Future-proof analog synths?

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xpander
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Post by xpander » Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:02 am

Dirk wrote:
xpander wrote:higher-end synths based on Curtis Electromusic CEM chips will be more future-proof than ones based on custom ICs; you can be pretty sure sooner or later someone will have popular CEM chips fabricated once enough synths are dead until replaced- esp 3340, 3374, etc- the common ones. i assume older synths based on discrete components and common ICs will be much more service-able even if an exact component goes out of production.

i definitely agree that buying one of the high-quality analogs on the market today is a great way to postpone your worries for a couple decades. :D

knowing what's under the hood and keeping backups of rare parts for the inevitable rainy day is a great idea, too.
All chips have a limmited lifespan of about 30 years, so in about 10 years from now all CEM and SSM synths will breakdown.
Discreate synths will outlive the chip synths.
as history already tells us, there are thousands and thousands of synths still in use based on CEM ICs; when the market gets thirsty enough to justify the massive expense of another run, it will happen and dead synths will be resurrected for a nominal price. last i heard, OnChip (owner of the CEM designs) requires a minimum order of 10,000-to-25,000 chips. ever wonder where all of those CEMs in every DSI Evolver came from? sweet, sweet money! :wink: of course, all of these chips pop up from time to time, and i think synthtech.com has many.

my point to the thread is that the common CEM chip-based synths are going to be safe in the long run due to a large enough demand (read: money) for periodic manufacture. similarly, synths based on less popular proprietary ICs are at high risk for becoming obsolete unless a small group of users are willing to split the cost of a huge order.
Last edited by xpander on Mon Jun 18, 2007 5:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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pricklyrobot
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Post by pricklyrobot » Sun Jun 17, 2007 7:25 pm

Go with Japanese manufacturers. While the Americans were making proprietary stuff, the Japanese were using off-the-shelf stuff.
I was told by a very reliable tech that the components within my Korg PS-3100 were all off-the-shelf, and still available. (the veracity of that statement was proven when he repaired it!)
Yes, I've often gazed in wonder at the Korg PS's. Maybe that's what I'll start saving for, after I've bought a house.
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Post by Xab » Sun Jun 17, 2007 7:53 pm

pricklyrobot wrote:
Go with Japanese manufacturers. While the Americans were making proprietary stuff, the Japanese were using off-the-shelf stuff.
I was told by a very reliable tech that the components within my Korg PS-3100 were all off-the-shelf, and still available. (the veracity of that statement was proven when he repaired it!)
Yes, I've often gazed in wonder at the Korg PS's. Maybe that's what I'll start saving for, after I've bought a house.
Hi,

that may be true for a Korg PS but this is the exact opposite for the Roland Juno-106 for example. The infamous VCA/VCF chip was a custom one, out of production now and it really seem that all units are going to fail one day or the other..
If you really want something that is likely to be repaired, go for discrete analogs.
Xavier

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Post by Soundwave » Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:01 pm

pricklyrobot wrote:
Go with Japanese manufacturers. While the Americans were making proprietary stuff, the Japanese were using off-the-shelf stuff.
I was told by a very reliable tech that the components within my Korg PS-3100 were all off-the-shelf, and still available. (the veracity of that statement was proven when he repaired it!)
Yes, I've often gazed in wonder at the Korg PS's. Maybe that's what I'll start saving for, after I've bought a house.

The same goes for the MS20/50's ect but I know you'd have to get the VCO's or voice boards cloned on a PS which is pricey but possible.

Discrete synths aren't safe either as ARP sliders are really hard to come by these days as well as some of the exotic pots like on the SEM's.

I think my Pulse will be going for a while yet but a common trend I seen recently is the custom made replica stuff from China like the Roland sliders seeping there way over here as well as circuit cloning becoming more cost effective these days.

