Omeganaut is I SATELLITE's recording studio consisting of primarily vintage analog
synths and drum machines from the 70's and early 80's. Eventually I'll be creating pages for every item with
photos, sound samples, and additional information.
Synths & Samplers
Akai S-950 - I'm a huge fan of the sampler in the MPC-60, but I prefer the sequencer in the MPC-3000. I bought
this sampler to give me the best of both worlds - rock-solid sequencer timing and crunchy lo-fi drum samples. It has a better sampling
rate than the MPC-60 as well, so where the MPC-60 didn't sound good, on hi-hats and such, this sampler excels. A great sampler from the
ARP Odyssey (white-face) - I generally don't have good luck with ARP synths, but there's
something about the sound of the Odyssey, and its older sister the 2600 that just fascinate me. I say sister because the ARP
synths tend to have a more feminine quality compared to the Moogs of the same era. The layout of the synth is a bit strange
compared to most synths, so it takes some time to figure it out. The sliders are brittle and collect dust, the build construction is poor,
and they're always breaking down. So what's to love about it? The filters are simply the sharpest,
nastiest, most percussive of any synth I own. They can shred speaker cones. I love the Odyssey for leads, bass, and percussive effects.
John Foxx used one almost exclusively on Metamatic, and it was the synth of choice for Billy Currie of Ultravox. Bought and sold several through the years. Currently own one white-face model manufactured by Tonus. Owned others, but the Tonus one sounds better to me.
ARP Pro Soloist - I own two of these wonderful sounding synths. One of the most expressive synths I own. Basically a bunch of toggles that route the internal modules to apply filter/envelope settings to the various voicings. The power is in the aftertouch, which can modulate the filter, vibrato, volume, growl, brightness, etc. Very beautiful sounding synth. As used by Gary Numan all over Telekon and Tony Banks on early Genesis records.
ARP 2600 (grey-face) - A nice sounding and great looking semi-modular synth. I've owned
three of them and sold two. The one I have now is a very early grey-faced Tonus badged model with larger spring reverb and copy of the Moog ladder filter. Most people
don't bother to use the keyboards that came with the 2600, but just hook it up to CV/GATE and trigger it that way. I found that the optional 3320 keyboard was a must with this synth, and turned it into a fantastic sounding lead synth. Almost every famous artist
who used this synth
primarily used it for percussive sounds, which it does very well. For the money, an Odyssey through a spring reverb will
get you close in a much more compact package with a built-in keyboard, but the 2600 is still miles beyond what the Odyssey can do. The most fun I've had
with the 2600 was triggering it from two ARP Sequencers (in series or parallel). One of my favorite synths of all time.
ARP Omni - Q: What do Kraftwerk (Man Machine, Trans Europe Express), The Cars
(Let the Good Times Roll, Best Friend's Girlfriend, Moving in Stereo, etc.), Kansas (Dust in the Wind), Modern English (I Melt With You, Someone's Calling, etc.)
all have in common? A: They all feature the original ARP Omni for strings, filter sweeps, and synth textures. Although temperamental
(I had to replace 49 tantalum capacitors and a bunch of resistor packs and transistor arrays to get mine fully functioning) it's a wonderful
sounding string synth, and is capable of a great Moog like bass sound too. Unlike the Omni 2, the Omni routes the synth circuit through an ARP 4075 filter,
the same filter used on the MKIII ARP Odyssey and Quadra. Greg Hawkes preferred the original Omni due to its more electronic sound. It certainly has surprized me how great it sounds. Somewhat limited, but you can't get a bad sound out of it. One of my all-time favorite synth sounds is the Omni Viola through with Waveform Enhancement
through the built-in Chorus.
ARP Omni II - Really lush sounding string synth as used by Joy Division. Similar to the above synth, but the filter is lacking in the solo synth section. Mine has all black switches and wood side panels, which I prefer over the orange ones. You can play the strings without retriggering the synth envelopes though, an improvement over the Omni 1.
ARP String Ensemble SE-IV (rebadged Eminent Solina) - I wanted one of these for years, and finally found
one for a reasonable price in early 2009. It's sort of a one-trick pony, but what it does it does
very well. Probably the nicest sounding strings due to the wonderful chorus circuit. It was used by Joy Division, New Order, and the Cure.
Gary Wright used it on Dream Weaver
through a MuTron BiPhase.
Crumar Performer - This synth has both a brass and a string section. The brass section can actually be used
to create a pretty nice bass sound, but generally it's pretty weak. Nothing like the Omni, that's for sure. What this synth really excels at is very fragile, wavery, modulated strings. No other string synth has this type of sound, so I just can't justify selling it. It can be pretty noisy so it's probably a good idea to permanently attach a noise gate to this synth. Nick Rhodes used it to good effect in Duran Duran
and described the sound as "plasticky".
Emulator II - My favorite sampler. It has a lush sound that other samplers simply can't match. It's 8-bit, but uses companding to bring it up to 12-bit. The key to the sound is the SSM filters. Later models had an Apple interface. Mine is an earlier model, with the cooler-looking curved E graphics. I swapped out one of the 5-1/4" floppies for a 3-1/2" floppy. I also bought an SD card kit for it, but have yet to install it. As used by Depeche Mode, etc.
Emulator III - Probably the best-sounding 16-bit sampler ever. Analog (CEM) filters, 16 bit sampling, lots of control options,
16 individual outputs, harddrive, SCSI port. Can be fragile and difficult to service. I sold mine because I just didn't want the hassle of having to maintain it. A couple years later I bought another on eBay, only to find out it was the exact same synth I had sold! It had been serviced so it's now working perfectly. Eventually I found a couple of rack versions as well. I currently own three (1 keyboard, 2 rack) with SCSI ZIP drives in all three. Going to add flash card interfaces to all 3 eventually.
As used by Depeche Mode on Violator, Hector Zazou, etc.
Korg Mono/Poly - I keep buying Mono/Poly's and thinking that I'm going to use them,
only to sell them again. I've owned six of them through the years. I think the best thing going for it is the filter and the arpeggiator running
through 4 separate VCO's. The SSM chips really add to the sound of this synth. However, the build-quality is extremely cheap,
with really ugly fake-vinyl clad particle board construction that tends to disintegrate over time. I prefer the MiniKorg's simplicity and sound. I finally found a mint one nearby and spent some quality time getting to know it. It's not as thick-sounding as a Rev. 2 Prophet, but it has a character all its own, with wonderful effects capabilities. You can get lost in this synth for hours.
Logan String Melody II - This is one of my favorite string synths. It has an independant attack/decay envelope for each note press. Other string synths like the ARP and Crumar use a paraphonic design so each note shares the envelope across the entire keyboard. That makes the Logan unique sounding and capable of more expressive playing. The strings sound very beautiful, not as lush as the ARP String Ensemble, but more like a Mellotron. At one time in the 70's it was the string synth to own. As used by Rational Youth on Cold War, Night Life.
Moog Minimoog - I've owned several Minimoogs through the years, but the 1972 Moog Music Inc. one I currently own is
the best sounding Mini I've heard or owned. I tend to use it mainly for bass sounds, but it also excels at lead sounds and
percussive filter effects. It lacks oscillator sync, and the envelope section is somewhat limited, but it sounds so nice I have to admit it
is my favorite monosynth. The later Minis were too perfect sounding, and lacked a certain thickness
to the sound. They had light colored wood, with a honey glaze that wore off over time and started to look pretty
nasty. My current Mini is solid walnut, and although it has a few cracks in teh wood and marks here and there, I could never sell it.
About 8 years ago I almost did. I had it packed up and brought it to my work, waiting for FEDEX to pick it up. I was trading it for a Rev. 3 Prophet-5. I suddenly realized
that I'd never find another like this one, and retrieved it just as the FEDEX guy was about to take it away. My Mini was made in 1972,
making it one of the first post-Musonics Mini's off the assembly line. It's a very early model with white carved vinyl mod/pitch wheels,
but not early enough to have the clear wheels. The tuning is rock solid and I've never had any issues with drifting oscillators, despite
it not having the updated oscillator mod as on the later Mini'ss. Perhaps that's why the later Mini's I've owned didn't sound as nice? I recently found another '73 Minimoog in town for a good price and bought it, so now I'm fortunate to own two of these great-sounding synths. I recently replaced the keyboard bushings in both, making them much more fun to play.
As used by Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Vince Clarke, and many others.
Moog Multimoog - I've owned 3 Multimoogs over the years and still have one of them. I've debated selling it
but lately I've been getting more out of it. The Multimoog is probably the most
expressive monosynth from the 70's that is best played by hand to get the most out of it. I have yet to figure out how to trigger the expression circuit externally.
It uses a really odd 1.2 volt/octave keyboard scaling but most high-end CV converters can be adjusted to compensate for this (Kenton Pro-4).
The sound is typical Moog, though the oscillators and filter are not as pure as the Minimoog and Source (I notice the filter gets grainier/dirtier as you
play higher notes). I think it's best for expressive basslines and touch sensitive sound effects or lead sounds with a bit of vibrato on the aftertouch. It was one of Moog's attempts
to create a better, cheaper,
more performance-oriented Minimoog. It's the big brother of the Micromoog, and is basically the same as a Micromoog with an additional
daughterboard added on for the second oscillator. You'd be hard-pressed to get the sound of a Mini out of it, but what it does give you is
aftertouch control over sync, VCO, filter, etc. It also has a touchpad for pitch control, which has some benefits over the traditional
pitch wheel, but some drawbacks as well. I love the basslines you can make with this synth, and how you can add a little post-vibrato
to the sound. It's also a great lead synth, but the filter isn't as nice as the Minikorg. As used by Saga on pretty much everything they
ever did. Kraftwerk used the one-oscillator version, the Micromoog, for the bassline on The Model. You can get the same sound by using
only one oscillator on the Multi.
Moog Polymoog - I bought a Polymoog for $100 in a pawn shop about 10 years ago and my tech was able to fix
it for about $25. It was a bit beat up but it had a cool 70's vibe to it with lots of fake vinyl wood, black plastic,
and aluminum painted logos.
A friend came over and recommended I sell it because it would eventually break down and be costly to repair.
I didn't have any effects units to run it through at the time, so I remember thinking it sounded kind of thin
and weedy at the time. I owned a Jupiter-6 with a great Vox Humana patch, along with a D-50, and since I couldn't
control the Polymoog via MIDI, I decided to sell it. It broke during shipping. Fast forward 10 years and I started to develop a fascination
for vintage string synthesizers from the 70's. As I started to research what was being used on certain songs, I realized that the
Polymoog was what I was hearing on many of my all-time favorite songs. Japan used it on Gentlemen Take Polaroids. Visage used it on
their first two albums, along with the CS-80. Gary Numan used it on pretty much every good album he ever made. In fact, I'd
say the Polymoog MADE Numan and when he stopped using it his fame dwindled.
Jimmy Destri of Blondie used it on Call Me and Heart of Glass and preferred it over the CS-80.
The Buggles used it on Video Killed the Radio Star. And Kraftwerk used it - a lot - on Man Machine and Trans Europe Express. I now know how they got certain sounds that
I was curious about before. My friend Stefan owns Kraftwerk's Polymoog, and has used it to great effect on his Silicon Scientist releases. So I decided to give it a second chance, and bought a broken Polymoog Synthesizer (model 203a) on eBay in mid-2009.
It is one of the last models before they came out with the preset Keyboard version so it's still labelled Polymoog Keyboard.
It was accidently shipped to my
old mailing address, 3 hours away in Detroit, so I had to arrange to have it shipped to my new address. I was lucky it made it,
because it was basically
wrapped in blankets for padding. Fortunately it arrived in near mint physical condition.
My tech got it working again, and I installed new LED's in it since most had burnt out.
