Docendo discimus


  • Calendar

    January 2022
    M T W T F S S
  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Bling

Yamaha TG100

Posted by brunorc on November 7, 2010

Small and cheap multitimbral sound module, bought second-hand as well. Again, sound layering – but nothing more. No filters, no synthesis – NOTHING! So its size was comparable with its capabilities, while its price tag accurately described its sound quality – good, but not even above the average (to be honest, I don’t even remember the price). But it opened the doors to the next dimension of musical creation. Teamed with JX-1 it laid the foundations of my “recording studio” and gave me the first possibility of writing the music… and getting paid for it!

I didn’t keep it for long and sold it (again, no idea about the price) few days after getting my next synthesizer, which conveniently was multitimbral.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody – except that you get it for free and you still have some free MIDI output and audio input on your mixer. It’s full of bread’n’butter sounds and it’s small, but you can get Roland JV-1010, which is small as well, but has an awful lot of possibilities, compared to TG100. It was actually so boring crap, that I didn’t even bother to find a photo on the web.

Posted in MIDI, Synths | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Roland JX-1

Posted by brunorc on November 2, 2010

Roland JX-1 Performance Synthesizer

Funky shape, which makes it difficult to put on the side. Four sliders (hello, synthesis!) and a lot of buttons. After the “plastic toy” sounds from PSS-380 it was like all Vangelis’ stuff at once. I bought it around 1994, when synthesizers were still quite expensive, so I couldn’t had even dreamed about buying anything brand new in the music stores (but I remember visiting them countless times – and especially I recall dying in front of some Ensoniqs and GEMs, they sounded so good…). But I went to one, recommended by a friend of my mother, where I met an expert (who later even became my employer, but that’s completely different story), who listened to my points, which were:

    • good piano sound,
      dynamic keyboard,
      the ability to change the sound (so it must be a synthesizer, not a keyboard!).
  • Then he nodded and asked “how much do you have?”. I didn’t have more than the equivalent of 200$ (at that time). So he recommended me the second-hand JX-1. My parents gave me the money for it as a gift for my 18th birthday.

    And man, it did sound well. It had acceptable piano, nice strings, realistic flute, beautiful pads and aggressive leads – it had everything! Once again, it was capable of layering two sounds and featured four sliders, which along with the A/B button gave control over eight parameters of the sound. There was reverb and chorus onboard. And I could have even stored the settings!

    Of course today I wouldn’t say that the piano sound was good, but at that point it was next to Steinway (at least for me). And the storage architecture was somehow strange. There were two banks, A and B, along with the user bank. So I could have selected e.g. Piano sound from bank A, tweak it with the sliders, and then store it in the User bank, of course under the “Piano” button – because soundbanks were represented by two rows of buttons with hardcoded names, as well as underlying samples. That way I was only able to have one user version of each of the sound (choosing bank A or B as the source). Moreover, the layering worked only inside the same bank… so soon I was back to my “paper patch storage”.

    But at least it sounded well. However, the JX apparently stood for “JinX”. I had a lot of issues with this synth. First I had to go to a different city, 70 kms away, to buy it; it had the US power adapter, along with EU -> US power converter, which was hot as the hell itself after 15 minutes of working. It caused JX-1 to hang (or rather reset) which was manifested by a short blink and cutting the sound for a second, then going back to the “initial” state – Piano A. I changed the power adapter, so it worked better, but then I discovered, that it sometimes didn’t react appropriately to the velocity of played sounds. To solve the problem completely eventually I had to travel to another city, this time 170 kms away, to have it fixed (it was the keyboard controller burnt a bit thanks to the faulty power adapter).

    JX-1 with cool custom painting

    I made a good use of it, though. Employed it while playing in several bands and sound was good enough to cut through the mix. In the blues-rock band folks liked its Fender & Hammond sounds; gothic metal band was happy with strings, choirs and immortal “Fantasia” sound; finally synth brasses and leads were good enough to play with some mainstream rock bands. It also had some potential to create some more “signature”-like sounds for the progressive rock project I especially liked. At some point I even managed to connect it to my friend’s Amiga – only to discover, that “Performance Synthesizer” meant “Monotimbral”. What a disappointment. Also the keyboard – although dynamic – didn’t really have the piano feel. However, after three or four years of using it I sold it without losing too much money, and without regrets.

    I really like the “custom green” version of JX-1, photo of which I found on Matrixsynth. In 80’s and early 90’s synths were mostly black or gray, so it predated blue Yamahas, purple Karma, and all this fancy stuff from Waldorf. Right now I wouldn’t recommend this instrument to anyone – well, maybe the green version, because it looks nice. Sounds are a bit dated, the keyboard action is very “synthy”, no multitimbral… and for almost the same price you can get Yamaha CS1x, which is blue (so you don’t have to paint it), has shitty keyboard as well, but at least you can store 128 versions of the same sound if you want – and you have 16 parts of multitimbral, but that’s a different story.

    Then probably I would rather paint my worn off Yamaha SY77 metallic green, but this one is a completely different story…

    Posted in MIDI, Synths | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

    Yamaha PSS-380

    Posted by brunorc on October 26, 2010

    Even if it can be perceived as a toy keyboard – mostly because of the tiny keys, auto-accompaniments and so on – it is actually a synthesizer as well. As you may see on the picture, it features the “Digital Synthesizer” section in the center of the front panel. Those seven sliders give you the instant control over the 4 operators FM synthesis of PSS-380. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of an FM synth with hands-on control typical for analogs – here you go!

    How does it sound? Peculiar. Some sounds are terrible, and no combination of sliders could have improved them. I spent a lot of time with it, tweaking the sounds (of course there’s no memory for this “digital synthesizer” settings, so I had to write them down on paper). I also liked the idea of auto-accompaniment, having maybe 5-6 bearable styles, though. This instrument has three song memories as well, which can record both the accompaniment and the performance (but still they cannot save the synthesizer settings), and you can even play on top of it (if the polyphony – 9 voices – allows). It was my early sketchpad and I found it quite useful.

    This synth also features “Dual Voices” – meaning one could lay one patch on top of another, and the “top” patch could have even been processed through the synthesizer section. Actually, PSS-380 is capable of producing a lot of weird 4-OP FM sounds… of course it has no MIDI, and the output (phones only) is quite noisy. Or you can use the built-in speakers…

    It was my first “synthesizer” and from today’s perspective I’m really glad I started with it. I learned a bit about the nature of the sound and I knew that my next piece of gear should have the ability of editing patches, since only playing with the use of the preset sounds was not enough for me.

    Unfortunately, the PSS-380 wasn’t actually mine. I borrowed it from a friend, who eventually wanted to take it back. I remember being reluctant to give it away, but after all it was his property, so one day I put it back in the box and we parted.

    Would I like to have it back? Of course! But mostly because of the sentiment… and maybe those weird sounds could be useful, after some processing. The auto-accompaniment – although crappy – was surprisingly handy for some quick sketching.

    Posted in Music, Synths | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »