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Why did the Jomox Sunsyn fail?
Old 9th October 2011
  #1
Why is the Jomox Sunsyn not still in production?

Given that it appears to be pretty much everything people here seem to want:

Polyphonic
Proper nice analogue sound - in the same league as vintage synths
Multimode filter
Great envelopes
Great modulation
Interesting digital Osc
Memory
MIDI
Modern format

I think it was released before I was in the market for synths - what year was it?...it seems to me - that its got it all and is what peeps around here keep asking for...I wonder - if it was released again - now the market has become more analogue crazy (and EDM has become more mainstream) - would it do better now?

Im not asking for it to be made again - cos I know it wont. Just a bit frustrating really to hear demos - and to realise - this one synth could probably cover all my needs if it was still available. The second hand cost now being prohibitively expensive. Timing is everything!
Old 9th October 2011
  #2
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Yoozer's Avatar
Crazily expensive to build, immensely densely packed PCB (JM mentions this in the interview on Youtube), lingering OS bugs.

Basically anyone wanting to produce on a bigger scale should make the design, then submit it to DSI who can turn it into mass production since they've got that covered better than most.
Old 9th October 2011
  #3
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What makes you say it failed? Do you have sales figures which confirm far more were produced than sold? Or do you have confirmation from Jomox that not enough pre-orders came in to justify making more?

The Sunsyn is Jomox's most complex synth, and he makes them himself. I can't imagine the amount of components, time and effort that goes into making one, but I bet it's considerable enough to one day stop doing it to do something else.
Old 9th October 2011
  #4
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LiquidChild's Avatar
 

I'm a very happy owner of a Sunsyn and I really like the sound and possibilities - this machine didn't fail for me! ;-)
Old 9th October 2011
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
What makes you say it failed? Do you have sales figures which confirm far more were produced than sold? Or do you have confirmation from Jomox that not enough pre-orders came in to justify making more?

The Sunsyn is Jomox's most complex synth, and he makes them himself. I can't imagine the amount of components, time and effort that goes into making one, but I bet it's considerable enough to one day stop doing it to do something else.
If something is successful - generally - they keep selling it. But in fairness - perhaps fail is too strong.

Given the continual discussion and salivation over analogue polysynths around here - one has to wonder why such an instrument ceased production...
Old 9th October 2011
  #6
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I dont think it failed, it sounded like it was too much of a pia to continue doing.

There is a posting somewhere where the jomox guy explains everything, maybe a youtube video?

I also think he said something along the lines of, if he were to do it again he would do it differently and thats probably why its no longer being sold (in addition to parts).

Im just going off very dim memory, but iirc there was bugs and people who bought it were pretty vocal back in the day. Ie i just paid $xxxx euros and this function abc isnt perfect my virus is better you suck blah blah blah.

So i can hardly blame the guy if he simply folded it.

Who knows? A sunsyn ii might still be in the cards
Old 9th October 2011
  #7
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Beermaster's Avatar
 

I've never used one but I do remember the complaints on The-Gas-Station forum over ten years back with a few owners who got the Sunsyn from new saying that there were a lot of bugs, some functions that were promised in the spec weren't working either.

I could be wrong tho

Beer.
Old 9th October 2011
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Thats pretty much correct. In the beginning there were alot of issues, some very serious. Now most of the OS bugs have been fixed but the MIDI is still not good. Whether it affects you seriously or not depends on what you do with MIDI and what DAW you use.

It was discontinued the first time because the VCA went out of production. The Mk2 was discontinued because it was difficult to source "exotic" parts (which probably includes the VCA).

There were loads of other reasons that Jurgen gave for not wanting to build Sunsyns again however. He said that it almost bankrupted him, that the synth was not easy to build, service or re-engineer and that it was difficult to train others to build/service/re-engineer them because the design was idiosyncratic.

Finally, he said that he was more interested in making new things rather than trying to make the Sunsyn live up to the impossible dream that people have for it. I don't think he feels he can make the synth live up to that, so right now, it just is what it is. Take it or leave it. Live with the negatives or sell it to someone who can.

Few people were interested in buying it the first time round and not many were made. The highest serial number I've seen is #172. They only become super desirable when they ceased production and people started throwing money at the wall to acquire one of the two hundred or so units that are out in the wild.

