Archives for posts with tag: Future

I’ve promised these and so fresh for 2013 here they are!  Extensive photos of the inner life and workings of a Simmons SDS-V with the MFB SEQ-01 sequencer built in.

But first, a little background.

Simmons electronic drums were developed by Richard James Burgess and Dave Simmons.  Burgess’ idea was to make a fully electronic drumset that could be played  by a real drummer or a sequencer.  He pioneered this idea while working on the first Landscape album From the Tea-Rooms of Mars… To the Hell-Holes of Uranus ( a great soundtrack styled listen BTW ).  In 1981 he produced the Spandau Ballet hit, “Chant No. 1 (I Don’t Need This Pressure On)”.  It was the first breakthrough hit with a real drummer playing the now famous hexagonal pads and the first production Simmons SDS-V brain.

They offered a Kick drum, Snare drum, Toms, and even High Hats and Cymbal modules although the Cymbal and HH ones are super rare.  Seven of any combination could be housed in one brain and triggered via octagonal pad, sequencer, and even acoustic triggers attached to drums.  There was even an open/closed HH pedal input to trigger 2 different variations from the HH module.  You could program your own sounds via the front panel of each module with full controls for 3 presets on the front and one ‘factory’ set inside that are all adjustable.  The Brain did double duty of allowing trigger inputs while offering basic mixing of the internal sounds via a stereo and mono output ( with individual out as well ).  These brains quickly became cult like in their status and were used in everything from jazz bands by Bill Bruford to rock groups like Def Leppard ( by the one armed Rick Allen ) and of course funk and dance groups like Prince.

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And i never get bored of this song:

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I had picked up an SDS-V brain with a Kick, Snare, and 3 Tom modules.  But there was those two empty slots at the end… hmmmm… Then it occurred to me, What if i turn this Brain into a full DRUM MACHINE!!! Lo an behold, a few Googles later yielded my plan of attack.  I could fit a modern modular sequencer into this old brain and make an instrument of the future past! There’s some technical hurdles to surmount in adding a sequencer to the SDS-V brain.

1, The MFB SEQ-01 is designed to work in a modular synth case.  the SDS-V case is of equivalent hight but the mounting holes are not lined up. So, more accurately, the MFB fits vertically and horizontally but the mounting holes don’t line up.  To avoid damaging the original mounting setup i opted to temporarily put  washers over the adjacent screws to hold the sequencer in.

2, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be routed to the trigger or sequencer inputs on the SDS-V cards. I had a few options here.  One was to connect the sequencer outs to the Simmons’ native sequencer inputs.  The other was to hook it up to the trigger or pad inputs.  I opted to use the trigger inputs ( counter intuitive, i know! ) because this gave me a gain adjustment on the face plate of the brain for each trigger from the sequencer to the drum module.  The SDS-V drum modules are very dynamic and it’s useful to be able to hit them with sequencer trigger more or less to taste.

3, Lastly, The MFB SEQ-01 needs to be powered and it runs at a different voltage than the SDS-V. I had MFB modify the Seq-01 to run on 15 volts in the SDS.  Then i connected the power from the +/-15 volt rail in the Brain to the power input on the MFB edge connector.  Pretty straight forward!

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Photos by J-poo.

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Future plans for the SDS-V:

1, So, there’s one quirk in the Simmons SDS-V design i’d like to point out.  The audio outs are wired pin 3 hot.  This is the XLR wiring convention used by many old British companies and it’s the opposite of the US convention of pin 2 hot.  Reversing this would be great to more easily interface with other equipment.

2, I’d eventually like to disconnect the back panel sequencer jacks from the SDS-V modules and instead wire them to the MFB SEQ-01 outputs.  This way the sequencer outs  could be used to drive more than just the Simmons modules.  there’s actually 12 sequencer slots and the Simmons SDSV can only hold 5 cards with the sequencer installed. Maybe someday!

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References:

Simmons SDSV with MFB SEQ-01

Simmons SDSV – Wikipedia

Simmons Synth

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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…

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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:

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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

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

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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

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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 ):

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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.

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The Whispers are a group from LA that had a great run of hits spanning almost 40 years.  They had overlap in soul, funk, disco, and dance and were also a staple of the SOLAR records scene in the 80’s.  Much like Zapp and many others of the era the group was formed by brothers but the Scott brothers were twins!  Luckily they managed to avoid the all too often tragedies and perils that befall bands based on family relationships!

The XBS of the week reminds me of them because it has a little electronic but also some smooth funk to it:

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Happy Friday!

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XBS has been busy… jammin… fixin… jammin’ n fixin’… Still totally obsessed with some of the Midnight Starr, Deele, etc etc…

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So, this is what came out this week when we fired up the synth army.  The original idea was to get some David Frank style bleep bloops a la Beat Street going:

…But it ended up being slower and more groovy which is still fun by me.  It’s more summery and less on the John Carpenter tip we’ve been on too.  Usual suspects include Oberheim DSX Sequencer, Arp 2600, SCI Pro One, Mirage sampler ( OB-DPX-1), Linndrum LM2, Oberheim DX Stretch, Simmons SDSV, Roland JP-8…

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One of these days i’m going to just get a talk box and become Roger Troutman and drop some really beautifully vapid loves jams all over the ground. Zapp is great in the summer time.  I love running to some Roger jams.

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PS, D.F. has content on his site now:

David Frank | music production

COOL!

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