It is now one of my favorite polysynths. I think I like it better than the Jupiter-8 for the depth of sound you can coax out of it. It has an other-worldly sound that no other synth can make and is capable of some of the spookiest sounding
strings of any synth I've owned. It takes some time to
figure it out, but once you discover that the presets are not actually presets but starting points for shaping the sounds, it opens up
a whole world of tonal possibilities. I can get an ultra-realistic piano sound out of it, and very realistic strings. The strings are simply amazing.
The LFO section is excellent for adding
movement to any sound. The resonator section can totally warp the sound and add an almost human vocal quality to the sound. You can also
route other synths through the resonant filter. It has velocity control from the keyboard, and probably one of the best feeling keyboards on any vintage synth. It has a pitch bend ribbon for bending notes or chords. It has multiple outputs, for creating an amazing surround
sound. The filter
section is a bit limited, but it's a Moog filter and it does have a cool Sample & Hold effect which can be blended into the
overall sound. Overall, this synth doesn't get the credit
it deserves, and after owning many synths through the years, including the venerable CS-80, I have to say that the Polymoog ranks as one
of my all-time favorite polysynths. It reminds me of the sound of electricity, sort of a cross between a string synth and a transistor radio. It's no wonder they are climbing in value.
Moog Source - Moog Music were the first to add knobs to a synth, and the first to remove them - on
this synth. Not the best claim to fame as it signaled a move away from the more ergonomic, utilitarian control surfaces used on synths
in the 70's towards preset patches that nobody bothered to change. I remember Guy Fletcher from Depeche Mode claiming in Keyboard Magazine that he had this synth
for a year before realizing he could modify the sounds on it. The most famous use of the Source is the bassline of New Order's Blue Monday. Rational Youth used it on most of their tracks on Cold War Night Life, and ZZ Top used it for arpeggiated basslines on the Eliminator album. While attempting
to work on a cover of New Order's Your Silent Face, I realized I just couldn't get the sound I was after with any other synth, including the Minimoog and MIDIMini. It took me some time to track one down in mint condition,
and after owning it for a year or so I added an Encore MIDI kit for more patch locations and better external control. But the MIDI kit ended up wiping out all of my cool patches,
and in the end I realized that the MIDI interface just wasn't immediate enough and hindered sound creation. So I sold it. About a year later I spent quite some time trying to track another mint one down. I eventually
found another and had to pay through the nose to get it. This is the synth I go to for sync-bass sounds
that I can't get on the Mini or Multimoog. The
interface is a bit difficult, but once you get used to it, it's not as bad as,
say, a Voyetra-8 or Microwave. There are only 16 places to store patches, but it actually forces you to explore the synth more
instead of relying on patches all the time. Mine is an MKI model, which I prefer to the look of the MKII models. The MKII added Roland
DIN sync connector for the arpeggiator, but added black screws all over the front of the synth and an ugly black square on the back next to the
tuning knob. My controller already has
arpeggiator sync, so I have no need for that feature. The early models look nicer and cleaner overall, on the face and on the back.
Overall, a great synth for basslines. As used by New Order, Depeche Mode, Rational Youth, ZZ Top, The Twins, etc.
Oberheim OB-8 - Back in the mid-90's I played one of these in a pawn shop in Detroit and was blown away by the sheer powerful sound that came out of it. This is the synth that really got me hooked on analog. Over the years I've owned four OB-8's. The first few I owned were in constant need of service or had issues with random missing notes or voices that were out of tune. But they were all pretty beat up when I bought them. Compared with the OB-X, I found the OB-X beat it in terms of sheer power and the filter, but the OB-8 is no slouch. With the Page 2 functions, complex modulation routings, and arpeggiator, it approaches Xpander/Matrix-12 territory, but with a more hands-on interface. I recently acquired one in mint condition as part of a complete Oberheim system (OB-8 with Page 2 graphics and MIDI, DSX sequencer, and DX drum machine). I installed Electrongate magnetic RAM in all three units (8 banks in the OB-8)! Now that I've spent more time with it, I have to say it really is an underrated polysynth, in many ways surpassing the mighty Jupiter-8 and Rev. 3 Prophet-5, and much more reliable than an OB-X or Rev. 2 Prophet. Highly recommended!
Oberheim OB-Xa - This synth was made famous by its use in the song Jump by Van Halen. It's closer to the sound of the OB8 than the OBX, using Curtis (CEM) chips throughout. It was also famously used by Prince, Gary Numan, and Simple Minds, among others. For me, I associate it with the New Gold Dream album by Simple Minds. It was used on every track. I installed an Encore MIDI kit in mine. For some reason it caused the CPU to go haywire and lit my synth up like a Christmas tree. The Encore kit hacks into the CPU and there were so many OBXa variations, it's hard to get it working right, so I removed it and installed a Kenton kit instead. Apparently there were also different performance section circuit board revisions so I needed help from Kenton to get it all wired up properly, but now it is fully MIDI'd and sounds incredible and stays perfectly in tune. The OBX is much more aggressive and huge sounding, yet much more unreliable. The OB8 is a bit cleaner and purer sounding, and has more sound possibilities, but lacks grit and the Panasonic keybed is inferior to the Pratt Reed used on the OBXa. This synth falls right in the middle, the best of both worlds, and really is an amazing sounding machine.
Oberheim OB-X - Probably the most ergonomic, easy to program polyphonic synth I own. It also has the biggest, baddest sound of any synth I've heard (excluding the Oberheim 4-voice, which I found more difficult to program). The OB-X excels at subtle
strings and pads but unlike the OB-Xa and OB-8, you can also use it for cross-modulation effects. The levers are a bit strange, and
almost seems counterintuitive, but you can sweep the second oscillator with the pitch bend lever. I love this synth so much that I dedicated a whole page to it. It was the main synth used by Japan and Killing Joke and
was used all over Rush's Moving Pictures album, most notably at the beginning of Tom Sawyer. According to the track sheet cards on this article with Bob Clearmountain, it was also used on Roxy Music's Avalon for string sounds, most notably on the b-side "Always Unknowing". Rumor has it the OB-X was the synth responsible for Van Halen's Jump intro. Although Eddie Van Halen owned an OB-Xa, some say he used an OB-X in the studio to create that massive pad sound, but the debate is still raging about that one. I recently bought a couple spare voicecards as backups to keep it in tip-top shape. One of my favorite synths in the studio.
Oberheim OB-Xk - A basic keyboard controller from the early 80's. I love all of the options it has, but the keyboard itself is uninspiring to play - a bit on the spongy side. Really don't care for the way they designed the keybed. I accidently knocked one of the keys one day, snapping it in half. Was able to glue it back together, but finding replacement keys for this controller is now nearly impossible. Same keys used on the Matrix-12, Matrix-6, and AKAI AX-80, but apparently you can mod a Korg Lambda key to make it fit.
The arpeggiator input is a brilliant feature; any trigger source can add a syncable arpeggiation to any MIDI synth, which gets sent out the MIDI output and can then be recorded into your MIDI sequencer. Aside from
my string synths, I can control nearly every synth and drum machine in my studio from this board. The only thing it's lacking is a sustain pedal input. I wish the power supply wasn't a walwart; the little 9 volt plug keeps getting bumped out of the socket and turning off the controller. My KX88 blows it away for most things, but it's still a valuable controller for the arpeggiator feature and synth action trills.
Oberheim SEM - A great little module (with an excellent bandpass filter mode) made to compliment an
Odyssey or Minimoog. No noise source, limited functionality. Like the 2600, I think the best application for it
is as a filter for other sounds. The bandpass filter is one of the best-sounding on any synth. I sold mine several years ago, bought a reissue afterwards, but wasn't happy with the sound of the reissue. Didn't have a smooth creamy filter sweep as on the original, and MIDI was laggy. Finally found an original, and got that sound back again. This is a wonderful little synth module that packs a lot of punch.
Oberheim TVS-1 (2-Voice) w/ built-in Mini-Sequencer - Wow. What an amazing synth! This is two SEM modules along with a mini-sequencer and mixer and 3-octave digital keyboard in a smart-looking tolex case. I remember seeing one of these at a friend's house in the late 90's and being amazed at how nice it looked, but owning one wasn't in the cards, until 2015 when I found one for sale locally. It really excels at basses and filter sweeps, but the possibilities are nearly endless with the built-in sequencer, noise, sample/hold, lag circuits. You can have the sequencer triggering one or both SEM's, and play along to one sequenced line. Pulling up on the tempo knob turns the second sequencer pots into timing adjustment for more complex sequences. There's also noise built into the sequencer (accessible via one of the EXT knobs). A really fun, powerful synth! I think I like it more than the 4-voice I sold (same powerful sound, but the sequencer really adds a lot to it).
Octave Plateau Voyetra Eight w/VPK-5 Controller Keyboard - You could have had a V8! Lovely sounding 8-voice polysynth (CEM 3340 oscillators, SSM 2044 filters, software envelopes) with somewhat difficult 11-page matrix interface where the front panel knobs take on different functions based on the page you are in. But once you get used to it, and memorize 3-4 key page layouts, it's pretty easy to get your head around the interface. The key is to have the module near your master controller, or better yet, near the VPK-5, which is a very expressive metal-enclosed Pratt-Reed controller with velocity, aftertouch, and a joystick for pitchbend and two other assignable destinations. I owned one for about 10 years and never had one issue with it. Sold it (stupidly) to help pay for a CS-80 and it took me 5 years to find another. By then they had nearly doubled in value. I love how lush the strings sound, but it can also do clangy FM sounds, percussive bass sounds, expressive brass sounds, and everything in between. Sounds similar to a Rev. 2 Prophet crossed with a Memorymoog with a bit of Jupiter-8 thrown in. 2 VCO's per voice, with an additional square-wave sub-oscillator and 4 LFO's (in layer mode) allowing for a lot of movement to the sound. Ever-so-slight delay when sequenced via MIDI, but extremely responsive using the VPK-5. Modulation routings up the wazoo. Probably the nicest sounding polysynth ever made. For repairs, contact Peter Lanzilotta of DoubleTake Sound, a very knowledgeable guy who helped me fix my V8 on a number of occasions: DoubleTake Studio Service, 246 5th Avenue Room 206, New York, NY 10001. Phone: (212) 685-7900
PPG Wave 2.3 - I used to own a PPG Wave 2.3 about 10 years ago. It had an absolutely amazing sound, but
a somewhat difficult interface. Soon after
I bought a Waldorf Microwave with Access programmer and PPG cards, and compared them side by side. The
Waldorf sounded muffled, probably due to the CEM filters. I sold the PPG in order to buy a System-700 modular, thinking the Waldorf
would suffice, and realized my mistake
soon afterwards. The Waldorf had an annoying, well-documented click at the beginning of the envelopes that was nearly impossible to eliminate. The PPG had SSM chips in it, which gave it an incredible presence in any mix. And it was easier to program than the Microwave. Needless to say, I sold the Microwave, and in mid-2009 I bought another PPG 2.3, had the software updated by Alex of Virtual Music Synthesizer
Service, and replaced the keyboard bushings and backlight. It's now ultra-stable, and sounds amazing. It's one of
my all-time favorite polysynths, and definitely my all-time favorite digital synth. Great for pads, strings, percussive effects,
and the sharpest basslines known to man. It was used by Ultravox, Saga, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, and Alphaville on Forever Young.
Roland CMU-810 CompuSynth - A very rare Roland monosynth that was released by Roland's DG (Digital Group) back when digital was the buzzword of the day. Basically a small single VCO monosynth in a small metal box with a layout similar to the MC-202, but sounding more like an SH-09. No keyboard, only CV/GATE inputs. It was designed to interface with the CMU-800 CompuMusic computer interface and looks a lot like it but with blue graphics instead of red. It has a built in mixer input to route a synth or drum machine through it, CV control over VCA (sure wish it was VCF instead), LFO delay (as on the MC-202), noise source (as on the SH-101), and nice metal sliders with Jupiter-8 fader caps. I owned two at one time, sold them both, eventually bought one of them back again, only to sell it to pay for another synth. Over the past few years I bought back three of them and hopefully won't be selling them anytime soon. The CMU-810 packs a lot of punch into a very small, metal enclosure. It's amazing how great it sounds.
