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Vintage Keys, need upgrade (plus) sysex restore (answered)

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 5:06 am
by part12studios
Hi everyone,

So I managed to get a good deal ($30) for a E-MU vintage keys unit. Sure it's a rompler, but its still fun and has some interesting sounds here and there.

So he said it had issues and it does. Most of the patches are f'd up as if it's got the mapping wrong for various patches. At first I thought it might be a bad chip but thinking back to what he said.. gave me a clue.

He said it had been upgraded to the plus. As I understand it (hunch, no fact) here is a 72 pin rom looking chip that I suspect is the rom expansion for the plus for a non-plus unit. The upgrade is suppose to increase the patch total to 512 total while the standard unit only has 358..

guess what? my system is only going up to 358.. not 512. when i take out said 72 pin rom chip, the unit is fine. So I suspect that the battery failed at some point and I need to get a system sysex dump that i can push to the unit with the rom chip installed and everything will be 100%.

Anyone own or has owned one of these that might know? My googling hasn't turned up anything. i haven't contacted emu just yet.. their website isn't very friendly for old school stuff.

I'm hoping I can restore it to full working order though I must say I'm kinda liking the various broken / quirky patches I'm getting from it currently. Still none the less I want to know how to un-break it so if I ever sell it I can make it appealing to anyone wanting patches to actually sound like they should..


Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 7:25 pm
by part12studios
So I've been poking around this sucker some more and I've learned some stuff..

first of all.. here is one resource

also thanks to Virgule this one.. ... ias/other/ (note you need to add .syx to the end for it to work)

Using MIDI Quest I managed to push these over to it and I did get rid of the weird characters that riddled many of the patches. that was another weird thing about it but now they all work right..

I'll have to make a video though to show some of the crazy sounds it produces. Once I audit the 500+ MIDI Quest patches and i'm around 60 or so good ones and i'm about 1/2 way through... I'll go back and do it again with the upgrade removed and listen to them that way and see if there are any keepers. What little I heard was nothing mind blowing.. but i didn't hear many.. but what i did hear were clear / correct sounds being played.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 8:42 am
by blueknob
Interesting what you say, I tried one of these many years ago, but thought it sounded rubbish so did not buy. I've found Emu's Hamm B3 are just plain naff, most other things are good though.

So, if you:-
1. fixed a screwed up one
2. made it sound good

Do a VID!! Show us what you did to de-screwify it and then show us what it can do! I personally like to bring to life old wonky kit, usually the tech info, OS updates etc. are available somewhere.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:05 pm
by part12studios
Ok cool yea the thing is still sitting in my office. I did get through all 500+ patches while screwed up and now it's working.. but i'm still not sure if its truly 100%. The issue is that if i'm correct, that the 72pin rom chip that i remove which un-f**k's the unit.. this IS the extra "plus" rom that offers addictional sounds.. so it should still be messed up because now i'm using only the stock wavs that came with the original hardware. However so far, I have not had any patches sound wrong.. sure they don't sound "great" many times but it doesn't sound like things misfiring, etc.

The unit is seen by Freemidi as the Vintage Keys Plus so it definitely had the upgrade.. i can't really find any hard documentation on how the internal works of this unit are setup. for example, given that era of tech.. i would imagine the rom chip upgrade maybe included the capacity for 512 patches from 384.. but then i'm not used to rom chips storing data (unless they are somehow not really ROMs? I don't know how far along flash technology was in 1993/1994 if really existing at all at that point..

It has a user replaceable 2330 battery so that of course keeps the patches in tact. I was able to push 128 patches to the first 128 slots of the 512 so they are not hard coded presets.. and from what i've learned it came with 8mb of wavs.. and the expansion upgrade gave it another 8mb.. so I'd assume that without the 8mb chip (what i've been calling the 72pin rom) some patches would sound bad.

Right now in my exploration of sysex files and MIDI Quest patch zone patches I want to find the melotro sounds people speak so highly of.. not that i'm expecting something amazing.. but i'd like to hear it none the less as it should sound.

I wish it would be easier to flip between messed up and normal.. heh.. i will definitely make a video though of it in both states and show the hardware stuff


Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:27 pm
by madtheory
part12studios wrote:FOR SCIENCE!
Yay! Good stuff.

I think you can hear the basic multisamples by zeroing a patch, so no envelope modulation and no layering? Not sure, it's been a long time since I used a Proteus.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:36 pm
by part12studios
yea that's pretty much what's "bad" on this unit.. it's the multi-layer sampling that is wacked out.. sometimes things loop "wrong" other times you hear the wrong sound.. etc..

but oddly enough you'd think that's what you'd hear of the 8mb expansion chip were missing to and so far (maybe just non-plus patches) something would sound wrong because they are missing.. i'm sure i'll come across some when i go "full audit" on the sysex and MQ patches without the expansion.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:07 pm
by madtheory
Ya sounds like the patches are wrong, and the waveform memory is fine. IIRC there is loop control in the form of reversing the waveform as it's read from memory... so maybe that's causing the "wrong" loop thing you're hearing.