When Mk2 came out I think some people were hoping he would make more Sunsyns for 5k euros a pop. But I guess even the money wasn't enough to make him want to go back down that old road. I don't blame him really.
Old 9th October 2011
  #9
it sounds rather sad really - all the complaining etc with a guy slaving away to make it - but I suppose - you do expect things to work when you pay up...

So what were the problems - and do they still exist?

Funny how much things become more attractive when they cease to be made. Kind of like rock stars who die early...
Old 9th October 2011
  #10
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I'm one of the few that did get to play with one when they were selling, at a music shop.

It was pretty edgey, and "white" sounding. Kinda like an early Oberheim, except nowhere near as nice and creamy. And not as phat

It was Ok, I didn't feel like it was worth the money to me back then
Old 9th October 2011
  #11
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All of the early bugs in the OS and the dead booting was fixed a long time ago. There are still some features that never made the cut. I don't know if RCO to VCO sync ever made it in OS 2.0.

The MIDI is still bad but its like this on all Jomox instruments complicated enough to have MIDI. As of OS 1.22 it still log jams if you send it loads of MIDI CCs at the same time. Some CCs are not programmed correctly and may or may not cause problems depending on how your MIDI rig uses CCs. For example, cc#10 is a standard continuous controller for panning and is normally a bipolar value with a range from -64 (left) to +63 (right). On the Sunsyn cc#10 controls the rate of a panning LFO with a unipolar range from 0 to 31. Therefore if you DAW does things like resets channel panning to centre when you stop/start the transport, it will max out the LFO panning rate and you need to find creative ways to stop it from doing this using MIDI filters or transforms.

The control surface is intuitive and easy to use but there are many strange Jomox idiosyncracies that will make you scratch your head. The octave range selector for example has 5 octaves but only 3 LEDs. The highest and lowest octave just makes LED 1 and 3 flash. Weird but not a huge deal.

Tuning the thing is very odd and there are no instructions in the manual. Jurgen posted instructions on the yahoo group in broken english but I found it mostly nonsensical and had to figure it out myself. Prior to OS 2.0 you had to calibrate the filters and envelopes manually. The filters are ok to tune but the envelopes are weirder. You have to adjust a timer for attack, decay and sustain to get uniform envelope speed on every voice, but the submenu is too small to fit the release timer on it, so you have to guess the release times. That is one of the weird Jomox idiosyncrasies I'm talking about. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As of OS 2.0 I think you can auto tune the envelopes so thats not a problem anymore.

Due to the design of the chasis and the fan, heat builds up on one side of the unit whilst the other side remains cool. So voices 7 and 8 go out of tune quicker and the envelopes lag more than the other voices over time. As of OS 2.0 I doubt this is an annoyance because you can auto tune the whole lot.

With the RCOs and routing options it can sound really unique. The synth is quite noisy and cranking up the resonance kills bass quickly. With no resonance it can go really loud. The x-pole filter is interesting but its very easy to "lose" settings because when you change patches, all the dials are in different positions and you can't tell where they are supposed to be. A better implementation would be like in Access Virus where you turn a knob and you see 2x values in the LCD display - you see the fixed value that was stored in the patch and the current value that changes with the knob position. This way you know where to reset the knob to get the original settings.

I think thats the main laundry list of outstanding issues. The MIDI stuff can be fixed in jury rig fashion if you know how to use MIDI OX. Some of the quirks might even be desirable because they result in interesting and unexpected sounds. If you can find one and afford it, then it might be worth trying it out if you can justify spending that much money on a synth. If it turns out not to be for you, it won't be difficult to sell it for no loss unless you overpaid to begin with.
Old 9th October 2011
  #12
Mmm...doesnt sound too great those issues...particularly the heat tuning stuff...
Old 9th October 2011
  #13
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Simonator's Avatar
 

I could be wrong... but I thought it was a component supply issue that was the final nail in the coffin?
Old 9th October 2011
  #14
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schmuck's Avatar
I bought a used sunsyn v1 a week ago. So I am still in honeymoon and it was always a bit of a dream-synth for me so take that into account.

The sound and how you operate the synth really did blow me away. I find almost always something I like in a synth, but this one really is special. So I wondered like you: why were they not more successful? (whatever that means, but I think there would be more around if they were a hit).

