Monday, September 15, 2014

Moog 921 Voltage Controlled Oscillator brochure, 1974


Moog 921 Voltage Controlled Oscillator four page brochure from 1974.

Last week I posted the brochure for the 921a/b VCO bank from the same series. This 921 VCO is like the Simon to the Garfunkel of the 921a/b bank. The Captain to the Tennille.

Actually, maybe I should be using synthpop references. The Annie Lennox to the Dave Stewart of Eurythmics. The Vince Clarke to the Alison Moyet of Yazoo. The Neil Tennant to the Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys. The Marc Almond to the Dave Ball of Soft Cell. The Rob Fisher to the Peter Byrne of Naked Eyes. The Neil Authur to the Stephen Luschombe of Blancmange.

Okay, think I milked that one. Point is, chances are you will find both 921s and 921a/b banks making beautiful music together in a Moog Modular.

I mentioned in my last post how researched seemed to indicate that the 921 series came to be in part because the Moog Modular was transitioning from an experimental machine found mostly in music "labs" to that of a musical instrument to be found in some of the top professional recording studios. In particular, the 901 series was replaced by the 921 series with their better temperature stability, tracking accuracy and extra functionality - requirements when trying to churn out the next top 40 hit.

But these modulars were highly technical machines. And they required some technical knowledge to get up and running (and keep going).  Thus, this brochure is NOT marketing Moog modules to the average musician. And I'm not even sure if its directed towards the average studio tech either, although I wasn't hanging around in studios back in 1974 so can't really comment to their technical knowledge. The highly technical content leads me to believe this series of brochures was still being targeted towards the music lab gurus - and probably only the ones with the whitest lab coats, biggest pocket protectors and (in reference to the men) the biggest beards.

Aside: before you knock me for my nerd-bashing, I will have you know that I wear a pocket protector every day at work, and usually a different every day. Geeez - how else do people protect their pockets these days?!?! So, if you have any vintage (or new!) pocket protectors, please contact me! I'm serious.

Back to the point... were was I... oh yeah... targeted audiences.

To make my point, let's compare this brochure to the marketing material of another one of Moog's legendary products - the Minimoog.

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2012/10/moog-minimoog-you-know-what-this-is.html
Minimoog

No text whatsoever. :)

Yeah, I know - silly comparison. By 1979, the Minimoog was such a standard tool in the studio that not only did it not need more than 10 words of marketing content, but Moog didn't even have to slap a logo in their ad. So, okay, a totally shitty comparison.

A better comparison might be Minimoog's 1972 brochure. Here's the inside scan that links to the blog post.

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2010/05/moog-minimoog-brochure-instrument-of.html

So, this Minimoog brochure was printed TWO YEARS before the 1974 921 VCO brochure.

Let's compare the first real line of content of the two brochures:

921 VCO
"The 921 Voltage Controlled Oscillator generates periodic waveforms within a total frequency range from .01 to 40,000 cycles per second."

Minimoog
"Brutal, caustic, volcanic - Evocative, flirting, caressing - crisp, powerful, biting - Entrancing, embracing, exhilarating!"

Yup. Definitely different audiences. :)

That 921 VCO brochure content is definitely targeted towards those pocket-protected white-lab-coat-wearing music technicians while the text in that Minimoog brochure was obviously meant for the  tight-shiny-gold-pants crowd.

To be fair, there was some cross over between these two groups. And I have to say, those men and women in the lab coats *and* tight gold pants were definitely the most awesome.

I'm not saying Moog didn't create modular marketing material for a musician audience, I'm just saying this series of brochures was definitely not. 


Monday, September 8, 2014

Moog 921A Oscillator Driver/921B Voltage Controlled Oscillator brochure, 1976


Moog 921A Oscillator Driver/921B Voltage Controlled Oscillator four page brochure from 1976.

I knew it had been a while since I last published a blog post, but I didn't realize it has been about a month! Honestly, I have a wack of ads and brochures scanned, but just haven't been able to find the time to find the words. Summer and its ups and downs have gotten in the way a little bit.

But fall is now here! And although its been a pretty rainy one to date, this morning I'm happy to report I'm blogging from my sunny back deck, coffee in hand.

