Friday, November 3, 2017

Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet, 1980




Moog Multimoog synthesizer reference sheet from 1980.

I  reference info. The more data the better. And this, and the other reference sheets deliver. Gorgeous photo on one side. Gorgeous info on the other. Yum.

While recently flipping through old blog posts I noticed I never finished off my 1980 Moog reference sheet family. Well, time to fix that!

For someone who gets distracted as easily as I do, I'm surprised I had already managed to get five of them up there, including, in no particular order (click on the images to go to their respective blog posts):

  
  

The Multimoog is probably the Moog synthesizer I'm least familiar with. And at first glance, I had mistaken it for its baby brother - the Micromoog. Looking at the two reference sheets its easy to see why.

And those similarities are not just cosmetic - as noted in the November 1978 Spec Sheet write-up for the Multimoog:
"Moog synthesizer: The Multimoog features two audio oscillators, an LFO, fully variable waveshaping, a 3.5 octave keyboard, switchable single or multiple triggering, a pitchbend ribbon and a modulation wheel. The keyboard also has a force sensor in it, the output of which can be used to control pitch, LFO speed, volume, etc. The Multimoog is basically an expanded version of the Micromoog and features many more open-system features not included on the Micro, such as glide output voltage on-off, ribbon control voltage routing, and keyboard triggering control. Norlin Music. 7373 N. Cicero Ave., Lincolnwood, IL. 60646."
I have to say, I love the variable waveshaping on the Micromoog (waveform control knob that moves gradually from saw through square through narrow pulse waveforms rather than clicking to each individual waveform), and its looks like its implemented the same on the Multi.  Sweet.

One other feature mentioned in the spec sheet got my attention: the "... more open-system features...". A few Google searches later and I'm on Muff Wigglers reading:
"Multimoogs can be chained together. The back panel has a generous I/O system which lets a synth be a master or a slave unit."
Whaaaaaat? Chaining Multimoogs? That's awesome. The back page of the reference sheet does list the jaw-dropping number of in's and out's the Multimoog ha, but unfortunately I couldn't find any videos of two Multimoog's joined together. Dang.

But I think anyone who has been hanging around vintage Moog forums and Web sites will agree its most outstanding feature is it's "force-sensitive" keyboard, now more commonly known as pressure sensitivity. A nice - and rare - feature for a late 1970s synthesizer.

As such, the Multimoog's pressure sensitivity played prominently in the Multimoog's advertising campaigns. Chick Corea called it "a very expressive addition". And the


There are a number of Multimoog video demos on Youtube that show off it's pressure sensitivity nicely. I'll end the blog post with this one. What a lovely growl that Moog filter creates...



Yum!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1982



Sequential Circuits "Choice of the month" centrefold colour advertisement featuring the Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One from page 42 and 43 in the May 1982 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

Wow. Just wow.

I was doing a bit of research in back issues of some magazines for a lawyer last night and while casually flipping through one of those mags, this suddenly appeared before my eyes.

I've never seen it before. Ever. Time for a quick blog post!

In my defense, it's not in the advertising index of this magazine - a technique I use to quickly reference and log some synth ads. Another SCI full page colour ad that appears on page 36 *is* in that index. But not this one. There also doesn't seem to be a reference elsewhere in the magazine as to why SCI became the "Choice of the month" for the magazine. There was a "Special Focus: Keyboards" article this month. So, I'm guessing it was supposed to be related to that.

It actually looks more like a poster image that's been re-used for this "Choice of the Month"  image. There is no ad-title or text. And the image itself doesn't stretch to the far right and far left of the pages - there is white space at both ends. I've left the white in the scan to make the point.

But its a poster or image I've never run across. I haven't seen it in other magazines and I haven't seen it hanging on the wall in the background of any of the Dave Smith demo videos.

The main image of a hand playing a Prophet-5 keyboard is very reminiscent of SCI's Poly-Sequencer advertisement that appeared a few times in Keyboard Magazine from 1981 to 1983 (a long shelf life for any ad!). The hand in this ad and the one in the centrefold illustration are even playing the same chord. It was definitely an inspiration for Nicholson, the artist who's name appears vertically near the top right of the image (just underneath the also-vertical Prophet-5).

The rest of this wonderful illustration consists of a Prophet-10, Prophet-5 and Pro-One used to frame the main image.

