Ensoniq EPS Classic Sampler Workstation

Ensoniq EPS Classic Sampler
Ensoniq EPS Classic Sampler

Wow! I just picked up a used Ensoniq EPS Classic in fantastic condition today for real cheap. The EPS Classic had been sitting in the used shop for a couple of months in the junk bin and still nobody had bought it. A couple of days ago, I asked the clerk if I could plug it in and give it a test spin. He said that the EPS Classic made no sound and that it would only work as a Midi Controller. I didn’t have the time to talk about it with him, but I figured I would come back and try again later to test the ESP. Well, today I had some time to visit the used music store and this time a different sales clerk was working.

This time, the sales clerk allowed me to start up the Ensoniq Classic EPS. He said he had no idea how it worked and thus it was the reason why it was in the junk bin. There were about 65 floppy disks and quickly I was able to find the OS startup disk. I did some homework about this sampler so I kind of had an idea about how to get it going. I powered up the EPS Classic and everything booted just fine. I then found a Moog Disk and loaded up a Moog Instrument in the first bank. I found that the headphone jack was the right plugin jack so the sales clerk allowed me to use the store’s headphones. It took me a minute to figure out how to access the Moog instrument I loaded up, but sure enough I found the sound.

Wow! Did that Moog sound fantastic. Instantly I knew I had to have this EPS Classic Sampler. I can’t explain it, but it’s the sound that just clicked with me. It definitely sounds different than my Roland W-30 or S-330 Sampler. It has that old school sound which really reminds me of the 80’s. Along with the Ensoniq EPS Classic, I got an Ensoniq pedal, case, manual, 65 disks, and the 2x Expander hooked up in the back of the sampler. The keys are all in terrific shape and work very well.

I’ve actually heard a lot of great things about the Ensoniq EPS Classic especially the sound and sequencer. Indeed the sampling time is very small but the loading times and sample swapping are very fast. In fact, I already have plans to use the EPS Classic with my Boss RC-50 and loop sounds as I play them. I can then load up new sounds and record on the fly. My Roland W-30 would be a little slower in doing this, so I’m curious how the EPS will work. I think the EPS should be fun for some creative new ideas.

I don’t know much about software or other editing utilities for the Ensoniq EPS Classic, but I’ll be looking into that this week. I’m hoping to find a way to create disk images with Wav files so that I can use them with the HxC SD Card Floppy Drive Emulator that will work with the ESP. I actually just got my second HxC Emulator in the mail today and plan to set it up eventually with the EPS Classic. There is a guy on Youtube below who successfully was able to install the HxC SD Card Emulator with the Ensoniq EPS Classic. I just did it with my Roland W-30 and S-330 Samplers, so I’m confident it will work.

Update: On Win98, I installed a program called EPSdisk that allowed me to copy Ensoniq EPS Floppy Disks into .GKH image files onto my PC. I was then able to open the .GKH files in AWAVE Studio using my Windows 7 PC. I also was able to effectively make backup copies of the EPS Classic OS. When I bought the EPS Classic it came with OS version 2.20. I downloaded and made a new OS Disk for version 2.49 using EPSdisk. The EPS Classic loaded the udpated OS 2.49 version just fine. The Ensoniq EPS Classic OS v2.49 fixes COPY FLOPPY DISK and adds several SCSI and Sequencer functions.

Furthermore, I found that I could import wav files into AWAVE Studio and create and instrument file. This instrument file could then be saved into .efe EPS Instrument Format and then be saved to an EPS Classic formated floppy disk using EPSdisk very easily. This is my ticket now to importing WAV files of my own into the EPS classic. I actually did this with some example wavs and it worked perfectly! Once I found ESPdisk and discovered that AWAVE works with EPS Classic .efe and .gkh formatted files, I knew it would be easy to import WAV files. Excellent!

By the way, I found that my Ensoniq EPS Classic is now running OS 2.49 with Rom Bios version 2.0 and Keyboard version 2.10 using the Software Information Command on the EPS Classic.

