Korg Microsampler makes sampling fun

Korg Microsampler
Korg Microsampler

Today I found a used but practically new Korg Microsampler that someone obviously bought and then decided they didn’t want it. It came with the box, manual, adapter, and mic. I like sampling and despite hearing mixed reviews about the Microsampler, for my purposes I think I’ll be quite happy with hit. I’ve read about the limitations of the Korg Microsampler and I don’t think it will give me that many problems with the somewhat lower expectations I have with it. I’m actually quite excited about the Microsampler and I’m sure I’ll use it quite a bit.

The main reasons why I picked up the Korg Microsampler are several. First I spend a lot of time waiting for my kids at the swimming pool, hip-hop dance studio, ballet, and at their cram schools here in Japan. The Korg Microsampler will allow me to sit in the car or in the waiting area and give me something to do. With some samples loaded up I can create some pattern ideas with which I can use later with my other keyboard samplers and workstations. I can also experiment with chords and ideas in musical theory that I often read about or watch in video format. Of course the keys are small and perhaps not practical to play full blown piano on, but they are enough to finger some chords and work with progressions. It will also be fun to sit in the car and sample my own voice and have fun playing around with the samples. Not to mention the 80’s style stuff I can likely accomplish with the Microsampler.

What drew me to the Korg Microsampler was the fact that it’s portable, runs on batteries, and can hold enough samples to create some creative song ideas with it’s pattern recorder. You can load up some drum kits, bass samples, and some EP or synth sounds to create some patterns. The effects seem pretty good and it’s quite easy to sample things using the mic or audio inputs. I’m quite satisfied with the Microsampler thus far.

To me, the Korg Microsampler is not meant to be a full blown sampling workstation. I also don’t think it’s a powerful multi-sampler nor does it have lots of ability to tweak samples. My dedicated samplers at home can pretty much do everything I need. Instead the Korg Microsampler is a great little keyboard sampler to get samples in, record to a pattern, and then transfer back out again in a very portable manner. It may be able to do a lot more once I log more time with it. I’ll definitely update my article here once I learn more about it. Stay tuned!

Korg EMX-1 Electribe – The 80’s Time Machine

Korg EMX-1 Electribe
Korg EMX-1 Electribe

With a stroke of luck I finally found a mint condition Korg EMX-1 Electribe for a stunning $160 bucks at a used music shop here in Nagano-city, Japan. The version I bought is the old one with the Smart Media card instead of the SD type, but I already have quite a few Smart Media cards so I didn’t really mind. I also heard that the EMX-1 Smart Media version is identical to that of the SD version so I’m pretty excited about it. The price of the EMX-1 in Japan is actually quite high, especially for used ones but I strongly believe that the sales clerk had no idea how to price this. In fact, this is the same place where I bought my second Roland JP-8000 which I posted an article on below. I’ll definitely be frequenting that spot quite often as it’s kind of a hot bed for popular gear with great prices.

I’m a growing fan of “Synthfreq” who uses the EMX-1 quite a bit in her 80’s oriented compositions. I find the sound of the Korg EMX-1 and the fact that it has five synth sequencer tracks great for putting that 80’s sound together. Of course the Korg ESX-1 would also be great for loading up 80’s drum samples, but I feel the EMX-1 already does a pretty good job with it’s stock PCM sounds. It can also sequence basslines and melodies very easily which I like as well. Do check out Synthfreq’s youtube channel for more examples of how the Korg EMX-1 can work well as a drum/synth sequencer workstation.

In the video below, Synthfreq is using the Korg EMX-1 for the drums. She and her sister are playing the other parts on various synths. Also check out that wonderful Roland Jupiter 8!!

Update: I’m now looking to upgrade my tubes in the Korg EMX-1 with something like the Sovtek 12AX7LPS ECC83, JJ 12AX7 ECC83S, or GT ECC83-S Gold Series Eletron Tubes. Any ideas? Thanks!

Roland JP-8000 Synthesizer Memory Damaged and Fixed!

Roland JP-8000 Synthesizer
Roland JP-8000 Synthesizer

Back in 1998-1999 I purchased a second Roland JP-8000 and JP-8080 Combo at a used Music Shop called Ishibashi located in Yokohama, Japan. I still have both today and find them to be very fun to work with. I have also just about every commercial and non-commercial patch set available as I’ve been collecting everything I come across since then. It’s a great synthesizer and even as a new Roland SH-201 and SH-01 Gaia user, I still find the JP-8000 and JP-8080 a bit more useful for me. Plus it just has a fantastic sound for everything.

Well today, while checking out a used music store in downtown Nagano-city, I found a used Roland JP-8000 sitting on the shelf that the clerk just got in the previous night. He had a price tag of $120 for it. I had to do a double take because I couldn’t believe the price. In my mind I was thinking “OK, What’s wrong with this JP-8000?”. I check the condition and it was near mint. All of the buttons, knobs, and sliders felt solid. The body was not scratched and did not have any blemishes. Along with the Roland JP-8000 there was the power cord, manuals, and special JP-8000 softcase that was issued with them when I bought mine in the 90’s. Everything “looked” great.