Perfect blogging weather. :)

I've been wanting to start posting this series of Moog module brochures for a while and the 921a/b was an excellent one to start with because there is some great history behind it.

As you may know from previous posts, I'm a big fan of Moog. I'm also an owner of a Modular Moog (see right). Although my modular contains the 901a/b VCO bank - the predecessor to the 921a/b bank - it provides a great back-story to existence of both.

Let's back up a bit. As you can see in my modular's patch diagram (created by Bob Moog himself!), there is both a 901 Voltage Controlled Oscillator as well as the 901 a/b bank that contains one 901a driver that is wired up to control (drive) three 901b VCOs. What's the point of having the 901a/b bank if you could just have 901s?

For a long time I thought the only reasons the 901a/b bank existed was because it was a great way to cram more VCOs into a smaller space. The 901 takes up a lot of room, so getting three or four 901b VCOs with multiple waveforms into the same space really was one convenience of its design. But then I found an even more valuable reason for the a/b driver system a while back when doing some research on my modules.

A PDF article titled "The 901a/b story"  found on synth-werk.com (a company that is building Moog modules!) explains that as the Moog Modular transitioned from a piece of experimental equipment to more of a musical instrument to be found sitting in professional studios and on stage, the 901's thermal instability and older electronic components resulted in problems with tuning. This was fixed to some degree by driving multiple 901b modules from one 901a controller. But, they were still pretty unstable, so Moog eventually replaced the 901 series with the 921 series giving musicians a lot more temperature stability, tracking accuracy and extra functionality.

Great stuff. And so is synth-werks as far I can tell. Definitely going to look into filling that top space in my modular. :)

The brochure/spec sheet is almost as much of a work of art as the 921a/b modules themselves. First and foremost, we get a great close-up of both modules on the front page. Then when you open the brochure up you are greeted with a wealth of knowledge - in fact, pretty much everything you've ever wanted to know about the control panel features and musical applications of the 921a/b. There is even a full page of technical charts and graphs. I'm not even going to pretend I know half of what Moog is talking about there. I'll take their word for it. Finally on the back page we get all the information specs.

I'm a fan of this whole series of module brochures, and you can expect to see more of them soon. But right now its just too nice out. Time to make the most of this gorgeous Sunday. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Roland Space Echos "What price clear music" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1978


Roland Space Echos RE-101/RE-201 and Chorus Echo RE-301 "What  price clear music" full page colour advertisement from page 47 in the May 1978 issue of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine.

Man, is it just me, or does that black/olive green combo with pops of red look great. Wow, I love that. 

Anyways, in my recent blog post on Roland's 1984 advertisement for their SDE-series of digital delay rack effects, one of the major talking points about the design of the ad was that of readability. More specifically, Roland's design decision to consciously or unconciously put form before function and make the ad-copy fit within the design of the ad, even thought this would affect readability. In other words, the ad-copy became one big block of text.  I also pointed out that Roland had done this with other ads as well, such as the one for their 1986 Alpha-Juno ad.

And, to be clear, I liked both of those ads.  :)


"Get to the point, Retro!"

Well, my point is that Roland was doing this waaaay before those two ads were created - and you can see it in this 1978 Roland Space Echo advertisement as well. Even more interesting is the size of the logo in the various ads. In those later ads, the logo is almost as small as the ad text. Still, it's interesting that if I asked you to look for the logo, your eyes would only take a few seconds to find it. Placement is everything.

Although Roland really pushed the 101, 201 and 301 in ads and magazines (they were always the photos), the ad actually mentions that there were six models available. Six? What the....?!?!? Let's see...

According to the RE-201 Wikipedia page, The RE-100 was the earliest in the series appearing around 1973 along with the RE-200, the main difference being that the 200 also included a spring reverb. Both were later replaced by the 101 and 201, and according to Sound on Sound's excellent November 2004 article on the history of Roland, these launched in 1974.

That SOS article also dates the RE-301 as launching in 1977 and Part 2 of the article that ran a month later dates the RE-150 as coming out in 1979.

The Wikipedia page also references a later RE-501/SRE-555 rack, and SOS dates it's launch in 1980.

