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Do computers shorten the life of a synth? Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 17th December 2010
  #1
Do computers shorten the life of a synth?

I'm interesting in modern, fully featured analog synths. Moog, DSI etc. However, a friend of mine pointed out that it's the synths with discrete and/or robust integrated circuits that can be repaired, and therefore stand the test of time.

The simplification of the issue would be to look at the Minimoog and the Voyager.

If in 20 years, Moog is gone and the voyager's computer is damaged, it becomes a brick right? The mini may be fragile, but possible to repair.

On the other hand, Yamaha's digital synths are still going strong almost 30 years later... even if they can't really be repaired.

Any long term synth techs want to chime in on this?
Old 17th December 2010
  #2
Gear Guru
 
Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
If in 20 years, Moog is gone and the voyager's computer is damaged, it becomes a brick right?
Yes. On the other hand, it's the same with many other synthesizers, but they've already survived those 20 years or more, as you say. It's just that when the Voy's computer fries, you might still be able to use the raw parts - oscillators, filters, envelopes etc - since the role of the computer is to scan the interface and keyboard, tune the oscillators, handle MIDI traffic (and probably some other stuff). It does not generate the sound, while when a Yamaha's CPU dies there's no way to generate any sound with the separate parts. See https://www.gearslutz.com/board/elect...g-voyager.html for a scary example.

On the other hand, most of what digital synths do is not that spectacular. Seeing that embedded processors get more powerful all the time and several people already emulated a SID chip with FPGA and that FM synthesis is documented pretty extensively, it should not be rocket science to program a DSP in such a way that you get DX-style FM (in fact, the Nord Modular/G2 already feature this, to the point of importing DX7 patches). The other products are sample-based.

What's still shrouded in mystery is Yamaha's physical modeling prowess, which does not just require the dry theory but also the extensive modeling experience to get both the speedy calculations and the realism. This, and the character converters may add to the sound is what's keeping from having softsynths sound exactly like a D50, M1 or Wavestation.

If you want something with incredible longevity, learn to design circuitry yourself and stock up on parts. You'll have to forego patch memory, it may not look that polished, but you can continue to make music.

Or pick up an instrument that won't see an end of production in the future - guitar, piano, brass, wind.

"This too shall pass" - focus on making music now, enjoying your instruments now, and see them as things to use and enjoy instead of investments that should last decades. Of course, they shouldn't last a week and turn into a molten slagheap, but that's why you pick something you can fix. Capacitors dry out, powersupplies may spike ICs, resistors may crumble and LEDs may fizz out. Nothing is immortal.
Old 17th December 2010
  #3
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Dirty Halo's Avatar
 

Everything dies.

Figure out how to live while you're alive.

-andrews
Old 17th December 2010
  #4
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kilon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ebison View Post
I'm interesting in modern, fully featured analog synths. Moog, DSI etc. However, a friend of mine pointed out that it's the synths with discrete and/or robust integrated circuits that can be repaired, and therefore stand the test of time.

The simplification of the issue would be to look at the Minimoog and the Voyager.

If in 20 years, Moog is gone and the voyager's computer is damaged, it becomes a brick right? The mini may be fragile, but possible to repair.

On the other hand, Yamaha's digital synths are still going strong almost 30 years later... even if they can't really be repaired.

Any long term synth techs want to chime in on this?
You know I am big supporter of soft synths but still prefer using hardware synths. I think that people will always have a love for vintage gear even though soudwise software might surpass them in the future. And so I think you will always find specialists to fix your broken synths. Maybe MOOG will go bankrupt eventually , or close down, everything has a begining and an end, but there are other people out there that can fix most synths.

We humans are flexible we can find solution to any problem (eventually ). So dont sell your MOOGS just yet
Old 17th December 2010
  #5
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I can tell you that, specifically where it concerns Moog, they are not going to die anytime soon, quite the contrary. Next year they are expanding quite a lot, new hall, etc...

Quote:
If in 20 years, Moog is gone and the voyager's computer is damaged, it becomes a brick right?
Not at all, there's certainly going to be replacement parts, or people who dupe the processors. You know, the Voyager computer unit is not that complicated. As a matter of fact, for the most part, a single person is responsible for the OS on the Voyager, Rudi Linhard (very nice guy btw.)

So I wouldn't worry so much about longevity, enjoy life while you can ;-)

Last edited by datune; 17th December 2010 at 11:38 AM.. Reason: Fixed a typo
Old 17th December 2010
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by datune View Post
Not at all, there's certainly going to be replacement parts, or people who dupe the processors.
Yes, I just fixed my 30-years+ old synthesizer with these custom made replacement chips:



People get creative and repair things that seemed impossible at one point in time. The most famous is probably stripping off the plastic from the notorious Juno 106 chips.

