You are here

Second-Hand Equipment, Part 2

PART 2: If you're on a budget, there's nothing to beat buying second‑hand. DEREK JOHNSON and DEBBIE POYSER trawl the Reader Ads to highlight more of yesterday's forgotten gear that's worth a closer look.

If you caught the first part of this short series in last month's SOS, you'll know that we picked out a few favourites from the mountain of second‑hand MIDI gear that's available, inclining rather towards those instruments which we've noticed at very low prices for the facilities they offer. The aim of this exercise is simply to point out that if you're prepared to use gear that's not currently fashionable, you can assemble a killer setup for not too much money. This month, the list continues...


  • AKAI AX73/VX90

Although these instruments serve to highlight Akai's rather undistinguished history in synthesis, they are especially interesting when considered in tandem with Akai's real strength — sampling. If you possess an S612, X7000, S700 or S900 sampler, you can take advantage of the synthesis sections of both the AX73 digitally‑controlled analogue keyboard synth and its rackmounting brother, the VX90, to further mould and process your samples — an option which could be fun if you're looking to extend the potential of an older sampler. If you haven't got an S900 full of samples to process, Akai's short‑lived entry into the synthesis market is a little less attractive, although the AX73's rather generous 73‑note, velocity‑sensitive keyboard makes it a good bet as a master keyboard with a basic synth thrown in.

Sonically, the AX73 and VX90 are useful, if not tremendously exciting (though quirkily enough, genuine voltage‑controlled oscillators are used, rather than the more modern digitally‑controlled equivalents) — and the on‑board stereo chorus helps to make the most of what's there. Note that although neither instrument is multitimbral, it's very easy to set upper and lower keyboard splits.

Akai AX73/VX90

Polyphony: 6‑note.Multitimbrality: None (keyboard split available).Sequencer: None.Patch Locations: 100.External Storage: Tape.Keyboard: 73‑note (AX73).Synthesis Method: Analogue subtractive.Target Price: AX73 £250‑300; VX90 £100.SOS Review: VX90 June 1987.

Ensoniq can certainly never be accused of standing still when it comes to releasing new synths. Since the launch of their first, the ESQ1 (mentioned in Part 1 of this feature, in last month's issue), this American company has released new machines regularly without succumbing to the temptation of spinning off countless cheaper (and possibly inferior) machines from each new generation of technology.

Between the ESQ1 and the VFX came just one synth, the SQ80, which, while a good buy in itself on the second‑hand market, is really just a worthwhile improvement on the ESQ1. The VFX, however, is a different kettle of waveforms. Utilising what Ensoniq termed Transwave Synthesis at the time, and hailed by reviewers of the day as the most serious competition Japanese manufacturers had had for a long time, the VFX is at heart a sample plus synthesis (S+S) machine, like the Korg M1 or Roland D50. Nevertheless, the VFX's Transwave Synthesis actually moves sample‑based technology into the realm of wavetable synthesis, with cross‑modulation possibilities producing results not a million miles from those possible on a PPG. In simple terms, this means that rich, constantly‑evolving sounds with great depth and variety can be produced with relative ease. Also ahead of their time were the VFX's 21‑note polyphony and comprehensive effects section. All this combines to make a synth which was pretty sensational on its release in 1989 at £1350, and is very worthy at current second‑hand prices of around £350.

One strange feature of the original, sequencer‑less VFX was a front panel moulding that seemed to serve no purpose, except to remind the potential user that there was no disk drive on board. All became clear some six months later with the release of the VFX SD workstation, featuring (surprise surprise) a disk drive, a fully‑functioning 24‑track sequencer of no mean power, and an extra set of audio outputs. Later, due to customer demand, the SDII emerged, with an added chunk of new piano waveforms.

The VFX did acquire something of a reputation for its tendency to crash unexpectedly, but it's now been around for so long that if you do find an instrument in good working order, the chances are that it'll stay that way.

