Monday, April 27, 2015

Aries Music Inc. AR-328 Stereo Reverb and Output module "Make some space for your sounds!" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978

Aries Music Inc. AR-328 Stereo Reverb and Output module "Make some space for your sounds" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from page 46 in the March 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard.

It's been almost three years since I've blogged about Aries and their ads. Too long.... too long...

As I've mentioned in the past, Aries ads fell into two main categories - general ads about Aries instruments and ads dedicated to the promotion of individual modules. Aries AR-328 reverb module is the second individual module from Aries to be promoted in Contemporary Keyboard magazine. The first module showed up in the magazine four months earlier in November 1977 and interestingly was also an effects module, labeled "a first of its kind" - a voltage-controllable phase/flange module. (see image right --->)

That first module-specific ad didn't really have too much to say, but this second AR-328 reverb module ad is another story - the ad copy, over time, has become historically interesting for a few reasons.

The first is that it directly mentions the designer of the module - Ron Rivera. According to several sources on the Web including former Aries employee Mark Styles in a "tell me more about Aries modulars" thread on Muff Wigglers, Ron "started doing modifications, and then went on to design some modules" for Aries.

Ken Perrin, commenting on an August 2006 MATRIXSYNTH auction post thread for what can only be described as a mutant ARP/Aries modular monster built by Rivera, said that "Ron Rivera worked at Arp and designed many of the later modules for the Aries Synthesizer. Ron's company was called Rivera Music Services (RMS) and in addition to designing the Aries modules Ron designed a series of modifications and enhancements to the Arp 2600 and the mini-Moog". Indeed, a few RMS ads popped up in Keyboard magazine in the early eighties.

So, that's kinda cool.

Another historical reference in the ad is for a company called O. C. Electronics. "2 Cascade spring delays by O. C. Electronics are included -- giving this the cleanest and most realistic reverb we have found anywhere." A quick Google search brought up some great info on the company.

Accu-Bell Sound Inc's Web site includes a highly information "History of Spring Reverberation" page that includes some great information on the formation of O.C. Electronics from the previously Hammond-owned Gibbs Manufacturing in Jansville, Wisconsin in 1971. When Hammond moved their reverb production to another facility [called Accutronics] "employees at Gibbs decided to start their own reverb manufacturing company called O.C. Electronics, giving Accutronics major competition in the reverb market."

According to the site, O.C. Electronics was known by many service technicians because "of the popular sticker attached to each of their units stating: Made by Beautiful Woman in Janesville, Wisconsin."

Sure enough, another quick Google search brings up this slightly uncomfortable label image from an discussion thread:

Apparently there are "beautiful girls" in Milton, Wisconsin too.

Its hard to make out the actual 238 module in the ad photo. So comes to the rescue with some great hi-res photos of theAR-328 module itself, including side views with the circuit board. The site's general Aries page is also very informative.

Interestingly, the O. C. Electronics label on the reverb unit itself  does NOT have the "beautiful girls" sticker.

Maybe someone finally figured that one out.

End note: Effects modules make fun modulars.

You'd think I would have figured that out sooner considering I've had my Moog Modular with its lovely spring reverb module for a few decades or more. But honestly, in the early days I hardly ever hooked the reverb up. I was young... naive... I usually just pulled the audio into my mixer dry and sent the signal off to an effects rack. 

What can I say - I was set in my ways.

But now with my Eurorack modular (27U and growing strong!) I've started appreciating the large number of effects modules out there and how they can fit into the signal and control flow of a patch. The Moog Modular reverb module has just two jacks - input and output. But today's units are so much more controllable and I find there is something satisfying about controlling effects using control voltages.

Time to get back to the modular. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Roland Synthesizer System 100 Model 102/103/104/109 "Let's you start your own Synthesizer studio" brochure, 1976

Roland Synthesizer System 100 Model 102/103/104/109 "Let's you start your own Synthesizer studio" six page brochure from January 1976.

Sure. Call it hopping on the bandwagon. I don't mind.

I've made it no secret that I love the Roland gear - old and new.  So when Peter Kirn wrote of the rumor of Roland's return to modular with a small post that included the history of Roland's modular systems starting with the System 100 on, I just had to pull this gorgeous brochure from the shelf to share. I think I can say with certainty that no one expected just how deep down the modular hole Roland was going to go. As a Roland AIRA fan, I'm happy. As a modular owner, I'm even more happy. Wallet - not so happy. :)

Back to the brochure....