While comparing the Poly-Sequencer ad and the centrefold, I noticed something. Did you notice it too?

The fingers are playing the exact same notes, but in the illustration, there is a lot more space between the thumb and index finger. It took me a few seconds for my brain to figure it out. In order to even out the fingers in the illustration, Nicholson took a bit of liberty (and warped reality) by adding AN EXTRA KEY into the octave.

That takes balls. And makes this illustration even more unique to me.

But it may be why the image hasn't been seen elsewhere.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm...", Keyboard 1987


Roland D-50 "A new technology is creating a powerful storm in the world of sound synthesis" four page colour introductory advertisement from pages 89 to 92 in the June 1987 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Happy 9/09 day!

I had a lovely 909-related post ready to rock and then... BOOM! Roland announces their new D-05 Boutique module based off their 1980's best selling D-50 synthesizer. Luckily I had been saving this draft of the D-50 four-page introductory advertisement for a special occasion. And I can't think of a better one right now.

(And bonus! I have a 909-related post ready to go for the next 9/09 day!).

Roland introduced Keyboard readers to the their new D-50 synthesizer in the June 1987 issue with this four-page ad. Its not often you get to see a four-page advertisement in Keyboard magazine. And its definitely not often you see it run for four months in row. That's a lot of advertising dollars. And then Roland just pared it down to a two-page ad and continued to run it.

Although Roland began advertising it in June 1987, its possible the first time that readers of Keyboard were introduced to its existence was two months earlier in Ted Greenwald's winter NAMM article that appeared in the April issue. The D-50 received top billing!
"For a couple of years it took small American companies such as Sequential and Ensoniq to prove to synthesizer players that there is, indeed, life after the DX-7. So it was a surprise to see the big boys grab the spotlight this time around with some exciting new instruments."
Ted goes on to write about Roland,
"The indefatigable Roland led the way with the D-50 Digital Synthesizer, the obvious highlight of their prolific new offerings, and possibly of the entire show". 
Side note: I'm not sure if "indefatigable" is a word, but it definitely described Roland's push of new gear both during that time period, and now with the announcement of so many Boutiques.  :)

The D-50 really did take the synth world by storm in 1987. Ted Greenwald drew the lucky straw and also got to write the Keyboard Report that appeared in the September 1987 issue.

Ted opening paragraph really packages history up nicely and is one of the reasons I love reading through old synth mags. He points out that MIDI was invented to do patch layering and talks about the "sonic richness that could be obtained by combining two" separate synthesizers. He goes on to write:
"While Sequential and Oberhaim addressed the problem by designing polytimbral instruments (the Six-trak and the Xpander), and Roland and Yamaha started packaging two synthesizers in one case (DX-5 and the JX-10), New England Digital gave the Synclavier the ability to layer four sounds, either synthesized or sampled, under one key."
What he was saying is that Roland's D-50 allowed synthesists to add a little sparkle of "Synclavier" into their productions at a fraction of the cost.

The three-and-a-half page Keyboard report gets into all the aspects of the synth including the basics of linear arithmetic synthesis, how the samples are incorporated into the synth, the effects (reverb and delay in a synth?!?!), and the front panel interface. On that last topic, its noted that programming can get complicated with all the menu diving, but luckily Roland decided to keep the tradition of pairing programmers with their synthesizers and offered up the PG-1000 programmer right out of the gate.

Ted concludes his review with some pretty good predictions...
"LA synthesis is a success, and we expect that the D-50 will be as well, even if some corners were cut to get it into such a competitive price range. ... An instrument this capable for under $2,000 would be a strong contender for Keyboard Of The Year even if it didn't include reverb, delay, chorus and EQ effects. In the coming months, we're expecting some of the factory patches to become as ubiquitous as that blasted DX-7 Rhodes sound. Keep your ears open".  
He definitely got that right.

And with the D-05 Boutique I'm expecting and looking forward to a resurgence in those patches! I was a resurgence in Enya cover bands using that Pizzagogo patch. And yes, I'm evening looking forward to hearing how the Digital Native Dance patch is going to be incorporated into synthwave.

Now time to enjoy my 9/09 day!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Roland Alphabetical Retail Price List, September 1978




Roland Alphabetical Retail Price List for September 1978.

I had recently come across this price list and thought it was interesting enough to share. Don't really have much to say so I'll just start typing and see what comes out.