Another interesting tidbit I found with the Ensoniq EPS Classic is that I had to run two high quality cables out from the left/right output jacks and into my decent Yamaha mixer to effectively get a clean sound out of the EPS. Tweaking the gain, high, mid, and lows, I was able to get a very quiet, clean, along with a very solid punchy sound.

Some people experience lots of static coming out of the output jacks. I sense this is perhaps mainly due to the fact that you might need to run the EPS through a good mixer with decent cables. The EPS sampler will make a small amount of noise due to it’s characteristics and also because the output is slightly lower than more modern samplers. However, it’s easily adjusted when using a good mixer. At least it worked great for me. I’m getting some really great analog oriented sounds now and it’s awesome!! My EPS Classic is definitely very phat sounding now.

The video below shows a guy on Youtube opening up his Ensoniq EPS sampler, removing the disk drive, and replacing it with an HxC SD Floppy Emulator.

Frankothemountain is a Youtube user that uses the Ensoniq EPS Classic on most of his early music. I really liked some of his songs and emailed him about some more info. He said he had four EPS Classics and indeed he used them extensively on his recordings. He said it required “lot’s of looping, editing, and down sampling” but the creative possibilities were endless. It’s a very inspiring Sampler Keyboard. You can check out one of his songs and videos below.

http://www.youtube.com/user/frankothemountain

Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler for Vintage Drums

Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler
Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler

Today I found a mint condition Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler at the local used Music shop here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. It came with the original box, 64MB memory card, adapter, and manual. This particular sampler was something I new I wanted to pick up. I posted a video below from a Youtube user called “harlemnightsmusic” who stuffed a Korg ES-1 MKII Sampler with 80s Linn Drum sounds and started recreating some fantastic classic 80’s disco and pop rhythms. I have quite a few LinnDrum samples among a ton of other drum machine samples and thought this would work perfectly for me. I love the 32kHz “Lo-Fi” sound of the ES-1 MKII very much. There’s only 95 seconds of memory if correct, but that should be plenty for making a few kits for playback.

I primarily intend to use Korg ES-1 MKII as a pattern based drum sequencer for me to play along with using the keys. I feel the Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII Sampler will be very easy to program drum patterns which could then be easily transferred to other devices if necessary as well. On a side note, I tested the formatting ability on a 128MB smartmedia card and as expected it gave me an error message. Indeed I will only be able to use up to 64MB Smartmedia cards, however, I likely won’t even come close to using that much since the internal memory can only load 95 seconds worth of samples. Currently I am using a 16MB card and that seems just fine for my purposes. Plus I don’t see myself using this for anything other than a drum machine with retro vintage samples in it. For that it’s absolutely awesome and great fun!!

There are quite a few people making great use out of this wonderful sampler on Youtube. I know there are newer updated versions of the Korg Electribe ES-1 MKII, but for the cheap price I bought this for, I’m more than happy with the results.

The Kawai K4 Synthesizer ROCKS!

Kawai K4 jimatwood.net

Today I found a used Kawai K4 in the local used music shop and I must say it absolutely ROCKS! Oh my, what a gem. I already have a Kawai K4r and that is basically the same thing as the keyboard version, however, the synth version has some very good features that are had to pass up. For $50 bucks, I couldn’t pass up this beauty.

The Kawai K4 can split up to 8 different sections at once. For live performance this is fantastic. In addition, you can have up to 8 different tone layers. There is also a “link” function which allows you to program a queue and change patches on the fly during a performance. This makes moving from one patch to another seamless. Plus there is velocity switching, so you can have different sounds play depending on how hard or soft you press the keys.

The Kawai K4 is a 61 key with attack, release velocity, and aftertouch pressure. It’s a digital powerhouse monster and frankly I couldn’t stop playing with it when I was testing it in the shop. It was so much fun to play and sonically, it beats the crap off a lot of good gear I have. Lots of reviews cite the Kawai K4 as a very good synth for Industrial, Synthpop, DnB, and Hardcore/Breakbeat/Chemical synth style music. I agree 100% and then some. I simply can’t believe nobody else either has or promotes this synth. I did hear that only a limited number of them were made, so perhaps that is one reason why. It is a “VERY” digital sounding machine, BUT it does have a very warm sound to it and with some patches it sounds very analog”ish” to me. Thus I could care less if it’s digital in that it simply rocks my socks off! This leads me to believe that with effective programming the Kawai K4 can improve even more which is hard to imagine because I already love it.

Without a doubt, I recommend the Kawai K4 over the K4r for one simple reason. The keyboard version is just so much fun to play live and peform with. You really need to have easy access to layer, split, and program the velocity switching on the fly so that you can really get the most out of this beast. MIDI implementation is exceptional and with my Kawai Q8 sequencer it should be a blast to program some good drums and sequences. It all integrates seamlessly even with the Kawai K4r. Along with the Kawai K4 I was able to snag a DC-16 Memory Card which was a huge bonus because I’ve heard these are near impossible to find. In addition, there is an effect processor in the Kawai K4 synth version which is actually quite nice. The effects on the Kawai K4 absolutely make a world of difference to the sound and edginess of the K4. The Kawai K4r does not have effects.

Seriously, if you ever find a Kawai K4 sitting on a shelf for a decent price, I wouldn’t hesitate one second to pick it up. In fact RUN, don’t walk! If you are a synth band who is looking for some unique synth sounds that will cut through almost any mix, the Kawai K4 will hold the job of “secret weapon” nicely. Even the guy at the music store thought the Kawai K4 sounded better than the other keyboards I played and/or purchased before. “Wow!” he said in Japanese, “That synth really has a lot of character! BOOM!” As soon as his eyes opened up to the capabilities of the Kawai K4, I new I had to wrap it up and get the heck out of there with it. It is a diamond in the rough for sure!

Note that the photo above was graciously borrowed from a gentleman on Flickr. If you click the photo it will take you to his photo stream where you can see other shots of the Kawai K4. The one I bought is equivalent in quality and condition. It’s practically in mint condition despite the age. Now back to some jamming fun on the Kawai K4!

Yamaha DX7IID Programmable Synthesizer

Yamaha DX7IID Synthesizer
Yamaha DX7IID Synthesizer

Happy New Year!

Well my efforts were surely rewarded today! I visited my local used music shop hoping to find something new. I hadn’t visited for about 5 days due to New Year festivities here in Japan. I walked in and pretty much saw the same old stuff, but in the junk area I found a new ( old ) keyboard sitting on the second shelf that I hadn’t seen before. I ran over and took a look and to my surprise it was a Yamaha DX7IID in excellent condition for $60 including Yamaha hard shell case! [V1.6 87.04] I couldn’t believe after all the work on the DX-7 and the couple of years of frequenting the used shop that I would stumble upon a used DX7IID at this time.

So, I picked it up primarily because I had never owned one and also because I wanted to check out the Dual and Split functionality of the DX7IID. Since I’ve been dabbling in FM stuff I thought I should check it out. The price was good too. What a find!

The DX7IID is actually in very very good condition. There are no scratches, marks, or any problems of any kind with the exception of a “Change Battery” message I am getting. Everything sounds great so the battery is probably just starting to go. This week I’ll probably crack it open and solder a new battery in there with a holder. I suspect the price was lower due to the battery message the shop owner indicated. Plus anything older than the year 2000 he tends to throw in the junk section.

Other than that it was a stroke of luck to find a Yamaha DX7IID where I live in such nice condition. What timing!! Funny.

Note I’ll likely not install an E! board in this as I don’t think I will need one. It seems to have everything I would use in Stock form.

Also, while playing both this evening I found that older DX-7 to be a little warmer and fuller sounding. Yes, it’s a bit noisier, but with a noise gate attached to the DX-7 it actually sounds really nice. I need to get better sounds in the DX7IID and tweak it a bit, so it’s likely I’ll get comparable if not better sounds from it than the older DX-7. The DX7IID is definitely quieter and the dual/split is awesome!! Both are fun in different ways. The DX7IID is much cleaner, but that old 12bit grit in the DX-7 is super as well!