Ensoniq VFX/VFX Sd/VFX Sdii

Polyphony: 21‑note.Multitimbrality: 12‑part.Sequencer: 24‑track, 26,000 notes, expandable to 75,000 (VFX SD and VFX SDII only).Patch Locations: 60 ROM, 60 RAM.External Storage: Cartridge, SysEx, Disk (VFX SD and VFX SDII).Keyboard: 61‑note, velocity‑ and poly pressure‑sensitive.Synthesis Method: Sample + Synthesis, plus Transwave Synthesis.Target Price: VFX £300‑350; VFX SD £400‑450; VFX SDII £450.SOS Reviews: VFX June/July 1989; VFX SD II September 1990.

A strange instrument, this — a British‑designed synth module that attempted to offer stabs at several different synthesis systems, in a low‑priced package — £299 on its release in 1990. One of the forward‑looking features of the EVS1 was the inclusion of free Atari ST editing software — and you needed it, too, since one of the backward‑looking features was the provision for only 20 user‑programmable sounds. Make sure this software is included in the package if you purchase an EVS1, since editing is not merely inconvenient, but simply not possible without it.

What are we to make of the EVS1? It didn't really take off (though it apparently sold reasonably well), was the company's first and last synth, and, fashion being what it is, now changes hands for around the £100 mark. But with 16‑note polyphony, 8‑part multitimbrality and sampled drum sounds, the EVS1 is sufficiently well‑specified to more than justify its currently low price tag.

At the heart of the EVS1 are 28 algorithms. The first 12 use stacks of four oscillators (sine waves) in familiar, four‑operator FM fashion, with four more algorithms offering a gentler, 'phase modulation' stack of operators, and four combining elements of FM and PM. The remaining algorithms aren't so straightforward, but again offer stacks of waveforms, with the novel difference that each 'oscillator' in an algorithm can be any sampled waveform from the 32 stored on the EVS1. Some of these algorithms come in FM‑like stacks, and other options add ring modulation, simple additive synthesis, and a crude stab at wavetable synthesis. Reviewers of the time commented on the 'analogue' feel of the EVS1, which rather belies its totally digital pedigree. So, still a good buy for the impoverished — though do check out the sounds first, to make sure you get on with them — and one to look out for if you're a die‑hard programmer looking for a new sound.

Evolution Synthesis EVS1

Polyphony: 16‑voice.Multitimbrality: 8‑part.Sequencer: None.Patch Locations: 80 ROM, 20 RAM.External Storage: SysEx.Keyboard: None.Synthesis Method: Digital, emulates various systems.Target Price: £100‑125.SOS Review: August 1990.
  • KORG 707/DS8

There aren't too many keyboard synths to be picked up on the second‑hand market for 175 quid, and Korg's 707 is one of the most worthwhile machines around at this price. With an appealing design, heavy on space‑age curves and buttons that look something like plastic teddy bear eyes, the 707 offers an early version of Korg's implementation of FM synthesis. Though the 707 was obviously intended to be a lightweight instrument (it even features guitar‑style strap buttons at either end for on‑stage use), as a synth it is far from unsophisticated.

Whereas FM gained a reputation for inscrutability on Yamaha's range of instruments, Korg aimed to provide a more user‑friendly, approachable editing interface with the 707 (and the slightly older DS8, of which the 707 is a cut‑down version). General opinion is that Korg succeeded, and the use of familiar analogue‑style terminology has fooled the unwary into thinking the 707 was a two‑oscillator analogue synth.

Both the 707 and DS8 feature three real‑time 'quick edit' performance sliders (in addition to pitch bend and mod wheels), although only on the 707 are edits made in this way storable as a new patch.

Though the DS8 was more expensive (and therefore presumably more desirable) than the 707, we still think the 707 is a much better bet — for one or two operational improvements, the nicer cosmetic styling, and perhaps most importantly, the price! If you're really lucky, you might even pick up a 707 in one of its alternative colours — blue, white and red 707s were available in addition to the more sober charcoal grey.

Korg 707/DS8

Polyphony: 8‑voice.Multitimbrality: 8‑part.Sequencer: None.Patch Locations: 100.External Storage: RAM card.Keyboard: 707 48‑note velocity‑ and aftertouch‑sensitive; DS8 61‑note velocity‑ and aftertouch‑sensitive.Synthesis Method: Four‑operator FM.Target Price: 707 £175; DS8 £250‑350.SOS Reviews: 707 March 1988; DS8 March 1987.