Well, gotta say it's a great list of historic gear that includes price lists for Roland's early synthesizers, drum machines,effects units and a wack of other things.

One of the highlights for me is seeing the retail prices for the System 100 synthesizer:
  • S-100 Synthesizer System - $2,425
  • S-101 Synthesizer - $795
  • S-102 Expander Module - $650
  • S-103 Mixer - $360
  • S-104 Sequencer - $495
  • S-109 Monitor Speaker Set - 149.50
Also, seeing prices for the System 700 and in particular the Laboratory system is kinda cool.
  • S-700 System Synthesizer - $13,500
  • S-700L Laboratory System (Blocks 2 & 8) - $3,100
  • S-700M Main Console System (Blocks 1 & 2) - $4,995
The pricing for the individual S-700 blocks is also there, but because the list is in alpha order, I almost missed 'em because they are on other side of the page. 

Block 1 Main Console - $4,495
Block 2 Keyboard Controller - $650
Block 3 Sequencer - $1,695
Block 4 VCO Bank - $2,795
Block 5 VCF, VCA Bank - $1,995
Block 6 Interface/Mixer - $1,195
Block 7 Phase Shifter / Audio Delay - $1,150
Block 8 Lab Console - $2,565

Keep looking and you'll find pricing for the early TR drum machines and the SH- family of synthesizers. The RE-101, 201 and 301 Space Echos are also here. And those cute early Boss mixers.

And see those asterisk symbols by the TR-33, TR-55 and TR-700? Those indicate that the units were recently discontinued, giving us a fairly accurate date of when these early drum machines were taken off the market. Roland Canada's drum machine history page tells me these only came on the market in 1972, giving the three machines less than a two-year life span.

This list is pure gold.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Roland SVC-350 "Have a say in your sound" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1980


Roland SVC-350 vocoder "Have a say in your sound" full colour advertisement from page 91 in the July 1980 issue of International Musician and Recording World.

No offense to my first love - Keyboard Magazine - but lately I've been spending a bit of free time flipping through some of my other magazine archives. That's how I came across that CR-68/78 ad I posted earlier in August.  And now I've got this lovely vocoder ad.

This ad doesn't have the same sense of humour as the previous one I posted, but I gotta say I find it just as interesting. Full disclosure - I own an SVC-350 and *love it*. So, you may wanna take my interest with a grain of salt.

So, one of the most interesting things about this ad is summed up in that ol' saying: "You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep". In this ad, Roland has chosen a photo of the SVC-350 pulled out of a rack that includes some of their other rack gear - a guitar pre-amplifier, stereo flanger, pitch-to-voltage synthesizer, digital delay and Dimension D. Together, Roland has named these and a number of their other effects, the "Roland Rack" system. I hadn't heard this term used to officially describe their rack gear before.

The word "system" was a buzz word that appeared in many gear-related ads during the 70's and 80's. For example, Korg used it in their 1984 "The Korg MIDI System" ad that included their Poly 800 and EX800 synthesizers, RK 100 remote keyboard, KMS-30 synchronizer (a personal favourite) and computer software.

Oberheim used the term "The System" in a 1982 ad to describe the proprietary multi-pin technology used to get their OB-Xa/OB-SX/DMX/DSX gear to work together. They continued using it in 1983 when they swapped out the synths for their OB-8.

Even earlier sightings can be seen in a 1978 ad where the Oberheim SEM teamed up with 360 Systems' Slavedriver to create their own "The System". And it wasn't just in ads - just look at the name of some of Roland's early synthesizers like the System 100, 100m and 700. Or Moog's System I, II and III modulars.

One more thing I noticed. After reading the ad-copy over a few times, something was nagging at me and I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. Then it hit me. At no point does Roland mention the model number of their vocoder in the ad-copy. Its always just referred to as the Roland Vocoder.  It would be like calling your synthesizer "Roland Synthesizer" in the ad-copy of a JX-8p ad.

I checked the ad for the pre-amplifier that is part of the rack system which ran prior to this one, and its model name - SIP-300 -  is referred to multiple times. Maybe because there are other Roland preamps but only one vocoder?

