The section for musical instruments is getting too big, so I've moved all that stuff here. Primarily, it will concentrate on my quest for new instruments, and as I rebuild the rig, I will list changes and modifications. The top portion will deal with instruments I have purchased, and the bottom will deal with what I'm thinking of getting, and how that changes as instruments come my way, and my capricious and non-specific nature drifts.
When I moved to Savannah from NY in April of '99, I sold all my keyboards. My Emu Emulator III, Korg M1, Roland MKB-300, Roland D-550, Emu Vintage Keys, Digital Music MX-8, BiAmp Mixpak 6+, and speakers. I figured I'd give it up and grow up. Well, I'm here for about 8 months and really miss it. When you're a synth junkie, there's just no way you can live without music. Additionally, I spent so many years playing music that I think it's in my blood. Those little voices were talking to me and telling me to get something, and SOON! And so, in December of 1999 I got a Yamaha KX76 master controller:
Click the pic to read reviews of the KX76 on SonicState
and an Alesis QSR module, which has since been replaced by an Alesis QS7.
I can now make noise, and I think I'm satisfied. No way. Once this addiction gets hold of you, it's worse than heroin. So now...
Over on the Keyboard Corner forum at Expert Forums, there was a little contest going. It was "Who's the best at flaming?" I won. The Moderator, Dave Bryce, gave away some of his own personal stuff, and I opted for the Alesis NanoSynth. Cool little 1/3 space rack unit, and it has some great sounds, much like my QS7. But over time it simply became redundant, so I sold it.
The original "plan" was to have 2 KX76's and a KX88 running all modules via MIDI. My quest for a second KX76 did not go well after UPS trashed the second one I found, so I had to rethink my strategy. I found a great deal on an Alesis QS7, the76-key version of my QSR module, so I bought that, and sold the QSR. Here's a picture of the puppy:
Click the pic to go to the QuadraSynthPages QS7 page
It's the exact same thing as my QSR, except in a keyboard version. There has been an updated version of this keyboard, called the QS7.1, but all it has is a hotter output, a bigger display and 2 new buttons on it: 1 for transposing, which doesn't matter to me because if I have to change the key, I just play it that way; and 1 for selecting which sequence you want, which again doesn't matter to me because I don't use sequencers. My attitude has always been that if I can't play it, then I DON'T play it, and practice until I CAN play it. (Since I wrote the above paragraph, Alesis has been bought out, and they have replaced all the .1 synths with the .2, with the exception of the QS 7.1. That they did away with altogether, so I was happy to get this. I prefer 76 keys.)
The QS7 arrived today, and I was able to score a Digital Music Corp. MX-8 for fifty bucks, too. Today has been a good day!
One of the inherent problems of synthesizers is that the more you get, the more you need to get to work with them. In order to control all these modules and keyboards via MIDI, it became apparent that there was going to have to be some brain that runs everything. That meant I had to get a new Digital Music Corp.MX-8 MIDI Patchbay. It has 2 processors in it that will allow you to call up MIDI routings with their concommitant program changes. Here's what it looks like:
Click the pic to go to Digital Music's websitre
It allows any synth to control any synth, so setting up what drives what, what progams are playing on any synth, and what MIDI routings/mergings are necessary, will be easy. I've owned and used one in the past and have been very happy with it.
The MX-8 arrived today. It's in a little rougher shape that I thought (hoped?) it would be, but everything works, and that's what's important. Off to the music store tomorrow for 4 more MIDI cables. The Mackie Mixer is scheduled to arrive on Monday.
One thing I hadn't thought of was a stand for all this stuff. In the past, I have really liked Invisible Stands. They are very strong, very lightweight, and make the keyboards look good. I always hated those A-Frame stands. They just screamed "Music Store Display." So I get ready to be raped $150.00 on a new Invisible, and then come to find out that they've been discontinued. I'm trolling around the various music store sites, and find one on Sam Ash's site. Sam Ash was the very first music store I ever got a synth from - My Arp 2600 in 1972. They were closing out the final Invisible Stands they had for $24.95, so I jumped on it. Here's what they look like:
The Mackie LM-1602 mixer arrived today. Yeah BABY! I got it on eBay for $149.00. 16 channels, stereo, DAMN! Here's a picture:
Click the pic to go to Mackie's website
Built like a tank, rack-mountable, this is just the thing I need. Next will be to find powered speakers for it.
This gives me an unexpected head start in the amplification area.
The QSR sold and shipped today. Something I learned: Mailboxes Etc. are whores. There's no UPS convenient to me, so I thought I'd try MBE. I got the shipping price from UPS' website- $17.36. I took it to MBE expecting it to be a few dollars more, so they could get their share. They charged me $38.33 to ship the friggin' thing! It was too late in the day to get to UPS, so I had to pay that usurious price. It's the last money they get from me.
