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Yamaha CS 01

Yamaha CS01

The CS-01 is a funky little synth!
It may seem a toy but is a real analog synth in a small case.
The structure is quite simple, justa simple LFO, a “VCO”, VCF and ADSR.
I wrote “VCO” because even if the yamaha labeled it VCO but it is in fact a DCO.
The sound of the oscillator is however real analog, and “phat sounding” in a typical japanese way, and it reminds the classic analog sounds of the early 80’s.
The oscillator offers a good selection of waves (TRI, SAW, SQUARE, PULSE, PWM) and feets(4′ 8′ 16′ 32′ and noise).
The most powerful is the sound of PWM, which is really fat and “wide” sounding.
PWM has its own speed control too (indipendent from lfo).
The LFO is only a tri wave useful for vibratos and wah effects, its not extremely fast, but works well for all the classic sounds.
VCO also have a “glissando” instead of portamento/glide, which means that it can jump from a note to another passing through the notes in the middle.
The VCF is a 12dB lowpass with resonance and EG depth.
The resonance is controlled by a switch that turns it on or off, but it’s possible to modify the control to have a real resonance control adding a knob.
On the MK2 model the filter use a different structure (it has a 24 dB slope instead of 12) and has the resonance controlled by a slider.
The filter is, as other old yamaha monosynth, very smooth and “bubbling”, even with resonance tutned on the filter never eat the low frequency range, offering a wide variety of colour even as a bass machine.
The CS01 is mainly a bass and lead machine, the bass is always rounded, and punchy, for the classic 80’s arpeggio or for techno bass sounds.
On the lead side it can sound quite minimal and smooth or rich using the pwm, it can also reproduce easily the classic retrocomputer sounds !
Despite the toys look with the built in speaker this a lightweight classic 80s monosynth that can do most of the analog mono-sound without any problem of space in the studio and being very reliable.

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Casio SK-5 review

Casio SK5

Casio SK5

The Casio SK serie started with the SK-1 (one of the best selling toy keyboard of the period) and the target was a the consumer market.
The little sampler was technically far from the professional counterpart like Emu or Akai, it was just a toy with a tiny memory of few seconds and no memory retain.
Soon after the SK1 the SK5 followed.
The sK5 was an upgraded version of the SK1 with more sampling time, the capability to sample 4 sounds and to retain the sound in memory even with the power swithed off (if the keyboard run on batteries).
The sampling specifics were the same as the SK1 (8bit- 9,38KHz) quite low even for the time, and apart from didattic use by children, the sk seemed at that time just a toy.

The cheap prices of second hads SK and the “Anti Theory” of Reed Ghazala made the fame of the little sk grow.
The interesting circuit bending capabilities of this instruments made them popular between the circuit bending community as a “must have” together with the  “Speak & Spell”.

The Antitheory statement , by Reed Ghazala, is that you don’t have to know anything about electronics to do circuitbending.
A circuitbend is like an energy flow thru shortcircuits…
A circuit is not designed to have shortcircuits , so you have to “think different” !

The SK5 is now a well known and is now considered  a “real instrument” , not just a toy, after many more or less inportant, famous or trendy artists used it.
Just to name a few…Autechre, Bjork, Portished, Nine Inch Nails , Blur, Aphex Twin, but the list is long…

The heart of the instrument is a 8 bit sampler with a very lo-fi sound and 4 voice poly.
It can samples 4 sounds and play them together with the rubber pads or with the keyboard.
The performance can be registered with the onboard sequencer, with no quantization (you cannot correct the timing).
Every sample can be edited with the “envelope shapes” that adds crescendo, sustain, vibratos etc., can be looped or reversed .
The sample memory can retain the samples if the keyboard has batteries.
There is also the possibility to choose a “long sample” time (it occupies 2 samples slots) to sample a loop for example.

The strenght of this keyboard is without any doubt the sound, because the samples are totally mangled and they sound really different , like pixelated…
This is really great for lo-fi sounds.
The second point is that the SK 5 is an easy instrument to circuit bend and the mods add a great variety of  “tools” to shape new sounds with the twist of a knob or a simple switch, a variation not known, an aleatoric change, that’s why Ghazala called his mods projects “aleatrons”.