Curious. Probably just to me. :)


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Roland CR-68/CR-78 "No more waiting for Louie" ad, International Musician and Recording World, 1979


Roland CR-68/CR-78 drum machine "No more waiting for Louie" full page colour advertisement from page 115 in the November 1979 issue of International Musician and Recording World magazine.

How time flies! Happy 8/08 day!

And what has now become kind of a tradition, I've uploaded this lovely 808... er.... wait a tick!   Actually, I've uploaded a scan of an advertisement for the predecessors of the TR-808 - the CR-68 and CR-78 drum machines. I haven't seen this ad online, so if it hasn't been available there, I'm happy to get it onto the record (pun intended).

Where to start? Well, for one, the ad-copy is very well done.

Read it... I'll wait...

I say its well done because Roland strays a little bit away from their usual no-nonsense "We design the future" text to poke a little fun at those drummers reading International Musician. A perhaps risky move since at the time synthesizers and drum machines were viewed by more than a few "real musicians' as just boxes of job-stealing tubes and wires.

But Roland handles this topic well by not suggesting that the rest of the band kick Louie the drummer to the curb for being late all the time, but instead to use this waiting time wisely by plugging in one of their drum machines so they can keep on practicing. To make sure they stay firmly on the fence, they conclude the ad copy with:
"The Compu-Rhythms may not replace the drummers of the world, but they're going to make it a lot easier to live with their little inconsistencies". 
Well played, Roland... well played. Especially since these drum machines ended up on many hit records anyway including ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie and ‘In the Air Tonight’ by Phil Collins.

As mentioned above, the CR-series directly preceded the TR-808 drum machine, coming out in 1978 according to Roland's own "Roland Drum Machine History 1964-2016". A great treat for anyone who hasn't scrolled through it yet.

And, also according to the Web site, The CR-78 in particular is a unique milestone for Roland in that it "was the first of its kind to use integrated circuits - an important development in the history of drum machines." In other words, it included memory so that users could program their own patterns and store them for later use. Which you already knew because you made me wait while you read the ad-copy. Right? :)

I'm a little sad that the photo of the drum machines are so small in the ad. I love the look of these machines. The wood-grain sides. The dials. The buttons. And also the colours - some of which went on to appear within the TR-808 colour scheme.

One thing suspiciously missing from the ad is the CR-800 - a third CR- drum machine that also came out in 1978. This was kind of a mash-up between the CR-68 and 78, built within a large floor speaker. Jon Dent's blog goes into some great detail (with large photos!) on the similarities and differences between all three of these drum machines in a Feb 2015. Definitely check it out.

Time to go enjoy the rest of my 8/08 day!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show, 1985













1985 Roland New Product News for NAMM show 16 page black and white brochure from June 1985.

Another big XOX day! This time celebrating all that is awesome about the TR-727. Heck, who doesn't love the Agogo and Whistle sounds from Phuture's Acid Tracks!

Quite by accident, I just looked on Twitter and Roland tweeted out a Boss Summer NAMM highlights video. Honestly, a total fluke that I'm posting a Roland NAMM brochure from 32 years early.

And if you haven't guessed, Roland features the TR-727 in this "new products" brochure that they handed out at Summer NAMM 1985. And it had good company - so many great products are including in this document. And they all have one thing in common (besides the obvious) - SPECIFICATIONS. As far as the eyes can see. Damn I love specs.

Each summary write-up does a great job including various other Roland gear that would be compatible. For example, the summary for the TR-727 pulls in the Pad-8 MIDI pad controller and the MKB-200 MIDI keyboard - both also featured in the brochure.

The Pad-8 Octapad was a piece of gear I had always wanted but never managed to pick up. I so wanted to stand on stage and summon my inner Depeche Mode a la Construction Time Again.

Another great highlight are the two pages devoted to the MKS-7 - both the black and ivory versions! Every once in a while an ivory MKS-7 pops up around town but I always miss out on picking it up. Under the photo of the ivory rack are diagrams of typical and expanded set-ups featuring many of Roland's products. Yum.

One thing missing from today's market is something akin to Roland's CPM-120 compact power mixer. Eight channels including an effects send/return, all in a small box. I still use Boss's mini-mixers of the era and would snap up a CPM-120 if it was ever remade.

The back of the doc includes a table of contents as well as Roland's logo and tagline - "We design the future". Its hard not to think that Roland's current "The future redefined" tagline for many of their remakes isn't a nod back to this original tagline that featured many of the originals.