I was surfing around eBay and saw this little K1r module. I've always liked 'em. They're kinda like a Korg M1, but they have a grunge in the sound that makes them quite distinctive, and I really like that. It was only $76.00 for the high bid, so I figured "what the hell..."
Here's a pic:
Click the pic to read reviews of the K1r on SonicState
Well! It never rains, but it pours. Here I was thinking I would never be willing to spend what people want for a KX 88, and one shows up on eBay for a song. Of course I grabbed it, with the "Buy It Now" option. $399.00, and for once, it doesn't have to travel across the entire country. It's coming from Birmingham, Al., so I should have it in just a few days. Here it is:
Click the pic to read reviews of the KX 88 on SonicState
That pretty much completes the physical boards. Now there's just the "sizzle" to add to the system with modules.
The Yamaha KX88 AND the Kawai K1r both arrived last Tuesday. UPS did everything they could to trash the KX, but these things are built like tanks. It now has a new (but very small) dent across the front, but with some creative use of a ViceGrips, I was able to get most of it out. Thankfully, it doesn't affect the playability at all. This is a really neat board. The action is wonderful, though I have to say it's just a tad sloppy. My benchmark for piano actions is playing the intro to Billy Joel's "Prelude/Angry Young Man," with it's VERY fast repeating notes. This puppy can't quite handle that, but then, there's a lot of real pianos that cannot either. The K1r is exactly what I expected. It's just a cool little ROMpler, with a grungy sound that really appeals to me. That, and it has some of the finest string sounds of any synth ever released. And BOY, does it have a hot output. It is pulled back on my mixer more than any other synth!
A lot has happened in my rig, and because it's been so fast and furious, I haven't been able to update the page.
A Korg M1r fell my way at a ridiculously low price, so I grabbed it. Once in the rack, it immediately started doing the same journeyman work that my old M1 did. I was really enjoying having an old friend back. I was too lazy to go get the necessary cables for it, so I unhooked the Oberheim DPX-1 sample player I had and used its cables. As time went on, I realized that I didn't miss the DPX, and also realized it just wasn't blowing my skirt up anymore. I decided to sell it, stuck it on Harmony Central, and POOF! In 2 days it was sold.
Just after that, I received an e-mail newsletter from Sam Ash. They were advertising closeouts on the Korg N1r module for $299.99. The N1r is an M1r on steroids. It has 14 Megs more of samples than the M1r, is current technology, contains new programs, and even some old ones from the M1, and the O1/W. A quandry. What to do? The friggin' M1r isn't 2 weeks old in my rack, and here's the N1r whispering to me. What to do, what to do...
I ordered the N1r, and stuck the M1r up on eBay. It wasn't listed for 4 hours when someone grabbed it with the "Buy It Now option" for $250.00. So, today, FedEx is supposed to deliver the N1r, and I gotta hightail it to UPS and send out the M1r to its new home in Puerto Rico. That kind of sucks: I haven't been to P.R., but one of my synths is going there. But I digress...
Anyway, here's a picture of the N1r:
Additionally, I also
ordered the Vintage Synths card for the Alesis. It contains a whole boatload
of new samples and programs for the QS7. It is an amazing card. There are
a bunch of programs and samples from the legendary Yamaha GX1, and being
the ELP freak that I am, I have been really digging playing Pirates with sounds
that are so close to the original.
(Well, since Netcolony crapped the bed and left me with no access to my own files, I haven't been able to make any updates. There's been a LOT of changes to the rig. Stuff has gone, and stuff has come in, so I'll just have to post them to the best of my recollection.)
Probably the biggest news is that I finally got the Kurzweil. Not only did I get a K2000r, but I managed to scrore a brand-new (though "B" stock) K2000RVP. The Kurzweil K2000 has been around since 1991, and though upgraded continually, it remains virtually unchanged, and is still one of the most sought-after synths on the market. Why? The SOUND! It's one of the most versatile synths ever made, and it's sonic potential is astounding. The VP version has the K2500 sounset, and allows for much more flexibilty in terms of multi-layered sounds. I added the max of RAM to it - 64 Meg - and slammed a 2 Gig hard drive into the puppy. It is just an astounding machine. My favorite part is that I got it for $294.00 on eBay because the On/Off switch was still missing after it had been refurbished. No big deal, I'll just order one from Sweetwater Sound for a whopping $15.00! One very cool thing: Though it wont sample sounds itself, (without the SMP-R option board) you can load samples into it via .WAV (and a whole host of other) formats, and then work with them as if you had sampled the sound youself. I bought a Fairlight IIx sample disk and have been really geeked out putting them into the Kurz, looping them, and creating programs. I would kill for a Fairlight IIx, but I'll never again spend that kind of money on a synth.
Clickthe pic to read reviews of the K2000R on SonicState
And, I did manage to get hold of anotherVintage Keys module.
