Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler and SCSI Repair

Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler
Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler

Last weekend I picked up a used Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack Sampler in the used music shop here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It was pretty cheap mainly because the sales clerk couldn’t provide an OS disk, manual, or any other accessory. Thus he couldn’t properly test the product, so he basically sold it as junk and practically gave it away.

I bought the sampler because I’ve always been a big fan of the ASR-10 keyboard, but never found one for a reasonable price in Japan. Although I would have probably preferred the keyboard version, the rack works out well because I feel I already have too many synths and samplers as is. So, this rack shouldn’t take up much extra space.

The condition of the ASR-10 rack is excellent. In fact, inside it was pretty much spotless with no visible signs of wear or dirt. The outside had no scratches, but it was missing the rack ears. I powered up the ASR-10 rack after acquiring an OS disk copy and it booted just fine. I noticed that the OS was 3.53 and the firmware was 1.50. Note I had to create the OS disk using my Windows 98 laptop in DOS using special Ensoniq software.

The Ensoniq ASR-10 rack works fantastic in all areas with the exception of the SCSI interface. Only ONCE, could I successfully boot the ASR-10 rack and get the “searching for SCSI devices” message upon startup. At that time I had my trusty blue Iomega 100MB zip drive with disk inside ready to go. I was able to get to the Format SCSI Drive screen. I proceeded through all the steps even getting past the Interleave screen. When it hit formatting, it just blinked for a second and then reverted to “disconnected SCSI device”. I have since been unable to get back to the “Searching for SCSI Devices” screen during the boot stage. Frustrating! Note I don’t believe I got a light blink which indicates the ASR-10 detected the Zip drive.

I completely took apart the ASR-10 Rack and checked all of the fuses which tested just fine for continuity. I then pulled and reseated all of the cabling which included cleaning. Everything looks amazing inside, but unfortunately, the SCSI simply doesn’t work right now which has left me unsure about what to do next.

Other than the SCSI problem, the Ensoniq ASR-10 Rack works perfectly and it’s really easy to sample and jam with right away. Currently I have 16MB of ram on board, but it will be a chore loading and saving all that data without the SCSI working properly should I choose to utilize it all. The floppy drive works great and I also have a backup HxC Floppy Emulator that works too should I require another drive.

Note that I have tested the ASR-10 rack with a working Iomega 100MB SCSI zip drive, Olympus SCSI MO drive, 2GB SCSI hard disk, and an old SCSI CD Rom drive that all work with all of my old samplers. I don’t believe I have an SCSI cable, drive, or media problem. The issue resides somewhere inside the Ensoniq ASR-10 rack.

No doubt I’ll be making great use of the ASR-10 rack as it’s extremely easy to use and sounds amazing. It’s so much easier to use than my old Akai gear in fact. I just wish I could get the SCSI to snap out of it and start working. I’ll update this article should I find a solution. Stay tuned!

NOTE #1: A few times I got the infamous ASR-10 “Error 129 reboot” message. To fix this you need a 100% working OS floppy disk. There are some bad OS images floating around including those on sites where everybody gets them. After using a quality floppy disk and image, I was able to completely eliminate the 129 reboot message. I haven’t had it all week, not once. I have about 3-4 bad image disks from various sources and they literally flood my ASR-10 with 129 reboot messages. The error is a software one, which means you need a decent software image.

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