If I was gonna quibble, I'd say the only thing missing are suggested retail prices. But I ain't complaining. I love this brochure from cover to cover.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Roland TR-707 "Digital Dynamite" ad, Keyboard 1985


Roland TR-707 drum machine "Digital Dynamite" full page colour advertisement from page 50 in the May 1985 issue of Keyboard Magazine.

Well, it seems like its only been a week or two since I celebrated 6/26 day by posting a TR-626 ad. That may be because it has only been a week or two.  :)

Coincidentally, it is 7/07 day and to date, this blog has been conspicuously absent of any mention of the TR-707. So, time for that to change.

I'm a big fan of the TR-707. The large LCD screen and the fact it has MIDI, DIN sync, trigger out AND tape sync are big pluses for me (well, not so much tape sync any more). The individual outputs and the great little mixer section make it very useful in live situations.

As you can see from the image of the advertisement, this lovely drum machine got swept up in Roland's "Roland Makes It Happen" marketing campaign. The distinctive neon light design style and tag line started to appear in Keyboard and other magazines back in the summer of 1984 beginning with their gorgeous dark blue Juno 106 "Synful" advertisement, and carried on well into the spring of 1986 until ads with a new "computer art" design replaced it - like that used in their TR-505 "Light Heavyweight" ad.

Other Roland ads to get the neon "We make it happen" treatment included the JX8p (green) and MPU-401 (baby blue). And of course, this yellow TR-707 ad. But the most memorable piece from this marketing campaign bunch has to be Roland's three-page-plus  MIDI-love-fest fold-out that appeared in the July 1984 issue (see right).

The ad itself got little play in Keyboard Magazine, making only two appearances - May and December 1985.  During this time period, Roland instead chose to give their JX8p and new MPS software (Music Processing System) ads its monthly page real estate. Kinda makes sense since the Magazine is called "Keyboard".

The ad copy, although a tad hard to read, includes a lot of useful information, including my favourite historical reference- the price! $595 ain't too shabby. The text also highlights the increasingly rare M-64C memory cartridge, and  Roland fortifies its importance by including a not insignificant sized photo.

But one of the most interesting and notable features of this ad and others in the series is the size of the Roland logo. Its quite small compared to the other design elements. Normally I'd be freaking out about something like that, but Roland had such a large presence in Keyboard and its products' evolution was so highly recognizable, that they could get away with it. Work in their favour even.

A nice position to be in!


Monday, June 26, 2017

Roland TR-626 "The drum machine with today's sounds, tomorrow's features and yesterday's price" ad, Electronic Musician 1988


Roland TR-626 "The drum machine with today's sounds, tomorrow's features and yesterday's price" colour advertisement from page 9 in the May 1988 issue of Electronic Musician.

Happy 6/26 day!

I guess it was kind of predictable that I would post a TR-626 advertisement on 6/26 day, especially after doing the same for the also misunderstood TR-505 on 5/05 day. But it makes sense since they have so much in common, not least of which is their extremely good looks. Sure, not everyone will agree with that statement, but I love those really clean lines and beige colour scheme. The TR-626 also has a similar programming style to the TR-505 - simple and easy to play with. Can't argue with that either.

But, unlike the TR-505, the 626 features eight individual outs to allow the user to separate some of the sounds out. And, speaking of sounds, it also came with a lot more of them - 30 to be exact, including three snares! In fact, sound wise, I'd almost say its more of a TR-707/727 hybrid. And did I mention those sounds are TUNABLE!?!? Sweeeeet.

Roland also took a different approach to the placement of this advertisement - choosing to not advertise the TR-626 in Keyboard Magazine at all - at least as far as I can tell anyways. Instead, Roland chose to push the TR-626 in magazines such as Musician and Electronic Musician. Quite a long run in EM in fact, running for five months from January to May, 1988.

So, what was Roland advertising in Keyboard instead during that time period? Large ads - sometimes three or four pages long - for their flagship D-50 synthesizer and S-50 sampler. I can't even find a Keyboard Report or spec sheet entry for the TR-626. It's like it didn't exist there. I gotta be wrong though, so I plan to keep checking.

The ad itself isn't too colourful, keeping to the colour scheme of the drum machine itself. And it includes a lot of text. I mean, *A LOT*. And because there is no visual cue of paragraph breaks, it makes it even harder to read. Just a huge wall of words.

