Novation Supernova II

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prime2026
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Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:02 am

Greetings all. I have recently stumbled upon an great deal on a Supernova II that a friend of a friend has. The problem is that he's across the country and I can't get hands on with it to fiddle around. It's in excellent physical shape. However, when you first power it up the lights go crazy and sometimes there's a squeal coming from the outputs. The LCD screen works fine and the menus can be navigated, but the guy can't get any sound out of it. I'm not sure if he's tried routing to any of the other outputs but I suspect he has since he's pretty knowledgeable about the synth.

Anyone have any input or advice on what could be the problem or anything else I should ask? I've been looking for a Supernova for awhile and this price is great but since I can't put hands on it, I don't want to pay for something that's going to need a $500 mainboard. Mainly I'm trying to figure out if the symptoms are really indicative of a bad mainboard or maybe something less sinister. I would think that if the mainboard was bad, the LCD would have issues as well, but I'm nowhere near qualified to make that assumption.

Any help is appreciated.

*Update* The board was purchased and the real issue is posted below
Last edited by prime2026 on Sun May 03, 2009 5:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by HideawayStudio » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:09 pm

The Supernova is entirely DSP based - of which there are a fair number on board! The rest is an embedded computer - unless it's a dry joint or loose connection I'd say it's likely to be a fairly expensive fault. It's very much surface mount technology so unless you have SMT rework skills it would have to be very cheap to justify taking the chance in IMHO.

I'm an electronic design engineer and even I'd think twice about this one - it is just possible it's something silly like a loose connection. The only other thing I can think is that one/all of the supply rails are dodgy - this can sometimes cause such effects. Any way - like I say - it would need to be very cheap to justify.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Sun Apr 26, 2009 2:16 am

Thanks a bunch for the reply. I was able to buy it for $75 and it should be in my hands on Wednesday. I'll crack it open, take a look and report back. Once again, thanks for the help.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by garranimal » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:05 am

Wow $75 good deal if you can get it working. Had one shipped to me once and there was a bug. Opened it and found a wire harness came disconnected. Worked mostly fine after that. Occasionally the OS wouldn't boot during power-on. But trying again, it always came back. When switched-on it should flash the OS version and number of voices.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Thu Apr 30, 2009 10:00 pm

I received the Supernova today and to my surprise it really is in excellent physical shape except for missing a button. Fearing the worst I unpacked it, fired it up and hit the keys. No problems whatsoever. I demoed a couple patches with no problems and was congratulating myself, figuring I had found MY Prophet 5. http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... tar+center

I found a string patch, hit a chord and listened as the sky fell. I think it has something to do with the polyphony because mono patches work fine and most poly patches work fine the first couple of voices. It's definitely not a squeal like the guys that sold it to me said it was. I have already opened it up and gave it a good dusting and I also did a factory reset which seemed to help a little. It's probably just a placebo effect though.

Here's a link to 4 patches and the chaos that ensues. The last patch is my favorite and is the most frequent sounding symptom:

http://www.zshare.net/audio/59422485370621d5/

Sometimes the anomalies continue for 20-30 seconds after I have stopped playing. Sometimes they never stop. If I turn down the program volume and switch patches the modulation goes away. However, if I switch patches without turning the program volume down first, it continues until I turn the Supernova off.

Any ideas? All help is appreciated.
Last edited by prime2026 on Sun May 03, 2009 5:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Sun May 03, 2009 5:46 pm

I am able to edit the LFOs when they go crazy, I just can't stop it from happening.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by garranimal » Sun May 03, 2009 9:56 pm

Even though I used to own a Supernova II, I didn't get intimately familiar with the inner workings. But 90% of the problems such a this usually can be blamed on a toasted ICs. Especially if voices are not sounding, as mentioned.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Mon May 04, 2009 12:29 am

As far as I can tell, all the voices are sounding. It's just that some of them are modulating the LFOs crazily and it's like they get latched once triggered. While all this is going on, I can still play fine and even if I play the exact same notes that triggered the effect, it won't start over again.

Novation tech support has not responded to the email i sent them last week and the American distributor told me there's nothing they can do but recommend where to get it repaired :( Is there anything else I could try to narrow down the problem or is sending it out pretty much my only option?

Thanks again for any help.
Last edited by prime2026 on Mon May 04, 2009 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon May 04, 2009 10:59 am

Hi,

I share your frustration on this one. Listening carefully to your recording it's likely that one of more of your DSPs is either duff or is being loaded with corrupted patch data. Both the Supernova and Supernova II are full of DSP chips. In order to increase polyphony they simply added more DSPs - this is why the old Supernova had an expansion board full of DSPs to increase polyphony. If you think of each DSP as a voice generator I suspect what's happening is that one of them is forever producing garbage and when you play a big enough chord it's output is being mixed onto the audio bus by the note prioritiser - since I suspect each DSP has command over the envelope it's then hogging it thus your infinite release issue.

There may be a few things you can do to isolate the problem - firstly - is the fault always present or only when the unit is warm? If you run the unit with the lid off and gently flex the pcb whilst playing does the sound change?
Is there -any- sign of mechanical damage, overheating or liquid spillage?

I wish I knew enough of SN2's bad habits to help you - I have a fully expanded SN rack and naturally I'm a bit curious to know if this is a common issue as I love it to bits.

The following faults are possible:

Dry Joints - esp. around DSPs
Static Damage
Memory Fault
Backup battery??

I presume you've tried doing a factory reset?

I presume there must be a test mode on these beasties - you could do with a service manual.

The only other thing I can think of doing is to somehow persuade the unit that it has less DSPs than it has thus masking the problem - I'm not sure if this is possible on the SN2.