So, in summary:

RE-100: 1973
RE-200: 1973
RE-101: 1974
RE-201: 1974
RE-301: 1977
RE-150: 1979
RE-501: 1980

But wait... this ad came out in May 1978. And it mentions six models. But by 1978 only five models were released. Hmmm... So, either Roland jumped the gun on promoting the unreleased RE-150, Sound on Sound has some dates wrong, or... maybe I researched/typed something wrong. But, I can't find out where I may have gone wrong.

Another possibility is that Roland is including the DC-50 digital chorus that came out in 1976. It had a similar look to the RE-series - big knobs, black/green colour, etc... Later DC-models like the DC-10 (1977) and DC20/30 (1978) were much smaller units with little design similarities with the RE-series.

Huh.

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2012/10/roland-echo-chambers-re-101re-201.htmlOne last thing... because I think its neat...

A really great comparison between the RE-101 and RE-201 can be found in a 1975 "Deepen the depth of your music" Roland Space Echo brochure I posted back in late 2012. One of the neat-o things about this early Space Echo brochure is that nowhere in the actual text of the brochure are either unit actually referred to as "Space Echos". Yeah, the name is on the actual pieces of equipment, but it's like Roland hadn't realized what an awesome name "Space Echo" was back in 1975.

As you can see by this ad though, buy 1978 Roland had figured it out. And the "Space Echo" name had become a more general term, even for the "Chorus Echo".

"Space Echo". Good name for a band.  :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Roland SDE 3000 and 1000 "Instant Delay" ad, Keyboard 1984


Roland SDE-3000 and SDE-1000 digital delay "Instant Delay" full page colour advertisement from page 7 in the May 1984 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Okay - I realize effects, and especially vintage effects, and ESPECIALLY vintage digital effects are NOT my core competence. I've got a rack of them like most vintage synth addicts I know (they're cheap!), but I don't know them as deeply as, say, my Pro-One or Minimoog.  I keep telling myself that when it comes to the blog I should stick to what I know - vintage synth ads and brochures. But, just like with the performance review I'm prep'd for recently,  everyone should have "stretch" objectives. Those outside the comfort zone. So, consider effects like one of my blog's stretch objective.

There is no denying the influence effects such as delay, chorus, reverb and distortion have had on synthesizer players since they first started appearing on stage or in recordings. And today, some synth manufacturers like Dave Smith Instruments treat some of those effects as just another sound-block. Like a filter or LFO. I'm looking at you, Evolver!

But back in the day, effects hardware was hard to come by. Well, cheaply anyways. So, it makes sense that companies like Roland, Korg and others, would advertise directly to keyboard players in magazines like Keyboard when the price point of effects hit that magic sweet spot. 

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2014/07/korg-sdd-3000-programmable-digital.htmlEver since Korg announced the recreation of their SDD-3000 effects unit in to a pedal format, I've been hoping it would lead other manufacturers to realize the big love out there for vintage digital effects among those still using analog mixers like myself. And that's lead me to do a bit of research to see what other big guns were part of the delay world back in the 80s.

Korg wasn't the only synthesizer manufacturer to toy with digital effects advertising in Keyboard Magazine back then. A few others got into the act soon after, including Roland with this advertisement for their SDE-3000 and baby brother SDE-1000.

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.ca/2014/07/roland-alpha-juno-1-2-flash-boards-ad.htmlTurning attention to the ad itself, if you recall it was in the mid-80s that many companies like Roland were toying with computer art in their advertisements. I blogged about it while referring to Roland's 1986 Alpha-Juno ad just a few weeks ago that featured more solid abstract artwork. It's wire-frame origins can really be seen when jumping back in time two years to this SDE ad and its more Tron-influenced artwork with glowing wire frames, digital string art and lazers.

Yum. It makes me happy. Like Roland TB-303 level of happy.

Computer effects can only go so far towards the overall design. Ad-copy and layout goes a long way too - especially when readability is involved. Like when listing out the specs of a synthesizer or effects unit in an ad. But in both of these ads, Roland makes the ad-copy part of the design at the expense of readability. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - and the creative half of me prefers it, but it does make it tougher for the reader. Looking at that SDE ad, as cool as those lasers are, the one beam is cutting right through the middle of the text. The result is four hanging hyphens and no paragraph breaks. The Alpha-Juno ad uses a similar technique - one block of text, only this time using a smaller font and even curving it.