Roland D-50 - I sold my D-50 and bought the rack version, the D-550. But I still like the look of this synth, and like all synths, if it's in a rack, you're less likely to use it, so I recommend the D-50. If you
get into programming it with a PG-1000, you can come up with some really neat evolving textures with it. The D-50 was used to great effect all over Sleeps With the Fishes by Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook. They still sell for fairly low $ so it's not worth selling it for the sounds you can get out of it. I'd choose the D-50/PG-1000 over the JD-800 any day.
Roland D-550 & PG-1000 - Rackmount version of the D-50 with the optional (and essential) programmer. The D-50's Sample + Synth architecture became very popular in the late 80's. Even with the programmer, it's a deep instrument to get your head around. I think the early digital synths had a lot of character, moreso than the synths that came out in the early 90's. In fact, while the samples used in the D-50 aren't the best, I like the overall sound of the D-50 more than the JD-800. There's one main reason I've kept a D-50. It was used all over Sleeps With the Fishes by Pieter Nooten & Michael Brook. All of those haunting swirling textures are classic Roland D-50.
Roland Juno-60 - This was my first analog synth and it was the synth that started my analog synth addiction. I love the arpeggiator and the bell-like tones you can get out of it. It's also good for bass sounds. However, the chorus is so noisy I've permanently removed it from all of my patches. Sometimes I turn all the waveforms off and just use the sub-oscillator, which sounds amazing and hollow (as used on Bubbleboy). It was used by Enya on pretty much everything she did. I like it better than the Juno-106. The Juno-6 has a slight edge due to a full slider for the HPF as opposed to a notched one on the 60, but the patch saving and DCB interface are a plus in the 60's favor. One of Vince Clarke's favorite synths.
Roland Juno-106 - Basically a more clinical, thinner-sounding version of the Juno-60 without the arpeggiator. A nice synth, but the voices tend to go out, and the parts required to fix it are no longer available from Roland. There is a fix where you use acetone to remove the material around the VCO chips, which gets them working again, but you need to be careful. This fix was done on mine, and some of the chip pins came loose, requiring resoldering. I think the Juno-60 sounds much warmer, looks nicer, and has better-quality sliders and pots, but the Juno-106 still holds its own, and can send/respond to MIDI control changes, making it very powerful in a MIDI setup. It excels at shimmery pads and strings, whereas the 60 is better at bass. The 106 is a great beginner's synth, as long as you find one that has had the chip mod or you are prepared to fix it yourself.
Roland Jupiter-4 - The Jupiter-4 was Roland's first polyphonic synth. I read somewhere that it was originally going to be called the Roland Space Bird, which is funny because you can get both bird chirps and spacey sounds out of it. It's surprizing that they used a 4 in the name since generally the Japanese are superstitious about the use of the number 4 (apparently it rhymes with death). The JP-4 has 4-note polyphony, an awesome arpeggiator, built-in chorus ensemble and hold function, 10 presets including one labeled "The Force", the best range of any LFO on any synth I own (can go extremely slow or fast), a wonderful filter, and Compuphonic written in futuristic lettering across the front panel. While the custom memory locations are limited to 8, it's possible to stack a memory chips and install a toggle to icnrease the memory locations. If anyone has any information as to how to perform this mod, please let me know. I have the memory chips, but I don't have the know-how to do it. In many respects (filter, arpeggiator) I think the JP-4 sounds better than the JP-8. While stock it doesn't have any way to control the synth externally, you can add CV/GATE inputs to it (the connections are on the voice boards). I have an MPU-101 dedicated to this synth. It was pretty much the quintessential New Wave synth, used by Nick Rhodes (first two Duran Duran albums), Depeche Mode (Vince would carry it on the subway to gigs), Vangelis (Bladerunner), Yazoo (Upstairs at Erics), Gary Numan (Telekon), Simple Minds (Sister Feeling's Call, Sons & Fascination), Tears for Fears (The Hurting), Trans-X (Living on Video), etc. I used it through a Chorus Echo on the extended intro to Life In Tokyo.
Roland Jupiter-8 - One of my favorite synths. It simply oozes quality, from the futuristic metal end panels to the colorful buttons and sleek vinyl-clad metal chassis with heat vent slots across the top. It was a departure from the drab black and gray of Roland's 70's synths and it appears they took some design cues from Yamaha's CS-50/60/80 series. The JP-8 was probably the peak of Roland synthesizer design. It blows away the Jupiter-6 with it's beautiful string and pad sounds that almost sound like they have reverb built in. I've owned 4 Jupiter-8's over the
years - two 14-bit, and two 12-bit. There were pros and cons to each model, but overall I prefer the 12-bit models. The 12-bit models look much nicer, a darker black gunmetal compared
to the lighter charcoal gray plastic look of the 14-bit models. The 12-bit models also have a fuller, richer sound - possibly due to the slightly
detuned oscillators - I'm not sure. I compared identical patches between models and there was a noticeable difference. I've never had any tuning issues
with any of them. My first JP-8 was a 14-bit model. It was absolutely mint and I used it on pretty much every track on the AUTO:MATIC album
- actually, I think I used it on every
track I've ever recorded! It's probably the only
synth I've owned that I never had any issues with or had in the shop for repair. I bought it from a Russian ballet dancer in Los Angeles
in 1996. He had bought it in Japan, brought it with him to the USA, and had an Encore MIDI kit installed in it, which disabled the DCB port. I'll
never forget opening the huge wooden crate and looking at a mint Jupiter-8 for the first time. But playing and hearing it was sheer bliss.
It quickly became my favorite synth. I bought a second 12-bit model from Robert Lamm of the band Chicago around 1997. It was a very early model with J.L. Cooper
DCB retrofit kit installed. Before he shipped it to me he decided to clean it up with some caustic cleaner
which melted the front panel and took all of the gloss off the keys. Needless to say, I was
disappointed with the condition and sold it within a few months.
My second 14-bit JP-8 had an integrated Ultimate Support aluminum stand and looked absolutely stunning...but I couldn't afford to keep
two Jupiters at the time so I sold it. In early 2007 I sold my first 14-bit JP-8 for twice the going rate and no sooner had I shipped it out and I
immediately regretted it. It was shipped FEDEX overnight and despite it being packed to withstand a nuclear war, FEDEX managed to dent it in transit.
Soon afterwards the market dried up and the prices started to climb. It took me several months to find another but it
was worth the wait. I ended up buying my current JP-8 off a fellow Alphaville fan who had it since the late 80's. It's a 12-bit model and it sounds
better than any I've owned in the past. It looks stunning in dark black with Encore
MIDI installed. What's interesting is the filter self-oscillates, which wasn't the case with my previous 3 Jupiters. This one's a keeper! According to some, the earlier models tend to have more problems, but (at least to my ears) the early ones sound a bit thicker and lusher. Various upgrades were made along the way to improve their reliability and stability. The earlier models were had a 12-bit DAC (as opposed to 14-bit), had flickering LED screens, and a dark black/brown metal face vs. more of a metallic gray on later models. The later models had DCB included (resulting in a smaller Roland logo on the back of the synth) and are known as JP-8a models. My current JP-8 is an earlier model with the excellent Encore MIDI kit that adds MIDI IN and OUT (for data only), velocity and/or aftertouch controlled VCF and/or VCA, and twice the memory locations of a stock unit. Mine apparently has had some updates as well because the LED doesn't flicker and it's very stable. The filter on this one self-oscillates, something none of my other JP-8's could do. Perhaps it's an internal adjustment or Roland decided to remove this feature on later models? As used by Alphaville (Forever Young), Simple Minds (New Gold Dream, Sparkle in the Rain), Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran (he still owns his and used it extensively on their first 3 albums), Greg Hawkes of the Cars (Heartbeat City), Blanc Mange, Howard Jones (New Life), Modern English (After the Snow, Ricochet Days) and numerous other New Wave acts in the early 80's. One of my all-time favorite synths for its wonderful textures, sheer power, usability, reliability,
and sonic palette, but it does have some limitations compared to other polysynths of the era. It looks as though Roland took quite a few design cues from
the CS-80 (2 layered synths, slotted heat vents, colored buttons, etc.) Unfortunately people have caught onto how wonderful this synth sounds, and the prices have now skyrocketed into the stratosphere.
Roland MC-202 - Another of those thin-sounding Roland toys from the mid-80's. Basically a scaled back MC-4, a synth, and chiclet
keyboard in a small plastic box. Cute! I bought it thinking I would use it as the core of a portable studio. But you can't save your sequences
in the 202, and if you turn it off, you lose them for good. What was Roland thinking? Some have claimed that the 202 is basically a CMU-810 in a plastic box with a sequencer and keyboard. But the MC-202 has no noise circuit and
sounds much thinner than the CMU-810. But it does have a great sequencer, and packs a lot of power into a very small space. It can also sound very close to a TB-303, and for some reason I can't seem to let mine go.
Roland RS-202 - Wonderful string synth with a lush chorus.
Roland SH-1 - One of my favorite Roland monophonics. After buying this SH-1, I decided to sell my System-700 lab cabinet because I could get similar bass sounds out of the SH-1 (the attack is a bit less sharp than the 700) and I really didn't think the 700 was worth 10 times an SH-1. The SH-1 has an awesome filter and is great for bass and noise effects. I've read elsewhere that the circuitry inside the SH-1 was based off the 700. The noise circuit on the SH-1 is definitely better sounding than the System-700 and the trigger input can be routed to the LFO to round out bass sounds (similar to the 700). It blows away the SH-2 and proves that more oscillators does not necessarily mean it's a better synth. As used by Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, and OMD.
Roland SH-101 - Another of those plasticky-sounding Rolands from the mid-80's, but still a very aggressive synth, and great for bass.
I think the SH-1 is a much nicer sounding synth overall, but the SH-101 packs a powerful punch for the price! The SH-101 looks like a toy (in three colors and with
optional keytar accessory) but is capable
of a lot of cool sounds and effects. I sold my grey model because I owned a CMU-810, which is basically an SH-101 in a compact metal box without the keyboard and sequencer,
but with the addition of a delay on the LFO. Due to the odd shape, I could never find a place to put the SH-101 in my studio setup. The CMU-810 sounds better
for some reason and I've never been able to figure out why. Guess I should open it up and take
a look under the hood! Recently picked up a mint blue model and installed Kenton filter/mod input jacks in it.
Roland SH-3 - One of Roland's first synths, the SH-3 is a great little synth, a one-oscillator scaled-back version of the SH-5. While limited, it has an awesome filter, white/pink noise, and the ability to mix waveforms at any available footage for complex textures. There were two versions of this synth, the SH-3, and the SH-3a. Apparently the SH-3 infringed on a Moog filter patent so Roland reworked it and re-released it as the SH-3a. There aren't many SH-3's out there. My SH-3 is currently sitting in a box, waiting to be repaired and modded. It's physically a bit too long of a synth so I bought a Kenton CV/GATE kit for it and had a friend help me create a custom enclosure for it to turn it into a sound module. Unfortunately he didn't measure it correctly and it doesn't fit. One of these days...
