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Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 12:36 pm
by KBD_TRACKER
Strange to say but this topic came up to me while listening to a show discussing the propriety of restoring old 17 cent. paintings...

Sometimes gear seems poorly designed or constructed. Sometimes features could have been easily implemented but were not. Then sometimes comes up some performance-enhancing modifications which are simple and technologically feasible, so that in fact modding becomes an option.

But somehow, I seem to see modding as an affront to the "integrity" or "dignity" of the instrument (with all its existing shortcomings ) whatever "integrity" or "dignity" of a synth may be... and to somehow be "disrespectful" of the work and intent of the original designer(s) of the synth.
On top of this the mechanical side of modding can be problematic (due to circuit constraints, added knobs and switches often tend to appear clumsily and somewhat sully the overall look of the synth).

I understand that making an unused piece of synth used through modding may be better than letting it rot in a closet.
I understand that a cheap synth inexpensively modded might make a decent instrument for little money.
I understand that the distinction between modding and repairing a synth (for example if one replaces some components with more robust and modern ones) is not that large anyway.
Finally I understand that a synth already in a really bad external state would not suffer that much from piercing/drilling etc. the face plate and housing.

Still, if i was to choose between a mint condition synth and its modded version, i'd probably choose the unmodded version and try to work with its limitations.

Is it fetishism on my part ?

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 12:55 pm
by Hybrid88
To answer the title, no.

In all likelihood I would think it probable that most of them would be quite for the idea of improving the original design, they are afterall engineers and love to make something 'better', or improve the function of an electronic machine.

Many engineers are quite humble when their synths are mentioned, I remember hearing something about one of the EMS guys saying their synths were "pathetic little things" or something like that.

If anything I would think they would see it as being in fact, respectful, that people are passionate enough to still be working on and using these pieces of equipment, I would find it likely that when they made them originally the thought would never have occured to them that these items would be sometimes highly soughtafter many years into the future. 8-)

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:05 pm
by ppg_wavecomputer
A modification which helps to make an instrument more reliable, more playable, or less delicate is always a good thing -- think Lintronics Advanced Memory Moog, for instance, or the power supply upgrade in Rhodes Chromas.

If a modification ruins an instrument cosmetically -- like these ugly protruding red switches Kenton use for their MIDI interfaces, and which stick out like the proverbial sore thumb --, I think it´s ugly and absolutely worthless. Each 808 or CS80 I´ve seen with these modifications looked shitty because these modifications were irreversible because they required drilling holes into woodwork or plastic enclosures. My PPG Wave 2 was modified by its previous owner who installed eight individual audio outputs on the back, right where the "PPG" logo is -- I´ve had the modification removed as I thought it was useless (to me, anyway), and now there are holes in the metal enclosure which can´t be fixed anymore. It´s nothing to make you commit suicide but still, it doesn´t look overly nice.

I had my Mk. 1 ARP Odyssey modded with CV/Gate/Trigger inputs and outputs like the later Mk. 2 Odyssey. Since my Odyssey looks near-mint, I had my tech install a break-out box rather than drilling holes into the instrument´s back. This way, the modification can still be reversed without leaving a damaged instrument behind.

Stephen

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 1:42 pm
by CS_TBL
KBD_TRACKER wrote:Is it fetishism on my part ?
Quite.

There are two ways to look at this. You may want to preserve the looks, e.g. no unmatching knobs bolted on if the original one is missing, no wooden edges bolted onto plastic sides etc. Well, you gotta live with the fact that these things break down at some point, and there's probably not going to be replacement. In a way, consumer 3d-printing may be a future to look for.. where you just download Yamaha_DX7_valueslider.3ds from some website, choose a brown 'n white plastic and there you go. So, if done well, with taste, then I see no issue refurbishing broken parts from a synth. The Poly-61 I have has black/gloss painted wooden edges, I guess the previous owner gigged a lot with it..

The other way would be adding new functionality, by circuit bending the main board (and add the new knobs at the operating panel). This thing would be allowed in my book (when done decently) because adding an equalizer, reverb, compressor, limiter etc. to a synth would make barely a difference compared with running an original version of that synth through a mixing console that has all these effects built-in. I mean, is adding EQ, reverb etc. on a mixing console disrespectful towards the synth that has no effects? The end result is the same.. After all, it's your own property, right? You could as well use it as a brick to build a house..

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 2:27 pm
by pflosi

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 3:49 pm
by KBD_TRACKER
pflosi wrote:I once started a similar topic:

http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... &hilit=mod
thanks, interesting thread !
(and sorry for the redundancy :) )

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:43 pm
by griffin avid
Although it's true *you could* have posted under the previous thread on this topic,

I think every forum needs freshness because it's keeps it a community of active people and....

stays away from being a depository of dated ideas. Every few years, there's a shift in thinking and even growth among people. I'm sure you wouldn't want everyone to judge the current you by something you thought or said years ago.