Quote:
Originally Posted by datune View Post
So I wouldn't worry so much about longevity, enjoy live while you can ;-)
+1 Things break, or we drop them, we loose them, or got stolen. If you think about this too much and over-analyze, you miss out on a whole world to experience.
Old 17th December 2010
  #7
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unklekarma's Avatar
 

Time will tell I guess?
And in the end "it's just a synthesizer", by that time you got some new and maybe even better synth (from moog?)

I see the "problem", but it can be solved in the sentence you wrote it:
If in 20 years, Moog is gone and the voyager's computer is damaged, it becomes a brick right?

Yes, at some point it will become a brick, it takes a lifetime maybe.

Karma
Old 17th December 2010
  #8
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Everything dies, baby, that's a fact, but maybe everything that dies someday comes back.
Old 17th December 2010
  #9
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Yoozer's Avatar
And once takes off on a scale with more precision you can print your own knobs for cheap, too. Well - cheaper than having a facility re-start production requiring you to order a shipping container full of 'm to get 'm for a reasonable amount.

The Arduino boards are already faster than the vast majority of CPUs used in vintage synthesizers (for simple control duties, obviously DSPs are another story); the problem is mainly one of available space in the machine itself - and making a drop-in replacement, because you have to adhere to the same protocol.
Old 17th December 2010
  #10
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My Trident is almost 30 years old. My DX7 which I gave away was fine and is 27 years old. One is analogue and one is digital.

My JX-3P is also around 27 years old and is fine, and that is I believe a hybrid (analogue with DCO's).

All three synths have had at least two or three previous owners.

I don't think there's much to worry about, plus as others have stated most repairs can be carried out if you have the time, patience and expertise (and parts). Or a synth enthusiast will do it for you for a little cash.
Old 17th December 2010
  #11
btw old synths can have computers in them too. eg PRO1 PRO5 SH101 JP4 JP6 JP8 a whole bunch of old synths use micro processors.
Old 17th December 2010
  #12
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Xero's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden beers View Post
btw old synths can have computers in them too. eg PRO1 PRO5 SH101 JP4 JP6 JP8 a whole bunch of old synths use micro processors.
yeah although most use z80s and stuff like that which you'll probably be able to find forever because they were used in so many things and are still manufacturer to this day
Old 17th December 2010
  #13
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The answer is "it depends"

I am restoring an OB-X whose components have a history of rotting to death. particularly the tantalums, CMOS, TL084s, trimpots, switches, and electrolytic caps. With few exceptions like the CEM3310s and 80C98s, you can still buy new replacements.

It takes a LOT of elbow grease to restore a synth like this and the end result has to justify the means. This is certainly the case with the OB-X.

Monosynths are a lot simpler and easier to restore.

If your polysynths needs obsolete ICs like CEMs or SSMs, the only place you're going to get them is from a dead synth scavenged for parts.

And then there is stuff like ARPs which have a history of slidepots going bad with age. Try and find new replacement slidepots at quantity less than 10,000. Cleaning them is a lot of effort and I have damaged some in the process.

But supply may be an issue in the future. The discrete vintage synths use throughhole packages and no SMT. Everything is going SMT and throughhole components are becoming an endangered species. When I ordered replacement caps for my synth recap project, I noticed that many of the manufacturers of the axial packages had discontinued them. Low density stuff that has been popular since the 1970s like TTL, CMOS, opamp configurations are in ample supply - but for how long? High density stuff that pack a lot of function in a small package (FPGAs, etc) won't be in circulation as long as the low density stuff.

Throughhole is a lot easier to repair than SMT. Few warranty centers repair any SMT, they just have a complete board replacement policy.

In the case of the Voyager (or any hybrid for that matter), the computer board will be the most vulnerable to obsolescence. With few exceptions (Z80s, 805x, 68xx), computer components go through a much faster obsolescence period. Can't escape that fact.

Software synths will go obsolete too. OS updates happen about every 2-3 years and that means some software will no longer run on new OS. Whether you can replace your softsynth depends on if the coder(s) can justify the effort of code re-write.

Frankly you can't be too worried about a purchase because of obsolete parts, because you'll never get around to buying anything.
Old 17th December 2010
  #14
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upfineclouds's Avatar
 

Voyager 1 is still going strong after 33 years. Now it's about to leave the solar system. Moog Voyager will probably last at least just as long.

My Korg Lambda is over 30 years old and still sounds fine. The DX7 is more than 20 and working perfectly, still with the original internal battery.