Roland System-700 (7 block modular system) - An impressive-looking and sounding modular system that filled up an entire wall of my studio. Roland basically copied the look of the ARP 2600 and Moog Modular, and made the interface more user-friendly. It took me years to find every block and put together a complete system, and then I turned around and sold it for $18000 and bought a basic lab system instead. Roland used the knowledge and experience gained from developing this synth to create many of the monosynths, polysynths, and drum machines that came afterwards. Apparently the TR-808 kick was first created on the System-700. The sound of a full system is huge, the interface great, and the oscillators extremely stable, allowing for complex patches to be created. Some of the components (the little chrome switches) were prone to failure, and it was difficult to service due to the design of the modules. When I really got into the synth, I found that the main block and sequencer was all I really needed. With the full system, I spent so much time making patches, that once I had them created, I didn't want to change them! When triggered from a MIDI sequencer, I'd have to run across the room to make adjustments to the sounds. I should have just kept the main cabinet and sequencer and called it good. It was simply worth too much as a complete system to split it up. After selling both the full system and lab cabinet, and after many years of searching for another system, I was fortunate to find a main cabinet for sale and had it shipped from Japan in August 2013. This one has a custom cabinet and a custom module setup. It has the rare phaser module from the upper left wing cabinet in place of the third VCO and second VCA. The stereo phaser module was one that I used a lot on the full system, so I was happy to fine it. A friend in Australia also sold me another VCA module to bring my system back to stock condition but I'm still looking for another VCO to complete the stock configuration of the main block. If you have a spare System-700 VCO laying around you would consider selling, or any System-700 modules for that matter, please email me as I'm interested in getting my main block back to its stock configuration.
Roland VP-330 - One of my favorite string synths. Mine is the early model with cream and oxblood toggle switches. It adds a subtle sparkle and a lushness to everything I use it on. The string sound is beautiful and ethereal, some of the best string sounds of any string synth I own. The choir section is eerie and spooky, not really a choir at all, with various male/female voicings. You can blend the string and choir sounds. The vocoder is incredible, and very flexible, and the inputs in the back allow alot of control over the vocoding. I installed a Kenton MIDI kit in mine which really opens up the possibilities of tracking it in a song. As used on early Church albums like Seance and Blurred Crusade and Laurie Anderson's Oh Superman.
Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 - I've owned a number of Prophet-5's over the years, three Rev. 3's and two Rev. 2's. Each version had its strengths and weaknesses. Generally the Rev. 3's were smoother sounding, more immediate from a programming standpoint, and more reliable. My first Rev. 2 was always in the shop. After playing it live back in 2003, it broke down, and spent the next 5 years off and on in a state of repair. The SSM chips were also rarer than hen's teeth. I found my current Rev. 3 in mint condition for $400 in a Detroit Craigslist ad back in 2005, but it was non-functioning. After being repaired, it's now been ultra-stable. I sold my MIDI'd Rev. 2 in 2010 to fund the purchase of a CS-80. But when I tried to recreate some of my early I SATELLITE tracks, I found the Rev. 3 to be a bit harsh sounding. I spent several years looking for another Rev. 2 and recently acquired another and installed a Kenton MIDI kit in it. I won't let this one go as it is now one of my favorite synths. It's an early model with smooth black metal panel and very stable (recently serviced by Greg Montalbano of Analog Synth Service). The Rev. 2 was used by Japan (Gentlemen Take Polaroids), Talking Heads (Remain in Light, Speaking in Tongues), Greg Hawkes (Let's Go), John Carpenter (Escape from New York, Halloween III), and OMD (early albums). The Rev. 3 was used by Japan (Tin Drum), Tears for Fears, Gary Numan, Nick Rhodes, Men Without Hats, and many others.
Univox MiniKorg 700 - The Korg Minikorg (Univox 700) was Korg's first synthesizer and is one of my all-time favorite monosynths. It's probably my favorite synth for leads. It came out in 1973 and was rebadged as a Univox product for the US market. It has a great 12db dual high/lowpass filter (controlled by two sliders labelled traveller), an awesome vibrato (standard or delayed), portamento, adjustable repeat (for staccato notes and primitive sequences), expansion (filter amplitude) and brightness (resonance) circuits, and two chorus effects. There was an upgraded model (the 700s or Minikorg 2) that added another oscillator along with noise and ring mod features, but the scaling is difficult to keep in sync between the two oscillators. The Korg Maxikorg took the Minikorg to the next level (basically 2 700s synth engines in one box) but I haven't had the pleasure of even seeing, let alone owning one. Greg Hawkes used his 700 on practically every Cars album. It was Vangelis' first synth (and a favorite), Kitaro claimed it was his favorite synth, and according to Martyn Ware in this interview, it was used it on the first couple Human League albums (including Being Boiled). Depeche Mode also used a 700s on Speak & Spell.
Univox MiniKorg 700s - Same as above, but with additional OSC and effect (noise/ring mod) features in place of the wood panel next to the keyboard. As used by Daniel Miller. To be honest, I prefer the sound of the 700. I know they are supposedly the same inside, but my 700 just sounds better.
Yamaha CP-30 - A large somewhat portable electronic piano that folds up into a suitcase. I guess it was more portable than a CP-80. Gary Numan used it a lot on several of his releases. So did Greg Hawkes of the Cars, with an ARP Omni and Minikorg stacked on top. Supertramp used one as well. It can have a very eerie quality to it, especially when you detune each side in stereo. There are a few toggles to change the sounds, but they're all pretty basic. There's also a harpsichord toggle. I've thought about selling it because it's just too huge for my studio. It's very noisy, probably the noisiest piece of gear I own, but they sell for so cheap and it's so hard to ship that it's just not worth selling.
Yamaha CS-15 - Cool little mono synth from Yamaha - basically two CS-5 synth engines in one, with separate HZ/Volt inputs on the back so they can be triggered separately. It has a very thin sound, which can actually sound very nice once it's multitracked. HZ/Volt inputs are a bit of a pain requiring a non-standard MIDI converter to trigger it, but my Pro-4 handles it fine. It has a really cool feature where you can set each synth to glide up or down to a specific note. This effect was put to good use at the beginning of The Human Leagues' "Love Action" off of Dare! It is also used a lot by Eddie Bengtsson of Sista Mannen Pa Jorden. He once told me it was his favorite synth.
Yamaha CS-50 - The CS-50 is the little brother of the CS-80 with only 4 voices and no memories. It's missing the pitch bend strip, chorus/tremelo effects, and the keyboard brightness controls. But it has the same voice cards as the CS-80 with one changed resistor resulting in a bit brighter sound than the CS-80 overall. It does some things better like fast trills since it has more of a synth keyboard action. I've kept mine in case I need to steal chips to repair my CS-80 (knock on wood), but it's a great synth in its own right. As used by Men Without Hats on Rhythm of Youth.
Yamaha CS80 - Back in 1996, I was on a family vacation in Nova Scotia, and met up with an Analog Heaven member in Halifax, who was the genius behind the SH-101 NovaMod. He had a mint Yamaha CS-80 in his studio that he had just sold to a friend in New York for $900. At the time, due to their poor reliability, they were selling for less than a Prophet-5 on the used market, and were not that desirable. Now you'd be lucky to find one for under $12,000, with some mint examples selling for more than $25,000, and even more with MIDI. I had always heard of this famous synth, but had never seen one in person. The CS-80 was impressive looking, and just oozed quality. It was capable of very expressive organic textures via it's fully-weighted keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch (any key could be used to introduce a bit of vibrato or filter to subtly effect the sound) and velvet pitch-bend strip (if you swiped it left-to-right you could change the pitch an entire octave but if you swiped it right-to-left you could go down into the subaudio frequency range). Serial numbers for the CS-80 started at 1000, with the highest in the 1900's, meaning there were only around 900 of them even made. The more stable oscillators were introduced around the mid-1300's so the later ones are the ones to get. Back in the 90's it was a pipe dream for me to own one, and I knew it was unlikely I'd ever see one again in person. Due to the CS-80's popularity on the 70's touring circuit, very few are left today. A few years later I was at my synth tech's and he had just bought a beat up CS-80 that he was attempting to restore. In order to get it to tune properly, he had moved the power supply to a separate box outside of the synth, but it still wouldn't stay in tune. I played it, and was not impressed. Fast forward 10 years to 2006 and I bought a CS-50 in near mint condition. After spending some time with it, I realized just how great the synth engine was on the CS series of synths. Imagine doubling that, adding a weighted keyboard and built-in chorus/tremelo, and memories! I decided to add a CS-80 to my short list. A few weeks later I ended up buying a CS-80 expression pedal on eBay with the hope of eventually finding a CS-80 to go with it. A week later, a CS-80 showed up on eBay for $3000, formerly used by Genesis for a cross-Canada tour. The seller was kind enough to drive it from Chicago to Detroit in the back of his pickup truck and helped me set it up in my basement. What a monster! I set it up and had to wait 3 days before it stabilized and tuned up, but since it was a later serial number with the more stable oscillators, it remained in tune the entire time I owned it. I sold it a year later because I was worried about it one day breaking down and not being able to find anyone within 300 miles who could fix it. Bad mistake. I ended up hurting my back moving it and I'm still feeling the pain to this day. In mid-2009 I started getting the bug again, and decided to start hunting for a mint CS-80 with a later serial number. I ended up winning another expression pedal on eBay, and wouldn't you know it, two hours later, a CS-80 (minus expression pedal) showed up on eBay in mint condition with the original chrome legs and plexiglass music stand. I sold off about 40 items in my studio to get it (including my MC-4b, Rev. 2 Prophet, Voyetra-8, and several guitars). It took me 3 months to get it, and it was fully serviced and tuned prior to shipping. When the freight company set the 300-pound crate on my driveway, I wondered how I'd get it into my studio. My son and I dragged the crate through the snow on a ladder around to the basement entrance and within hours I had it set up in my studio. Amazingly it was perfectly in tune, and in mint condition. It's one of the few analog synths that feels like it's a part of you, and I have to say, of all the synths I own, this one is in the top 3. Unfortunately, mine had a strange problem with aftertouch on one voice. After mucking up a Kenton MIDI kit installation, it spent the next 2-3 years in the shop getting repaired. It's now working perfectly though, and the MIDI kit really opens up the synth. As used by Billy Currie in Visage and Ultravox, John Foxx, Brian Eno, and of course, Vangelis, on the Bladerunner soundtrack, Spiral, Antarctica, etc.
Yamaha DX7 - One of my first synths. It was very difficult to program and had that digital mid-80's sound. Not a good choice for
your only synth. Beware of early models that had a limited MIDI spec and responded in OMNI mode only which
requires the purchase of a MIDI channel filter. Eno swears by his. I own two of them, but rarely use them.
Yamaha KX88 - I've had an Oberheim OBXk for a few years and never ever thought I needed another until I realized the OBXk didn't have a footpedal input. In my search for a replacement, I came across several positive reviews of the KX88 online. It's a fully weighted 88-key MIDI controller from the late 80's with multiple assignable wheels, sliders, and inputs (one breath controller, two footpedals, and two footswitches). If I had never tried this controller, I'd have never known how great it was. The KX88 is the closest thing to the feel of a real grand piano controller I have ever felt. I still use the Oberheim OBXk for fast trills and arpeggiator sync, but the KX88 is my main controller for accurate data & note entry. The KX88 allows you to get your sequence right the first time with fewer accidentally pressed keys. It's an inspiration to play and has really opened up my whole approach to music creation while allowing me to inject more feeling into my sequences. It works particularly well with the TX816 (8 DX-7's in one box). Now that I own one I simply can't do without it!
Yamaha TX816 - The DX7 was one of my first synths. I was a bit disappointed when I first bought it because I was under the impression it could do everything an analog could do, plus more! But that's not the point, and in the early 90's I just wasn't interested in the digital sounds it could create. I once bought a DX-1, but it was simply two DX7's with
only one DX7 controllable via the MIDI input and I just couldn't justify the space. Nice keyboard though! Fast forward to 2009 and I have finally grown to appreciate the sound, possibilities and complexities of
FM synthesis, as an addition to, not a replacement for, analog subtractive synthesis. The TX816 is a monster digital synth, and is capable of much, much more than the DX1 or DX7.