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Post by altemark » Tue Jun 19, 2007 3:17 pm

Xab wrote:
pricklyrobot wrote:
Go with Japanese manufacturers. While the Americans were making proprietary stuff, the Japanese were using off-the-shelf stuff.
I was told by a very reliable tech that the components within my Korg PS-3100 were all off-the-shelf, and still available. (the veracity of that statement was proven when he repaired it!)
Yes, I've often gazed in wonder at the Korg PS's. Maybe that's what I'll start saving for, after I've bought a house.
Hi,

that may be true for a Korg PS but this is the exact opposite for the Roland Juno-106 for example. The infamous VCA/VCF chip was a custom one, out of production now and it really seem that all units are going to fail one day or the other..
If you really want something that is likely to be repaired, go for discrete analogs.
Xavier
Isn't there a clone of the juno 106 chip already available?b

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Post by Fresh Pine scent » Tue Jun 19, 2007 4:19 pm

HEY Y'ALL FIRST POST.

I think Korg had the idea when it made the Legacy controller; Make new synth's look classic. I love my old Yamaha cs-5, but it is drifty and a pain to service. I love the look of it and would be perfectly happy to swap the guts for a digital version( gasp in horror) that stayed in tune and had midi. Having played for many years, I've found that audiences don't care and can't tell what synth you are using. Nothing is future proof except for Hostess twinkies snack cakes.

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Post by pricklyrobot » Tue Jun 19, 2007 6:30 pm

If your main concern is impressing an audience, then you probably shouldn't bother with synths at all. Just get a guitar, and stuff a sock down the front of your stretch jeans. :wink:

And the longevity of Twinkies is much exaggerated: http://www.snopes.com/food/ingredient/twinkies.asp The things contain beef-fat for Christ-sakes!
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Post by translucencecs » Tue Jun 19, 2007 6:42 pm

altemark wrote:Isn't there a clone of the juno 106 chip already available?b
Yes. Here: http://users.skynet.be/bk318113/303/juno.html

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Post by ItalianStallion81 » Wed Jul 16, 2008 4:37 pm

Which version of the Fairlight CMI should I get in terms of reliability? The original version produced from 1979-1980, the Series II from 1980-1983, the Series IIx from 1983-1985 or the Series III from 1985-1992?

What current synth workstations are modeled after the Fairlight CMI (you know, those which include a piano keyboard, computer keyboard, computer monitor and floppy disk drive)???

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Post by Thetimeplease » Wed Jul 16, 2008 4:59 pm

ItalianStallion81 wrote:Which version of the Fairlight CMI should I get in terms of reliability? The original version produced from 1979-1980, the Series II from 1980-1983, the Series IIx from 1983-1985 or the Series III from 1985-1992?

What current synth workstations are modeled after the Fairlight CMI (you know, those which include a piano keyboard, computer keyboard, computer monitor and floppy disk drive)???
Only in my wildest dreams can I imagine myself being faced with this dilemma.

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Post by D-Collector » Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:13 pm

ItalianStallion81 wrote:Which version of the Fairlight CMI should I get in terms of reliability? The original version produced from 1979-1980, the Series II from 1980-1983, the Series IIx from 1983-1985 or the Series III from 1985-1992?

What current synth workstations are modeled after the Fairlight CMI (you know, those which include a piano keyboard, computer keyboard, computer monitor and floppy disk drive)???
I wish I was in the economical position to make that sort of choice. But if so, I would go with the Series III. I would think they had sorted out most issues by that version. But then, I have never even been near a Fairlight, so I wouldn't know.

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Post by OriginalJambo » Wed Jul 16, 2008 5:33 pm

I personally don't think analogue synths are as unreliable as people seem to make out. ICs only have a life span of 30 years, eh? Well since CRT TVs and old radios can last 40 I wouldn't say that's for definite just yet. Then you have old microphones, cars, mixing desks - h**l you name it! My desk is almost 30 years old and for the most part it still works, and it's far from top of the range!

First and foremost many analogue synths are fairly easy to service when compared to modern VAs with their surface mount components. When it comes to modern consumer products it's blatantly obvious we live in a "throwaway" society now. That does not mean VAs and digital synths are less reliable by any means, but if they fail then, short of pulling an entire board out of a working unit to replace your old one, you are pretty much screwed. The solution? By the new model. :roll:

Obviously analogue niche (Moog, DSI, MacBeth) and modular companies build their s**t to last, so I'd say buying a modern analogue is a great idea if you can manage to accumulate the necessary funds.

However I think it's apparent that until:

1) All vintage gear fails completely.
2) There are no spare parts or alternatives.
3) Techs refuse to touch them.
4) Modern analogue synths become more affordable.
5) We lose the nostalgia.