I'm a big fan of these sounds. Have the EIIIx library in Kontakt. Which incidentally usually f**k up the loops, but at least it's manually correctable by re-reading the loop from the audio file.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:16 pm
by part12studios
yea there is a reverse mode I saw in the patch editor mode of MIDI Quest. also nice that it has a 2pole and 4pole filter option for low pass.. it's digital of course.. but its still good to have options.

I really do look forward to actually making new patches with this module once i figure out what the problems are.

i just don't know enough about this hardware and E-MU I am learning as I have their proteus fx and had an ESI-32 for awhile that they have NO legacy support.. so different than MOTU and other companies. it's like their old stuff never existed to them. They are about as bad as ART in that regard. So for this unit I'm pretty much just poking around until I figure it out.

It does seem like the idea that a rom chip (in perfectly good shape) would actually go bad.. not impossible but highly unlikely.. so it makes more sense that the patches are the corruption..

but i have done sysex dumps of the entire thing and the patches are still bad WHEN the chip is in.. but removing the chip makes everything better.. so /shrug :)

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:49 pm
by madtheory
Well Emu is just a brand name now, the people who made all that wonderful stuff don't work there any more. It happened very suddenly, there was a bunch of layoffs by Creative Labs back in 2007.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 6:02 pm
by part12studios
ah i see that makes sense. yea i wasn't privy to the good stuff back in the day. :) I'm kinda acquiring all this stuff now in bargain bin craig's list deals.. i mean i bought this one "as is" which is how i talked him down from $75 he wanted for it because it was "as is" and not working right.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:37 am
by Sonus
Here are the .mid files with a 100ms delay after each patch to avoid buffer overflow.
You can play these with any sequencer, it takes about 1 minute to load 256 patches.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 2:51 pm
by part12studios
@Sonus thanks for sharing that! so I'm curious. There are 384 patches found in the basic version and 512 patches found in the plus model. is this the first 1-256 patches for both?

I grabbed the files but won't be able to test it out till i get the studio setup.

(off topic) I recently got a G4 mac desktop 450mhz running Digital Performer 3 working with two MOTU MTP AV's networked togehter (finding the 8 pin serial cable was a b***h) but now that i have proper 16 in / 16 out midi ports i can re-arrange my studio so each or at least most of my midi gear can have a dedicated IN/OUT.

Unisyn 1.5 works with DP3.. so i'm going to see if i can install / get them to play nice so i can do patch editing in DP3 of most of my old gear.. (back on topic) Unisyn supports the Vintage Keys units so this should work well with them.

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 6:55 pm
by Sonus
Indeed, these are the VK and VK plus RAM patches, 2 x 256.
There's a list in the manual: 0-255 RAM / 256-511 ROM.
Did you already try the factory reset procedure? ... -plus.html

Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:50 pm
by part12studios
ok @sonus this was super helpful information. i hadn't come across this website till now. i did a factory reset and it was actually worse? with or without the 8mb rom chip.. but pushing the original or plus sysex that i linked early on results in solid sounding patches UP till 256.. after that.. most of the patches become unstable / inconsistent and weird. a few here and there still work but there is no pattern to it.

So i'm not sure whree the "257-512" patches live, but that is definitely a problem.. and then having the chip present adds another layer of mischief to the whole thing.. if the 8mb chip is in.. nothing sounds right. albeit kinda cool / crazy.. but yes i like the melotron sounds and many of the other good sounds enough to not let this unit go in the funky state..

So in summary.. this unit is a "plus" model that was upgraded from an original (the front doesn't say plus anywhere) so it has the plus roms.. but the only patches I can use safely are 1-256.. pushing the factory defaults is sufficient.

Fortunately the first 256 patches cover what is honestly a solid range of all this unit has to offer.. it could probably be covered in 128.. so there's a lot of overlap / hybrid patches that are nothing special..

but for all the talk of this being a poor quality device, I have to say I like some of the sounds in there a lot. I've also recognized some samples that I am pretty sure were used by bads like coil and vintage synth names off some other well known artists. The piano in this thing smacks of some stuff I've heard by depeche mode.

I poked around the patches to see what i could craft and it is pretty straight forward. The filter isn't incredibly warm since it's digital but it's still offering a 2 and 4 pole option which is nice.

Thanks for all the wisdom and advice.. I believe this unit does have something wrong with it in the hardware but at the end of the day it's still very usable and $30 was worth it to mess around with it. Some day I might go back and stick that 8mb chip back in it to make it go nuts o' and see what I can make with it. There were definitely some songs in those f'd up patches. I'll have to keep this guy in a place that's easy to get too to open it back up again. :)


Re: E-MU Vintage Keys, need upgrad (plus) sysex restore

Posted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 9:52 pm
by part12studios
PS, I didn't get to video it.. my office was getting a bit too crazy.. cats knocked over the Vintage Keys and I had to perform some minor supergluing and frame bending to fix it.. but the unit survived along with it's cousin's.. but yes I will definitely give this thing a demonstration and yes I do think I'm going to go back and install the chip at some point.. but it's just a low priority for the time being till the studio is back up and running! :)