Which is too bad, because there are a lot of good points being made throughout. I've mentioned the number of sounds, their tuning, etc above. But two other pieces of info really jump out if you do take the time to read it.

First is that Roland has included the price - $495! Not too shabby, and from a historical perspective its always great to see a price included.

Second, and maybe even more interesting, is that Roland makes reference to the fact this is the first drum machine with a memory card interface (I've bolded the important bits):

"But probably the most important performance feature is one you won't find anywhere else - and it's an idea that makes the TR-626 the first drum machine that's really usable in a live performance. We've added a Memory Card Interface..."

I'm assuming they are making a differentiation between a memory card and a memory cartridge, which drum machines like the TR-909, TR-707 and TR-727 featured. A card can definitely hold a lot more data!

Could this be the first drum machine to have a memory card interface?

I'll have to do more digging! But right now I'm gonna go play on my TR-626.

Don't forget to hug a 626 today!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Roland TR-505 "Light Heavyweight" ad, Keyboard 1986


Roland TR-505 drum machine "Light Heavyweight" colour advertisement from page 17 in the December 1986 issue of Keyboard magazine. Also appeared on page 9 in the March 1987 issue of Electronic Musician.

Well, it's Cinco De Mayo today, and I don't want to take anything away from that. But May 5 also has another name - 505 day!

Sure, its not as celebrated as 303, 808 or 909 day, but to me it's part of the XOX family and deserved a little recognition.

Hmmmm... not buying it, eh? Okay - I'll come clean. I have a personal soft spot for the 505. It wasn't the first drum machine I played on, but it was the first one I bought for myself. I spent hours programming the rhythm patterns to songs like Dreaming of Me and New Life by Depeche Mode into it, along with the bass and melody lines into the sequencer of my Casio CZ-5000.

Yup. That was me.

And I'm  not the only one who digs this machine. Although review sites will often give the 505 a relatively low rating when compared to its brothers and sisters, it only drives users like me to become even more fanatical about it.  For example, Vintage Synth Explorer only gives this adorable battery operated puppy two stars, but the user rating is a much higher 3.72 stars. Just look at some of the comments below the review. Yoiks!

The ad itself looks to only have appeared once in Keyboard Magazine and Electronic Musician. I suspect its rarity can be attributed to the fact that it was released after the Super JX and right before the D-50. Roland only had so much ad space to allot to a budget drum machine when sandwiched between those two heavyweights. Technically, the 505 also appeared in another set of Roland Family ads - I'll get to those later.

In fact, it was so far off the radar I don't think it even ever got a review in Keyboard. But, luckily, it did make it into Keyboard's Spec Sheet section back in June 1986.
"Roland Drum Machine. The TR-505 Rhythm Composer features 16 PCM drum sounds, including five Latin percussion sounds. The unit is MIDI-compatible and has a memory capacity of 48 programmable patterns, 48 preset patterns, and six tracks, storing a total of 423 bars. MIDI velocity controls dynamic response. A cassette interface in included. The TR-505 can be powered with batteries or AC. RolandCorp, US, 7200 Dominion Circle, Los Angeles, CA 90040-3647" 
I'm almost as fond of the advertisement as I am about the drum machine itself. Roland had been using this colour pallet for a number of earlier synths including the Super JX and Alpha Juno series ads. In particular, I love the low-res computer graphics that were becoming all the rage in the 80s, as MIDI and personal computers started becoming more common. Alas, this was to be the last ad to use the design style before the introductory advertisement for the D-50 took on a totally new 4-page look and feel.

The text of the ad makes me happy as well. Phrases like "Spunky new TR-505". "Thoroughly modern MIDI instrument". "Our new champ still has a few moves you haven't seen". "Scores an easy technical knockout". And its

Read the whole thing and tell me it doesn't make you happy.

As happy as I am right now on Cinco De Mayo!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dave Smith Instruments Evolver ""Are You Evolving?/Now shipping!" ad, Keyboard 2002



Dave Smith Instruments Evolver "Are You Evolving?/Now shipping!" colour advertisement from page 129 in the classifieds section of the December 2002 issue of Keyboard magazine.

Finally! Evolvers are shipping!

