Question about Poly 800 mods

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Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Black Tomorrow » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:59 am

So pretty much anyone with a Poly 800 is aware of mods like the Moog Slayer, FM mod and the Hawk/AtamaHawk. And I've seen plenty of others like a 2/4 pole switch, or an external input to the filter. But here's what I wonder. For those of you familiar with how the Poly 800 works, is it possible to mod it enough to make it knob per function (or switch for some functions)? Or are there certain functions that can only work via the data entry buttons?
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Aaron2 » Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:00 pm

I don't have a definitive answer for you. But perhaps this information will at least get the discussion started.

I own the highly modified Korg Poly 61 shown in the YouTube video below. The person who modified it, and who demonstrates its functionality in the video, was able to make most functions modifiable via the front panel. It appears that he wired it up so that the many variable resistors inside the machine could be controlled using potentiometers mounted to the front panel, which is precisely what the "Moog Slayer Mod" entails.



If it can be done with the Poly 61, I assume that it's at least likely that it can be done with the 800, given what I've heard about the similarity of the two machines. But this is, at best, an educated guess.

For what it's worth, it's a good setup, but you lose the ability to save patches properly. So it loses its character as a preset machine, and becomes more like a Juno 6 than a 60, if you see what I mean. OTOH, you get total real-time control, which is pretty cool, too.

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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Synthetech » Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:06 pm

Moogslayer type of mods are centered around varying a 5v Control Voltage (CV) for the filter chip.

The Poly800 is a hybrid digital/analog synth. The mods you see are only to adjust the analog part.. the VCF and VCA.
All the other parameters are digital and entirely CPU controlled.

The best way to get full control of all the parameters is to do the HAWK800 firmware upgrade.
It will allow on to use an external MIDI controller.
I have been working on a VST plugin for the HAWK800 that will allow you to assign any MIDI control to a HAWK800 parameter.

Not only will the plugin allow you to teach it controls, it also allows you to make your DAW record the adjustments. or even
allow you to draw your own LFO shapes and synch gated volume to a beat and do Bass Wobbles.. also synched.


Here's a couple sample clips of what I've made so far..








Not only do you get full control of the parameters, but you also DOUBLE the amount of parameters with the HAWK800.



You could also build a custom midi controller like thise..




all the controls are hooked up to a Highly Liquid MIDI CPU. The MIDI CPU translates 0-5v into outgoing midi CC's.
There isn't a PC or laptop needed, it is all self contained and inside the repurposed voltmeter box.

I have dabbled up a design to make a "Programmer" box using two MIDI CPU's that would do both knobs and switches with maybe some LED indicators.. but I doubt I'll ever build it since I have the VST to use and my focus is on developing it more.

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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Black Tomorrow » Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:25 am

I am currently viewing this at work, and the browser here is not equipped to show video. I'll give a fuller response when I can view this at home.

But from what I gather, Hawk800 is my best bet. I might do that.
Synthetech wrote:The Poly800 is a hybrid digital/analog synth. The mods you see are only to adjust the analog part.. the VCF and VCA.
When you say VCA, does this mean knobs could be added to control the envelope parameters? At this point I merely ask out of curiosity.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Synthetech » Sat Apr 26, 2014 3:01 pm

The uP controls the EG's.
So no, you cannot do a simple analog mod to control the EG's.

I should have said you could access the VCA's on the filter chip if you wish, but not much exciting can be done to it like the filter cutoff and resonance can be.

Definitely get the HAWK800, it will give you complete control over the old parameters and all the new ones.
Plus all those new LFO'S, waveforms for the LFO'S, xmodulations, portamento and many more features simply cant be beat.. it makes the Poly 800 become a very unique sounding synth.

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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Black Tomorrow » Sat Apr 26, 2014 10:44 pm

Finally looked at the vids. That flight controller looks fun. But yeah, the basic gist is that I ought to get the hawk upgrade. I'm not terribly fond of the Poly, though I do use it. Looks like upgrading will change that. Thanks for the info.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by calaverasgrande » Sun Apr 27, 2014 1:02 am

what other folks said. It can't really be a simple knob per function synth for a couple reasons. One of which is that some of the funtions have a very limited range for the parameter. Detune is what 3 or 4 steps? Chorus is off or on, the envelopes are very low resolution as well. If you did the hawk update and all the mods out there, and then built in a midi controller to talk to the hawk mod and tell it to wiggle this or that bit, you still have a limited synth with a not so spectacular filter.
I don't hate the poly 800, I used to own two. But be realistic, you need to put a lot of effort into it to make it anything approaching a 'good knobby synth'.
This is kind of silly when you can get a Microbrute for $300 or a Volca for $150, both of which I find much more interesting and useful and knobby.
Hacking the poly 800 made a lot of sense 5 years ago, these days I just don't get it.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Black Tomorrow » Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:34 am

Understood. By knob per function, I didn't necessarily mean strictly knobs. There's plenty of parameters that are basically on or off. Or 3 positions. I was just wondering if there was a way to override having to punch in a parameter number and then click up/down to adjust. So if there could be a knob for variables like filter, envelope, etc. And switches for things like single/double mode, oscillator footage, etc. I guess not, but I was curious.