If all fails it might be worth taking the unit to someone with SMT hot air reworking and reflowing the solder on all of the larger ICs.

Don't ditch it - it is repairable - it just might take a lot of investigation and friendly teccy with good SMT skills.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by garranimal » Mon May 04, 2009 3:06 pm

prime2026 wrote:Novation tech support has not responded the email.
Maybe someone else may elaborate, but when Novation was purchased by Focusrite in 2004 it took a big detour from the company that put out the Supernovas. Doubt any of the same people are still around as they only do midi/usb controllers now.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by t.o.t.s. » Mon May 04, 2009 5:07 pm

im sure you are right about Focusrite acquiring them. I sure wish they'd do more with the synth engines they acquired.
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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Mon May 04, 2009 8:47 pm

Thanks all for the replies and thanks especially to Hideaway for the followup. To answer your questions:

1.) Yes, the fault is always present. Neither temperature nor the length or use seem to have an effect on the anomaly. It will happen after it's been on all night and it will happen when it's just been turned on.

2.) I have extensively flexed all 3 pcbs while the modulation is occurring and nothing has changed it. I spent an hour and a half gently flexing different zones and nothing happened. The only way I've found to manipulate the sound is with the LFO controls which all work as I can change the waveform, speed, sync etc when it occurs.

3.) As far as I can tell with my limited knowledge, the boards all look pristine for an almost 10 yr old instrument. I can not find any gouges or cuts in the pcbs. The only things I have been able to find that look out of place are the main outputs which look to have been replaced as they are a different make and form factor than the rest. Also on the underside of the board, the solders of these outputs have a chunky brownish substance around them. I'm not sure if this is normal as I'm not versed in pcb repair or soldering in general. Another area where this brownish substance occurs but less substantially is around what look to be 4 memory chips of which 2 look to have been replaced as well. Other than that, there's a handful a places on all the boards where there's whiteish / clear residue on the undersides of the boards running to and from different solder points. Here's a link to some pictures. All i could find this morning was a 5mp camera so if more detailed pics are needed just let me know. Just click the pics the right click and select view image to get the big pics.

http://img15.imageshack.us/gal.php?g=1000372e.jpg

As far as I can tell, there isn't a backup battery. I can't find one at least. The power supply looks to be pristine as well.

Yes, I have done a factory reset. Maybe I'm crazy but with 2.0 the problem seemed to be alot more pronounced. I've reverted back to 1.5 and the factory patches from ROM and that's where it stands at this point.

Once again, thanks for all the help.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by HideawayStudio » Mon May 04, 2009 9:47 pm

prime2026 wrote:Thanks all for the replies and thanks especially to Hideaway for the followup. To answer your questions:

1.) Yes, the fault is always present. Neither temperature nor the length or use seem to have an effect on the anomaly. It will happen after it's been on all night and it will happen when it's just been turned on.

2.) I have extensively flexed all 3 pcbs while the modulation is occurring and nothing has changed it. I spent an hour and a half gently flexing different zones and nothing happened. The only way I've found to manipulate the sound is with the LFO controls which all work as I can change the waveform, speed, sync etc when it occurs.

3.) As far as I can tell with my limited knowledge, the boards all look pristine for an almost 10 yr old instrument. I can not find any gouges or cuts in the pcbs. The only things I have been able to find that look out of place are the main outputs which look to have been replaced as they are a different make and form factor than the rest. Also on the underside of the board, the solders of these outputs have a chunky brownish substance around them. I'm not sure if this is normal as I'm not versed in pcb repair or soldering in general. Another area where this brownish substance occurs but less substantially is around what look to be 4 memory chips of which 2 look to have been replaced as well. Other than that, there's a handful a places on all the boards where there's whiteish / clear residue on the undersides of the boards running to and from different solder points. Here's a link to some pictures. All i could find this morning was a 5mp camera so if more detailed pics are needed just let me know. Just click the pics the right click and select view image to get the big pics.

http://img15.imageshack.us/gal.php?g=1000372e.jpg

As far as I can tell, there isn't a backup battery. I can't find one at least. The power supply looks to be pristine as well.

Yes, I have done a factory reset. Maybe I'm crazy but with 2.0 the problem seemed to be alot more pronounced. I've reverted back to 1.5 and the factory patches from ROM and that's where it stands at this point.

Once again, thanks for all the help.

Interesting.... your pictures may tell a story... It very much looks like someone has already had a go at your synth! The brown residue is flux - a substance found in solder and also applied by hand during rework - the point is that either every pad should have some on it or none - depending on whether the board was washed in solvent after pick and place. In your case the board may have been reworked during an attempted repair. Going out on a limb here I'd say the previous owner took the synth to a repair shop and they weren't successful so the owner took it back and sold it! It is just possible the unit went through end of line test and failed and was then reworked although in this case I really would expect the board to have been washed afterwards!

Looks like you need to do some more detective work....

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Mon May 04, 2009 10:06 pm

Thanks a bunch for your quick response. Yeah, when I took all the boards out and saw that I figured it had been worked on. So when you say I need to do some more detective work, is there something you had in mind? As far as tracking down the original owner to see just where this thing has been and why it had been there, there's pretty much no way I'll be able to do that. The music store I bought it from sent it to a tech who sent it back with a diagnosis of it needing a new main board and didn't even attempt to repair anything.

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Re: Novation Supernova II

Post by prime2026 » Tue May 05, 2009 1:07 am

Upon further inspection there's a pretty big chip with the same flux residue around it and under one of the motorola dsps there's a small black component labeled r18 that's hanging on by a thread on one side and completely off on the other. Important? Probably. Do I know for sure? Negative. Here's the pics....

http://img13.imageshack.us/gal.php?g=1000395txm.jpg

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