Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator Repaired

Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator
Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator

This week I bought a used and broken Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator off Ebay. I saw it on Ebay being sold from a friend here in Japan and decided to bid on it. The Oberheim Cyclone had the classic “freezing” issue where after you played a few notes it would lock up. You then have to restart the Cyclone or like some have done toss it into the garbage. I decided to take the challenge and see if I could fix it. The problem though was that I got into a bidding war with one other person interested in the device. I lost because the price got to a point were I couldn’t justify the purchase, so elected to stop bidding. Well, the other day ( a month later ) I received a “second chance” email from Ebay about the Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator. Apparently the highest bidder bailed on the purchase. They had automatic bidding setup and perhaps didn’t realize someone like myself was also interested. I suspect the price got too high and they said forget it. Anyways, I got a second chance and bought the Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator for a nice price.

Upon powering up of the Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator, I noticed that just after two minutes of operation it went nuts and locked up. From that point on I got blinking LEDS, constant freezing, and all sorts of things going haywire. My first impression was a power issue of some sort. The construction of the Oberheim Cyclone is absolute crap and I was very surprised at how small it was. I was thinking it would be much larger but I could actually rest it on top of my synths very easily. That was pretty cool. So, I went to work and discovered the following which may help others.

1. Factory Reset – I first decided to do a factory reset which is to power up the Oberheim Cyclone while pressing the “Enable/Enter” button. This indeed initialized the Oberheim Cyclone, but it didn’t fix my problem. I new then the Oberheim Cyclone needed surgery.

2. Battery – The Battery is soldered into the device and likely is for the purpose of saving the user settings when powered off. I unsoldered the battery and replaced it with a holder and replaceable the CR2023 battery. That was not the cause of my issues of above, but I thought I might as well change the thing to at least eliminate the battery being a remote possible cause.

3. Chips – I then proceeded to pull and re seat the main two chips in the Oberheim Cyclone. I noticed while doing so that I had a firmware chip version 1.02 or 1.2 sitting in there. It was hard to read, but it definitely had the number 2 in there. I believe this is the latest OS version of the Oberheim Cyclone.

4. 7805 Voltage Regulator – I read online that several people with similar issues had changed the 7805 Voltage regulator with success. I knew from experience with a couple of other music devices that this could completely solve my issues as it happened to be the problem. I recently bought a big bag of 7805 regulators and was happy to take a new one from the pile. I soldered in a brand new 7805 and then again reset the Oberheim Cyclone upon power up. PRESTO! The Oberheim Cyclone worked beautifully.

In fact, the Oberheim Cyclone has yet to hiccup at all since replacing the 7805 Voltage regulator. It has performed flawlessly and I even spent an hour throwing everything I could at it in order to try and create an issue. NOT ONCE was I able to trip up the Oberheim Cyclone. I now have what I would call a VERY reliable Oberheim Cyclone sitting on my desk and it sure can do wonderful things.

My advice if you have a broken or unreliable Oberheim Cyclone is to do one of the following:

1. Replace the 7805 Voltage Regulator. It likely will be the cause of all of your problems. There are other mods that you can add to this that will further enhance the regulator, but since I’m carefully using the correct adapter, I just elected to test with a basic 7805 swap. IMPORTANT!!! Make sure you use the right adapter. If it’s incorrect, you will have problems as there is no protection inside the Oberheim Cyclone.

2. PCB Board Swap! – Yes, this works. You can find a used Oberheim Strummer and simply swap boards inside and add your Cyclone chip. It’s a more expensive way to fix the Cyclone but I can confirm it works just fine. I think you can do the same with the Drummer version as well. They are all the same board which just different OS chips.

There you have it! The Oberheim Cyclone is a fantastic machine that although not well construction can be made reliable. It also simply sounds fantastic driving any synth with midi. The Arp patches are amazing and it really is fast, hands on, and instantly gratifying. Note that around the internet, most reviews are negative mainly because of the rarity and unreliable performance people are experiencing with their unit. It’s likely now that most of these units are plagued with bad 7805 voltage regulators. OR, I am in the minority and simply just have a lucky unit. In that case, you can sell me your Oberheim Cyclone and I’ll fix the regulator and be on my way…laugh.

Here is a great video showing some of the factory patterns and settings of the Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator.

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4 thoughts on “Oberheim Cyclone Arpeggiator Repaired

  1. elie

    That’s unusual that the 7805 regulator would be the problem, they’re pretty much designed to withstand everything you would stress it with – baring reversal of input voltage as it has thermal protection etc. Maybe it’s just thermal expansion/degradation of the related solder joints? Though you likely eliminated that fairly easily?

    1. Perhaps, but all I know is that if I hadn’t replaced that regulator, the OBerheim Cyclone would not have worked properly. Since writing my post above, I’ve been using the Cyclone for hours without a single issue. Before the regulator repair I couldn’t get it to work past 2 minutes. I tried everything under the sun until I read reports that many had fixed or at least ahd better performance when replacing the regulator.

      I also I had two other experiences with the same thing. I replaced a voltage regulator on a Sony R7 Digital Reverb rack that had similar issues and it’s has been working perfectly ever since then. In addition, I had a regulator issue with a Behringer Eurolive Active Speaker. Same deal. I replaced the regulator and it stopped cutting out on me.

      I’m not an authority on regulators nor do I fully understand them. I just know that sometimes, things start working after I replace them. Funny thing is that every time I compare the old and new regulators I always ask myself what’s the difference? Why is it broken or not working properly? What’s inside that black thing on the top?

      Perhaps it also could be the solder joints as you mentioned. Perhaps they are old and not working right. Maybe just adding or replacing the solder would have fixed everything instead of replacing the voltage regulator? Not sure.

      Anyways, I have found the biggest problem with fixing old gear is having a direction or first step to fixing something. It might not fix other Oberheim Cyclone issues, but it’s at least it’s something people can work with to try and kick new life into their machine.

      Thanks for the comments!! Much appreciated.

  2. Bob Rice

    Jim Thanks a ton for this fix! I have the cyclone & drummer units and the eprom for the strummer. Now I may be able to get all to work after sitting on the shelf gathering dust.

  3. Julian

    I had very similar problems, My Oberheim Perf/X box was really flaky and kept crashing all the time.
    I changed the regulator, but the problem persisted
    Turns out it was the socketed memory chip next to the EPROM.
    The pins seem slighly shorter than they should be, I just pushed the chip firmly into the socket now everything works great.

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