I don't remember the exact date I ordered mine, but my invoice - yup, still got it! - says it was shipped on December 9, 2002. The same month this "Now Shipping" ad came out.  Boom!

Similar to the previous "Will you Evolve?" ad (right) that ran from September to November, this ad replaced it in the classified section of Keyboard magazine. DSI still wasn't ready to spend the cash for an half or full page ad yet.

But, this advertisement had evolved - pun intended! Specifically, Dave shelled out for another half inch of ad height to make it an even three inches.

The reason? To add some more text of course! Along with the original three bullet points from the previous ad (analog synthesis, stereo processing, and the sequencer), this new ad now also included:
  • Multiple Feedback Paths
  • Extensive Digital Processing
But to me, the really smart bit comes after all that:
"From the man who invented the first programmable polyphonic synths, MIDI, the first software synths, Prophet 5/T8/VS, Pro-One, Wavestation, etc."
As mentioned in the previous blog post, I suggested that DSI may have decided to spend less on advertising in these early days, relying instead on earned media garnered through the use of Dave's name and credentials. And quite a list of creds they are. It was a smart move and a smart way to save some money early on.

Moving on...

Its fun for me to see a new branch split off from the synthesizer tree of life and witness it's evolution over time (again - pun intended - it never gets old!!!). But, if you want to get technical, these early advertisements weren't the first time that regular readers of Keyboard Magazine would have heard of this new beast.

That happened... can you guess?

You bet! Exactly 15 years ago in Keyboard's April 2002 feature article on Winter NAMM 2002. Sure, technically, that meant the Evolver announcement actually came during Winter NAMM in January, but let's keep this exciting, shall we?

If you flip through the "New Gear @ NAMM 2002" article, you will find a photo of the Evolver, as well as a write-up, sandwiched between announcements for the new Clavia Nord Rack 3 and E-mu PK-6/XK-6/MK-6. The photo for the Evolver isn't that large - but its larger than the photo that was appearing in the classified ads and probably got a few more people excited about the idea of  "Mr Sequential Circuits" (Keyboard's words, not mine!) getting back in the biz:
"Dave Smith Instruments Evolver 
$395-$495, est.
Mr. Sequential Circuits is back with a new hybrid analog/digital monophonic synth module. The Evolver features two analog and two digital oscillators, with separate glide per oscillator, oscillator sync, and pulse width modulation, four delayed ADSR envelopes, four syncable LFOs, and dual tunable feedback loops. Delay, chorus and flange effects are also syncable to MIDI, as is the 16-step by 4-track analog-style sequencer. It's great to see Dave making hardware synths again."
Why yes, it is great to see Dave making hardware again.  :)

Historically, I really dig this little ditty for two main reasons - the first is pricing info. Or in this case, the range in estimated pricing. At NAMM in January, there was obviously still some question as to what the final price would be.

And the other thing I really dig historically about this ad? The intimacy between Keyboard Magazine and Dave Smith. That's some big time respect right there. And deservedly so. It all goes back to show how DSI made the right decision to name the company after himself, and to make Dave the face of the organization. Smart moves righ there.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dave Smith Instruments Evolver "Will You Evolve?" ad, Keyboard 2002



Dave Smith Instruments Evolver "Will You Evolve?" colour advertisement on page 128 from the September 2002 issue of Keyboard magazine.

So recently, I happened to be doing some historical research for a totally different synthesizer company and came across some of Dave Smith Instruments early synth ads. I decided to file them away in the back of my mind (and my excel spreadsheet) to blog about later. Probably when the ads had aged another five years or so.

Then, just today (I'm writing this on April 4), Dave Smith Instruments announced on their Facebook page that this year marks it's 15th anniversary. As part of the celebrations, they are asking users to send in a photo of their first DSI instrument along with a short story. Now, I have a great DSI Evolver story, but I'm saving that ditty to send in to them to hopefully win some sweet DSI swag.

Anyways, now throw those two coincidences in with my recent and totally unrelated Sequential Circuits Prophet-15 April Fools Day post and it's looking like Fate is punching me in the face.

Why fight it?

And so here we have it. Dave Smith's FIRST advertisement in Keyboard Magazine under the DSI banner.

Hello!