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Buchla 259 Vintage Oscillator

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Korg MS-20 video introduction

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Korg MS-20 review (Part-1)

Korg MS 20

The Korg MS-20 is one of the most famous vintage synths ever.
It stands up there with the Minimoog, ARP 2600, EMS Synthi, Jupiters, TB-303, etc.
When it was produced , Korg marketed it as a low cost “baby 2600” , it was the semimodular synth for the masses.
The look is somehow  inspired by the big Moog modulars, with the front panel that stads upright the keyboard, that is attached to the body, to be the most compact and portable, all in a typical japanese way.

The synth is divided into two parts : the left side , prepatched with the knobs and the right side , the patchable with the patchbay and external signal processor.

The synth has:

  • 2 VCO (with different waves)
  • VCO MIXER
  • 2 VCF (HPF and LPF 12 dB/oct, both resonant)
  • VCA
  • MODULATION GENERATOR (LFO)
  • 2 ENVELOPES

VCOs
The 2 VCOs have different settings capabilities and different functions.
VCO1 has:

WAVE SELECTOR:

  • TRIANGLE
  • SAW
  • PULSE WAVE (with  manual pw)
  • NOISE

PW KNOB

SCALE (32-16-8-4)

VCO2 has :

WAVE SELECTOR:

  • SAW
  • SQUARE
  • PULSE
  • RINGMOD

PITCH KNOB (fine tuning)

SCALE (16-8-4-2)

The two vcos sounds very warm and fat with a classic japanese sound.
The saw waves are quite “smoothed” and not really ripping (as the classic american saw of moog , sequentials, etc.)
The pulse/square wave is really fat and smooth too.
The smoothness of the oscillators maybe also produced by a particular “cut” of the VCFs and VCA that are not bypassable.

VCFs

The filters are the most carachteristic element of this synth, the trademark of the MS20′ sound is the dual filter with resonance (PEAK).
Both the HPF that the LPF have the same controls, the FREQUENCY CUTOFF and the PEAK (that’s the RESONANCE!).
The slope of the filters is 12dB/oct and though they are resonant they are not self oscillating.
The use of the filters makes this synth anhighly versatile machine, because they are not strightly “multimode”, but can be used in combo to obtain particular combinations mantaining two indipendent peaks of resonance.
A famous use of the HPF is to boost the low frequencies oto saturate the sound.
Thanks to the resonant HPF , turning up the peak  creates a gain of level at the cutoff frequencies  that results in awesome sub basses or highly saturated sounds.
The behaviour of the filter is also particular because when the peaks are up the frequency of the cutoff tends to oscillate producing highly harmonic and saturated timbres.
The MS20 was produced with two different components , the first (older) series has the famous  Korg35 that is considered less “muddy” , while the following series use common components.
Both the HPF that the LPF have a smooth behaviour and a rounded sound with the peaks at minimum, while raising up the peaks leads to the aggressive and distorted side of the synth.

ENVELOPES

Env 1 is a simple Attack -Release with  Delay,useful for modulations and harpached to the VCO pitch modulation.
ENV2 is a HADSR, it works like an ADSR but has a hold for that lovely drones the MS20 is so great at, or to use the synth as a efx/filter processor for external signals.
ENV2 is prepatched to VCA and VCFs modulations.
Both the envs are punchy with fast attack and decay, and work very well for every type of sound, from percussive to ethereal.

MODULATION GENERATOR

MG is how Korg labelled the LFO.
The MG consist of a low frequency oscillator that produces morphable square and saw waves .
The saw can morph from saw to tri to ramp.
The square goes from imp to square to inverted imp.

The two row of knobs under the filter and vcos sections are dedicated to the modulations.
The higher row has the MG as modulation source,and the pitch, and cutoff of the filters as destinations, while the lower row has as source the ENVs, env 1 to pitch and env2 to filters.
Every parameter has its own amount knob.

On the left there are two keyboard controls, PORTAMENTO and tune.

This is a description of the “prepatched” part of the synth, but using the patchbay almost everything can be routed to every target, the flexibility is one of the most important carachteristic of the MS 20, a compact synth , highly versatile and awesome sounding.

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Roland TR 606 videos

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Bent Casio SA2 and Boss DR112

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