Readability suffers a bit, but for me it's all about the art! And I'm digging it.

No matter, if you take the time to read through the SDE ad, the marketing team has done a good job of making the case to purchase these Roland effects units over some of the more complicated effects units out there (like the Korg, maybe?). Their argument is that more features equals more time to set up effects.

If you don't have the patience to read it, that's okay. Readers of Keyboard were actually introduced to many of those features when these two SDEs showed up three months earlier in the February 1984 Spec Sheet section of Keyboard.
"Roland Programmable DDLs. The SDE-1000 and SDE-3000 are programmable digital delays. The SDE-3000 can produce delays out to 4.5 seconds. Delay times are set in 0.1 and 1.0 ms increments. The unit has eight memory positions, which are user-programmable, and can be accessed via a footswitch. LED readouts display all vital system functions. The SDE-1000 offers delay times of up to 1.25 second and four memory positions. Both units are equipped with four remote switch jacks for ease of operation onstage. These are : delay on/off, hold (for repeating delay endlessly with adjustable tempo). Playmate (to set delay times remotely during performance), and preset (for switching between memory channels). The SDE-1000 is also equippted with a modulation foot control jack for footpedal control of modulation rates. Both units are also rack-mountable. Prices are: SDE-3000, $1,095.00; SDE-1000, $499.00. Roland-Corp, 7200 Dominion Circle, Los Angeles, CA 90040."
I'm definitely going to be on the look out for an SDE-3000 now.  :)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Korg SDD-3000 "Programmable Digital Delay" ad, Keyboard 1982



Korg SDD-3000 "Programmable Digital Delay" full page colour advertisement from page 55 in the December 1982 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Aaaah - the sun is out and I'm bathing in its warmth. But for how long? I got a lot to say... better get busy. 

First and foremost, from a marketing point of view, what's really interesting about Korg's recent announcement of its new SDD-3000 Delay Pedal is that this ISN'T analog. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE analog and was first in line to get Korg's reintroduced MS-20. But if the online response to this piece of retro DIGITAL technology is any indication, analog isn't necessarily king. RETRO is. Analog. Digital. It doesn't matter. A success here will open the door for Korg and many other companies to seriously think about reintroducing a wider range of retro gear. And that's good for everybody.

Korg has really been on a string of hits lately. First with the MS20 filter in those cute little Monotrons back in 2010 and 2011, and then in the MS20mini and the kit. Those units pretty much sold themselves.

But with two of Korg's most interesting recent announcements (for me anyways), it shouldn't go unnoticed that they have been brought in some heavy hitters to partner with.

First was the totally unexpected and surprising ARP Odyssey announcement back in February where they brought in none other than ARP original Dave Friend. That is just so amazing on so many levels. And now with the SDD-3000 pedal, who's name is appearing next to it? U2 guitar tech Dallas Schoo. That's who.

Korg knows that if they are going to come out with an SDD remake, who better than to partner with than the band that single-handedly put that effects unit back on the map. I have no doubt they could have pulled it off with him, but it just wouldn't have been the same. AND, think about the negativity that could have resulted if they hadn't brought U2 guitar tech Dallas Schoo in and then he comments on how he *didn't* like it. Ouch.

 Smart move. Which brings me to my next point - another smart move by Korg.

Although the official introductory news release for Korg's NEW SDD-3000 Delay Pedal is dated July 10, 2014, Korg USA tweeted the introduction of this awesomeness just after 8 p.m. (my time :) on July 9, linking to their product page. Social media wins again. Most stogy corporations won't let anything leak until a news release goes out. And that sucks bum. In this day and age, there is no problem with giving it to the people before you give it to the media when the story is this hot.

Anyways, no matter how the news got out first, the result was a lot more happy guitarists in the world. Even the Emo ones I'm sure. AaaaaND even those of us who aren't guitarists (or barely keyboardists) who have also looked back on the SDD-3000 with such great fondness. Korg continued the SDD- tradition by later releasing the SDD-1000, SDD-1200 dual delay, SDD-2000 sampling digital delay and my personal favorite, the SDD-3300 triple digital delay. 

