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Vintage analog care

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Vintage analog care

Postby Chimera » Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:17 pm

Wishing you all well in your enforced isolation with your synth collection!
TBH it is like a normal day for me!!

Anyhoo, I recently picked up an MKS 80 Rev 5. It's my first piece of vintage synth equipment and I feel quite precious about it. I've racked it with a good gap top and bottom and it doesn't seem to give off much heat.

I was once told that office computers rarely break because they are hardly ever powered off. I don't know if this is true but it got me wondering if there were any do's and don'ts with old analog gear. I am still in the getting to know you phase but once you know a vintage synth do you tend to try to limit time powered up (once tuning stability kicks in) or is it better to turn it on and leave it on?
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby nathanscribe » Wed Mar 18, 2020 1:53 pm

Nah, just use it like any other, in terms of that. Expect a few quirks every so often. Expect to have to poke around inside for a while every now and then to fix odd behaviours. Sometimes these things develop intermittent issues that vanish as soon as you've removed them from the setup and got the lid off, and reappear a few weeks later. Etc. They're like people. They're a bit weird, a pain in the bum, and also kind of lovely. Enjoy!

I should also add that I give every major new-old bit of gear I get a once-over before I power it up for the first time: a quick look at the power supply and mains wiring, a quick look for any battery leakage, not a full service, but a safety glance really. I've seen some dodgy cables on things and you don't want any disasters. Sometimes things turn up rattling and it'll be a loose screw or piece of plastic.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 18, 2020 2:16 pm

...and expect to hit the 'Tune' button very, very frequently!

Great machines, though. I have both the Rev4 and Rev5, which, despite what people want to believe, are very, VERY similar. Great for basses and leads - not so useful for pads, IMHO.

If you don't have the hardware programmer you would do well to seek out one of the software interfaces out there for PC, Mac or iPad.

Retroaktiv are currently working on a new hardware programmer for the MKS-80, one of which has my name on it. It will do much more than the old MPG-80. I have their MKS-70 programmer and its extra features over the PG-800 has made my MKS-70 a much more useful tool.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby desmond » Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:25 pm

I've never had hands on with one, but I'm curious, given that I *love* the JP8 but dislike the JP6... and the MKS80 is somewhere in between...
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby Steve A » Wed Mar 18, 2020 4:29 pm

I was speaking with my synth tech a while back on this subject while I was going through the process of getting all my main vintage units serviced. Everything has worked fine for in most cases nearly 20 years (including SH2, Juno 60, MKS, Pro One, Matrix 1000) and nothing needed much work outside usual known factors (keybed on Pro-One, noisy chorus on the Juno) but I did note that a common factor is that I leave them powered up pretty much all the time. It is debatable but there is certainly a school of thought that says that keeping them constantly warmed up is a factor in their longevity but it IS a debate and your mileage may vary. But personally, I believe this has been a factor in the good fortune I have had so far with them.

I'm sure I remember watching a video once where Synthesiser Dave talked about this in relation to a Juno repair. Something about being careful of the stresses of passing current through an older device, and in particular when it has been dormant for an extended period.

On the subject of controllers for the MKS80, it might be worth looking at the dedicated unit that Stereoping makes (I've been close to hitting the button on the Matrix 1000 equivalent, it's the same unit with a different overlay and firmware and looks very impressive). I already have the MPG for my Super Jupiter but it does look as if the Stereoping unit has some neat improvements over and above what the MPG can do.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:08 pm

Powering up a device which has been dormant for an extended period is certainly a high-risk situation.

And it's also true that most failures happen during the power-up process when there could be surge currents and there will be thermal adjustments. Which is the reason some argue for leaving gear on.

On the other hand, that is expensive in electricity bills, not great for the planet, and could potentially result in heat-related failures. And many displays and things with backlights have a finite life expectancy anyway.

So it's difficult to present a 'best solution' for all situations.

Personally, I only power-up the gear I want to use now or soon, and I turn it all off when I've finished at the end of the day. It's been very rare that anything has failed -- and some of the gear here is over 20 years old -- but if it does it would probably have gone sooner or later whether I left it powered up or not... and at many of the things that have failed have popped long after the initial booting anyway...
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby MOF » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:34 pm

it might be worth looking at the dedicated unit that Stereoping makes (I've been close to hitting the button on the Matrix 1000 equivalent

It seems very expensive, I’d only buy it if I needed to operate the M1000 live.
I’ve got the M1000 but only use it when I’m going back to old songs.
I don’t know if Sound Diver still works on the latest Mac OS but it must be possible to control all the parameters through midi CC.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 18, 2020 6:09 pm

desmond wrote:I've never had hands on with one, but I'm curious, given that I *love* the JP8 but dislike the JP6... and the MKS80 is somewhere in between...
It definitely treads a middle line.