...people will still crave vintage gear!

My 2 cents overall - if you are gigging then vintage gear isn't the best solution. You really don't want any technical issues mid-gig. Then again if it's just a home studio setup and you have the cash and a taste for vintage then why not indulge a little? Life's too short to worry about everything all the time. :)

Anyway, rant over since this thread derailed a bit. From what I've read, what I own and what I've seen on here I have this to say (all my OPINION not necessarily fact!):

- I'd be weary of some ARP gear. Obviously a lot of their stuff has stood the test of time, but other units seem to have some reoccurring issues - failing caps, dodgy slider pots, resin encased modules and some of their products just seem a little shoddily built (or unergonomic, like the Odyssey mk IIIs protruding keyboard for example) compared to many "cheap" Japanese synths.

- Roland gear seems damn solid, barring aftertouch/velocity issues on their 80s gear. They certainly seem to be doing something right over the years.

- KORG stuff, to me, seems incredibly robust...well aside from a certain battery leak issue. ;) I rarely hear people complaining that their KORG gear has given up the ghost, and as AG said a lot of KORG's synths use discreet components, well at least for some of the modules. Although I'm sure they were considered budget knock-offs back in the day the KORG engineers clearly knew that quality design was still important.

- Russian synths? Let's just say I have had a problem already with my Polivoks, although now solved. Schematics aren't exactly easy to trace either. Or read. ;)

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Post by nathanscribe » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:08 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote:I was told by a very reliable tech that the components within my Korg PS-3100 were all off-the-shelf, and still available. (the veracity of that statement was proven when he repaired it!)
Not quite. Custom filter IC, the Korg 35. Try finding 40 of those if the things all blow up at once...

It's possible to build an equivalent discrete circuit though, and it's not very large; I've already seen one UK tech selling a drop-in replacement, but they're not cheap - about £35 a pop.

One problem with old discrete kit is that certain transistors become obsolete. New ones may not quite have the same characteristics, so you have to do a 'best fit' replacement unless you want to spend a fortune on finding retro components. The U726 matched heated transistor pair, used in many VCOs for temperature stability, is one case in point. Genuine examples go for several pounds each. Purely on a schematic level, there are alternatives that could probably be used with some modifications to the circuit, but that's a hassle, and I don't know how well it'd work. There are also circuits where transistors are closely matched; I think Jurgen Haible mentions the Korg PS series has transistors selected in matched batches of 13 (!!). Imagine if one goes...

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Post by solderguy » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:18 pm

Don't worry, be happy : D

Probably in the next 5-10 years DSP chips will be powerful enough ( and cheap enough ) to do very convincing analog emulations in affordably-priced synths... along with lots of features the old analog machines couldn't dream of. I'd gladly say bye-bye to analog at that point....

I have some unused very old IC chips in a box dating back to 1965-1967 ( old Motorola op amps and early digital ICs, almost as old as me ). Tried a few of them out to see if they still worked - all the ones I tested worked fine. It's not like all chips made on a particular day in 1985 will fail on the same day 10 years later... it's a gradual process, there will always be some units that last a lot longer than expected (and some that fail at lot sooner than expected, a statistical process ).

A synth like the OB-X has very few custom ICs ( just the CEM envelope gen chips ), the rest are standard parts not specifically intended for audio or music. The CA3080 chip was discontinued recently, but even it is still fairly easy to obtain. A knowledgable electronics hobbyist could build a small PCB to replace the CEM chips in the OB-X if needed. With recent cheap hi-speed microcontrollers and FPGA chips it would even be feasible to make functional clones of the custom digital chips and factory-programmed microcontrollers used in 80s 90s Roland Korg Yamaha etc synths ( but a lot of work... )

Most synth problems are not chip-related... but chips can get blown if the power supply develops a fault, the -15V wire gets disconnected, there is a spike on the 120 VAC etc. However, the boards and connectors and wiring inside the synth will get chewed up from various repairs and opening / closing the unit over many years, and a major overhaul will be needed.

Now is the best time ever for building your own analog synths, excellent parts are available.... and it is now feasible to build a very nice digital synth in your basement as well.
M.

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Post by OriginalJambo » Wed Jul 16, 2008 6:18 pm

Wow, didn't even realise this thread was a year old. Man! :P

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