Akai's XE8 drum sound module was released, at £499, to reasonable reviews in the latter part of 1988, but after just 12 months, it had gone the way of much hi‑tech gear, and was appearing in the discontinued sections of various synth emporiums at around £200, complete with two sound ROMs. This lack of popularity could be put down to such factors as the paltry 16 on‑board sampled sounds and the pair of rather unhelpful two‑character LED displays. However, the 16‑bit sounds are customisable to a satisfying degree — drum sounds can be tuned, reversed, and have tuning 'sweeps' (a kind of pitch envelope) imposed upon them. This starts to make the current street price of around £120 or so look rather more attractive, as does the fact that an additional 16 sounds can be accessed from a ROM card at a time. The sounds of the XE8 were described by reviewers of the time as most suitable for electronic dance — so it could be well worth considering if you work in that field. Eight individual audio outputs gave additional flexibility, and Akai supplied the XE8 with two ROM cards — make sure these cards are present if you decide to pick up an XE8.

Akai XE8 Drum Expander

Pads: None.Outputs: 8.Sounds: 16. 3 snares; 4 kick drums; 3 hi‑hats; 2 toms; ride & crash cymbals; handclaps; percussion (plus 16 on card).Patterns: None.Target Price: £100‑125.SOS Review: December 1988.

While Korg are arguably one of the most respected synth manufacturers in the world, their drum machines have never achieved the same kind of status as their keyboards. One of the most notable Korg drum machines to have slipped through the net is undoubtedly the S3 Rhythm Workstation. Announced way back in 1989, but not reaching the market until around the same time as the launch of the T‑series keyboards in 1991, this machine was an adventurous beast which might be better described as an S+S‑based drum synth with on‑board sequencing, effects and synchronisation — hence the 'workstation' tag. Like Yamaha's RX5 (mentioned last month), the S3 feels like a flagship machine, and was priced accordingly at a princely £899. Now, barely four years later, it can be spotted in SOS Reader Ads for very much less — a recent price we found was a jaw‑dropping £165, though a more realistic price would probably be £200‑250. Don't assume the S3 was a turkey; it simply suffered from a distinct lack of promotion, and was overshadowed by Korg's more high‑profile keyboard instruments.

An almost bewilderingly long list of features necessitated a two‑part review of the S3 in at least one of the music magazines of the time, but since we can't go that deep, how's this for starters: 75 16‑bit PCM waveforms, a sequencer section sophisticated enough in its approach to allow you to use it as a hardware sequencer with external instruments, the ability to read and generate SMPTE time code, a well‑specified 16‑bit digital effects processor, and a total of six audio outs. We said earlier that the S3 might be better described as a drum synth — this is because, like the M1, D50, and any number of S+S synths, it allows you to, for example, create new drum sounds with a combination of an attack portion from one sound and the decay portion of another. Accordingly, many of the 75 samples are of either attacks or decays, and this allows for considerable creative potential — in fact, there are 80 preset and 80 user timbres, which are roughly the equivalent of patches on a synth. Two waveforms can be assigned to each pad, and velocity switched or crossfaded. Waveforms can also be tuned over an unusually wide range (plus or minus two octaves in semitone steps). Finally, a comprehensive (eight‑stage) amplitude envelope can be applied to each sound. In all, the S3 is sophisticated and relatively recent technology going for a knock‑down price — if you can find one.