It has more raw grit than the JP-8, but lacks a bit of its swirly warmth. I'd liken it more to a Prophet-ish sound. The basses remind me of the Pro-One - the super-fast envelopes help with this.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby desmond » Wed Mar 18, 2020 6:19 pm

The Elf wrote:
desmond wrote:I've never had hands on with one, but I'm curious, given that I *love* the JP8 but dislike the JP6... and the MKS80 is somewhere in between...
It definitely treads a middle line.

It has more raw grit than the JP-8, but lacks a bit of its swirly warmth. I'd liken it more to a Prophet-ish sound. The basses remind me of the Pro-One - the super-fast envelopes help with this.

I think it's the refined smoothness of the JP8 that's a big part of it's attractive character to me, and why it differentiates from other polys of the era that could do the fat/raw/aggressive/hard/smeary thing (the OB polys, the P5, Memorymoog etc). But I get that people disappointed with the JP8 are probably looking for something else soundwise, or are underwhelmed by the revered status & price of the thing.

I also like the JX8P/JX10/MKS70 but that has a different character again (and again quite different to other analog or hybrid synths). The MKS80 was always a bit of a secret weapon in late 80s producer racks from what I could see.

I guess in terms of synth manufacturer families, historically I'm more Team Roland than anything else...
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 18, 2020 6:52 pm

I don't miss my JP-8. Nothing kills creativity quicker than turning to a synth to find it needs tuning *yet again* - several times a day. The System-8 is close enough for me and a breath of fresh air.

I *love* the JX-8P, JX-10 and MKS-70 synths (the JX-3P remains a bit of a weakling IMHO). They have all that swirly stuff going on in bucket-loads. In their original form they're useless at the punchy stuff, but the new V3/4 Fred Vecoven software for JX-10/MKS-70 *adds* (the original envelopes remain) a pair of astonishingly quick envelopes in addition to two extra LFOs and a MIDI system that works properly. There really is no downside to the upgrade.

I had a pair of MKS-70's but I've parted with one of them, and the other I've had fully spammed up with V4 software, PWM boards and 32-bank internal 'virtual RAM cards'. Plus I have the MPG-70 programmer that opens up all of the new features.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby N i g e l » Wed Mar 18, 2020 10:41 pm

My 1st thought for reliability would be to safeguard your digital data i.e. if your synth has a processor for control can you replace the program memory when it fails, or fails to remember ? 1 bit fail program memory = synth unuseable ?

I personally wouldnt leave a synth on 24/7, thats more of a hifi thing for sound quality.
Heat generally accelerates component failure and reduces lifespan.

If your worried about powerup inrush current you may want to wind the mains voltage up gradually. This can be done with a vari-ac (variable transformer with a knob).

Military electronics are designed for a service life of 25 years at extreme temperature, commercial is a lot less, 10 years ? mobile phones probably 5 years or less.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby Chimera » Wed Mar 18, 2020 11:31 pm

I wish there was an uptick function for these answers. Thank you to all.

My normal routine is on in the morning and then off mid afternoon when I do the cooking for the family :oops:

To me it sounds very special and I suppose I should stop worrying and just enjoy it.
I have the MPG80 but you are right that a software controller would be a good way of retaining data.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 18, 2020 11:49 pm

Chimera wrote:I have the MPG80 but you are right that a software controller would be a good way of retaining data.
I have the MPG-80 too, but a software controller scores in many ways, not least in displaying the current patch details. I created my own MIDI Designer Layout that receives Bulk Dumps and updates all the controls on screen - then you can save the result. It also responds to any changes made on the MPG-80. Happy to share if you find you need it.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby Chimera » Thu Mar 19, 2020 2:12 pm

The Elf wrote:
Chimera wrote:I have the MPG80 but you are right that a software controller would be a good way of retaining data.
I have the MPG-80 too, but a software controller scores in many ways, not least in displaying the current patch details. I created my own MIDI Designer Layout that receives Bulk Dumps and updates all the controls on screen - then you can save the result. It also responds to any changes made on the MPG-80. Happy to share if you find you need it.

That would be great thanks Elf.
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Re: Vintage analog care

Postby Zukan » Fri Mar 20, 2020 9:45 am

The Elf wrote:I don't miss my JP-8. Nothing kills creativity quicker than turning to a synth to find it needs tuning *yet again* - several times a day. .


Main reason why I sold my Memorymoog. It used to take, on average, 2 hours to tune itself and even then it was hit n' miss. Sure, we all like a little oscillator drift but the MM, hell, that thing drifted to Andromeda and back.
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