So I asked the sales clerk if I could fire it up and give it a test run. He set me up with some headphones and I turned it on. Almost immediately I got a “Memory Damaged” message. I thought “Ah Ha!” That’s why he’s selling it cheap. He thinks it’s almost toast due to the memory message. I know this sales clerk and if it had said “Battery Low” he would have had a higher price. This was a new message and foreign to him. The JP-8000 then went into internal preset mode and I was able to play it even though there was memory damage. It sounded perfect! All of the original patches were there with some user ones garbled but understood that was because of the battery.

I then Hmm’d and Haw’d finally saying “Ok, I’ll take it” knowing full well I just “MAY” have stumbled upon a gem. When I got home I spent some time carefully opening up the JP-8000 until I finally got to the battery. I replaced it with a new one and “presto” the memory damage message disappeared and everything was working as it should perfectly. Amazing! Now I have a second working Roland JP-8000, but I’m not sure what to do with it yet. I just knew that the price was incredible and if anything I could resell it and make some extra cash. I may however, opt to have my two daughters use it to learn more about synthesizers. They both play piano and recently my eldest daughter loves listening to the song “Pop Goes the World” by Men Without Hats. I figure the Roland JP-8000 would go well with that song and provide my daughters with some synthesizer fun.

What I really like about the Roland JP-8000 besides the sound is the functionality. I find the ribbon controller, RPS, Sequencer, Split/Layer Keyboard, and of course all the knobs, sliders, and buttons to provide a treasure trove of live performance fun. The effects are decent, especially the chorus. I know it’s digital and a VA synth, but I’ve always maintained that if I had a choice between the Roland SH-01 Gaia, SH-201, or JP-8000/8080 it would be the Roland JP-8000. I’m a performance player who prefers to do everything with my hands. To me the Roland JP-8000 allows me to do slightly more with actual playing than the other two. With the Roland JP-8000, I don’t need a computer hardly at all. It’s fun and of course all the synths I mentioned above are great but the Roland JP-8000 is just special to me.

Novation Drumstation V2 a TR808 TR909 clone

Novation DrumStation V2
Novation DrumStation V2

Found a mint condition Novation Drumstation for $50 today in the used music shop called “Hard Off” here in Nagano-city, JAPAN. I don’t know much about it but I know that Novation makes some pretty decent products. Besides the price being good, the unit had lots of knobs, outputs, and it was very MIDI capable. The size was small and it apparently does a decent job of cloning the Roland TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines sounds. I particularly like the fact that you can tweak the bass drum, snare, etc. separately and trigger it all via an external sequencer. The OS of the Drumstation is 1.3 which is the latest OS version if correct. The Novation Drumstation looks like a V2 unit, but I’m not sure.

Overall the sound is good and I plan to hook it up to my Korg Triton Rack for making RPPR TR808 and TR909 drum patterns. These patterns can then be triggered by any controller or synth hooked up to the Korg Triton. Once the patterns are playing, I can then tweak the Drumstation to taste and hopefully get some cool grooves going. I’m a big fan of the Roland TR808 so having something similar ( but not the same I know ) will be fun. There is also a DIN Sync connection on the back of the Drumstation. Plus I got a PSU4-100 adapter and manual along with the unit. The Novation Drumstation a really neat drum sound module with lots of knobs and it’s very small for a rack. You can basically stick it anywhere and and it will not take up much space.

Here is a pretty decent video of the Novation Drumstation in action. (Triggered by a Roland TR505)

Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller
Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller

It’s been a while since I’ve found anything decent in the used music shop I frequent in Nagano city, Japan, but today I found nice little ( or big ) gem.

Just this morning they got a mint condition Roland A-33 Midi Keyboard Controller with midi cables, case, and adapter. They were selling it for $45, so I instantly jumped on it. The keys are slightly yellow and I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but it didn’t really matter as it played beautifully. Like I mentioned above, the condition is absolutely flawless. The things I like about the Roland A-33 are as follows:

1. The professional weighted 76-note velocity-sensitive keyboard is outstanding. It really feels great to me.

2. The two selectable MIDI Outs, one MIDI In, one MIDI Thru are very much needed with all the hardware sound modules I have.
3. Having the two key zones, Split and Layer modes allows for quick modifications to the keyboard setup.

4. The 32 user patch locations; 32 presets for use with GM/GS sound modules should be useful for custom setups.
5. Dedicated buttons for Octave Up/Down keyboard transposition, +2 octaves is very accessible. Awesome!

6. The A-33 is battery powered, has a Bender/Modulation lever for added expression and a Start/Stop button for sequencer control.

7. There is a Roland A-33 software application to help visually program the keyboard which is nice.

I don’t need any computer connectivity as I don’t use one when performing and if I do use the computer I send the audio through a mixer. The newer USB Keyboard controllers are not necessary for me although I do have an Edirol controller should I need that.

I’m really excited about finding the Roland A-33. It really feels great and when connected to a couple of sound modules, it’s very flexible. It’s a really nice set of keys for just a controller.

Update: Here is a list of CONS in case anybody is interested in the negative aspects of the Roland A-33.

No Aftertouch
The pitch bender is not smooth
Only one data entry slider
Keys are not full size (length is shorter)
No progam up/down button
Velocity sensitivity is not full range of MIDI velocity

I pretty much bought this for the 76 keys and the two midi outs. I think for the price and condition, I really couldn’t go wrong with picking one up to try out.