Frankly, I'm not a very big fan of the Poly-800. The only reason I have it is that I sold an Octave Cat to someone about 8 years ago, and he didn't have quite what I was asking, so he threw in the Poly with the cash.

I did have the Moog Slayer and FM mods added awhile back. I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to pull the trigger and do the other updates.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by calaverasgrande » Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:48 am

Black Tomorrow wrote:Understood. By knob per function, I didn't necessarily mean strictly knobs. There's plenty of parameters that are basically on or off. Or 3 positions. I was just wondering if there was a way to override having to punch in a parameter number and then click up/down to adjust. So if there could be a knob for variables like filter, envelope, etc. And switches for things like single/double mode, oscillator footage, etc. I guess not, but I was curious.

Frankly, I'm not a very big fan of the Poly-800. The only reason I have it is that I sold an Octave Cat to someone about 8 years ago, and he didn't have quite what I was asking, so he threw in the Poly with the cash.

I did have the Moog Slayer and FM mods added awhile back. I'm not entirely sure if I'm going to pull the trigger and do the other updates.
honestly the only time i got good use out of the 800 was when I was unemployed and had enough time to muddle through the params, and no immediate hope of better gear.
If you have any other synth I cant see why to bother unless you just like mucking around with odd gear. Which is kind of a goal in itself right?

re-reading my comments I dont want to come off too negative about the 800 in general.
It's relatively easy to work on, cheap and plentiful. It's kind of like a beat up old Honda of a synth in a way. You don't really worry about beating it to death because it's not terribly precious, but fun in its own way. It is paraphonic or whatever the committee decided to call that one filter and multiple fingered notes thing. And hey it matches the new Roland Aira series color scheme!
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Synthetech » Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:03 pm

calaverasgrande wrote:you still have a limited synth with a not so spectacular filter.

What is it about the filter that you don't like?

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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by calaverasgrande » Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:38 pm

Synthetech wrote:
calaverasgrande wrote:you still have a limited synth with a not so spectacular filter.

What is it about the filter that you don't like?
well I did the moogslayer and a few other mods, but that filter was still either whistly and nasal or just kind of a gauzy haze over the notes. When I go to my Roland SH09 or one of my Moogs I think "yeah filter!". When I would get on the 800 I would think "eh..how am I going to get this filter to sound not like c**p this time".
In a weird way I like the edgy grit of the DCOs. They are kind of unique in the way you additively build waves with footages. The filter just kind of fails to do what filters do for me on other synths. It doesn't burp or fart or squidge. It just whistles or lies there limp.
Heck the best sound I ever got out of my Poly 800's was when I ran them through a Moogerfooger lowpass.
A small part of that is the filter, but the real part is an envelope that moves in a more fluid manner.

One thing I did settle on was using very long sustain and decay to deliberately get stair stepping going on with the filter envelope. I've always thought that exploiting the weakness of an instrument is the surest way to get unique sounds out of it.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Synthetech » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:48 am

So I take it you don't care for the Korg DW8000 or DSS1 either since they both have the same filter chips as the Poly800?

I thought the Korg filter sounds great and that was why most people rave about the DW and DSS1.

I agree that the Poly800 DCO's are lacking, A LOT!
It doesn't have a true sawtooth wave, it's really a mutated square wave.
Not sure why they call it a DCO.. it's not like a Juno 60 DCO.

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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by calaverasgrande » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:13 am

if that same filter works well on other korgs they must have better envelopes or gain staging. after all the only thing that the moogslayer mod does is boost the gain through the filter.
as far as the oscs there are a couple cool tricks you can do with using different footages for the two oscs and fading one up after the other. using detune and chord memory was the way I got broader sounding patches.
I won't say fat!
tbh I haven't bought a poly to replace mine sine I sold them.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by Black Tomorrow » Mon Apr 28, 2014 7:36 am

Really, the awkward controls are the only thing that bothers me about it. Thus, this thread. Soundwise, I actually like it. Yes, I know it's not as [insert adjective here] as other synths, but not every part of every song needs that. I think the big reason I didn't simply sell it is that every once in awhile, I'll be recording a song, and realise, "this part is a job for the Poly." So I figured I'd see if I could make it easier to use. Ultimately, doing so would be cheaper than selling it and buying another synth.
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Re: Question about Poly 800 mods

Post by calaverasgrande » Mon Apr 28, 2014 5:09 pm

Black Tomorrow wrote:Really, the awkward controls are the only thing that bothers me about it. Thus, this thread. Soundwise, I actually like it. Yes, I know it's not as [insert adjective here] as other synths, but not every part of every song needs that. I think the big reason I didn't simply sell it is that every once in awhile, I'll be recording a song, and realise, "this part is a job for the Poly." So I figured I'd see if I could make it easier to use. Ultimately, doing so would be cheaper than selling it and buying another synth.
I do have to admit, I'll be remixing some old song of mine and every now and then the poly 800 tracks are surprisingly good. Invariably those tracks are where the filter is all the way open or half closed. So maybe I don't hate the filter, so much as the way the 800 wiggles it.

ps my other favorite recording trick with those is to record the same patch 3 times in a row with the detune at each of the 3 settings. Especially if you record it stereo it sounds huge.
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