But as happens in the musical world, the first born is usually the favorite. And so it is with the SDD-3000 and the masses. The U2-angle obviously helped, but I think its also a favorite because it was a first for Korg and people have a soft spot for firsts.

It wasn't their first effects unit, but it was their first cool looking digital effects unit. As far as I know, before this effects unit was released,  their effects looked... well... like older effects boxes. The era of the 1-unit cool-and-sleek looking digital effects rack was still just in its infancy, and this was Korg throwing their hat into the Keyboard-Magazine-ring relatively early in the game.  

This doesn't mean it was the first 1-unit digital delay off the block, but it was probably one of the first that me and many others heard about because the only place we read about anything music-wise was in Keyboard. I'm guessing there is a good chance that other digital rack gear such as those by Lexicon were getting promoted in other magazines, but as a kid who pretty much exclusively read Keyboard, I didn't see it. As far as I was concerned, it only existed if it was in Keyboard.  :)

Let's put it in perspective a bit.

Before this Korg ad, effects advertisements and spec sheet write ups in Keyboard for the most part came in one of two forms. You had pedals being manufactured and advertised by the likes of MXR, Electro-Harmonix, Pearl and Boss, and you had big bulky effects boxes created by companies like Bode and Roland. These were what I was most interested in and the real standouts for me at the time were Roland's RE-501 delay, Yamaha's E1010 and E1005 analog delay rack units and Sequential Circuits PRO-FX system (drooooooool).

But in amongst all those ads and spec sheets, readers of Keyboard were about to get a hint of what was to come in the sleek-and-clean digital rack world.

First, in late 1981 the spec sheet section of Keyboard magazine included the new Fostex model 3050 digital delay that featured 270 milliseconds delay time for a tidy $450.00. Ohhhh.

Then in April 1982, DeltaLab published an ad in Keyboard for their Time Line DL-4 digital delay 1-unit rack and followed that up in August and October 1982 with an ad for their $499 Effectron digital delay 1-unit rack. Both slim, sleek and almost digital looking. Almost.

And then, with DeltaLabs holding the door open, Korg walked through with this SDD-3000 advertisement at the end of 1982. And although the ad didn't appear more than two or three times, it did make a statement. First, the ad was designed to be horizontal. You had to flip the magazine 90 degrees to read it. Second, the unit itself was really different looking from previous Korg effects units with its digital read-out and puuurdy yellow buttons. 

Although ADA and Ibanez would end up advertising here and there throughout 1983, it was DeltaLabs that really tried to make Keyboard's digital delay territory their own.  That company began a manufacturing and advertising blitz, first in the March 1983 issue with an ad for the whole family including the ADM-256 ($499.00), ADM-64 ($399.00) and ADM-1028 ($699.00). By August 1983 they had no less than three ads running in each issue. To compare, Korg and Yamaha both had a maximum of three ads running in a single issue at the height of their advertising blitzes. DeltaLabs was in good company.

Interestingly, it wasn't until nine months after the Kord SDD-3000 ad appeared that it was finally featured in the Spec Sheet section of the September 1983 issue of Keyboard.
"The SDD-3000 is a programmable digital delay. It was designed to produce a number of effects including chorusing, flanging, doubling, reverb, doppler effects, infinite repeats, and so on. All control settings can be stored in nine different program locations and easily recalled via push buttons or footswitches. Specs and features include: up to 1032 milliseconds of delay, 30Hz to 17kHz frequency response; stereo capability; footswitch connections for program up and down, delay bypass, and hold modes; a feedback loop with 4-position high and lowpass filters; phase inversion of feedback loop and final loop; input and output facilities on the front and rear panel; triangle, square, and random waveforms from the LFO; external and envelope control of the VCO; and 3-position input and output attenuators. Price is $1,495.00. Korg, 79 Frost St., Westbury, NY 11590."
$1,495.00. Wowza. The new pedal is $399.99.  Another reason to like retro digital re-boots!

Well, I think I've rattled on long enough. Time to go out and enjoy the...

damn... raining again.