Korg Triton Rack With Internal CF Flash Card Drive

Korg Triton Rack
Korg Triton Rack

Today I ventured over to a nearby Mom and Pop used music shop in Nagano-city, Japan. It’s a fun place, but I rarely go there because their turn around with second hand goods is rather slow, so I hardly see much new stuff there. However, today I decided to check things out as it had been about three months since my last visit. Well, I’m glad I did because to my surprise they had a “mint” condition Korg Triton Rack sitting on the counter ready to be entered into their used inventory. I asked the guy behind the counter how much they were selling it for and he had no idea. He went back and asked another guy who quickly looked it up on the computer. He came back and said $250. I said SOLD!!

When I got home I inspected the Korg Triton Rack and sure enough it was in fantastic condition with no scratches or any sign of wear. In fact, the adapter looked like it had never been used. Now, I already have a Korg Triton Classic as discussed in a previous entry on my blog, but I told myself that if I ever saw a Korg Triton Rack I would pick it up because frankly, I have too many keyboards and can’t have them all setup at the same time. I figured with the Triton Rack, I could then tuck away the Triton Classic. So, I was really excited to find the Triton Rack and consolidate my gear a bit. The Korg Triton Rack came with the power adapter, manuals, and some backup floppy disks. Options already installed on the unit were (1) EXB-SCSI SCSI Interface Board, and (2) 96MB of Ram! Awesome!

One of the first things I decided to do was to move the internal Compact Flash Card drive from my Triton Classic over to the Triton Rack. It fit perfectly and connected right up to the EXB-SCSI SCSI Interface Board without any problems at all. I powered up the Triton Rack and got the familiar “Unformatted Drive” error, but quickly used the Jog Wheel to adjust from Floppy Drive to the other option which was the Compact Flash Drive. Now everything works fine. I then put the Triton Rack floppy drive back into the Triton Classic for future use. I also moved both of my PCM Expansion Boards which I had in the Classic over to the Triton Rack. I currently have EXB-PCM01 Pianos/Classic Keyboards and EXB-PCM03 Future Loop Construction. I’m not sure yet if I plan to get others or not but it’s nice to know I now have six more slots available.

Everything works beautifully on the Triton Rack. I am really looking forward to checking out the sampling capabilities more and make better use of the Arps plus RPPR functions. This evening I had a blast sifting through some of the Combis on the unit and it’s definitely a fun piece of gear.

Yamaha EX5 Silver Beast in Japan

Yamaha Silver EX5S
Yamaha Silver EX5S

This is a three part story about acquiring a Yamaha EX5 “Silver” Beast Edition in Japan today.

Part 1: At a Japan used music shop that I frequent in Nagano-city there is a Silver EX5 that has been sitting there for about one year. The price in Japanese yen at the moment is 65,000 which equals about $772.642 USD according to today’s exchange rate. The condition is “good” but not excellent. There appears to be no expansions, modules, SCSI interface, or whatever attached to the EX5 other than a hard shell case. Just the basic version. Furthermore, in some areas the paint appears to be rubbing off slightly. The EX5 definitely appears to have been used in performance or practice, but is still fully operational I believe. I haven’t played it, but the shop is offering a 3 month guarantee against problems or I can return it. It’s standard policy for them.

This past week I picked up both a Yamaha V50 and an SY77 which I’m really happy with. I really don’t see myself picking up this EX5 and I’ve obviously had a year to think about it, so I suppose I’m seeking closure…laugh.

What I’m curious about is whether this appears to be a good deal among EX5 users and enthusiasts. The guys at the shop may consider lowering the price since I am a frequent customer, but if I recall correctly, they already dropped the price about two months ago from 85,000 yen ( $1,010 USD ), so I doubt they will drop the price anymore this soon.

I’ve heard there is little or no difference between the Silver version and the regular version.

Just curious on whether it’s a potential diamond in the rough, or better to move on but maybe keep an eye on it.