Korg S3 Rhythm Workstation

Pads: 8.Outputs: Stereo, plus four individual outs.Sounds: 75 waveforms. 7 bass drum heads; 5 bass drum shells; 8 snare heads; 7 snare shells; 2 closed hi‑hats; 2 open hi‑hats; pedal hi‑hat; 5 tom heads; 2 tom shells; crash; 2 rides; side stick; stick; 2 conga heads; 2 conga shells; conga palm; conga slap; conga mute; 3 timbale heads; 3 timbale shells; timbale side; hand clap; cow bell; tabourine; agogo; 2 bongos; maraca; 2 cabasas; shaker; pot cover; synth bass; 5 waves.Patterns: 100 patterns, 30 songs.Target Price: £200‑250.
  • ROLAND R8/R8M/R5

When it comes to drum machines, Roland need no introduction. Few musicians can be unaware that the company's 909 and 808 models currently sit atop the list of most sought‑after drum machines, despite the fact that it's more than 10 years since both rolled off the production lines. While 909s easily command second‑hand prices of £750 upwards, one of Roland's more recent (and undoubtedly more powerful) machines, the R8, can be picked up readily for around £250, little more than a third of its original asking price on its release in 1989. Bear in mind, too, that Roland's PCM card set, which provided extra sounds for the R8 and R8M (the R8's rackmount brother) included a so‑called 'electronic' card featuring all the sounds of the 808. Try to make sure any machine you buy includes as many cards as possible, remembering that you'll only be able to use one at a time on the R8, as it has only one slot, compared to the three available on the R8M.

The R8 Human Rhythm Composer, as Roland termed it, impressed on its release with the pleasing quality of its wide selection (68) of 16‑bit PCM sounds. These can be altered quite drastically by way of the comprehensive editing facilities; for starters, each sound can be tuned over an eight‑octave range, in tiny steps of four cents each. You can also take advantage of Roland's 'Nuance' parameter, which provides a degree of control over where a given instrument appears to be hit — tweaking 'Nuance' would allow you, for example, to have your snare sound as though it's being hit dead centre, much closer to the rim, or somewhere in between. Not quite Korg Wavedrum, but we're getting there...

Roland's 'Human' designation is explained by the array of options for 'humanising' your drum patterns, including 'feel patterns', which could be regarded as groove templates not unlike those found on software sequencers — although more basic. Whilst these are relatively complex to implement on the R8, you can nevertheless impose numerous different feels on your drum patterns, governed by permutations of velocity, pitch, nuance and decay — and if you don't quite understand how these feel patterns work, you could just punch buttons until it sounds good! Another interesting feature is Micro Shift, which enables you to move individual notes around to 1/384th note resolution — and the built‑in FSK‑type tape sync facility is a potential money‑saver if you're on a budget.

In line with its relatively high original price, the R8 has professional trappings such as eight individual audio outputs — highlighting again the advantages of buying yesterday's 'flagship' instruments rather than today's budget designs.

Needless to say, the R8's pattern programming abilities don't apply to the R8M, which is a rackmounting drum sound module intended for use with a sequencer. This tends to retain a slightly higher second‑hand price than the R8, partly, no doubt, because of those three card slots, and the convenience of the package in a modern studio. In most other respects, the 'M' is identical to the R8, but it does have six, rather than eight, individual audio outs, and also adds eight extra Feel patches, bringing the total to 16.

If you're on an still smaller budget, the R8's smaller brother, the R5, offers virtually the same facilities, with just a few relatively minor differences (only four audio outs, no RAM or ROM card slots, a smaller display, reduced Song memory, and pattern timing resolution limited to 1/96th note — which is perfectly OK for most people's purposes anyway). The lack of expandability via PCM ROM cards, perhaps the R5's biggest disappointment, is mitigated to some extent by price — this useful machine is regularly seen for around £150.

Roland R8/R8M/R5

Pads: R8 16; R8M none; R5 16.Outputs: R8 eight plus stereo outs; R8M six plus stereo outs; R5 four plus stereo outs.Sounds: R8 68 — too many to list individually, but they include nine Kick Drums, 14 Snares, a variety of Cymbals, 13 Toms, an 808 Clap, assorted Latin Percussion, Sound Effects and Reverse sounds. R8M 68 (ditto); R5 68 — a different set from the one on the R8/R8M, but covering broadly the same ground, with the addition of some bass sounds.Patterns: R8 and R5, 100 programmable, 32 preset.Target Price: R8 £220‑280; R8M £250‑300; R5 £150.SOS Reviews: R8 February 1989; R8M April 1990.