After some use, I have to say most works as expected, but, of course, there are little things that can go wrong. It is like 8 vintage synths in one box, so what to expect?

BUT, if people were buying it for "serious" use and as the one synth that has to cover it all, it is a different story. Then, these little things can get in the way of doing the work. Once that is "known", it will become a much more "specialised" instrument. Which is less attractive for sales.

The high price made people expect certain "standards" that are not fulfilled. Whether they expected it righfully or not I do not want to judge. For sure, nowadays, this is different, and everybody can read up the "issues" first before making a decision.

Personally, I think it is very usable (in single mode) and I did not experience voices going out of tune after an hour or so like mentionned before. Eight voices are a lot though, if not in multimode (which IS rather unusable on v1), so maybe this would not always show.

I could control it simultaneously with velocity, aftertouch and two additional CC modulations without any hint of a problem. If there is a lot of other stuff going on on the same Midi port though, it can reset itself. Also I had one or the other "unexplained" parameter jump. But that is about it.

It is a great synth and I think if you approach it as what it is, then it is hard to beat and worth the premium. For someone that is explicitly into synths, it is a dream. My other "big" analog polys are xpander and mks-80, and none of these did impress me that much sound wise. Clearly, the sunsyn beats the mks-80 in progammability, and I prefer its usability to the xpander, as well
Old 9th October 2011
  #15
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Oh yeah, is multimode usable now? I remember it was useless in the v1 days (it would confuse all the routing matrix settings and was generally unplayable). Then again, multimode is buggy in alot of synths.

Quote:
I could be wrong... but I thought it was a component supply issue that was the final nail in the coffin?
It was the VCA. Jurgen did acknowledge that Sunsyn could be redesigned around a VCA that was still in production but it would have been a chore and even if he did it, it wouldn't be better than it is now.

Quote:
Mmm...doesnt sound too great those issues...particularly the heat tuning stuff...
Its not that bad. Its just an odd quirk of the synth and you just need to tune it up more frequently. If you have an OS 2.0 then its not a problem at all because it will autotune the envelopes. The worst problem for me was the MIDI log jamming. Having it crash mid performance is not cool and it would do this alot if you hammer it with MIDI. I fixed most of the MIDI related problems barring the log jams using MIDI OX filters and transforms.
Old 9th October 2011
  #16
i hear that osc8 drifts after a while with temperature increase and there's nothing you can do about it.
Old 9th October 2011
  #17
Lives for gear
 

There are 4 voice cards in the Sunsyn with 2 voices per card. They are mounted on the top of the chasis beneath the control surface and theres a small fan mounted on the base of the unit. Voices 7 and 8 tend to drift more than the others, so they go out of tune quicker, the resonance goes out of tune quicker and the envelopes lag a bit more. With OS 2.0 autotune it shouldn't be a problem because it will auto correct the drift in all cases. In OS 1.22 you can autotune VCOs only, so you have manually correct the filter tuning and envelope drift.

I didn't find it that annoying to deal with and to be honest, you could do worse by simply screwing up the tuning routine since you can make all the voices have non uniform tuning and envelope times making it sound really wonky. The problem sounds worse than it actually is. I have a low tolerance for bull**** and I admit that it was one of the very minor issues. The major issue for me was the log jamming and some of the weird design issues like not showing 2 values when you turn a knob (stored value and current value). Because of this, you essentially "lose" stored settings because once you move all the knobs around, you can't tell what the original knob positions were. That is something I've been spoilt with on modern synths like Virus TI which don't have design problems like this. The downside is that deconstructing patches can be anywhere from difficult to impossible. If you are looking for an upside then theres more of a tendency to program based on feel because you don't know what the stored settings are.

I think one of the other major problems is what to do if you ever develop a hardware fault. You really have to send it back to Berlin which isn't so bad if you live in the EU but if you are in the US it can be a logistical nightmare. Insurance won't cover the purchase price unless you spend a metric tonne on top up insurance. I think alot of people are kind of hesitant about shipping 5 grands worth of synthesizer half way around the world without being covered.