It's essentially 8 DX-7's in a sleek black brushed metal rack unit with independant outputs and lots of bright red LED's. I patch mine through a dedicated Yamaha MV802 8-input stereo mixer and they are a match
made in heaven. It looks and sounds very impressive! Each module can be detuned for
huge evolving FM tones and effects. You can set the MIDI channel separately for each module, or set them all to the same MIDI channel and operate it as one huge 128-voice FM synth. Pair it up
with a Yamaha KX88 weighted controller and you have one of the most impressive, expressive synths ever made! A DX7 can sound thin by itself, but stack 8 of them together, playing slightly different sounds that fade in and out, back and forth in the stereo
spectrum, and you begin to understand the power of FM synthesis. It can get sounds like no other synth can! The TX816 cost over $5000 when they came out in the mid-80's so the $300 I paid
for this mint unit was a steal. I predict that one day these synths will be popular again and will be worth much, much more. DX1's are already over $5000 on the used market
and the TX816 blows it out of the water. As used by Alphaville on Afternoons in Utopia and The Breathtaking Blue and New Order for basslines on Brotherhood, etc.
Sequencers / Drum Machines / Drum Modules
Akai MPC60 - An awesome sequencer/sampler, especially good at creating crunchy drum sounds. I had it upgraded with maximum memory
and Marion SCSI interface. It is built like a tank and looks impressive in my studio
setup. Although the low frequency sampled sounds were better than in the MPC3000, the sequencer is not as precise, and the processor is slower, resulting in a bit
of lag when you press the buttons or copy sequences, and slightly less accurate sequencing compared with the 3000. Some say this is what gives it that special "feel". On the positive side, the front-panel layout is superior to the 3000, and the build quality is second to none. I recently brought it back into the studio and I'm using it as my main sequencer/trigger machine (for triggering the Pearl Syncussion and Simmons SDSV).
Akai MPC3000 w/ Mansell Labs Vailixi upgrade - The centerpiece of my studio. I used to own an MPC60 but the sequencer wasn't as precise. The Roland MC-4b was more precise but more difficult to program. It just works. And the Mansell upgrade fixes a number of issues, making it, in my mind, the best sequencer ever.
ARP Sequencer - Probably the best feature-laden hands-on analog sequencer I've ever had the pleasure of using, if it wasn't
for the sliders and jacks that were so poorly constructed. They are brittle and small and
tend to fill with dust over time, and before you know it one or two sliders aren't working 100%. I've owned four of these sequencers
over the years, and sold them or traded them for various reasons. I recently picked up another which I intend to keep for awhile. Probably my favorite analog sequencer of all time.
Korg KR-55 - Awesome light-grey preset beatbox (modded for DIN sync by Ramcur) with MS-20 era knobs.
Korg KR-55b - Same as above, but with more/different patterns but dark-grey with Mono/Poly-era knobs.
Korg (Univox) SR-95 - Similar to the Korg Minipops 7 as used on Oxygene by Jean Michele-Jarre.
Korg (Univox) SR-120 - Very cool preset drum machine with a lot of features, similar to the CR-78. Messing around with this was very inspiring. I woke up the next day with these rhythm patterns and an entire song in my head. That's how City Streets came about.
Linn LM-1 Drum Computer - Probably the nicest-sounding and looking digital drum machine ever.
Nothing can prepare
you for the size of the LM-1 when you first see one in real life! It's literally 2 feet square and built like a tank.
The first LM-1 I owned I bought from a studio in Boston.
It was #121 and owned by Ric Ocasek who referred to it as Miss Linn on his Beatitude album.
It was an extremely rare Rev. 2 model with engraved buttons, sync input, and shuffle LED's. But I had problems syncing it
up to other equipment as a slave. In chain mode the machine would experience micro-delays
between patterns which would eventually lengthen until the LM-1 was no longer in sync with the master. This drove me nuts, so the machine
just sat there most of the time. I ended up selling it to a musician in L.A. who was a big Prince fan.
I regretted selling it almost as soon as it was packed up and shipped out. And after spending several years trying to find another, and
researching the various models, I discovered that it was more rare than I realized. There were only 500 LM-1's made,
and likely less than 25 Rev. 2 machines with engraved buttons left in the world (over the past 12 years I've only seen 3 for sale anywhere, and believe me, I've
looked)! If I
could have resolved the syncing issues, I never would have sold it. A friend of mine eventually found out how to resolve the syncing
issues using a Roland SBX-10 sync box. So I started looking for another LM-1.
I ended up buying a later Rev. 3 LM-1 in better condition but without the engraved buttons (#443). As soon as I got it, I tried incorporating it into my
new studio setup, but found that it was simply too big, nearly 2 feet square! One thing I really like about the LM-1 is the individual tuning pots for
every sound. However, in actual use they are very difficult to get to. They're located in the back of the machine, underneath the individual output jacks.
In order to tune the sounds you have to reach around behind the machine under all of the individual output cables, and most of the time you end up turning
the wrong tuning pot. If you accidently bump a cable, then you have to figure out why a particular sound isn't coming through your mixer. A real pain!
To fix this, I started thinking about changing the location of the pots, and moving them to the front. I took a couple small knobs off my TR-808 and realized they
fit perfectly on top of the panning toggle switches. After discussing the idea with a synth-tech friend of mine, his friend ended up coming up
with a mod that actually worked. I performed the mod myself and added 13 small
metal knobs similar to the stock LM-1 knobs in place of the toggles, replacing the click toggle with the hihat decay adjustment pot. It took me about 8 hours to
desolder all of the toggles and pots and install the new pots on the front. After performing the mod, you do lose the limited left-right panning from the stereo
outs, but the mod is totally reversable if you want to bring it back to stock. I also installed
some alternate sounds from Forat Electronics with toggles to switch between the various sounds in
real time. However, I installed the toggles in the back of the machine so as not to drill holes into the face or wood panels, and so they rarely got used.
A photo of this customized LM-1 eventually appeared in Remix Magazine in late 2006.
In mid-2006 I was going through a tough time so I decided to sell my LM-1 again. To tide me over until I could buy another I tried installing some LM-1 chips
in my LinnDrum to give me the same sounds under MIDI control. Unfortunately it just didn't sound the same and I couldn't tune the individual sounds in the Linndrum.
I had the Linndrum modded with some extra tuning pots, but it still didn't cut it. So my search began yet again for an LM-1 with engraved buttons.
In early 2007 another Rev. 2 LM-1 (#93) with engraved buttons, sync input, and shuffle LED's showed up on eBay, formerly owned by Phil Collins and used on the Genesis
Abacab and self-titled albums. I bought it without hesitation! Once again I brought all of the tuning pots to the front in place of the panning toggles and made custom walnut end panels
for it with an easy-access panel with toggle switches for dual-sound chips at the lower right. I added the following chips, custom made for me by
Forat Electronics: 1) Rev. 1 LM-1 claptrap type sound as used on John Carpenter's Escape from New York soundtrack
or later LM-1 clap; 2) Rev. 1 LM-1 clave sound or LM-1 rimshot; 3) 4 toms or 2 toms/2 congas 4) 4 congas or 2 congas/2 toms 5) LM-1 or Linndrum snare
6) LM-1 or Linndrum kick; 7) LM-1 cowbell or LM-1 rimshot.
Phil Collins had replaced the original tempo pot with a special graduated pot which resulted in a hole above the Tempo knob after I installed the original stock
pot in it. I had Bruce at Forat Electronics make me an on/off sync toggle switch for this location
which allowed bypassing of the sync jack in the back when a cable was plugged in. That way the input sync signal could be turned off while programming
the machine using its own tempo knob and start/stop button. This was one of the most useful mods and I'm really glad I had it added.
In mid-2007 I was commuting 3 hours a day to work, and had little time for music. I decided to sell off a bunch of gear and decided to sell this LM-1 when
a Genesis fan contacted me and offered me $6000 for it. At the time I couldn't refuse, but I should have!
I immediately regretted selling what was probably the rarest/cleanest LM-1 in existence, so I bought another LM-1 on eBay (serial #37X) from Tom Moravansky. Tom was the guy who performed the original LM-1 tuning pot mod.
It was a later Rev. with black buttons and the same mods I mentioned above. I couldn't get it to
sync properly so I ended up selling it too. I kept the original owners manual and spare power supply though, just in case...one day...I found another engraved-button
Over the next couple of years, I began hunting again for another engraved button LM-1. I should never have sold #93! But in a strange twist of fate, LM-1 #93 showed
up again on eBay, and after selling several guitars to pay for it, I ended up buying it back from the guy who I had bought it from originally.
He had bought it from the guy I originally sold it to! After putting all that time and effort into modding it and making wood panels for it, my favorite LM-1
was finally back home where it belonged, being used and appreciated, and syncing perfectly!
I sync the LM-1 to my other gear using a Roland SBX-10 and
Innerclock Systems Sync-Shift MKI. The SBX-10 keeps the timing rock-solid and the Sync-Shift allows me to move the
sync signal back or forward in time to align the LM-1 perfectly with my sequencer and other drum machines. There is no loss of sync in pattern or chain mode using this setup.
LinnDrum - The LinnDrum was the second generation of the Linn Drum Computer. The LM-1 had been cheapened over the couple years of it's life and the LinnDrum sold for nearly half the price of the LM-1. Many people still continued to buy LM-1's when the LinnDrum came out! The LinnDrum's sounds are punchier than the LM-1, but it lacks tuning pots for every sound. On a stock LinnDrum, you only have 8 tuning pots to change the tuning of the snare, 3 toms, hi-hat decay, and 2 congas. Obviously this was a step backwards compared to the LM-1, which had 13 tuning pots! But it did add a crash cymbal sound, which was a plus! I had Forat install a MIDI kit in my LinnDrum, as well as a global tuning mod and sidestick tuning mod, making it a bit more flexible and powerful. As used by Men Without Hats, Tin Tin, Alphaville, and many other bands in the early to mid-80's.
Oberheim DX - A great digital drum machine from the early 80's. The sounds have a lot of punch and are tunable without having to open up the machine (as on the DMX). I installed an Electrongate MIDI in/out/thru in mine along with magnetic RAM which also increases the number of memory banks to 4. Rumor has it New Order used a DX on Blue Monday, not a DMX. The kick on mine certainly sounds like it. Some have said there is no difference in sound between the two, others say the DMX has more punch. I haven't owned a DMX so I can't say. But I have owned both a DXa and DX, and the DX sounds superior to my ears, has more slots for some of the sound chips, and has larger buttons with LED's.
Pearl Syncussion SY-1 Drum Module - A very unique-sounding 2-voice analog percussion drum module from the late 70's that predates the Simmons modules by a couple of years. I owned two of them (one complete with bongo-like pads, chrome stands and a little blue case) and used them all over a lot of early I SATELLITE songs for metallic percussion noises and strange modulated drum hits. Ended up selling both of them to help pay for a CS-80 thinking I could just find another one easily. Soon after they became unobtainable. It ended up taking me 6 years to find another, complete with stand, blue case, and silver pads. This one is in mint condition. A couple weeks later another one showed up at a reasonable price that needed some work. Both are functioning perfectly now but I learned my lesson! If you sell something rare you will likely wait many years to find another.
Roland MC-4b - An awesome pre-MIDI CV/GATE sequencer from Roland. There's something about the hands-on approach, attack, and timing of CV/GATE sequencing that MIDI simply can't match. I've set up side-by-side comparisons with various sequencers and the MC-4 simply sounds the best every time. The MC-4 was basically an upgrade of the MC-8, meant to interface with the System 100m modular. I currently own two complete MC-4b systems, with OP-8, OP-8m, and MTR-100 cassette backup units. I used the MC-4b on my cover of Japan's Life In Tokyo. The process was so time consuming that I got burnt out on songwriting for a very long time. As a basic sequencer for basslines, synced to a TR-808, the groove and feel simply can't be beat. There's also a software application called MC-4 Hack that will convert MIDI data to MC-4 data. I've not used it, but I hear it works well. You can download the demo (works for 1 track only), and if you like it, purchase the full software. I love MC-4 so much I dedicated a page to it here: Roland MC-4b MicroComposer. As used by Human League/Martin Rushent on Dare!, and Rational Youth on Cold War/Night Life.
