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Prototype AKAI S612 MIDI Front Panel Animator!!
Old 10th April 2016
  #1
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Thread Starter
Prototype AKAI S612 MIDI Front Panel Animator!!

Things have been a little crazy here in The Lab over the last few weeks with three design projects underway as well as the usual stream of vintage gear overhauls...

I thought I'd share a sneak preview of one of my latest projects after building the first prototype pcb and writing a chunk of code in C to drive it.... it has come to life!!

The venerable S612 sampler was designed by David Cockerell in the early 1980s as one of the first "affordable" studio samplers on the market. Completely crushed in terms of specification by today's standards with its 1 second sample memory in max sample rate and ultra basic MIDI implementation the 612 still has a following. This is in part because it is remarkably simply to use and has a peculiar manual splicing control permitting the start and end points to be moved and even reversed in real time.

This feature is very cool but what it has always cried out for is some means of animating the controls in real time. The FPA board allows just this - under the control of 5 MIDI CC channels its able to control the Sample Start, End, Filter Cutoff and Vibrato Controls from a sequencer all in warm scratchy 12-bit audio with surprisingly fast MIDI response.

This opens a whole new creative path on this old beast resulting in weird glitchy loops, reversed effects and general chaos..



The pcb is quite a job to fit as the main motherboard has to be removed from the chassis but is extremely neat in situ and there is literally just one flying lead to another external circuit.



The board picks up on a mounting point to the chassis on a metal standoff..



Here are a few test recordings made shortly after the alpha release firmware came to life. A rhythmic sequence is made with note on events and then the sample start and end points and filter cutoff are animated in real time using three CC channels.

The system has only been usable for the past couple of days so still getting used to working with it but it certainly is proving more than capable of mangling just about any short sample...

https://soundcloud.com/hideaway-studio/612-fpa-demo-01

https://soundcloud.com/hideaway-stud...imator-test-ii

Last edited by EF86; 17th April 2016 at 11:17 AM..
Old 10th April 2016
  #2
Gear Guru
I'll take two please
Old 10th April 2016
  #3
Lives for gear
 

Sounds awesome! Great job, sir!
Old 10th April 2016
  #4
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Been testing my MIDI CC handling and Run Mode Status code firmware and fired the 612 and Front Panel Animator a sequence running at 240BPM which it appeared to handle fine. Looking on the scope at the control lines nothing appears to be glitching or jumping wildly.

The MIDI response on the 612 feels pretty tight. One thing that works nicely is sampling an arpeggiated sequence and then playing it back on 16ths whilst moving the start point via CC 20 in the sequencer.

If the start point crosses the end point the sample reverses which under sequenced control can get pretty freaky.

Just slotted a new example of this arpeggiator offset effect 40 seconds into the test recordings:

https://soundcloud.com/hideaway-studio/612-fpa-demo-01

Another really simple but effective thing sampling a filter sweep over white noise or a tone or some kind of siren or frequency sweep and then playing very short notes whilst animating the start and end points.
Old 10th April 2016
  #5
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soundxplorer's Avatar
Wow, that is a seriously impressive modification. Nice work! The soundcloud example is great.
Old 10th April 2016
  #6
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drockfresh's Avatar
Wow - sounds great
Old 10th April 2016
  #7
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ITS OFFICIAL!!!

any indication on price?
Old 10th April 2016
  #8
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
I have been testing the waters over the last few days and there has indeed been a lot of excited interest in this upgrade so I am looking into various options. Before anything can happen I need to do some sums and make some enquiries before I can make any form of announcement.

One important thing to note is that although the retrofit is a remarkably tidy solution once in place (literally just one flying lead to other circuitry in the 612) the board itself will require a fair degree of skill and decent tools to fit. The entire motherboard has to be removed from the chassis, a 28 pin IC has to be desoldered in tact to the point it can be reused (or a new replacement purchased), preferably with a heated solder pump, and a socket fitted in it's place.

If owners are scared off by the notion of removing 20 or so screws to remove a motherboard and have never desoldered larger PTH ICs from a pcb in tact before then this task needs to be handed over to an experienced engineer as there is a very good chance of permanent damage.