The Cheetah SX16 is a low‑cost sampler that can be found in the Reader Ads of almost every issue of Sound On Sound. Despite meeting with equivocal reviews on its release in 1990, the original retail price of £800 (pretty much a breakthrough at the time) was enough to secure this rackmount module relatively buoyant sales. There are still quite a few knocking around, hence the current second‑hand price, which can be as low as £300. So, what do you get for your money?

It's a bit of a mixed bag really. On the plus side, the SX16 offers 16‑bit stereo sampling, a wide range of sample rates, and the ability to read Akai sample disks up to and including those for the S1000 (a real bonus given the size and quality of the sample libraries available for Akai samplers). Last but not least, it's cheap!

The minuses include the difficult operating system, the inadequate display, the restrictive 512K of sample RAM on the basic machine, and the sound quality, which isn't really up to 16‑bit standard. Furthermore, in a strange internal work‑around, Cheetah made available four polyphony modes, the best‑sounding of which were the so‑called 'filtered' modes, but these resulted in a mere four‑note, or even two‑note, polyphony.

Some of these negative points were addressable by spending more money. Cheetah produced a video modulation board (for connecting a video monitor, as with the Roland S‑series), and the RAM could be expanded to a more respectable 2Mb. Expanded machines are fairly easy to come by second‑hand, but expect to pay towards the upper limit of our price guide.

The SX16 was undoubtedly a budget sampler, and this shows in certain design compromises and the less‑than‑hi‑fi sound quality. Nevertheless, if you're just getting into hi‑tech music, or are happy with the reduced sound quality of the lower sample rates (which will give you a decent amount of sample time), the price of this unit, and its ability to read Akai disks combine to make it well worth considering.

The SX16 manual was not entirely clear on all points, but a third‑party SX16 user guide is available. Nigel Brown's Cheetah Cheater is a nicely‑designed home brew booklet that clearly explains all operational aspects of the SX16, as well as revealing a number of hidden functions. It stands to reason that if you pick up an SX16 second‑hand without the manual, Nigel's book is an essential purchase. Cheetah Cheater is available from Nigel direct — phone 01992 588334, or email

Cheetah SX16

Sample Time: 2.7 seconds stereo (5.4 seconds mono) at 48kHz (43.2 seconds mono at 6kHz).Sample Rates: 6kHz, 8kHz, 12kHz, 16kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 48kHz.Polyphony: 8‑voice maximum.Multitimbrality: Up to 8‑part.Keyboard: None.Outputs: 8.Target Price: £300‑400.

There weren't too many samplers around in 1986, and retail prices of £2000‑plus for what we would now consider only modestly‑specified machines were commonplace. It was against this background that Korg launched their only dedicated sampler, the Steve Winwood‑endorsed DSS1, at an original price of £2259. It was termed by Korg a 'Digital Sampling Synthesizer' and in effect, it comprised a relatively sophisticated sampling section welded to what was essentially the synth section from Korg's own DW8000 keyboard (the DW's waveform generators were replaced by samples). With the DSS1, you can create hyper‑customised samples in a way only really achievable these days on a synth like the Yamaha SY85, which has on‑board sample RAM and allows you to treat samples through its synth section.

The DSS1 lets you both make samples and synthesize with them — and nor is sampling the only way to create waveforms for the DSS1. You can actually draw your own 512‑segment digital waveforms (rather laboriously, it must be admitted) using a data entry slider and the display. There's even a true additive synthesis function using 128 harmonics — surely one of the few affordable ways of performing additive synthesis these days, barring purchasing a Kawai K5. Including as it does two flexible and comprehensive onboard digital delays, the DSS1 really is a sampling/synthesis system of rare power and potential, and with recent prices as low as £350, it could be an interesting addition to your sonic arsenal. However, be warned that there is a price to pay. Failings include the limited basic sample memory (256K, which yields a reasonable 5.5 seconds of sample time at 48kHz, going up to 16 seconds at 16kHz), a long‑winded operating system, very slow disk drive, and, sadly, a lack of multitimbrality. Korg did release two memory upgrades — a 2X expansion, and an 8X expansion which also added a SCSI port and speeded up the disk drive. Needless to say, if your appetite is whetted by this assessment of the DSS1, try to find a machine with upgraded memory.