Roland CR-78 & WS-1 - My favorite analog beatbox machine. It's a great little rhythm box with a number of presets you can combine together, a guiro and metal beat sound you can blend into the mix, and custom fills and 4 memory locations (a drum machine first!). Mine is covered in black tolex but apparently the European models were simply varnished wood. I've installed a Kenton KADI kit in mine so I can trigger the programmable sounds via MIDI. I also own the optional WS-1 programmer which makes it very easy to program patterns in the 4 memory locations. I've tried other methods of programming it, including modern programmers and Roland footswitch, and they just didn't work as well or as simply as the original WS-1. Unfortunately the WS-1 was an optional accessory and, due to its rarity, often sells for more than the CR-78 itself! As used by Roxy Music, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Phil Collins, John Foxx, OMD, Blondie, Japan, etc.
Roland TR-606 - A great little beat box with awesome hi-hats. I installed a Kenton KADI kit in mine so I can trigger it from MIDI. Used by A Flock of Seagulls on the song Transfer Affection off the Listen album.
Roland TR-808 - One of the first programmable drum machines and my favorite analog drum machine. It's a bit difficult to program an entire song on one (if you make a mistake selecting the pattern order you have to start over), so I've installed a Kenton KADI port in mine to trigger the sounds from MIDI. It also has a Roland DIN sync in/out port, and independant outputs for each sound. Used by too many artists to mention, but YMO were one of the first.
Simmons SDSV - The classic electronic drum kit. Mine has the kick, snare, and 3 tom cards. I also have 5 original black pads for it, with the white riot shield surface. Great sounding drum sounds! As used by pretty much every 80's band, including Flock of Seagulls, Ultravox, etc.
Boss FV-100 - A great early Roland Volume pedal. Adds a certain character to the sound and allows me to quickly adjust the volume of my guitar/amp signals.
Boss CE-2 (long dash/silver screw) - Very lush mono chorus effects with adjustable rate knob. I've owned both early and later models and the early models simply have more character. This is the second generation Roland chorus pedal, similar to a CE-1, minus the vibrato option but with a slight boost in the mid-range. Apparently it was designed more for guitar players and the CE-1 was more for keyboard players. I like the CE-2 better than the CE-1 for guitar because the CE-1 was noisier, the CE-1 didn't have a rate control, and I had trouble setting the input gain on the CE-1. It would either distort or generate too much hiss.
Boss OD-1 (long dash/silver screw) - Great overdrive pedal, one of the first pedals Boss ever released. Mine is an OD-1d with silver screw and long dash. It adds a subtle overdrive effect to any signal. I owned two of these, both with 4558 chips. This one sounded better (less hiss than the JRC model) due to the Texas Instruments (TL4558P) chip inside it. Although it was more beat up than the other one I owned, I sold the other one and kept this one. Still used by Marty Wilson Piper of the Church.
Boss VB-2 - One of my favorite guitar pedals. This is a true pitch vibrato that Boss released in the early 80's and it was only in production a couple of years. When used judiciously, it adds subtle movement to any guitar signal, giving it width and depth. I owned three at one point, and sold two. I sold one of mine to Roger Manning of Jellyfish and Beck fame. I ended up finding another in a pawn shop for $40 and this time I'm keeping it. Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins claimed this was his favorite pedal of all time.
Boss TU-2 - A great tuner in a pedal format. I have it hooked up to the tuner input of the FV-100 volume pedal.
Crest Audio (Dallas Arbiter) Fuzzface - A gray-face silicon fuzzface painstakingly recreated by Dave Foxx in the mid 80's (prior to starting his Fox Rox company). Excellent fuzz tone!
Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory (red logo) - A great sounding chorus/vibrato pedal. Sounds great on bass guitar. As used by Peter Hook of New Order.
Ibanez CS-9 - Early 80's black label Maxon Japanese stereo chorus pedal also used in the UE405. I actually like the quietness of the UE405 chorus better so I tend not to use this pedal much.
Ibanez TS-9 - Early 80's black label Maxon Japanese tube screamer with JRC chip. As used by Stone Roses, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and many others.
Ibanez UE405 - 4 effects in a rackmount enclosure with full control over the pedal order. A footswitch allows you to turn each effect on/off. There's also an effects loop to route in additional effects. The compressor is wonderful and adds some great tone to any guitar/amp setup. The Parametric EQ is ok for dialing out unwanted frequencies. The analog delay is only 300ms, which is too short for any practical use. The stereo chorus is very nice and subtle. Overall a great device. As used by Marty Wilson Piper of the Church.
Janglebox Compressor - Great little box that adds a crisp compression to any guitar sound. Supposedly an attempt to recreate the compressed 12-string guitar sound of Roger McGuinn. I just leave the knobs at 11:00 because that's where they sound best. They've since come out with a Janglebox 2 but I A/B'd them side by side and the JB2 didn't sound as nice. As used by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds.
Korg SDD-1000 Digital Delay (w/footswitch) - Great mono delay with modulation effects and a warm analog sound.
Korg SDD-1200 Stereo Digital Delay (w/footswitch) - One of my favorite delays. Sounds wonderful and easy to dial in stereo effects. I have the optional Korg footpedal that allows for on/off control.
Korg SDD-3000 Digital Delay (w/footswitch) - Great mono delay with modulation effects, 10 memories, a limiter circuit, and a wonderfully warm analog sound.
Lexicon 224 Reverb (x2) - An awesome reverb with a sound like no other. A bit grainier sound than the 224x, but lots of character. I prefer the sound of the 224. The reverb tails are amazing, and the remote allows for quick changes on the fly. The only problem is there aren't many people left to repair them. One of mine spent 2 years in the shop, and it was all I could do to get it back repaired. The latest firmware (4.4) has the best/most programs/features. As used by Vangelis on Bladerunner etc.
Lexicon 224X Reverb - A step up from the 224 in terms of bit rate and sound quality (less grainey). Mine overheated the day I turned it on due to a bad fan, but what I heard before that was amazing. I will probably dedicate this reverb to vocals. Sent it to a guy in the Bronx for repair and he held it captive for 4 years; he refused to return it broken or repaired. Would not refund my downpayment either. I ended up flying out to NYC and nearly beat his door down to get it back, in worse condition than when I shipped it out to him. His home was piled floor to ceiling with gear in various states of disrepair, and he was using gear as stands for his computer in the kitchen. Recently repaired by Dane Beamish of Beamish Electronics in Ohio. Only took 8 years, but what a sound!
Lexicon PCM-41 Delay (x2) - Great modulated delay effects in a compact rackmount. The PCM-41 was a manual version of the PCM-42, a studio mainstay. I use mine for pretty much everything. Very easy to dial in the exact delay you want, and can be daisy chained for even more wild effects.
Lexicon PCM-42 Delay - Like a PCM-41, but with digital controls and a built-in limiter circuit on the front end. The chips in the limiter can go bad, so make sure you test it out first before buying. I find it to be less immediate than the 41. Great for vocals, especially set to 0.0 and routed to another input on your mixer (which adds a subtle chorusing effect). Mine has double the memory (a rare add-on apparently). To be honest, I still prefer the 41 for instruments, keys, etc.
Musitronics Mu-Tron Bi-Phase - Two independant phasers in a large metal aluminum enclosure with a metal plate underneath to allow you to attach it to a microphone stand. Two waveforms (sinewave and squarewave) are available for each phaser but I usually just keep it on sine. Not as smooth as the MXR 100 because this is a dual 4-stage phaser (or an 8-stage phaser when run in stereo) but the extra grit adds a lot of character to the signal. Can be set up as two separate phasers, or two independant phasers sweeping in stereo based on rate knob setting or CV/Pedal input. Has Depth, Sweep, Rate, and Feedback controls for each phaser, so lots of control options. Mine came with a pedal to switch each phaser off/on. You have to have the pedal connected for the Bi-Phase to work. There was an optional C-100 Opti-pedal with an optical footpedal but they often sell for as much as the Bi-Phase alone. I modded mine for CV input so I can use any CV source or a Moog 1120 to sweep the phasing. As used by Kraftwerk.
MXR Phase 100 (1975 script logo) - 10-stage smooth sounding analog phaser in an orange painted metal pedal, similar to the Phase 90 script but with 4 preset phase settings and a rate knob. Settings 1 and 3 are very subtle. Settings 2 and 4 are the best, with 4 having the greatest depth and width. Gary Numan played a Polymoog Keyboard through a Phase 100 for his intro to Cars. A great little phaser.
ProCo Rat - I've owned a few Rats over the years, including the rackmount R2-DU. This one is an early model with a Tone knob instead of Filter. It's the best sounding Rat I've owned and adds a certain amount of subtle harmonic distortion to any signal. Can also be used for all out mayhem, but I prefer to use it in subtle mode.
Roland GE-820 - Late 70's rackmount stereo graphic EQ. Mine is dedicate to my stereo amp setup.
Roland SBF-325 (x2) -
Roland SIP-301 -
Roland SRE-555 -
Roland SVC-350 -
1959 Fender Jazzmaster (antique sunburst) - Leo Fender was a genius and released the Jazzmaster as Fender's top-of-the-line guitar back in the late 50's. I lucked out on finding this one on eBay and quickly clicked Buy Now. Yes, it's got reissue pickups in it (I still have the original ones) and it's been refinished, but it plays and sounds like no other guitar I own. I love the bell-like tones and the ease of switching between lead and rhythm settings, and it retains your settings! But the best part is the great-playing slab rosewood neck. The action and playability is nothing short of amazing! Sadly, they don't make them like this anymore. Currently my favorite guitar.
1963 Vox AC-15 Twin (smooth tolex) - A one-in-a-million amp. That's how this was described to me by
someone when I showed him pictures of this very rare VOX. I had been looking for a vintage VOX for some time, but
they rarely show up for sale, and when they do they're usually beat up and have non-stock components. Although I was looking
for an AC-30, my friend saw an ad for an AC-15 in the Detroit Craigslist so I gave the guy a call. He told me it was
his friend's amp that he'd owned for years. He originally bought it from a Jamaican musician who bought it in the UK in the
60's. He encouraged me to come check it out, that I'd fall in love with it, but I just couldn't afford his asking price so I declined. A couple of weeks later he called me back and practically begged me to come and check it out, that he thought I should own the amp. So I decided to make the hour trip to Mount Clemens
and check it out. I couldn't believe it when I saw (and heard) it. This was no ordinary AC-15. It was an AC-15 twin, which is basically an AC-15 in an AC-30 enclosure. John Lennon's first VOX was an AC-15 Twin, which his manager got for him in 1962. He chose it over the much louder AC-30. I'm sure it sounded
better to his ears because the AC-15 had more sparkle than the AC-30. VOX later added the top boost circuit to the AC-30's in an attempt to get back some of the tone and sparkle of the original AC-15. In early 1963, when the Beatles started playing larger venues, their manager, Brian Epstein, traded in John's AC-15 twin for a black smooth-tolex AC-30 topboost. Could it be my amp was in the VOX store when Brian picked out their smooth-tolex AC-30's? At any rate, the AC-15 twin was in near mint condition, and had all the most desirable
features. Original smooth tolex (only available for a couple of months at the beginning of 1963), copper/candy-apple red panel, brown copper
diamond grill cloth, leather handles, and 12" alnico speakers. And it sounded amazing! So I got a cash advance at the local
bank (5 minutes before it closed) and bought it on the spot. I had to sell some cool gear to pay for it, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The nice thing about the AC-15 is it breaks up at low volumes so you get that nice crunchy, VOX sparkle without destroying your eardrums. A perfect compliment for a Rickenbacker 12-string and the perfect studio amp. I used to own a VOX AC-30 Super Twin and it was too loud of an amp for studio use. I can still remember it feeding back and nearly losing my hearing because of it. I consider myself very lucky to own this
vintage piece of VOX history.
