” is the problem. After several weeks of really tackling the problem “again”, I finally think I have found the solution.

If you are getting static output, especially when playing hard on the keys or at high volumes with the output set to “H” on the back, then likely the problem is as I expected…the Aromat NL6X 5V DC Coil Relay located on the Jack Output Board. You can see the attached photo of the exact “pain in the neck” part. It is this relay that appears to be both the problem and answer to ALL of my issues with the Roland S-50 output including static, voice skipping, and any distortion in the sound. I have done significant testing to determine that the relay is the checkpoint of just about everything and in my opinion the “heart” of the Roland S-50.

How do you fix it? Well, first of all, the replacement part is virtually non-existent. I have called Roland in Japan and have been searching both Ebay and Yahoo Japan Auctions for over a year. Absolutely nothing has materialized. I then bought a second Jack Board off ebay as replacement and got the exact same problem. So it was obvious the guy selling it to me couldn’t get his Roland S-50 working probably for the same reason. So I ended up buying the problem all over again…laugh. The good news is that this purchase gave me a second test board to hack away at and that’s pretty much what I did. So, here is what I accomplished.

1. First I removed the output jack board from the Roland S-50 for easier accessibility. I then removed the plastic cover of the relay. For now I plan to keep it off because during my testing I found out that moisture or residue ( whatever you call it ) will build up inside and it “seems” to be a part of the problem. So eliminating the cover appears to have helped. Don’t throw it away, but just keep it safe somewhere just in case you need to put it back on.

2. This is hard to explain, but I then had to pry or bend the clamps ( left and right at the bottom and at the metal cross at the top ) in order to lift up the square metal piece holding the middle copper coil. The does NOT come off, BUT it will bend upwards allowing you to both squirt some Deoxit and using a Q-tip to clean each copper contact leg sufficiently. There are 8 copper legs in total and you need to THOROUGHLY clean each leg contact and the little metal round contact points they rest on. If you accidentally bend the copper legs, that is fine but do try to bend them back so they lay flat.

3. Now bend the copper coil with metal frame back down and using some tool of your choice, try to bend the clamps back into place so that the relay is in position and will not pop out. This is tricky. I never got mine back in perfectly because the left and right clamps are so small, but I did get it pretty firm back into position. After that I leave off the plastic cover and then slid the jack board back into the Roland S-50.

Now, when you power the Roland S-50 back on, it should start right up and boot off your floppy. You should experience “ZERO” static when you play the keys right away. If you still get static output, you then need to repeat the entire process of cleaning. I did this procedure to two Output Jack boards with unbearable static and distortion. They both work 100% now. It took an absolute thorough cleaning of the Aromat Relays, especially focusing on the “eight” copper legs and 4 contact points in between. I then left the plastic cover off. I used CAIG Deoxit for the spray which works very well. You should also spray the output jacks and the L/M/H toggle switch on the back.

I usually have the Roland S-50 output toggle switch set to the middle “M” position. I then have the volume slider set at the 7 mark. From there I set my mixer to get a good volume. Now I tend to play VERY HARD on keys. I have big hands and I when I get a funk groove going, I really get into it. I found a fantastic RHODES disk for the Roland S-50 that has great bark with a really gritty sound. It’s a superb sound which is one reason why I have been at it fixing the Roland S-50 for such a long time. It’s a great sampling keyboard and I really love the sound. When I now play the rhodes sound I get zero distortion or static output. It’s clean, clear, and very analogish sounding. It’s got that super funky rhodes sound now and I love it!

I truly believe the problem with static output now is the relay. Fortunately it’s big and built tough, because it definitely requires one to scrub and get in there with a Q-tip to get it properly cleaned. You wouldn’t want this to be a delicate piece to clean. It definitely requires a major wash. It took three rounds of cleaning to completely eliminate the static. Yes, it may take multiple cleanings, but you’ll hear the progress as the static will start to diminish and stay that way. I wouldn’t put the screws back in until you’re satisfied. Just keep cleaning that relay and it will eventually come back to life “hopefully” as good as new.

I should also clarify, the problem is NOT any bad chips on the motherboard. I thought it was, but after further testing I am utterly convinced it’s the relay.

Please comment if you have any knowledge or experience with bad relays on the Roland S-50. I’m confident I have fond the problem, but I’m still not sure exactly what aspect of the Relay is causing the problem. Thank you!!