Once the socket is fitted, and the mainboard replaced, the pcb drops in place like a glove - it really satisfyingly looks like it should be there! There is just one resistor to add to an existing small pcb inside the sampler to complete the installation.

With this in light I am exploring a number of options for interested parties:

1. To offer the built/tested pcb assembly with fitment instructions to be fitted by the customer (or the customer's own engineer) as his own risk.

2. To offer a fitment service through a number of authorised synth engineers.

3. To source fully checked over and retrofitted machines via an authorised specialist.

I think at this stage probably the best thing to do is contact me via a PM if anyone is seriously interested in joining the list of early adopters.

The hardware is complete. The firmware is being completed and most of the first 10 units are now going to a shortlist of early adopters prior to the first main batch.
Old 10th April 2016
  #9
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Rob Ocelot's Avatar
Holy ****. I'm in like Flynn on this.

There's some real neat possibilities for granular-like synthesis here. I used to do this manually with the S-612 sliders -- now I can automate it with a Zaquencer/BCR-2000.

edit: Whoops, filter and LFO are already controllable. I was so excited I couldn't read properly!
Old 10th April 2016
  #10
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Excellent!!!
Old 10th April 2016
  #11
Gear Guru
Must resist .. Adopting

I need this .. Just yesterday I was ranting about how cool it would be to have something like this. It's my favorite piece of gear.
Old 11th April 2016
  #12
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Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by djugel View Post
Must resist .. Adopting

I need this .. Just yesterday I was ranting about how cool it would be to have something like this. It's my favorite piece of gear.
Like I say - anyone seriously interested in being an early adopter please PM me as the prototype batch is very small.

Just implemented a startup mode so when the filter control is set fully clockwise the unit powers in normal Manual Mode and when set full anti-clockwise the MIDI Animated Front Panel Control Mode is enabled.

There are a number of other modes planned which I hope to write into the firmware in due course.

Currently building the second FPA board up today with a 612 standing by.

The Arturia BeatStep is proving to be a great source of manual control movements whilst recording them via MIDI into the sequencer. It is very easy to setup for the required CC controls 20 thru 24.
Old 11th April 2016
  #13
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Am I correct in understanding the advantage of this board is only to give MIDI control of those 5 parameters?
Old 11th April 2016
  #14
Lives for gear
Why can't someone make a modern sampler that does this and sounds like this
Old 11th April 2016
  #15
Old-school sampler addict
 
CarLofgren's Avatar
 

Oh my... looks like I have to buy another sampler

/C
Old 11th April 2016
  #16
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
Quote:
Originally Posted by kslight View Post
Am I correct in understanding the advantage of this board is only to give MIDI control of those 5 parameters?
At present this is the case but the 612 doesn't exactly have many parameters to control anyway.. and in many ways that's part of it's charm

On the drawing board in the early 80s, the original MIDI implementation was extremely basic. The firmware on the unit runs on a pretty busy 4MHz Z80 out of a tiny ROM which isn't exactly a good starting point for additionally decoding a bunch of real time controllers so the board overlays this task with a separate processor. There was an attempt to address some shortcomings a long time ago but it didn't offer the same functionality as the FPA.

The retrofit is in fact the first of two retrofits for the 612 which is well underway but at this stage I'm unable to reveal any details.
Old 11th April 2016
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EF86 View Post
At present this is the case but the 612 doesn't exactly have many parameters to control anyway.. and in many ways that's part of it's charm

On the drawing board in the early 80s, the original MIDI implementation was extremely basic. The firmware on the unit runs on a pretty busy 4MHz Z80 out of a tiny ROM which isn't exactly a good starting point for additionally decoding a bunch of real time controllers so the board overlays this task with a separate processor. There was an attempt to address some shortcomings a long time ago but it didn't offer the same functionality as the FPA.

The retrofit is in fact the first of two retrofits for the 612 which is well underway but at this stage I'm unable to reveal any details.