Clickthe pic to go to the Emulator Archive's site for the Vintage Keys.
Another of those great
deals on eBay. $150.00, because the seller advertised it with the display
being dead. What he meant was that the light in the display
was dead! Nobody bid on it so I snatched it up! Damn, but I love that module...
Those synths, along
with the current rig seem to expand my possibilities tremendously. The VK
has all those old synth sounds that an aging prog-rocker like me needs.
It contains sounds of all the great vintage synths, sampled on the legendary
Emulator III. Moogs, Arps, Mellotrons, Oberheims, Prophets,
Roland Jupiters, Fairlights, Rhodes, Wurlis, Hammonds, and the most killer
Yamaha CP-70 Electric Grand sound I have ever heard.
One other module I grabbed,
on a lark, really, is the Casio VZ-10m. This is a horse of a different color.
It's sorta an FM synth, but not really. It's sorta a Phase
Distortion synth, but not really. it creates very cool and otherworldly timbres,
and is just really neat. It was also the first synth to have a blue LCD display,
which so many other manufacturers have now gone to. Here's what it looks
take any of eight "modules," which are waves that have been enveloped, and
either assign them as carriers or modulators of other modules. Definitely
a unique module, with a unique sound.
The last new item,
which I just purchased today, is a rack power conditioner/light. This is
a little unit that is basically a power strip, and has 2 lights in it that
shine down on all the rack modules. I selected the Gemini PL-101. I don't
need anything really fancy, because it's never going to leave my house. Here's
OK. Here's what we have
so far: The QS7 now sits on the top of the rig with the KX76 underneath
it. The KX 88 will sits on the bottom. All MIDI cords run to in to the MX-8
MIDI Patchbay and then out to the respective synths/modules, which (as of
E-Mu Vintage Keys
1 MIDI cable runs to
the PC, and all the audio cords run to the mixer. Now, that a lot of modules,
right? I have just recently decided to organize them into a rack. With the
Mackie mixer, I wanted a "mixer rack," which has a slanted top that allow
you to rack-mount the mixer above everything else. I hated how crappy those
available looked, and was getting frustrated until I found this site: Nice-Racks.com. (And no, it's
NOT a porn site!) David hand-builds every rack, and I gave him my custom
specifications for a 16-space rack, and he quoted me a price that was actually
cheaper that the manufactured stuff! The racks are built of
solid wood, (no particle board here) stained (there's a huge choice of colors
- I chose Ebony) and then 3 coats of polyurethane are applied for a glossy,
protective finish. Sounds really nice, you say, but what does something like
that cost? Well, with the shipping, the whole thing is $182.29!
It's still in the process of being built, but here's an "in-progress" shot:
Once it's here, at least it'll look a little like furniture as it sits in my living room. I'll add more in-progress pics as I receive them.
I' received some new
pics of the rack today. It's all stained and polyurethaned, and David at
nice-racks.com just has to add the hardware, and he'll be shipping it out
tomorrow. I thought I'l pass along the pics he sent me:
but I can't wait for it to arrive. (Well, actually, I can. Because then I
have to re-arrange my entire living room, and I hate doing that stuff!
I've removed the section on speakers, mainly because that's a real back-burner item, and it was just taking up space and bandwidth. If anything happens on that front, I'll add it again.
As you can tell, I tend to gravitate towards older synths: I don't feel there's any newer keyboards out there that really are much of an innovation over the older stuff. (If you want to see a really incredible, little-known synth, click here for the UnofficialPRISMHomepage.) There's been little in technological breakthroughs in the last 12 years, really, it's just rehashing the same old technology, and adding more bells and whistles. I'm against that. I'm a player.I don't care about things like sequencers, effects, arpeggiators, ad nauseum.Give me an instrument. Something to play, not programmed songs. Music is living, breathing ART, not some digital button-pushing program that creates sterile music. That's the reson I like the Alesis line so much: They create synths without a lot of goo-gaws on them. While true, there are effects, they're usable stuff like Leslies and overdrives that enhance the sound, not bury it.
That said, I will spend hours tweaking sounds, getting them just right. That's not the same thing. Programming music is not like programming sounds. With sounds, you're using the timbres of an instrument to get the feeling across, as your fingers play them. You're not letting some computer do all the work and say "That's my music." It ISN'T your music, Bubba. It's the computer's. Okay, RANT=OFF. Next subject.
I get all my new instruments at zZounds. Great site. Why, you ask? (Or not. I'm going to tell you anyway. After all it IS my page!) Great prices, selection and service, plain and simple. My QSR was cheaper there than anywhere else I could find. Actually, they beat the best price I found. They'll beat any advertised price, and quite often the shipping is free, so you're saving even more. They carry just about every brand imaginable, and have great service. If you want to see what they have, go to: