The MemoryMoog (Plus): American Monster Polysynth

The development and release of the Moog MemoryMoog (and MemoryMoog Plus) was the last gasp of the Moog company in the 80s. Around 1980, the two younger American synth companies, Sequential Circuits and Oberheim, were thriving, putting out one new synth after another. By the time the Memorymoog came out, SCI and Oberheim had already released multiple true polysynths. The Japanese companies were cranking out one new polysynth after another. The two remaining from the old guard of major American synth companies, ARP and Moog, were acutely aware of the serious market pressure to put out polysynths of their own. Each had already barfed out a big, cumbersome, paraphonic psuedo-poly (the ARP Quadra and the Polymoog, respectively) but it was REALLY time for them to get their act together, hire some programmers and design a true polysynth with digital voice assignment and control.

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“Don’t be that guy”

Roland CSQ-600: in which the tech replaced the NiCad memory battery but installed the replacement battery in a ziploc bag ziptied to the mains wiring.

One interesting thing about restoring vintage synths is that almost every instrument that we work on has been worked on by another tech at least once before. And it seems that more often than not, those other techs were… not great. We see a lot of bad work, but my favorite examples also feature a very special element of absurdity. Here are some recent highlights:

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ARP 2600

ARP 2600 circuit board work
We forgot to take a picture of it when it was done, so here’s a picture of it when it was dirty!

The owner of this ARP 2600 got it in an insane trade in the late 80s… in exchange for a Peavey keyboard amp and a TR-505! A lot of it had never worked in the entire 30 years he had had it.

When we do restoration of an ARP that’s in bad shape, we’ve learned that there’s really only one good way to approach it. We basically strip it down to its bones and do everything we possibly can in one fell swoop before even trying to test different systems. It ends up being so much more efficient that it actually costs less than taking a more step-by-step approach.

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Rebuilding ARP PPCs

Using FSRs (force sensing resistors) to repair PPC "proportional pitch control" pads for an ARP Odyssey Mark III

Because I am now one of those people who thinks they are very busy, I am just going to share a “quick tip” today.

In one of several Odysseys that we rebuilt recently, the “Proportional Pitch Control” pads (otherwise known as PPC, those three spongy white pads that Mark III Odysseys have) were so bad that no amount of cleaning could revive them. I finally was forced to look for another solution, and tried using some FSRs (force sensing resistors) and the results were great.

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Formanta Polivoks

Formanta Polivoks (with its logo panel missing, unfortunately)

This was Bell Tone’s first Polivoks job, though not my first Russian synth repair as I have a UDS MARSH drum synth of my own. My goals were basically to “assimilate” this Soviet-era Russian for life in the modern United States and correct a few issues with the keyboard.

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What happened to the blog?

damnit

I’ve been surprised by how many people have seemed to enjoy reading the Bell Tone Synth Works blog and now feel bad that it has been neglected so much in recent months. So what happened to the blog? Basically, the blog is a victim of its own success. I started the blog when I started the business and didn’t have many clients, to sort of get our name out there, make our site more findable on Google and prove to prospective clients that I knew what I was doing, aware that as a somewhat young woman working in a field undeniably dominated by middle-aged and older men, my knowledge and skills might be met with skepticism, conscious or subconscious. I also wanted to store my notes on my repairs somewhere so that I could refer to them later, and figured I might as well put them where other people could find them too.

Memory Moog restored at Bell Tone Synth Works
MemoryMoog restored at Bell Tone Synth Works

Now, partly thanks to the blog and our YouTube channel but also to a great extent due to word of mouth and our growing reputation for doing good work (which is great), we have so much demand for our work that I often feel like I can’t spare the time it takes to write here.

We have been fixing more cool synths and other stuff than ever though! Here are some photos of a few of the things we’ve worked on lately:  Continue reading “What happened to the blog?”

Now Available – Precision Cut Slider Gaskets / Dust Protectors for Juno 106, SH-101, Juno 60, Jupiter 8 and more!

Roland Juno 106 slider gasket / dust protectors set
Roland Juno 106 slider gasket / dust protectors set

One thing we find in almost every 1980s Roland we work on is crumbly, dirty “dust shields” or “dust protectors” on the sliders (aka faders) of the panel board. These gaskets were cut from thin black EVA foam sheets and were meant to protect the sliders from dust. However, 35 years later, they have dried out and are falling apart, their fragments actually falling into the sliders and making their crackly and intermittent behavior much worse.

Bell Tone Synth Works now offers laser-cut replacement gasket sets for the Roland Juno 106, SH-101, Juno 60 and Juno 6, Jupiter 8, and CompuRhythm CR-78, which you can purchase online here in our Shop. These slider gaskets are made to exact specifications on a professional laser cutter out of 1.5mm stiffened and resin-bonded black acrylic felt which does not shed fibers like other forms of felt. Continue reading “Now Available – Precision Cut Slider Gaskets / Dust Protectors for Juno 106, SH-101, Juno 60, Jupiter 8 and more!”

Moog Sonic Six

Moog Sonic Six
Moog Sonic Six

The Moog Sonic Six came out the same year as the Minimoog Model D and was actually developed as the Sonic V by a company called Musonics which  purchased the financially struggling R. A. Moog Company in 1970. After the merger, the Moog team did some tweaks on the synth and released it as the Sonic VI or Sonic Six.  Continue reading “Moog Sonic Six”

Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 – Gligli Upgrade

Sequential Circuits Prophet 600
Sequential Circuits Prophet 600

This Prophet 600 was brought in for a Gligli P600FW upgrade, which is a CPU/firmware upgrade using a Teensy ++ microcontroller board. It offers improved resolution for all parameters (128 values instead of like, 15 or 7!), a new LFO just for vibrato, arpeggiator MIDI sync and more, which you can read about here. The firmware is generously offered for free by the developer and in order to install it, we procure a Teensy 2++ board, do some modification to the Teensy, flash the firmware onto via USB, and install it in the Prophet 600 in place of the original Z80 CPU. We can do this mod for only about $100 including parts. Continue reading “Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 – Gligli Upgrade”