This might sound strange but I don't think Jurgen was thinking about how easy it would be to service these things when he was building it. In any event there is no service manual so you will have difficulty trying to fix it yourself. One of the great things about some of the old MIDI polysynths like Xpander is that you can totally tell they were designed to be serviced quickly and easy. The pcb layout is clean and theres loads of space to stick your elbows out. The service manual is comprehensive and tells you all the part numbers and you have full schematics. Great stuff. Even if you don't want to do it yourself, you just copy the service manual to the dude tasked with fixing your synth and in 2 days they will know pretty much everything about the build.
Old 9th October 2011
  #18
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I think it's not worth to pay a huge ammount of money for this synth and go thru all this effort to keep the unit calibrated and 100% functional... Just thinking about all this maintenance routine just makes feel like never getting a sunsyn.
Old 10th October 2011
  #19
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tvsky's Avatar
discontinued due to lack of a avaliablity of parts and was not economically viable to produce , jomox lost money on them . just under 200 made .

10 limited edition v2 synths just released made use of existing parts stock piles , there are no more because of that

major issues were chronic midi problems causing instability , crashes and lock ups . even the odd bricked synth

bricked sunsyn's due to failed o/s upgrades and occasion usage crashes , fixed in v2

major o/s issues early on with many unimplemented features , some things never implemented

very difficult to tune and calibrate , hardware issues left some 7/8 voices unable to be calibrated at all over time . no way to switch off voices in o/s leaves it unuseable . no physical way to calibrate voice (trim pots etc)

unworkable multimode , not fixed in v2 due to limitations in hardware . will never be fixed

no way to fix , calibrate , service outside of jomox , very unpractical outside of EU if not virtually impossible

a very big brash electronic sound with a high noise floor . sort of oberheim type of sound in its size but not a vintage sound at all . some people were put off

IMO opinion if you dont pay to much and you live in the eu so you can get it fixed/serviced/calibrated its a good synth . not a great one . for the money theres many more viable options especially if you live outside the EU
Old 10th October 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pointsource View Post
I think it's not worth to pay a huge ammount of money for this synth and go thru all this effort to keep the unit calibrated and 100% functional... Just thinking about all this maintenance routine just makes feel like never getting a sunsyn.
Its not a whole lot different to early MIDI or pre MIDI analogue polys to be honest. I had more problems with my Xpander which doesn't respond to CC at all. Then 2 VCOs, a VCF and a multiplexer died around the same time and the tuning started to become seriously unstable (3 semi tone drift in under a minute). It spent 4 months in a workshop before I could even find a pair of CEM-3374s. Now its fine, but keeping any analogue poly 100% functional involves having a maintenance routine and you pay through the hole to own one. I don't think its worth it anymore but some people do and thats fair enough I guess.

The laundry list is for folks to prepare themselves for potential problems and to make them aware of potential solutions.
Old 10th October 2011
  #21
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krushing's Avatar
I'm thinking that even without all the issues it would've still been a pretty expensive synth - not necessarily compared to what it's capable of, but just in terms of putting those bills on the table. People are very vocal about what they want - or think they want - but it doesn't necessarily correlate with being able or willing to pony up the cash to actually buy something that fulfills those projected needs. It can be hard to explain to the real world why this white-orange box of mystery costs what it costs
Old 10th October 2011
  #22
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crufty's Avatar
Esp at first, a jp 8 was less...
Old 10th October 2011
  #23
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CoolColJ's Avatar
 

Well in a few years time when the caps start to go, I imagine things will start to get real hairy
Old 10th October 2011
  #24
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The guy who repaired my Xpander said this about recapping:

"Recapping fever is becoming a virus that is infecting all synth forums
over the last few years, I don't believe in it as a panacea to cure all
ills, because it doesn't, and an end user with a soldering iron and a
bag of caps will almost certainly do more harm than good."

To be honest I think hes right and the even if you did know what you were doing, replacing the caps wouldn't be a difficult thing to do nor would it be difficult to source the parts necessary. The thing you are going to worry about with Sunsyn is the VCAs failing or some other part of the voice card which is small, dense and apparently a nightmare to work on.

Jurgen has said that he has enough spares for Sunsyn repairs. At this point, Sunsyn owners should just be wishing Jurgen Michaelis a long and healthy life, as hes probably the only one who can figure out his own idiosyncratic voice card design and probably the only one with all the spares in any event.