Part 2:. I went back to the used music shop here in Japan and tried out the Silver EX5 I mentioned above. I found two problems with the synth.

1. There was a “Change Internal Battery” error message when powering up the unit. I suppose that is an easy fix by simply replacing the CR2032 internal battery. I was able to continue playing the synth though.

2. There is a dead “E” key at the upper most octave of the keyboard. This is probably most bothersome in that I can’t seem to find success stories about how to fix that. I have no idea if it simply would require cleaning the contact or what not. So, I would have to consider the notion that the EX5 could permanently have a dead key there.

There are no options as indicated with the exception that there was the 64MB extra memory in the EX5, but no flash memory of course. I pushed the “Sample” button and found that info.

The asking price is basically $750. Being in Japan I have to consider the cost of shipping should I buy overseas which I generally don’t. So $750 could be reasonable if buying abroad, but being that I’m down the street from the store, the keyboard “silver edition” seems to be priced pretty high.

I’ll probably continue checking about whether I can fix the dead key or not. If I can, I may go back to the store and see if I can talk him down. This may be the best opportunity to get a much better deal. However, if I fail, I then really have to consider whether I want it bad enough.

The sound is incredible and it was a joy playing through the presets. Even if I can talk the owner down, it’s greatly upsetting that there’s a dead key. I really wanted the full working 76 set of keys. Crap!

Reasons for wanting the EX5:

1. FDSP Synth
2. VL Synth (I have an ES Rack but no breath controller except with the CS6r, but I have two PLG-AN boards in that. The ES Rack has the PLG Drums and PLG DX. Could switch around and by the PLG-VL I suppose.)
3. RHODES – I am an EP freak and most of my playing “foundation” wise is with the Rhodes or EPs.
4. Multi-Sampling. Owning a Roland W-30 and S-760, I do lots of multi-sampling but with very “small” samples. Contrary to most EX5 users perhaps, I don’t mind loading my samples from floppy. I also have an A3000 with SCSI should I need that. I use other phrase/loop gear for large samples.
5. Programming Options! The thought of all those synth patch possibilities has me intrigued.
6. Pattern Sequencer. I am an active keyboard learner and “jam” artist so I prefer to create Sequenced patterns with drums, bass, and maybe some strings. I then like to practice and play “rhodes” oriented stuff over that as improv or just learning theory etc. The EX5 has the sequencer inside and it seems “good enough” for basic pattern back tracks in a non-live environment.
7. Finally Speculation. With the release of the Yamaha XF, there seems to be a lot of comparison going around with Motif series. I notice that the EX5(r) keeps coming up a lot with the majority of people saying either “Get it now!” or “I’ll never get rid of it!”.

One of the things I really liked about the EX5 though was that it was 76 keys. All of my synths are either 61 keys or less. Although I’m exaggerating a bit, it seems having a dead key is almost like having 61 keys all over again.

P.S. – Perhaps someone reading this will simply feel that I’m whacked for considering the EX5 given my current Yamaha gear setup. Maybe I need to hear that as well from someone….

Part3: I went back to the store and managed to “surprisingly” talk the owner down to $375 for the Silver Yamaha EX5 with hard shell case. He asked me if there were any problems with the keyboard and I honestly told him that I had to:

(a) change the battery,
(b) figure out how to fix the dead “E” key in the upper octave, and finally
(c) upgrade the rom chip as the synth had V1.06 and TG V1.07 if I remember correctly. I think that’s what I saw when I pressed “Voice + H + Bank8”.

I also indicated that there may be other things wrong like the floppy drive, LCD Display, and Unresponsive Knobs although they checked out just fine when I tested the EX5 in the store. I wasn’t trying to give him any crap, but rather just sincerely let him know that the EX5 had been in the store for over a year and that I’d have to likely put some and money into maintenance. ( Us Synth enthusiasts know this anyway so this probably shouldn’t be news to him. I always expect to put extra money in with synths after purchasing. ).