And for those newer members that weren't part of that original discussion, it might be nice to have a chance to chime in when the topic is newly discussed.

-------------------

I think there is a simple comparison to art here or the original intent of the creator/designer.
It's about what I bought it for and what its purpose is.
Art is to be observed- so anything that changes that possibility is worth worrying over.

A synth is more of tool [for many] and thus, adding or extending functionality, should be taken on its own.
It's pretty silly to worry about cosmetics in a tool-context.
For appearance sake, we should then ONLY be considering 'lookie-here' mods like wooden sides and custom knobs or LED etc...paint jobs, new stains-

If it's about increasing the usefulness of the tool, then little care might/should be given to the look.
Streamline verse steampunk. Form verse function.

Somewhere in this is a balance.
As a reselling point, it obviously bares knowing who you are selling to and the same ideas apply.

A guy USING IT is probably glad for the mod and sees it as an increased value...
A guy COLLECTING wants it in the original condition and is concerned with the value of his possession- like a thing to be looked at (art) and satisfaction in the knowledge of what he has before him.

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:42 pm
by Alex E
It's fine, but it seems like a lot of said mods are pretty ugly. Remember all those pimped out Juno 106's that used to regularly appear on eBay. Yuck!

But whatever. To each their own, right?

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 12:10 am
by danbroad
the lit sliders on the Odyssey look great, and I've seen some lovely custom jobs [the black NL2 by customsynth UK as an example] which IMHO improve the aesthetics of the original. Likewise, if the mod aids your use of a tool it's no more disrespectful than sticking a new tape on a racquet grip or putting a cushion on your office chair. Whatever helps it get used better.

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:21 am
by Solderman
I can't speak for cosmetic modifications(although the back of my CS-15 now reads "HAHA"), but electronic modifications are really the only way I feel I can make them my own and get sounds that someone else can't get with that model. In the case of my SH-101, some of it I've broken due to f**k with it so much, but it's still so much more inspiring to play than a stock model.

There is no integrity or dignity other than what is decreed necessary to either inspire creativity or appease any insecurities by flaunting an expensive item. The former is justified in its use. The latter is only warranted once the item's use has run its course and it's to be placed up for sale.

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 5:47 am
by sensorium
And the most ridiculous topic of all time goes to......

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:08 pm
by DesolationBlvd
I'm all for modifications in most cases. Using examples:

My CE-300: It's a little battered, and besides, the modification is mostly internal: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/electron ... -mods.html. In general, component or CPU replacements are okay in my book.

My Jupiter-8: It's in good shape, but I still want to install MIDI or at least DCB (the latter is preferable as it would be more vintage correct). It has the plate on the back that is empty where DCB would go, seeing as it is an early unit, so it's not like I need to drill metal.

My SH-101 and DR-110: They are in excellent shape. It would pain me to drill holes for modular inputs/outputs and a breakout box respectively.

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:12 pm
by volumetrik
sensorium wrote:And the most ridiculous topic of all time goes to......
Why is it ridiculous? I do hope one day I could still be able to buy a good condition MC-202 for example, yes i love the original as it is, but with the way things are going...

Newbies get interested in modding when they get into this and end up destroying the gear as a failed attempt then after a while they lose interest in this all together.

Most mods end up sounding shitty anyway, they have this extreme sound about them and is cheesy.

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Sun Jul 21, 2013 4:28 pm
by c-level
volumetrik wrote:
sensorium wrote:And the most ridiculous topic of all time goes to......
Newbies get interested in modding when they get into this and end up destroying the gear as a failed attempt then after a while they lose interest in this all together.
ill second that. a lot of people get enamored with the idea of modding while not being bothered to learn the damn instrument in the first place. reminds me of a friend who got a free craigslist piano. he wanted a 'white' piano. never played the damn thing, didnt give a thought to tuning it, but stripped and primed it and left it to weather and peel in a damp basement. thing got junked two years later when he had to move. will a mod, paint job or decals really make your synth come to life if you dont give it any attention in the first place?

and i dont think this is a silly thread but that being said those of you who cant put up with the extra bumps and jacks from a factory mod/retrofit are just silly. turn that damn thing on a tell me how it sounds. thats really all that matters..... :roll:

Re: Modding a synth: disrespectful ??

Posted: Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:02 am
by Dr. Phibes
c-level wrote:turn that damn thing on a tell me how it sounds. thats really all that matters..... :roll:
I try to tell myself that but deep down I find it impossible to fully ascribe to such a view. For a long time I hoped and worked towards being an architect and I've always had a keen eye for industrial design. When I'm confronted with something with a glaring physical imperfection I find it very hard to connect with it, let alone get into the right mindset to play music.

It's the same reason why I don't have many mirrors.