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Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:49 am
by musden
Hello chaps!

I want to clear up for me this big question and I really need of your involvement. And the question is:
what are the reliable and unreliable synthesizers you have played, taking into consideration two moments:
1) biuld quality and keyboard feeling
2) stability of OS

Personally I am interested in not just modern instruments, but in ones that haven't discounted even. Anyway, someone would be very thankful for any kind of information. I understand that there is an element of subjectivity and the fact that quality may change over time, but I hope we can cope with this.

thank you!

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:52 am
by madmarkmagee
No electrical circuits last forever.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 1:22 pm
by bochelli
Open for debate as to no circuits last forever, Currys electrical chain used to sell their own products under the name Matsui, ive a vhs recorder from the early 80s still going if only they made synths.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 2:44 pm
by Big Gnome
The DX7 is easily the most reliable synth I've owned, and had one of my favorite sets of keys as well. The Alesis Quadrasynth/QS+ are pretty solid too with nice keys--I liked the original's better between the two; actually, all the Alesis stuff I've owned or played has been reliable apart from a buddy's QS8 which stopped responding to certain controllers after it was taken apart and ineptly reassembled by the TSA.
My Ensoniq ESQ-1 and SCI Prelude have given me the most stress. My ESQ was in c**p condition when I bought it and required a very thorough cleaning inside and out, a new battery, up-to-date OS, etc, which took ages to do properly, bit by bit, but presently works flawlessly (apart from the DCA3 button which is still a little sticky from whatever had been spilled on it). I also hasten to add the ESQ has my absolute favorite keyboard--it feels wonderful.
The Prelude is mostly just getting old; all the sliders needed a serious cleaning (an easy fix, albeit kind of a drag--I disassembled each one and cleaned off the gross caked brown stuff that was in there), the pitch lever wouldn't bend downward (another easy fix as it was just a broken solder point), and two keys are dead (I'm disappointed I haven't been able to fix that yet). The keyboard is absolutely c**p on it as well. It's a really cool sounding machine and I love mine to bits, but it's a tough one to recommend.
My old DX5 had a bunch of issues as well, but it looked as if it had been through a war--frankly it was astonishing the thing worked at all. The circuit boards, wiring, and power supply were put together like a fortress--I was really impressed.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:00 pm
by Bitexion
My DX7S is funny, I've had it for 6-7 years, and every time it's turned on it says "Battery low". But that battery NEVER runs out. It still has the patches. I had the "Battery low" message the first time I switched it on when I bought it too.
Granted, the first couple of years I never switched it off, so that the battery wouldn't drain further.

And the Yamaha CS-5 is from 1979, it STILL works perfectly.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:28 pm
by garranimal
I've owned/flipped/use a lot of different stuff.
Worst OS: Roland JX-10. The OS was extremely buggy, slow, poorly written and often crashed if given too quickly-made parameter adjustments. The Midi implementation was poor. The good news is a better OS is available out there and the chips can be swapped. The wonderful sound of these synths make the upgrade a worthwhile endeavor.
Good OS: Most synths made by Korg, Ensoniq, other Rolands generally have good OS. My Kawai K5000S OS is a bit slow, but it has a lot of processing and parameters to deal with.
Good Keybed: Ensoniq ESQ-1, ASR-10
Not-so-good Keybed: some really noisy klunky-feeling keys on the MemoryMoog I sold. I would also rate the synths that use contact strips like the Polysix and D-50 as high-maintenance keybed assemblies demanding cleaning and good storage conditions to maintain their functionality. The Moog prodigy has thin hairline wire that does rust and/or break and have found these types of assemblies unserviceable.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:13 pm
by LesDeuxLoveOrchestra
Was using my Prophet-5 last night. Bought it in '81. Still works great.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 7:28 pm
by rhino
As a tinkerer and dabbler in electronic repair, here's my take:

In a practical life (before major restoration) of - say - 10 years...
Synths failing from normal wear and componet aging = 20%
Synths failing from poor componet sourcing and/or poor build quality = 10%
Synths failing from misuse, damage and accidents including falls and spills = 70%

Examples I have found:
Early Korg - including PolySix - brittle plastic keys
Ensoniq - thin copper traces that fail from (1) too much heat (2) spills
Roland SH-201 - flimsy case and keybed
Ensoniq again - poor quality connectors that oxydize and corrode
Casio (big CZ's) - cracking flex cables from case to lid
Roland JX-10 and Korg DW's - poor quality material in aftertouch sensors