A little over a year after the release of the DSS1, a rackmounting brother, the DSM1, followed. This unit offered quadruple the memory and double the polyphony of the DSS1, as well as adding four‑part multitimbrality and 16 individual audio outputs — a strange move, considering the four‑part multitimbrality! The DSM1 also lost the neat digital delays of its keyboard counterpart. If you can find a DSM1 these days (they come up rather infrequently, to say the least) you probably won't find one at anything like as low a price as the DSS1, probably due to the above enhancements.

The DSS1 was acclaimed by contemporary reviewers as a powerful sound designer's tool. These days, it's rather a curiosity, but an appealing one — after all, where else can you get sampling and synthesis in the same box for this kind of money? If you are smitten with the idea of the DSS1, try not to pay much more than our price guide — it is an instrument with great potential, but it also demands lots of operator input.

Korg DSS1/DSM1

Sample Time: 5.5 seconds at 48kHz, going up to 16 seconds at 16kHz.Sample Rates: 16kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 48kHz.Polyphony: 8‑note (16‑note for DSM1).Multitimbrality: None (4‑part for DSM1).Keyboard: 61‑note velocity‑ and aftertouch‑sensitive.Outputs: Stereo.Target Price: £350.SOS Review: DSS1 April 1987.


  • KAWAI Q80

Kawai's late '80s flurry of hi‑tech equipment included such gems as the K1 synth and the R50 drum machine (see Part 1 of this feature in last month's SOS) — and a hardware sequencer, the Q80. Though nothing really novel stands out about this unit, it's comprehensively and solidly specified, and offers the convenience of a 3.5‑inch floppy disk drive. In addition to sequencing duties, the Q80 is also well suited to the odd bit of MIDI SysEx storage, as it has 64K of internal memory set aside specifically for SysEx data (separated into ten files). All the functions you'd expect of a hardware sequencer are present, and the provision of two MIDI Outs gives you access to 32 fully independent MIDI channels. One of the programming features, 'Motif', is very neat. Up to 100 drum machine‑like patterns can be inserted anywhere you like in a song — and any section of a song can itself be turned into a Motif. The use of Motifs makes the construction of finished tracks a fast and intuitive process.

At a second‑hand price of around £150 or less, the Q80 is a neat, smart‑looking sequencer with enough features to satisfy even the more demanding musician.

Kawai Q80

Tracks: 32.Note Capacity: 26,000 notes.Resolution: 96ppqn.Storage: Floppy disk.Target price: £150.SOS Review: February 1989.

Between the heyday of Roland's classic MC4 and MC8 analogue sequencers, and the introduction of the MC500 series of powerful MIDI sequencers came the eight‑track MSQ700. Released virtually at the dawn of MIDI — and contemporaneous with the similarly‑styled TR909 — the MSQ700 offers a hands‑on approach to sequencing seldom seen on MIDI sequencers since. Although MIDI data can be recorded in real time, the MSQ700's limited memory (a mere 6500 notes) means that step‑time recording will help to make the best of what's available.

Actually, it's the step‑time record that sets this sequencer apart; working with the MSQ700 has an MC202‑like feel to it (check out the MC202 Retrospective elsewhere in this issue) except that there are eight tracks. Look at the 700 as more of a fun tool than as the centre of your MIDI system, and you won't go far wrong — its novel approach to note entry could well help you to produce something a little different from your normal work.

As with the majority of Roland hardware sequencers, a tape sync facility is provided (though without Song Position Pointers), and since MIDI had only recently been introduced, Sync 24 and DCB connections are provided to maintain backwards compatibility with non‑MIDI equipment. Not bad going for a device with a typical second‑hand price of around £100. The 700's little brother, the MSQ100, is, sadly, not in the same league — unless you're desperate, there's not much call for a one‑track MIDI sequencer these days...

Roland MSQ700

Tracks: 8.Note Capacity: 6,500 notes.Resolution: 1/32nd note.Storage: Cassette.Target price: £100.