What a humble new beginning for such a synth giant. It's a small advertisement - that's for sure - measuring in at only 2.5" x 2.25". Understandably it doesn't have the room to say a lot about the Evolver.
  • Real analog synthesis
  • Stereo processing
  • 16 x 4 sequencer
The Evolver does a lot more, but the bullet points provide a good insight into what DSI probably thought would differentiate itself from other gear at the time and/or what users in 2002 would probably gravitate to.

And that tagline - "Synthesis with attitude" is perfect.  The Evolver has *tons* of attitude.

But to me, the most interesting thing about this ad was its location in Keyboard.

Unlike many of the Sequential Circuits advertisements that came before it, the Evolver wasn't being introduced to readers through a large two-page centrefold spread. This little guy was tucked into the classifieds section of Keyboard (see right). It's clear that precious marketing dollars weren't being spent on advertising in these early early days. And, it was probably the right move since from a PR perspective, his name alone would have opened a lot of doors and created some good exposure through earned media. Better to spend those dollars elsewhere like trade shows.

In fact, if I recall correctly, it wasn't these early ads that led me purchase an Evolver so early on. It was word of mouth as news of Dave Smith's return slowly spread across the Web.

Yup - his name sold me on that synth. Sure, it was also the features of the Evolver, but back in 2002 it felt like a big risk for me to buy a synth off a Web site from another country.

His name sealed that deal.  Grass roots all the way!

(and nope - I'm not being paid in any way to promote DSI's contest or anything else)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sequential Circuits Prophet-15 spec sheet, 1980




Sequential Circuits Inc. Prophet-15 spec sheet from 1980.

Dang! There are few things I like more than a good ol' fashion spec sheet. And this one takes its rightful place as leader of the Prophets - specifically the Prophet-5 and Prophet-10. I posted those spec sheets just a little while back.


There's no date on the actual spec sheet, but I'm guessing its from around 1980 since a Prophet-15 "Three Prophets are better than one!" advertisement appeared in the April 1980 issue of Keyboard Magazine (right). It caused quite a stir in the letter section of the May and June issues as musician unions were worried that each Prophet-15 would replace three musicians in studios and at live events.  That worry was soon put to bed as few non-unionized musicians arms were long enough to reach the top controls on the front panel of the Prophet-15.

The SCI Prophet-15 is the type of mythical beast that no one has ever played on, but everyone talks about how they *know a guy who knows a guy* that's played on one. Heck, there are at least three people on GearSlutz that have said they've seen one gathering dust in the back of the rental department at the Long and McQuade music store in Regina, Saskatchewan. But apparently the rental/tech guy won't let anyone touch it until Dave Smith's personal tech has tuned it up so he can put it back into rental circulation. And the hype around the Prophet-15 on GearSluts recently became so intense that Uli Behringer had to put out an official announcement that he wouldn't be cloning this particular piece, leading to multiple synth memes to appear on Facebook both defending and attacking the decision.

The SCI Prophet-15 is built on the same tech as its younger sibling - the dual keyboard Prophet-10 - adding a third keyboard as well as an additional five sweet sweet voices. And it was those extra voices that Jimmy "Triple Ace" Douglas was looking for when he produced Star Cruiser's third album "Super Prism". He brings up the Prophet-15 in particular during an interview that appeared in the April 1980 issue of Synthesizers For Fun and Profit magazine.
"I had the Prophet-15 shipped to the studio halfway through the production of the Star Cruiser album. It was at great expense - the thing weighs a ton. But we needed a particularly complicated twinkly sound behind the main rhythm of 'That's not a gun in my pocket', and I knew it would take three different parts from the Prophet to really bring that song together.    Mission accomplished." 
According to synth expert Marcus Vole's book My Favourite Vintage Synthesizers and How To Identify Them, the Prophet-15 kept pace with the Prophet-10's production figures with as many as 11 units being sold to larger studios in the US and Europe, as well as to one community college in northern Saskatchewan that filed for bankruptcy soon after due to the large debt incurred through its unauthorized purchase by a young Star Cruiser fan that worked in the purchasing department. I'm guessing that's how one of these rare beasts turned up at that Long and McQuade in Regina.

The jump in synthesizer technology that came about with the Prophet-15 created a domino effect in the synthesizer manufacturing industry, as Roland soon after announced plans for their three-keyboard Jupiter 24, and Korg quickly debuted their Poly-18.

To this day, scientists at Yamaha are still working on their fully analog three-mini-keyboard CS-03.