1964 Rickenbacker 330S (fireglo) - This is one of my favorite guitars. It has an ultra-thin neck, is very lightweight, and is so delicate it almost seems like a violin. The quality of construction is amazing, and most modern Rickenbackers are nowhere near the build quality of these early 60's models. From the bridge to the neck to the frets, tuners, and headstock, to the wonderful paint job, the new Rickenbackers seem like plasticky toys in comparison. This guitar has mojo in spades! Mine is a 330S model, which was identical to a domestic Rickenbacker 330 but with an f-hole instead of a slash. The S stands for Special. These domestic models also didn't have a Rickenbacker nameplate on the silver flightcase. The 330S is nearly identical to a Rose Morris 1997 but with a trapeze tailpiece instead of a vibrato plate. The 1997 was used by Pete Townsend on all of his early Who songs and was the guitar he accidently pushed through a low ceiling and proceeded to smash to pieces. He did this to many other 1997 guitars afterwards and this has only increased the rarity of these guitars. The 330S (domestic 1997) had a trapeze tailpiece, whereas the 1997 had an Accent vibrato and the domestic 330 had an R tailpiece. I used to own a 1997 and I didn't care for the Accent vibrato, so I spent some time trying to hunt one down with a trapeze tailpiece. The R tailpiece models tended to break, so I actually prefer the trapeze over all of the Ric tailpieces. Back in the 60's Rickenbacker only sold a handful of these 330S models in the USA. They also made a 12-string domestic model with a trapeze tailpiece, which Pete Townsend also owned. I got a great deal on this guitar because a number of Ric afficianados on the Rickenbacker forum thought it was a fake due to it being so clean. Even the president of Rickenbacker thought it could be a fake, until I discovered it's sister guitar in Sweden, one serial number away from this one, and realized what it was. This is a beautiful guitar and I count myself lucky to own it.
1964 Gretsch Country Gentleman - I've never been much of a Gretsch fan. I don't know why. Perhaps it's the rockabilly look, or the gaudy gold pickups and Dupont automotive paint colors (including sparkle finish in some), but I've just never given them a chance because I wasn't "in the know" about these amazing guitars. But as I started researching certain sounds I was trying to get that I couldn't get out of my Rickenbacker or Fender Jazzmaster, I discovered some of my favorite artists used Gretsch guitars, in particular the Country Gentleman model from the early 60's. Lou Reed used it for those amazing distorted hollowbody tones on the first few Velvet Underground records and was a major influence on most of the indie bands of the 80's and 90's. The Stone Roses' John Squire used it all over their first album and all of their singles. George Harrison used a Country Gentleman on their first few albums. He played a double-cutaway model on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. The Beatles were huge Shadows fans and rumor has it The Shadows actually used a Gretsch Country Gentleman through a VOX AC-15 on their hits Apache, Sleepwalk, and Peace Pipe. The Edge of U2 used it on their recent song, Magnificent. When it came out in the late 50's, the Country Gentleman was one of the top 3 guitars Gretsch made, second only to the White Falcon, and cost twice as much as the Gibson Les Paul (which nobody wanted). It had dual Filtertron humbucking pickups, a single cutaway, and painted-on f-holes at Chet Atkins request (to reduce feedback). It also has a weird dual-mute setup that allows you to mute either the top 3 strings or the bottom 3 strings (or both at once). In order to install this they cut a hole in the back of the guitar and covered it with a piece of white plastic and snap-on leather cover (which in a brilliant marketing gimick they marketed as a comfort cushion). It was an attempt to compete with the Gibson ES-335, which was a semi-hollowbody with a solid block of maple up the middle. And it did very well in the mid-60's thanks to George Harrison. In the early 60's the CG changed to a dual cutaway and by 1964 it sported a Supertron pickup at the neck position (slightly clearer and warmer sound than a Filtertron) and silky smooth kidney-shaped tuners on the headstock. I bought mine from Brooklyn New York, which is where they were originally made. Mine is actually wired for stereo, so I can send the output to two amps at once. I opened it up and found some Christmas tree tinsel inside it. Go figure. This is the model John Squire (and Elvis) used and it really is an amazing guitar! Not the best built guitars, but the neck is straight and the action is very low. It doesn't have a lot of tonal variation, but the tone it gets is very nice, from clear hollowbody tones to distorted humbucking feedback a la Jesus and Mary Chain and Velvet Underground. Tone just oozes out of this guitar no matter what you play it through. It sounds really nice through a vintage Boss OD-1 pedal. I'm able to get alot of Felt-like guitar tones (from their Cherry Red era) and Stone Roses tones very easily. As far as amp pairing goes, it sounds wonderful through my VOX AC-15 and JC-120, but really shines through the blackface Fender Super Reverb. Can you tell I love this guitar?
1966 Fender Super Reverb Amp (blackface) - Fender was at the top of their game in the mid-60's, and this blackface amp was the bees knees back in the day. Nice cleans at low volumes, but able to warmly distort without killing your ears in the studio. Another lucky find, this amp showed up on my local Craigslist and is all original and as clean as the day it was made. Currently my favorite amp.
1966 Rickenbacker 330/12 #1 (fireglo w/R tailpiece) - (coming soon)
1966 Rickenbacker 330/12 #2 (fireglo w/R tailpiece) - (coming soon)
1966 Rickenbacker 335 (fireglo w/Accent vibrato) - (coming soon)
1976 Fender Twin Reverb Amp (silverface) - Nice cleans. Sounds great with the Gretsch CG.
1977 Gibson RD Artist Bass (antique sunburst) - Currently my only bass guitar. I love the tones I can get out of this bass, from low and rumbling to punchy and trebly, this bass does it all. Longscale neck with ebony fretboard, and extremely heavy. But I love it!
1982 Roland JC-120 Solid State Amp -
2008 Ampeg BA115HP Bass Amp -
Alesis HD24XR -
Alesis MasterLink -
Allen & Heath GS3000/24 Console -
Allen & Heath MixWizard WZ3 Submixer -
Garfield Mini Doc (x2) -
Genelec 1030a Monitors -
Genelec 1092 Subwoofer -
Ebow (chrome) -
Ebow (black/white lettering) -
Kenton Pro-4 (x5) -
Moog 1120 -
Neumann U87ai -
Roland MPU-101 -
Roland SBX-10 -
Shure SM57 -
Shure Beta SM58 -
Ultimate Support A-Frame Stands -
Equipment From the Past
I've owned and used a lot of equipment since the late 80's.
The first synth I bought was a Casio SK-1 for $35 in a pawn shop back in 1987. I still have it today, although I rarely play it anymore. After that I was in
a band with a friend in college who owned a couple synths (Kawai K1, Ensoniq SQ-80), a drum machine (Alesis SR-16), and a sequencer (Alesis MMT-8). I learned MIDI
sequencing and sound creation using this gear.
In the early 90's I bought a Turtle Beach soundcard for my computer which had a Proteus on board. It had limited editing capabilities, but was great for coming up with
demos. After that I bought a DX7, thinking it would get me close to some of the sounds I was hearing on Enya's early albums. I was wrong. I sold it almost immediately.
Then a couple synths showed up in the local classifieds, a Juno-60 and a Sequential Six-Trak. I bought those, and it whet my appetite for the analog sounds of the
70's and 80's. After that I bought an Oberheim OB-8 for $600 locally after hearing one at a pawnshop in Ferndale, MI (insanely priced at $1500).
Over the years I've bought, sold and traded various synths in order to upgrade to more powerful synths, thinking the more powerful ones could completely replace
what I'd sold. To find out more about synths I joined the Analogue Heaven mailing list. Looking back now, there was sort of a gear acquisition syndrome prevalent on the
forums. It was more important to own a synth than to actually make music with it. You were also cooler if you owned a modular, and least cool if you owned a Japanese-made synth.
If you owned a Moog or ARP modular you were one of the "elite". I got tired of this mentality after awhile, because really what I wanted this equipment for was to make music with.
One of the first semi-modular synths I bought was an MS-20 in absolutely mint condition. Then I bought a mint ARP 2600 for $500 in my local town and sequencer. It pains me
to see these selling for $5000 now, and there's likely no way I'll ever be able to afford to buy one again. :-( I ended up selling the ARP's and MS-20 to piece together
a full Roland System-700, one of the big-daddy modular synths from the 70's. It took up an entire wall of my studio! I also found a mint in-the-box System-100 semi-modular
in Saskatchewan of all places by scouring the free ad papers.
I found the full System-700 a bit much to deal with for music creation, so I sold the full system and bought a lab cabinet and SH-5 from Bill Vorn of Rational Youth.
Afterwards I bought an SH-1 and realized the SH series synths could cover most of the ground of the lab cabinet and System-100 so I sold those too.
Along the way I sold a number of synths that I probably shouldn't have, and in many cases I reacquired them (LM-1, PPG Wave, etc.). I'm still hunting for that
elusive System-700 and one day I'll own another! Obviously, by making all of these trades, eventually I was left with an SH-1 and SH-5 that supposedly replaced the sound of
an ARP 2600 and MS-20. Not!
Whether or not I keep a synth comes down to a number of factors: 1) Can I afford the space it takes up? 2)
Do I have access to a tech who can even repair it? 3) Does the sound-making power justify the cost, or is the price just inflated based on a particular artist using it?
4) Is it rare or one-of-a-kind and will it go up in value over time? 5) Is it in mint condition (usually a rarity)? 6) Can I closely replicate it with anything else
that's more reliable and less costly? I can't afford to own every synth ever made and have no desire to do it! It's a pain keeping what I own actually working and I simply
don't have any more room in my studio for anything else! I've found that the more synths you own, the less you learn to master them all, and the more flagship synths you own,
the less you mess around with the smaller synths, which is a shame. IMO, every synth has something going for it, something unique that makes it worth playing, even the cheapest
analog synths of the era like the Moog/Realistic MG-1 or SH-101.
People often ask me which synths I'd recommend for someone just starting out. IMO, the Juno-6/60, Prophet-600, Six-Trak are great all-purpose polysynths
that will give the beginner the most bank-for-the-buck and are a great starting point for learning analog synthesis. The Pro-One and SH-101 are two of the best
all-purpose monosynths for the money. I firmly believe that the Six-Trak blows
away most analog synths being made today, pricewise, sonically and feature-wise. The DW-8000 is also a very good starter synth
if you want to create organs, basslines, guitar sounds, or are looking for more of a late-80's PPG sound. In the long run, you need to make choices based on what
works in your music and what doesn't. The cheapest way to find out is to find someone who owns a synth or two and try them out. Another cheap way is to scour eBay or pawnshops
for deals and buy low/sell high. Whatever you do, research what you want, what version is the more highly desirable, and be careful not to buy broken synths
on eBay. You'll have a hard time reselling them if you don't like them.
Here's a list of gear I've owned over the past 15 years or so and sold for one reason or another:
Akai MPC1000 - In July 2005 I took on another job that resulted in me having to travel out of State
during the weekdays. So I bought this to see if I could use it on the road to come up with songs in my
spare time using sampled synths and drums. But the MPC1000 just didn't cut it. The interface was
unintuitive compared to the MPC60 and MPC3000, and it just didn't work well for the style of music I make.
Akai weren't thinking when they neglected to include x10 changes to the scroll wheel for
sample trimming. I was spending way too much time spinning that little wheel just to trim a simple sample! So I took it back and bought
a Yamaha RS7000 instead (see below).
Boss DS-2 (long dash/silver screw) - A distortion pedal found in most metal guitar rigs. Not that impressed with it so I sold it.
Genoqs Octopus - A really cool concept for a sequencer, but in practice I found that it lagged while being slaved via MIDI/DIN Sync.
I liked the look and feel of it, but it really didn't fit the type of music I wanted to make.