Cheap Effects

What would you say if we told you that you could build up an impressive multi‑effects/processing rack consisting of a digital delay, digital reverb, compressor/ gate, noise reduction, enhancer and parametric EQ for just £300? You could, with Akai's EX‑series of half‑rack 'personal recording tools' — and the same story can be repeated with similar processors from other manufacturers. When looking for second‑hand effects, many people don't consider (or haven't heard of) the various ranges of miniaturised effects and processors released during the mid‑to‑late '80s. As well as being unbelievably cute, these processors are also pretty well‑specified, and fit in nicely with the recent trend of manufacturers beginning once again to build individual effects, rather than multi‑effects units.

The unrivalled flexibility offered by a rack full of stand‑alone devices should not be underestimated. Effects can be patched in any order you choose, without restriction. If you've always wanted to put reverb through overdrive or distortion, Boss's Micro Studio Series will let you. Modern multi‑effects units, on the other hand, frequently offer a preset chain of effects, and in some cases, the editable parameters or sound quality are restricted the more effects you choose to use. The only requirements for using a full set of mini processors are a patchbay to aid rapid and convenient patching, and decent‑quality patch leads to avoid unnecessary signal degradation. The £300 price example above is no invention — the full set of EX processors, including power supply, was spotted in a recent SOS Reader Ad. Prices for similar units from other manufacturers rarely exceed £40 or £50 per unit, although digital reverbs and samplers do tend to be somewhat higher. The only problem is likely to be assembling a full set; you might find you have to pick up one or two at a time from different people until a given collection is complete. Below are the full ranges from some of the names to look out for:


  • Dual Sweep E
  • Compressor
  • Noise Gate
  • Stereo Spring Reverb
  • Micro Power Amp
  • Dual Mic Amp
  • RIAA Amp
  • Power Supply


  • EX65D Digital Delay
  • EX90R Digital Reverb
  • EX70C Compressor/Gate
  • EX75N Noise Reduction
  • EX80E Enhancer
  • EX85P Parametric EQ


  • RSD10 Digital Sampler/Delay
  • RPQ10 Preamp/Parametric EQ
  • RGE10 Graphic EQ
  • RDD10/20 Digital Delay
  • RPH10 Phaser
  • RBF10 Flanger
  • RCL10 Compressor/Limiter
  • RCE10 Digital Chorus Ensemble
  • RRV10 Digital Reverb
  • RPS10 Pitch Shift Delay
  • ROD10 Overdrive/Distortion
  • RPW7 Power Supply


  • A100 Power Amp
  • MV100 Mic/Line Mixer
  • R100 Digital Reverb
  • DR100 Reverb
  • Q100 Stereo Graphic EQ
  • GSP100 Guitar Processor
  • BSP100 Bass Processor
  • DP100 Stereo Limiter/Noise Gate
  • PW100 Power Supply

Yamaha also sold a pair of S100 monitor speakers to go with this system.

Similar ranges were also made by other manufacturers, including Alesis and fellow American company Valley People.

Fantasy Gear League


  • Korg 707 — £175
  • Roland R5 — £150
  • Roland MSQ700 — £100

This really is a cheap setup! If you don't think you'd like the idiosyncratic MSQ700, substitute the Kawai Q80 for an extra fifty quid (or check out last month's suggestions for more affordable sequencers).


  • Ensoniq VFX — £300
  • Evolution EVS1 — £125
  • Akai XE8 — £125
  • Kawai Q80 — £150


  • Roland VFX SD — £400
  • Akai VX90 — £100
  • Akai S900 — £450
  • Roland R5 — £150

We know we haven't mentioned the S900 so far (it's a bit too popular and too well‑known to need any help from us), but it's an ideal partner for the VX90, which can be used to process S900 samples further.


  • Akai AX73 — £250
  • Korg S3 — £250
  • Akai S900 — £450
  • Korg DSM1 — £350
  • Kawai Q80 — £150

This is a bit of an oddball setup, best suited to an adventurous, sound‑designer type. In addition to the intriguing DSM1, there's that S900/AX73 combination for more sample processing fun and games, plus rhythmic bliss from the Korg S3.