I'm not too much concerned about them becoming bricks one day. I'll try to fix them when possible and if they die, I'll get another DX7 (or an FS1r) and another overlooked analogue synth that does amazing strings. I need these kinds of instruments, I need these sounds but I don't need these particular synth models.
Old 17th December 2010
  #15
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datune's Avatar
Let's not forget that the MemoryMoog has a processor too, and that one is 30 years old ;-)
Old 17th December 2010
  #16
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duggabax's Avatar
What I think of is the Sequential Circuits/Wine Country thing...I mean Moog is AT LEAST as highly revered among synth-heads as SC - if Moog were ever to go under, I don't think there's any reason why a group of experienced Moog techs wouldn't start a business to maintain the Moogs.
Old 17th December 2010
  #17
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Xero's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by datune View Post
Let's not forget that the MemoryMoog has a processor too, and that one is 30 years old ;-)
but, again, it's a z80...

quoth the wikipedia
Quote:
Musical instruments, etc.
MIDI sequencers such as E-mu 4060 Polyphonic Keyboard and Sequencer, Zyklus MPS, and Roland MSQ700 were built around the Z80,
MIDI controllers and switches such as Waldorf Midi-Bay MB-15 and others.
Several polyphonic analog synthesizers used it for keyboard-scanning (also wheels, knobs, displays...) and D/A or PWM control of analog levels; in newer designs, sometimes sequencing and/or MIDI-communication. The Z80 was also often involved in the sound generation itself; implementing LFOs, envelope generators etc. Known examples include:
Sequential Circuits Prophet 5, Prophet 10,[72] Prophet 600, Six-Trak, Multitrak, MAX, and Split-8
MemoryMoog six-voice synthesizer[73]
Oberheim OB-8 eight-voice synthesizer with MIDI
Roland Jupiter-8 eight-voice synthesizer
Digital sampling synthesizers such as the Emulator I, Emulator II, and Akai S700 12-bit Sampler,
as well as drum machines like the E-mu SP-12, E-mu SP-1200, E-mu Drumulator, and the Sequential Circuits Drumtraks, used Z80 processors.
Many Lexicon reverberators (PCM70, LXP15, LXP1, MPX100) used one or more Z80s for user interface and LFO generation where dedicated hardware provided DSP functions.
The ADA MP-1. A MIDI controlled, vacuum tube, guitar pre-amplifier.
that's a heckuva lot of classic stuff all based on Z80s.
Old 17th December 2010
  #18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirty Halo View Post
Everything dies.

Figure out how to live while you're alive.

-andrews
+1 Andrews. Nicely said.
Old 17th December 2010
  #19
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timbreman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirty Halo View Post
Everything dies.

Figure out how to live while you're alive.

-andrews
So poetic and profound....A jedi you will become.
Old 18th December 2010
  #20
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crufty's Avatar
radiation shoots through our planet, there really is no long term hope for most electronics

voyager was made differently if i recall. more then likely engineers are selecting IC and other pieces based on factors other then radation resistance

andrews said it well!
Old 18th December 2010
  #21
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fanriffic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirty Halo View Post
Everything dies.

Figure out how to live while you're alive.

-andrews
For those who haven't yet figured it out:

-Food

-water

-Oxygen

-Shelter


Hope that helps..
Old 18th December 2010
  #22
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Then
Old 18th December 2010
  #23
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I asked some folks here for tips on a good tech to fix my Roland TR-606 Drum machine that sat in a box in the closet for 20 years. They gave me a link to a guy in No Calif.

His web site has pictures of his work. There are other techs out there with pics and videos. This fellow seems to get some pristeen synths. Pictures of Moog modulars or Mini Moogs "born" in 1971 or 39 years ago! Amazing.

The point is some of these techs are master artisan gurus. It is amazing what they are capable of doing. Many kudos to them for keeping these great machines alive and kudos to the people who designed and built them. Syths working flawlessly 30+ years later? Incredible.
Old 19th December 2010
  #24
Great answers! All interesting, and lots to think about.

These posts have pushed me closer to the voyager rack. I really am not interested in reproducing vintage sounds accurately, just getting a workhorse instrument / interface for studio and live.

Thanks again!
Old 19th December 2010
  #25
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kilon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Real MC View Post

Software synths will go obsolete too. OS updates happen about every 2-3 years and that means some software will no longer run on new OS. Whether you can replace your softsynth depends on if the coder(s) can justify the effort of code re-write.
However software has VMs and emulators. I ran on my Dual Core iMAC my Amstrad 6128 CPC Software .

My iMAC is Core 2 Duo at 2GHz while my Amstrad CPC 6128 is 6Mhz . That is the Core duo processor is 600 time more powerful than amstrad's processor!!!

I run my amstrad software on my mac because my ams does not even have a color monitor, lol. Not bad if you consider that the software is more that 24 years old. And of course you can find emulators for many other thing like amigas , ataris etc etc.

Software CAN DEFINETELY run FOREVER. Hardware cannot as some components will go obsolete at some point. But I agree , if a hardware synth can serve you for 30 + years, why be so unreasonable and demand it to last forever.

I am curious to see how long my Andromeda will last. Already it is 1 year old and has some issues with the up/down buttons, but it works flawlessly if I ignore this small issue . Will see.
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