It has definitely seen better days - but it just adds to the character. I can imagine the original owner flipping through it, dreaming about what it would be like to own a whole synthesizer system in such a compact format. If you want to get a little more intimate with the different parts of the semi-modular System 100, this is still a good reference piece. Interestingly, this doesn't have a lot of information on the basic Model 101 unit itself. This brochure was really created to focus on the other pieces of the "synthesizer studio" - specifically:
  • Expander Model 102
  • Mixer Model 103
  • Sequencer Model 104
  • Monitor Speaker Model 109
Remember - the best way to view the hi-res scans is to right-click and select "show image" or whatever the equivalent in your browser might be. in October 2009 I blogged about Roland's "Build your own synthesizer studio" ad for the System 100 that appeared in Keyboard Magazine in 1977 and mentioned that there was also a write-up that appeared much earlier in the Spec Sheet section of the May/June 1976 issue (yes, there was a time when Keyboard magazine was only published every two months!). Although just a small write-up, it still gives a great overview:

"The System 100 synthesizer is composed of separate component banks: the Model 104 sequencer; the Model 102 expander; the Model 103 mixer; two Model 109 monitor speakers, and the basic Model 101. The basic unit itself includes a VCO, a VCF, an LFO, and an ADSR envelope generator. Other features are a noise generator, a high-pass filter, an audio mixer, and a test oscillator. A 37-note keyboard is standard. The Model 102 expander supplies the performer with a sample/hold circuit, an envelope generator, an LFO, and a VCA. The 104 module is a 2-channel, 12-step analog sequencer (both channels may be linked together for 24-step sequences). List price for the System 100 is $1,950. "

List price $1,950. Not bad at all for everything you got.

Until recently, the only time I had ever played on a System 100 was in a friend's basement a long, long time ago. He had the whole package. And it was a beauty. I remember being fascinated at both the look and the sound.

I say until recently, because just a few months ago I managed to find a System 100 Model 101 unit in my home town. You bet I jumped on the chance. It's in wonderful condition too.And the sound is exactly how I remember it. I've now started the long journey of tracking down the other pieces.

Until then, I can't wait to hook it up to the new Roland modular gear. Yeah... I'm already deep into Eurorack. So you can bet I'm jumping on the Roland modular bandwagon too. :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Akai AX-73 "SYNTHMASTER" ad, Music Technology Magazine 1987

Akai AX-73 "SYNTHMASTER" advertisement from page 47 of the January 1987 issue of The Music Technology Magazine.

Well, if there's one thing this Akai AX-73 ad proves, it's that you can definitely love a synth too much.

Waaaaay too much.

I get it. It was the mid-80s and readers were getting more accustomed to ads that veered towards the artsy-end of the spectrum. Advertisements from across the pond did sometimes take a bit more risk and, let's face it, there were a lot of drugs flowing through advertising agencies around this time period.

But this ad is so unlike any other Akai advertisements that when a friend brought it to my attention last night via a UK eBay auction, I couldn't resist coming out of my winter hibernation to search through my magazine archives and get this thing online pronto. And really - I can't thank him enough for rekindling my blogging passion.

Let's ignore for a second the fact that someone thought this ad would make a good eBay auction and focus on the ad itself.

I don't mind the layout. Again - pure 80s with a large photo, lots of white space and a giant block of run-on text that's a little hard to read.  The one thing that isn't well displayed is the actual name of the synth. Its not in large text anywhere - it's even missing from the photo. It's only written out in the small paragraph at the bottom right of the page.

Also, growing up on the other side of the Atlantic, I find some of the language used in the ad copy slightly exotic. "Velocity sensing" and "For your nearest stockist..." - both stand out to me as a Canadian. And let's not miss "Grasp the energy". Obviously the inspiration for the photo.

I think the Synthmaster is grasping the AX-73 a little to hard maybe.

Now - back to that eBay auction. The description the seller uses is actually quite accurate:

"Retro and vintage magazine advertising is an increasingly interesting subject for framers and collectors. As more and more magazines from the 70s & 80s are discarded , the available stock becomes more and more sought after."

I agree - these awesome magazines are becoming more rare and sought after. Unfortunately, its a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy when many of the magazines are being discarded by people tearing them apart to sell the ads.

Yeah, I don't like it, but I'm not trying to point fingers either. You buy a magazine, you can do what you want with it. And as the available stock dwindles, eBayers will theoretically be able to get more for each ad. That's just good business. Breaks my heart when a magazine like this is destroyed. But that's just me.

My real astonishment is that the seller believes someone will buy *this particular* Akai AX-73 ad. And maybe even more frightening is that someone will actually buy and frame it.

That Roland Jupiter 8 two-page spread or TR-808 ad from their "Understanding Technology Series" ad run?


Definitely. Frame those babies on the ceiling above your bed for those lonely nights.

Or can I get a what-what for a sexy Moog ad?

Yup. Times 10.

Or how about pretty much any Sequential Circuits Prophet 10/5/PRO-1 ad from the "Ear Force" era?

You can bet your pants those are replacing the cherished heirloom family photos in the dining room.

But as far as this ad is concerned - do your house guests a favour and save your money for an actual AX-73.