The owner kind of felt bad I think and knocked the price down considerably as you can see. So instead of walking out with a $750 synth, I only had to pay $375. Of course my fingers are crossed that after replacing the battery, everything will be fine. I’m not sure how to upgrade the ROM and quite frankly my testing kind of proved that I may not need it. I read on another forum some of the changes for each upgrade and thought anything above v1.06 should be sufficient for my purposes. However, if anyone does know how to get a hold of a current ROM chip, please email me. I’d greatly appreciate the consideration.

I understand the floppy drives are easy to replace should mine go bad and as I mentioned I have an A3000 with an SCSI board if needed. Probably the only other option I might need is the flash ram, but honestly, that’s becoming a very expensive option and I already don’t really want to put more money into the EX5 until I can really get a grip on what it can do.

In any event, I hope my story proves interesting for some people here. The Yamaha EX5 is a great synth and I’m excited to have finally picked this one up after seeing it for over a year in the shop. There’s just something about the EX5 that urged me to buy it now. One things for sure!! This is absolutely the heaviest synthesizer I have ever lugged up three flights of stairs!

Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer

Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer
Yamaha SY77 Music Synthesizer

The day following my purchase of the Yamaha V50, I took a drive over to another used music store that I usually visit about twice a month. I was stunned to see sitting on top of a shelf a vintage Yamaha SY77 in excellent condition. It had a hard shell case and inserted into the card slot was an MCD64 64K Memory Card. The pice tag was $100 bucks. I took it down from the shelf and quickly decided to give it a whirl to see how nice it sounded. As expected, it sounded great.

Just one day before I had found a fantastic Yamaha V50. One of the things I wanted was a memory card for it, so I got onto Ebay and checked around. As exepcted I found a couple of MCD64 memory cards, but they were at least $75 plus an extra $35 or so for shipping to Japan. You can imagine what I was thinking when I saw the MCD64 memory card sticking out of the Yamaha SY77. In my mind, I basically bought the memory card and got a Yamaha SY77 synthesizer for free…laugh. Seriously, that’s what I thought.

When I got home with the Yamaha SY77 I noticed that it was extremely heavy. This thing is built like a tank and it weighs like one as well. Throw a hard shell case in with it and you have some major ball busting to carry this around. I don’t know if I’ll be lugging it on the stage, but I can certainly say it will fit nicely in the home studio. It’s a big synth, but the keys feel great and really solid just like the Yamaha DX7.

A couple of notable problem areas on these Yamaha SY77 synthesizers are (a) the LCD fading out and (b) the floppy disk drive failing due to broken drive belts. In my case, the LCD was just fine. However, my floppy drive was indeed not working. I opened up the synth and took a look inside. As expected ( and hoping ), the floppy drive had a broken belt. The rubber stuff was luckily easy to clean off in my case and quickly I scrounged up a rubber band to replace the floppy drive belt temporarily. I needed to check and see if the floppy drive was operational or whether there was an additional problem.

I put the Yamaha SY77 back together with the floppy drive fixed using a rubber band. I started it up and decided to format a new floppy disk. Awesome! The floppy drive worked like a charm. Now I can just order a new floppy belt off of Ebay and know that will fix it for quite a while. I don’t know if just using the rubber band will be stable enough long term. I was happy that I didn’t have to pay $85 from Floppy Drive Solutions for a new floppy drive, although I may do that in the future if I use the drive a lot. Right now, transferring voice banks from the computer via midi is the way to go. I can also use the MCD64 Memory Card for adding extra banks to the SY77.

All in all it was a great day and a nice surprise to come home with a really nice Yamaha SY77 to go along with the Yamaha V50 from yesterday. After playing both synths, I must say that the sequencer, drum machine, and raw edgy synth sound of the Yamaha V50 is pretty cool and unique. However, the incredible power of the Yamaha SY77 Synthesizer is simply awesome. I haven’t tried the sequencer yet, but it looks great and of course it’s a Yamaha. They have probably the best sequencers. What I like the best about both synths are the keys themselves. They are so nice to play and are very sturdy.

If anyone has any questions about the Yamaha SY77 or Yamaha V50, please feel free to comment or send me an email anytime. Thanks and enjoy!