Korg MS-20 - Often called the poor man's 2600, the MS-20 is a semi-modular synth that looks very cool on stage. However, the patching
is extremely limited, and the HZ/VOLT triggering makes it difficult to control in a MIDI setup. The best thing going
for it is the filter, which has been cloned and released in a small pedal format called the Frostwave Resonator. I don't think the
Resonator sounds as gritty as the MS-20. It's close, and you have CV control over everything, but after A/B'ing them, I sold the Frostwave. I've owned
three MS-20's over the years and sold them all. It looked cool, but it was basically a modular MiniKorg
and not worth the high price-tag for the limited modular features. Even so, it's one of the synths I wish I had kept. It's shape made it difficult to incorporate
into my studio setup.
Korg MS-50 - I bought my MS-50 from Rogue Music and it never worked, so back it went. Wish I could have tried it out.
1980 Kramer XL-5 (maple) -
1980 Kramer XL-5 (walnut) -
MemoryMoog - This synth came out after Bob Moog left Moog Music, and was supposed to be a
polyphonic Minimoog - 6 Minimoogs in one. And that was the problem. It dominated the mix, and
sounded too huge for it's own good. I loved the interface on it though. This is the synth that was used
all over Heartbeat City by the Cars, and was responsible for all the arpeggiated/sequenced stuff on ZZ Top's Eliminator album
(not the Jupiter-6 as some have stated).
It was the kind of synth you didn't move once it was in a certain place in your studio or you'd have to
send it off to the tech to be repaired. I'll certainly miss it, I'm sure, but the fear of it breaking down for
good brings some relief.
Moog (Realistic) MG-1 - Probably the cheapest Moog you can buy. It had some unique endearing features, but space
constraints forced me to let it go. It was too limited for the amount of space it took up and the outputs were very noisy.
Moog Prodigy - I've owned two of these little synths and sold them both. The ones I owned rarely stayed in tune and sounded noisy. Perhaps I just didn't pick the right one. As used by Depeche Mode and Howard Jones.
Oberheim DXa - Once I bought an DX and compared it to the DXa, I actually heard a big difference, and sold the DXa. The stock DX gave more options internally, and had better (larger) buttons with LED's.
Oberheim Matrix-12 - Thought by many to be the ultimate analog synth but I beg to differ. It's a nice-sounding
synth with a lot of modulation possibilities, but poor interface. It sounds very 1985 to me with a slightly digital sound and mushy
envelopes. It's a good synth for pads, strings, and evolving textures. Pretty much everything is software-controlled which expands its sonic potential,
but limits its ease-of-use. All the parameters are hidden behind multiple pages - a "matrix" menu structure with only 6 knobs that are prone to failure and
nearly impossible to replace. The LED screens are essential to knowing where you are at any given point, but they are also prone
to burning out and are not currently replaceable. I think you get the point. The early Oberheim synths (OBX and SEM for example) have much more character, sound a lot nicer, and have a much better interface than the Matrix-12 and Xpander.
Tom Oberheim agrees.
Oberheim 4-Voice - This synth was too huge for my studio. It took way too much
time to program the same sound four times. Once I got the OBX, which had a very similar sound, I sold the 4-voice. But looking back, I have to admit the 4-voice definitely the better sounding synth. Simply the most powerful sounding polysynth ever designed (only trumped by the 8-voice).
Oberheim Xpander - Half a Matrix-12, with CV/GATE inputs for each voice and MIDI too. I've owned two of them, and would probably buy another
one were it not for the hard-to-find spare parts. As on the Matrix-12, the LED displays tend to burn out (and are no longer made)
and the 6 main rotary encoder knobs wear out sooner than traditional pots. You'd better have some spare parts lying around if you have one of these synths in your studio.
Octave CAT - A clone of the Odyssey, with a few additional features, and lacking a few features. It was a noisy beast (I mean it hissed even
when no sound was coming out and required a noise gate if you wanted to use it in a recording) but it did have a really nice growly filter sound. Supposedly one voice of the Voyetra-8, but
I think the V8 sounds so much better. I found the Odyssey covered most of the sonic territory of
the CAT, so I sold it and kept the Odyssey. No regrets.
Roland Jupiter-6 - I never really liked this synth that much except for one sound I was able to get out of it that sounded very close to a Polymoog,
which isn't saying much since the Polymoog was a very weedy sounding synth. I think the JP-6 is to the JP-8 what the
Juno-106 is to the Juno-60 - a scaled-down cheaper version that sounds thinner. True the JP-6 has a band-pass mode, and some additional features,
but overall it seems to have a more brittle sound than the JP-8. I put a Europa upgrade kit in mine, which added many over-the-top features
to the synth that I never used. Overall, the Jupiter-8 blows it away.
Roland MC-8 - Huge, ancient, digital sequencer with limited memory - it took about 20 minutes to back up a typical sequence
to cassette tape. And you could never be sure if you had really saved your sequence. It did allow you to trigger either a Roland or Moog modular (via
global switch) - but it was a shame you couldn't do that per channel. Very time consuming to program, I don't miss it one bit!
Roland MKS-80 and MPG-80 - I've owned three of these, both the early and later revisions, and thought
they basically sounded like a slightly beefed up Jupiter-6 in a rack, with aftertouch and velocity. Sounds like a lot of the
synths of the late 80's, slightly digital. The Jupiter-8 blows it away.
Roland SH-5 - I bought my first SH-5 from Bill Vorn of Rational Youth. It's probably Roland's ultimate monophonic synth. It's like a miniature modular synth with two syncable (hard or soft) VCO's, two separate LFO's, white and pink noise, Sample & Hold, dual ring mods, and extensive modulation capabilities. But the best feature of all is the wicked bandpass filter that rivals the Oberheim SEM and 4-voice. Too bad the bandpass filter can't be externally controlled. If you know of a way to do this, please let me know. The SH-5's front panel layout separates the various features into sections similar to a modular synth. The orange lines running across the top make it easy to understand which of the various LFO's and Sample/Hold circuits can modulat parameters within each section. It's a great synth for sound effects. I ended up buying another and then eventually selling both of them. I'll miss it, no doubt. As used by Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle and Rational Youth.
Roland System-100 (complete) - I used to own a complete System-100, boxes, manuals, speakers and all.
It was basically two basic one-oscillator SH synths combined with a really poorly-designed sequencer, a basic mixer with spring reverb,
and two cheap speakers. It took up way too much space for what it could actually do, with too many cables to connect everything
resulting in loss of sound quality. It's modular capabilities were very poor...actually, it wasn't a modular
at all, but a basic semi-modular design with jacks where you could patch in to hear how your sound was evolving up to that point. It was mainly
designed to teach young kids the art of synthesis (which is quite evident from the childlike manual drawings), and despite looking
like a spaceship's console, it was really a very simple synth design. Once I
bought my SH-5, which has the exact same filter circuitry, many more modulation options, and a wicked bypass filter, at one third of
the typical System-100 selling price, I realized it was time for it to go.
Roland System-100m (5 module system) - A basic modular synth with an inflated pricetag.
Sounds like a (very limited) modular SH-101. The one I owned tended towards the noisy side (poor signal/noise ratio) with really cheap jacks
and slider caps. The System-100 and 700 look and sound much better.
Roland System-700 (lab series) - Smaller version of the above, but lacking many of the coolest features of the main block (bandpass filter, more
inputs, phaser, etc.). I bought it off Bill Vorn of Rational Youth. Many of my favorite sounds and textures could be duplicated on the similar sounding SH-1, and I had some financial difficulties in 2004 so I was forced to sell it. It also had a defective noise circuit compared to the System-700 main cab I owned so it was less capable for percussive sounds (one of the System-700's best applications). Limited I/O compared to the larger system, but gives you the basic System-700 sound in a small package. Even so, I now wish I hadn't sold mine as they are incredibly rare. This is one of Richard Barbieri's favorite synths.
He still owns it, and used it all over Tin Drum and Gentlemen Take Polaroids, mostly as an effects device, triggered by drummer Steve Jansen.
Roland TB-303 Bassline - Over-rated bass machine with a cool but complicated sequencer. I've owned 4 of these
over the years and always end up selling them because, for what it can do, I can't ever justify keeping it for the
amount of money they go for on eBay. These days you can buy a Minimoog for the same amount of money. I'd probably buy
one if I saw one for $500, but then someone would probably offer me $2000 for it and I'd end up selling it again. :-(
Roland TR-909 Rhythm Composer - Digital/Analog hybrid drum machine Sort of a souped up TR-707 with the addition of
some analog sounds.
I've owned three of them over the years and always end up selling them. Nice programming interface and integrated MIDI, but in my opinion the TR-808 blows it away. Most of the early versions have
sync issues, so buyer beware.
Sequential Circuits Prophet-600 - A cool beginner's synth for the money (I'd say it's tied with the Juno-60 for most bang for the buck), but when you have a real Prophet-5, it's a waste of space and I found it never got used.
Sequential Circuits Prophet-10 - Too big for my studio, and the sound of 20 oscillators beating against each other was really overkill.
At some point it begins to sound like mush; a nice, big, huge mush, but when are you ever going to use that in a song? The factory MIDI was very basic and always
suffered from stuck notes. You'd be better off with two Rev. 3 Prophet-5's. Looked cool though. The little LED's that told you which voice was playing (and the programmable
EQ) were really great features!
Studio Electronics MidiMini - Basically a Minimoog in a rack, but it sounds quite different. It's especially good at making percussive sounds or adding variations to the sound using velocity and aftertouch on the filter. The glide is more like the glide on an ARP synth, and the sound is more percussive and punchy, with a less organic sound than a real Minimoog. I prefer the sound of the Minimoog, but I like the added velocity/aftertouch control and oscillator sync and other features in the Midimini. Still, how many bass synths does one need? I sold both of mine because the Minimoog and Source cover my bass needs already and I tend to prefer keyboards over rack modules.
Syndrum Duo/Quad Drum Module - Nice 2 and 4-voice analog percussion drum modules that can get those disco falling tom sounds with ease. I used mine a little bit, but preferred the Syncussion
Waldorf Microwave w/ Access Programmer - Punchy digital wavetable synth with analog filters. Unfortunately the envelopes had this annoying clicky sound that was nearly impossible to remove without dialing back on the attack envelope. It was a nightmare to program, even with the optional programmer. I rarely used it and when I did it frustrated me.
Yamaha DX1 - Very pretty synth. Basically two DX7's in a huge wooden shell with lots of LED's and an awesome
keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch. This was the next evolution of the massive (and awesome) CS-80. I sort of regret letting this one slip
through my fingers, although I probably would never have used it in a song. It was too big for my studio, the programming
was still extremely difficult, and it still sounded like a....well....a DX7. Good for clangy mid-80's type sounds
(if you like that sort of thing).
Yamaha RS7000 Music Production Station - I bought this sequencer thinking it would be great
for coming up with ideas while on the road that I could later incorporate into my studio (triggering real synths). Although it offered a lot in a small package (MIDI sequencer,
sampler, sounds, drum kits, etc.), it was not quite small enough to carry in a suitcase, and the build quality was poor. But my main problem with the RS7000 was not its size,
but the fact that it lacked an easy way to erase a phrase or portion of a phrase. My MPC3000 and MPC60 both offer
this feature as a button on the face of the unit, as you hold down keys in real time, for instant erasing of any notes, tracks,
or sections of a pattern. On the RS7000, you have to dig deep into a menu, twist a knob, press select, and that's just to get to the erase screen.
To their credit, the Yamaha engineers really packed a lot into a fairly small
package. There are many synth sounds and drum kits to choose from, but they are a little too dance oriented for my taste, and
difficult to implement and modify, making the experience of setting up a simple bassline cumbersome.
The grid and step mode programming are probably the best I've seen on any sequencer, but even the step mode is frustrating in that if you pass the
end of a bar you can't go back again without scrolling all the way to the end. It really is a shame Yamaha didn't
spend more time thinking about how musicians actually work. I guess this experiment just confirmed that the MPC3000 (and MPC60) still reign in my studio as the
most intuitive, utilitarian, practical, user-friendly, hands-on, MIDI sequencers ever made.
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