Or better yet - the AX-60.  :)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Moog Modular System I, II and III "Setting Up Your Moog Synthesizer" installation and operation guide, 1970

Moog Modular System I, II and III "Setting Up Your Moog Synthesizer - A Guide to Installation and Operation of Synthesizers I, II and II" 16-page installation and operations manual, 1970.

Also available as PDF (4MB).

According to the InterWebz, today is the 50th Anniversary of the Moog Modular. To help celebrate in my own little way, I thought I would scan my 16-page installation and operations manual. I've seen bits and pieces of this document everywhere, but I haven't come across the whole thing. It probably does exist. But just... in... case... here it is.

Moog Music has posted a special 50th Anniversary video for this occasion. I highly recommend watching it, even if just for the GAS factor. But you are bound to learn a thing or two as well.

One of the most informative parts of the video for me is an explanation to the possible "why" of Moog's choice of the "S" trigger. The video goes into it around the 8:45 mark, comparing it to the short found in the electronics of a door-bell button. Aaaaaaaah. That does kinda make sense.

If you are really in "the moog" for more Moogy goodness, check out a few other juicy Moog Modular pieces from the blog, including System 15, 35 and 55 multi-page brochures...

...and several later module brochures I recently posted. 

You'll notice this installation and operations document is looking a little... well... old, and I often get asked why I don't "clean up" my scans. One reason is... not gonna lie... laziness. But it's also about capturing the time period. This document is over 40 years old, and I like the look, feel and smell of it.


Maybe. :)

Happy 50th, Moog Modular. You make me happy. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Moog 902 Voltage Controlled Amplifier brochure, 1976

Moog 902 Voltage Controlled Amplifier four-page brochure from 1976.

Voltage Controlled Oscillators aka V. C. A.  aka Y. U. M. :)

If you are keeping track - this is the forth brochure in the series I've posted. You can view the other posts by clicking on their images below.

Like all the brochures in this series, the front cover includes a nice close-up shot of the module itself.  The 902 VCA brochure resembles the VCO brochures in that it includes four pages of deliciousness. Flip open that gorgeous cover and you are greeted with the brochure copy on the left and some official looking diagrams on the right. And ultimately, specs on the back page.

One thing I haven't been freaking out about lately is that Moog logo. I love logos. Especially the old-skool logos like Moog, ARP, Sequential and the like. In all of these brochures, that lovely Moog logo is right there at the top.  And the best part is, that Moog logo design is the one still used today. Nice.

But, did you notice that the location of the Moog logo on these brochures isn't constant. It's always on the opposite side that the module photo is on. Module on the left - logo on the right. Module on the right - logo on the left. Interestingly, the one brochure where the logo is on the right is also the only brochure I've posted so far that was printed in 1974 - not 1976 like the rest of them. Not sure where I'm going with that - just an observation. As I post more, we'll see if the pattern sticks.

I've never paid too much attention to VCAs until I really got into modulars. On most "regular" (read: non-modular) synths they usually just kinda sat there, almost invisible, next to an envelope generator or whatnot. They really do get the short end of the stick on most synths.

Comparatively, VCOs have wave form selection buttons, octave knobs and various other doo-dads. VCFs have, at their most basic, cut-off and resonance controls. More advanced VCFs even let you choose the type of filter -low pass, high pass, bandpass...  lucky ducks.

But VCAs... Maybe a volume knob. Waaaah.... waaaaaah.... On an Korg MS20 it's just an image of a triangle. No, really. The Yamaha CS15 has one control to adjust initial volume (besides the modulation controls for LFO and EG).

I guess my point is that its not surprising how little we pay attention to them.

I was lucky that my Moog Modular came with three VCAs, each sitting next to an envelope generator. So, it dawned on me early on how important their role was. More importantly, it dawned on me *before* I started creating my Eurorack modular. It's quite common out there to get a Eurorack system started without figuring VCAs into the equation. 

Aside: speaking of Eurorack, one of my favorite VCA-type modules at the moment is local (to me!) Eurorack module designer's Galilean Moons. And yes, I've paired it with his Jupiter Storm module too. Together they are almost too much fun in a box to be legal. He includes some great sound examples on those pages. Check 'em out.

But back to the point. VCAs *are* important, especially as your system grows and you start creating more complex patches. Don't believe me... Just read through this "Do I really need a VCA" thread on Muff Wiggler.

Some great quotes:
  • Filch: "The general motto around here is : "You can never have enough VCA's""
  • fredguy "I started out not using vca's much and then came to understand what they brought to the party."
  • robkramble: "I totally derped and overlooked the use of a VCA as a CV router... "
  • Matos: "No, you don't need a VCA. You need many VCAs!  "
  • boramx: "i personally think you should have about 2 VCAs per 3u of modules."
And, I'll end this post with one other quote from forum member monobass:

"vcas are the next level shit y'all"