Archives for posts with tag: Doris Norton

This week i am going to start an extensive series of mods on an old Korg VC 10 Vocoder.  The Korg VC 10 has a reputation for being flawed in some ways but i think it has a lot of potential despite this.  I always felt that it had an ill defined sound over all.  It lacks a clear robotic synth vibe and also employs it’s noise generator in a not always useful way.

The demo is pretty dorky and kitchy but someone posted the original korg demo for this box and i think it clearly demonstrates the design limitations i’m referring to.  It wants to sound cool but it comes across sounding mushy and muddled to me…



So, i did some research and found a good amount of info as to possible modifications, this first post will pertain to two major sound quality related modifications:

1,   There’s a quirk in the way the 20 sound generators are treated. Channels 17 to 20 have their carrier input connected NOT to the generator/noise/external mixer, but rather to noise only. The problem here is that this noise signal is attenuated by the generator/noise mixer, resulting in that there will be no carrier to channel 17 to 20 if you turn the generator/noise mixer knob to the generator only position! (which you may often do). Yes, the four highest channels will be quiet! Performing this mod will increase the speech recognition and add the missing edge to the sound.

2,  The bias signal for the sound generator does not affect channels 15 – 20.  By routing the bias signal to all the channels you get a brighter and more well defined vocoder output as all the channels will behave together.  This will also increase the effect of adjusting the bias.  This requires adding a few resistors that are not there for channels 15 and 16 and rerouting the 100k resistors for the remaining channels 17-20.

*** On to the dangerous part! ***

1,  The process:  Locate and release PCB KLM-134 (the filter board).  Locate the wire attached to header H3-1 (noise in).  Cut or unsolder the wire.  Now locate IC1 on the same board.  Find pin 1 and follow the trace to channel 16.  Connect from this point to the (now unconnected) corresponding point of channel 17.  The channel numbers and the traces pretty easy to locate on the PCB.  That one was easy!

2,  The process:  On KLM-134, find IC1 pin 7 (bias).  Follow this trace to R2414 (100k).  Now locate Q115 (channel 15 VCA).  Solder a 100k resistor between bias and the base of Q115 (R2315 is connected to the base).  Then locate Q116 and solder a 100k resistor between bias and the base of Q116 (R2316 is connected to the base).  Channel 17 to 20 already have the 100k resistors you need, but they are connected to ground.  Find R2417, R2418, R2419 and R2420.  Connect them to bias instead of ground.

Both of these mods sound complicated but are very easily seen in the schematic here:




While i was inside the VC-10 i found a few other curious things that i will be discuss in a future post. I had to order more parts to do these bits!  It was filthy in there too, so i disassembled the bottom plate and did a thorough clean below the key bed.  It’s sounding way better to me with the first round of mods.  I should have done a before / after recording to reference…

To Be Continued!!

PS: These are the main sites i used for reference, technical info, and modification ideas:

Korg VC-10 Flaws & Features

Korg VC-10 Modifications

Vocoder Historical Notes


It’s a Cat’s Universe, and we are merely playthings…

::: IF :::

One dollar record of the day of the day!

So there’s a few actual record stores left here in town that i try to go dig for vinyl in with some frequency.  I love them because they have GIANT piles of records for cheap.  I can often get as many records as i can fit in my bag for 1$ each!  Awesome.

So on my last dig i came across a rare gem from synthesizer history.  It’s a record by SynergyLarry Fast ) called Cords.  Larry Fast worked with Peter Gabriel on his first album ( Peter Gabriel ST ) and up until 1986.  Kate Bush on Never For Ever, and even Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage!

Whats fun about this album is it bridges the gap between the lush visual soundscapes i enjoy from Vangelis and the focused stand alone strength of discreet compositions.  It’s hard to believe while listening to this record that it was done on an 8 track in a side room of a house!

As to the synthesizer list, it’s long and sweet.  There’s a Moog modular, Moog Polymoog ( one of the 6 prototypes built ), Paia kits, Oberheim DS-2 sequencer, Micromoog, etc.  I’ve never used a DS-2 sequencer but it looks like a similar idea to the old Roland MC4/MC8 idea where you step in an composition ( two tracks in this case ) and you can play one or the other back to an external clock…

One last thing, the credit of  “Finally guitars…Sort of” on the back cover is funny.  Apparently the first two Synergy records said something to the effect of ” No guitars were used in the making of this album. ”  It was a response to bands like Boston ( halfway down right above the credits ) and Queen ( halfway into first paragraph ) attacking the use of synthesizers in rock music that was becoming more prevalent in the mid to late 70’s


Here’s one of my personal stand out tracks from Cords.  Be patient and be psyched when it starts kicking ( It’s not my youtube video ):



There’s a ton of info on the Synergy site Here.  It’s days worth of digging and i’ve already listened through both sides of this vinyl twice writing this post.  I am also a fan of the JH series tape machines.  They are/were total workhorses.  Tougher sounding than the Otari MTR machines and less cold than the Studer 80 series machines.  A little more rock over all.  At 15 ips they could be pretty noisy but at 30 they performed pretty well on delicate recordings.

So awesome for 1978.

::: IF :::

I (james) being one of 3 members to post on this blog have a problem. The problem consists of listening to suggested music and treating it with the same respect as the music I already love. Respect is probably not the best word choice, but the point remains the same. I love what I love and anything that comes into my field of hearing usually ends up being scrutinized too heavily and never given the chance it deserves.

Kraftwerk managed to bob and weave their way past the Wilco, Stereo Lab, Talking Heads, fortress and plant themselves into an unexpected place apparently reserved for them already. Computer World is the first record I had a chance to sit down with. I love it. It has all the things that make me feel as though I should be on a highway driving towards some unknown destination. Ambient electronic pop, whatever description you apply it’s great. There are people who can describe them much better than I (Nick Z, XBS Blog master) but that wasn’t really the purpose of this post (sorry, feeling lazy). More than anything it’s a suggestion to go out and give them a listen. They are assuredly not for everyone, but if you’ve never listened than it’s well worth it. “Computer Love” is one of my favorite tracks. If it sounds oddly familiar there’s a reason. Listen and find out.

Well, it’s early but i may have found my personal fave ‘ album of the year ‘ already!

and it’s only february!

these guys are great ( the first album is anyway )…

They do for Doris Norton what Kraftwerk did for Germany.  taking all the robot angularity, quirk, and synth pomp and focusing it into a perfectly honed  soundtrack to my life.


This album was produced by Hideki Matsutake.  He was a computer programmer and considered the ‘4th Beatle’ for YMO ( Yellow Magic Orchestra ) in the 70’s – 80’s.

Hideki Matsutake

Yellow Magic Orchestra



this track is another fine example of Kraftwerkian quirktopia




::: IF :::

Well, XBS can’t wash the Doris Norton out of our brain.  It started with  Artificial Intelligence,  That Meth Tetris love child of a Casio SK-1 and an Apple II. It’s just litered with dog bark samples, Roland J-106 arpeggios, time code leaks, and Sysex tape dumps.  Doris Norton is what XBS describes as a great Litmus Test artist.  People either love it or hate it.  And both for all the right reasons!  ;-D

This track has been a fave of mine this fall and it seems to not be leaving rotation any time soon!

::: Love the vocoder. Love the crazy future NOW! :::