If you want Jurgen to live longer though, you probably want to stop pestering him about making more Sunsyns because building them appears to be the autobahn to an early grave.

I don't thing the Sunsyn project failed exactly but a monster analogue polysynth isn't commercially viable in these times for mega multi national corporations let alone one man with a workshop. It seems impossible for one man to design and build synth that advanced as well as juggle OS design, debugging and MIDI implementation. It seems like it would require a multi disciplinary team of experts to get it all right. The synth has become legendary as much for its cons as its pros but I nevertheless think this is something Jurgen can be proud of, all things considered, but its not for me. I have fond memories of it, despite all the annoyances.

Never got to use it in a song because I could never get it to not crash with my MIDI rig. I tried tearing the whole lot down and rebuilding my MIDI rig but it just felt like too much to accomodate one instrument. It had to go unfortunately. I made several patches and demos before I sold it and I still have them on the hdd in my old PC. If theres interest, I'll dig them up so you can check out how it sounds.
Old 10th October 2011
  #25
Gear Addict
 

Unworkable midi and non functioning multimode is a deal breaker for me, never mind the future proofing, etc.

I'm sure it has a good sound and some interesting features, but a polysynth for me needs to have multitimbrality functioning perfectly.

The Xpander and Andromeda did both of these very well, with the edge to the Xpander for ease of use and set up, the andromeda you can use all 16 voices independently and it just loves it.

Also, the Xpander can use midi CC's, you can assign the pedal inputs to CC numbers then assign the pedals to modulate anything (and everything) and that CC sent to the midi input will modulate the parameters.
Old 10th October 2011
  #26
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rids's Avatar
 

I'll have to echo everyone's sentiments that it did indeed not fail. In fact it achieved everything and more that I wanted out of a poly analog. The Sunsyn can even control you, it's so good. For example, with the Sunsyn, hooked up, hitting a key on your keyboard forces you to smile immediately. It's like it's an extension of you.
Old 11th October 2011
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmo View Post
Also, the Xpander can use midi CC's, you can assign the pedal inputs to CC numbers then assign the pedals to modulate anything (and everything) and that CC sent to the midi input will modulate the parameters.
Wait, wut? You can do this? If you could pm me about this I would be grateful because I didn't think it was possible to CC this thing.
Old 11th October 2011
  #28
thanks for the response on this...its quashed my GAS a little and been educational...probably wont sell Grandma now for a Sunsyn - sounds like it might have more reliability issues than her and components are rarer.
Old 11th October 2011
  #29
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I should point out that I can't really tolerate vintage analogue synths either - ones that are pre MIDI or early MIDI with incomplete/buggy spec. I hate having to find rare parts for anything and I'd rather not have to deal with hording spares. My setup is entirely based around a computer running Windows 7, so I will sell up or pass up anything that doesn't work fully with a modern computer running Windows. It is critical that I only have 1 keyboard (which must be a Virus TI) because I don't have a big room and its astonishing how quickly my productivity goes down when my work space is cramped and cluttered.

If you already have vintage analogue synths then Sunsyn is really not a whole lot different. Its just a bit harder to service and you can only reliably get spares from 1 guy in Berlin. He won't sell separately however since they are for Sunsyn repairs only. Hopefully that should explain my position clearly. I note that there are alot of people on this forum that are ok with making sacrifices to incorporate really old synths into modern studios or they simply do not rely on modern conveniences. If that sounds like you, then the laundry list above might not even affect you in a meaningful way. In any event, it makes more sense to think of the Sunsyn like a really old synth even if it is modern. It is modern in many ways but it is also really retro in others. If you can handle the retroness of it, then you'll find alot to like. I just couldn't handle it. Thats all there is to it.
Old 11th October 2011
  #30
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dhollmusik's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robobaby View Post
The guy who repaired my Xpander said this about recapping:

"Recapping fever is becoming a virus that is infecting all synth forums
over the last few years, I don't believe in it as a panacea to cure all
ills, because it doesn't, and an end user with a soldering iron and a
bag of caps will almost certainly do more harm than good."

To be honest I think hes right.

This is very interesting. We should have a dedicated thread on this, with audio examples before-and-after.
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