Korg MS2000 Equals Fantastic Synth

Korg MS2000
Korg MS2000

I remember quite well around the year 2000 here in Tokyo Japan that the big three music manufacturers had released a fine trio of VA Synths. They were the Yamaha AN1x, the Roland JP-8000, and the Korg MS2000. All of these synths were usually displayed together in the stores and I recall wanting all three very badly. Well since then, I’ve managed to acquire used a Yamaha AN1x, the Roland JP-8000, and the MS2000R which is the rack module. The Korg MS2000 synth itself with keys and the wooden sides always remained quite elusive. The main couple of reasons for this were (1) the Korg MS2000 was and still is a very popular in Japan and (2) it’s just simply a more rare item then the Roland JP-8000. In fact, the Yamaha AN1x is also quite rare in Japan although since I already have one I have not really had to look for one of course. Still I have yet to see a Yamaha AN1X for sale in Japan since 2000 or so in my area.

Despite already owning the Korg MS2000R, I had to have the keyboard version because in my opinion it simply is much better to have everything all together when both playing and programming this thing. There is some distance when using a keyboard controller and I have found that using the original synth version to be much more accessible with the mod wheel, keys, and proximity of everything. Despite the 4 note polyphony which hasn’t really been a problem yet, I have had nothing but fun and success with the Korg MS2000. The Arp and Mod Sequencer is fantastic. I particularly like using the Korg MS2000 to lay down a hard edged arp or mod groove over which I can layer a nice guitar track. Most understand that the Korg MS2000 can be a bit more n the grungy side. With that said, I can get some decent rhodes, wurly, and DX style pianos with this synth. Pad are nice, but it’s the “MOTION” that you get that really makes this synth shine. If I had to choose a central synth for a “one man band”, the Korg MS2000 would definitely be a top choice.

The Korg MS2000 is often a synth that people add to their work set, but not necessarily a synth that is used by itself. Perhaps this might be true, but I also think it’s indispensable for creating a layered or tracked groove in a song. Apollo 440 was excellent with the Korg MS2000 and a major source of inspiration for what the MS2000 is capable of.

Hands down, I absolutely prefer the Korg MS2000 keyboard version over the rack version. Features may be identical, but playing it will be much different. Adding a Rack MS2000R or MS2000BR to the MS2000 keyboard is also great because you can increase the polyphony or you can create more complex SEQ tracks. In Japan, I’d definitely say the Korg MS2000 synth is a classic and if you find one here definitely grab it. It has five stars on Vintage Synth and I would have to agree!

Note I also bought the “SEXUS* for Korg MS2000 series patches -by Avangarde Audio” off Ebay and they are excellent. Just FYI in case anyone wonders about them. I have also collected the many patches off the Yahoo Groups as well. There are a lot of patches out there for the Korg MS2000. Nice!!

Here’s probably the best Korg MS2000 demo I could find on Youtube.

Zoom MS-50G for Synths and Keyboards

Zoom MS-50G
Zoom MS-50G

It’s been a busy month so I haven’t had a chance to post some new articles, but I have quite a few on deck this month. Hopefully I’ll be able to catch up. It was an excellent September month for picking up old used gear.

Today I present a stomp box that I actually bought new. It’s the Zoom MS-50G and right on the box it says for guitar. I wondered if I would need a DI, but it actually works great with all of my synths. So plugging the Zoom MS-50G right into the synth direct will work just fine. I am a huge fan of the recently released Zoom G3 and G5 pedal boards. I have them both and use them all the time with my synths and of course guitars. I really like how easy they are easy to program and of course I like the sound of them. The Zoom MS-50G is no different in that “if correct” it uses the same chip as the G3 and G5. It’s sounds great and as you can see it has a very small footprint. Right now I have it plugged into my newly acquired Roland EP-30 and it’s absolutely wonderful.

There are many patches which can contain up to six different effects. Yes, there are default factory patches, but you can also modify or create your own. Each of the three knobs on the front can dial in specific parameters. Plus there are four scroll buttons surrounding the toggle switch for scrolling through effects that have more than one menu. It’s super easy and for those who have the G3 or G5 it’s nearly identical. There is no looper on board, but that’s no problem for me given that the G3 and G5 have loopers. The Zoom MS-50G sits nicely up on any of my keyboards and works great at adding additional effects when needed. It’s simply awesome to be able to scroll through different effects quickly and experiment with them on the fly. As many will know, old keyboards don’t necessarily have a lot of effects on board and this Zoom MS-50G becomes a nice addition.

If you need to add effects to your synths or keyboards on the go or for just easy experimentation, you can’t go wrong with the Zoom MS-50G. It’s super small and easy to setup. It will add a lot of fun to any synth lacking in the effects department. It you get a whole lot of bang for your buck with this little gem.

Here is a quick clip of the Zoom MS-50G in action on the guitar. I suppose I’ll have to try and record one with a keyboard setup as I don’t see any on Youtube yet.