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:06 pm
by c-level
rhino wrote:As a tinkerer and dabbler in electronic repair, here's my take:

Examples I have found:

Roland SH-201 - flimsy case and keybed
Roland JX-10 and Korg DW's - poor quality material in aftertouch sensors
ill second those, sh201 is just a big hunk o plastic. JX8Ps Keybed feels springy, good to me for some reason but the aftertouch and the parameters its sposta control arent so obvious. This leads me to wonder if I'm too heavy handed or if the aftertouch is really busted. currently i have no good concept of what aftertouch should be....

ill add the infamous juno 106 for the voice chips dying. ive had two go on mine already despite being a closet case beauty, going to show that 106'es especially shouldnt be bought on basis of physical condition on ebay cuz those voice chips are ticking timebombs

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:23 pm
by forcedopinion
My Ensoniq SQ-80 has easily given me the biggest headaches and has spent the most time in repair and still isn't 100% functional.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:15 am
by orlando56
I'll second on the Roland Juno-106. I've owned two. Did the acetone bath on one and sold it. Warned the buyer about caveat emptor and all that. The other had already had the bath when I acquired it, but those 80017As are still going bad. I love it so much that I've ordered four more clone chips from Analogue Renaissance (I already had two out of six) to get it to 100 percent again. Fingers crossed.

Minikorg 700: Got one off eBay, and soon after it arrived it started having problems with the sound going out for no apparent reason. (After all, it was built in 1973 or 1974.) Got it fixed by my local synth repair genius for $120 (he said that figuring out what was wrong was an epic journey). Hopefully it's good to go for a while. Great synth; will never part with it.

I think it goes without saying that if you're going to own vintage synths, expect to have to maintain them. If you can't fix them yourself, make sure you know someone who can! Oh yeah, and if you're going to take them out, invest in a hard case.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:23 am
by balma
Better to mention wich ones are not on the last 12 years...

Yamaka workstations except for the last Motif, they have terrible buttons. I´ve owned a EX5, EX7, W7, Motif and SY99. ALL of them, gave problems with the buttons, specially, the numerical ones.

All the Roland Grooveboxes I owned gave me a lot of problems with the hardware. Loose sliders, ultracheap knobs and terrible keyboard...

The Emu PK7, Xtreme leads and Halo, defect of assembling processes, half plastic half metal, they crack on the bolt holes, and the ROMs are too close to the bottom.

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:05 am
by zukskywalker
Compromising reliability for near disposability, if very careful can yield good results. That along with the "lower end" synth market trend towards extremely fragile synths brings good availability at a cheaper price which will hold up and last if treated with great care. Should something damaging occur you're not out thousands of dollars and replacements are in stock everywhere.
My latest and lightest work-horse is really a plastic rompler and not much real synth, has action that I had to get used to over time, and would probably die if I dropped a 9 volt battery on it from 5 feet. I am very careful with it, but enjoy showing off when I lift it out of it's case with only one finger. :D

(My old DX7ii could probably survive the apocalypse.)

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:39 am
by Stab Frenzy
bochelli wrote:Open for debate as to no circuits last forever, Currys electrical chain used to sell their own products under the name Matsui, ive a vhs recorder from the early 80s still going if only they made synths.
There are some among us who believe that the early 80s to the present day does not constitute "forever".

Re: Reliability of synthesizers

Posted: Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:39 am
by lazerface
I think all the synths i've owned have had bugs or quirks or non functioning features.

JX3P - it's a pretty battered one, all keys still working but buttons will decide not to work every now and then, so i loose access to preset banks, the sequencer, lfo etc. Still love it though!

Roland Sh201- developed very noisey outputs, was a really messy digital sounding synth in general.

Moog Little Phatty - buggy OS, hanging notes etc. built like a tank though.

Korg MS2000R - actually this one was fine, knob came off super easy, but they were just the covers so no big deal - still useable, no OS bugs that I can remember.

DSI - Mopho - jumpy encoders

Korg Electribe EMX - occasionally it wouldnt save patterns correctly, would lose huge chunks of work.

DSI Tempest - OS is buggy (although to be fair, i've using the Beta OS's they put out, so that's probably not a fair comment), hardware wise it's very solid and i love it!

Alesis Ion - Main outputs were buggered, had to use the secondary outputs without the inbuilt fx.

Yamaha CS10 - Shat itself 2 weeks after I got it, one only play one note across the board, not fixable.

All part of their charm though right? :)