Right, ok...was just curious..I have one sitting here, would be interested in seeing what you come up for it, I'll probably hold off on any retrofits for now though.
Old 11th April 2016
  #18
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Rob Ocelot's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by earwolf View Post
Why can't someone make a modern sampler that does this and sounds like this
*cough* OTO Biscuit *cough*

Not technically a sampler but it replicates the Fairlight CMI signal path and effect of bit crushing and bit reduction with an analog filter to smooth out the rough edges -- a big part of what people use the S-612 for mostly nowadays.

Shame they just stopped making them.
Old 11th April 2016
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob Ocelot View Post
*cough* OTO Biscuit *cough*

Not technically a sampler but it replicates the Fairlight CMI signal path and effect of bit crushing and bit reduction with an analog filter to smooth out the rough edges -- a big part of what people use the S-612 for mostly nowadays.

Shame they just stopped making them.
Not really comparable. The Biscuit is basically just a bit-crusher, right? (though a nice sounding one from the demo!) The 612 can get really "dirty", but it doesn't really have any real aliasing artifacts unless you're crazy and bypass the filter (like I did:P). Aside from the grungy tone, the charm is really in the simplicity and the ability to change start/end-points in real time.

The Akai S-01 is the closest "modern" sampler that seems to capture the simple charm of the 612 (it also doesn't have any sort of anti-aliasing filter), but it lacks any real-time control over start/end-points. Someone definitely needs to get a kickstarter going for a modern Mirage-esque sampler with an S-612 interface though... I've been saying this for a while.
Old 11th April 2016
  #20
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What other samplers can change start and end points in real time?
Both hardware and software.
Old 12th April 2016
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perplexo View Post
What other samplers can change start and end points in real time?
Both hardware and software.
With dedicated sliders on the front panel that allow you to instantly reverse the sample? Aside from the unobtanium Fairlight and Emulator 1, and the S612, that's it.
Old 12th April 2016
  #22
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abruzzi's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sir Ruff View Post
With dedicated sliders on the front panel that allow you to instantly reverse the sample? Aside from the unobtanium Fairlight and Emulator 1, and the S612, that's it.
The Ensoniq EPS16 and ASR-10 can do it (not with dedicated control, but you can't have everything.)

EDIT: sorry, not sure about reverse, but loop point modulation, yes.
Old 12th April 2016
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by abruzzi View Post
The Ensoniq EPS16 and ASR-10 can do it (not with dedicated control, but you can't have everything.)

EDIT: sorry, not sure about reverse, but loop point modulation, yes.
The dedicated control is my point. If the 612 didn't have that, it would be an s700, which clearly isn't as popular!
Old 12th April 2016
  #24
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
All ten 612 FPA modules from the prototype batch have been reserved almost instantly with the first 4 going to famous EM artists in the UK and US (please don't ask who! ).

I will try my best to slot in the other requests as early adoptors as best I can into the first batch - I will send confirmation in the near future.

To be honest the very positive response has caught me a little off guard so I'm now working hard on carefully costing up the assembly, liasing with contract manufacturers and having discussions about dealing with setting up authorised installers and shipping. A detailed installation manual is starting to come together too for those who wish to arrange their own techs to fit FPA retrofits.

I will keep everyone posted and will make some form of more official announcement on my website but in the meantime if anyone wants to know more feel free to drop me an email (my email address is on my website at the end of the About section).
Old 12th April 2016
  #25
Quote:
Originally Posted by earwolf View Post
Why can't someone make a modern sampler that does this and sounds like this
Close but sounds different Bastl Instruments Microgranny 2
microGranny 2
Old 12th April 2016
  #26
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lineofcontrol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by EF86 View Post
All ten 612 FPA modules from the prototype batch have been reserved almost instantly with the first 4 going to famous EM artists in the UK and US (please don't ask who! ).
c'mon give us some clues!!!
Old 12th April 2016
  #27
Gear Guru
Bet one of them is named Dick
Old 12th April 2016
  #28
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter
No clues!
Old 12th April 2016
  #29
I need to see a video of this to fully comprehend it. Needless to say, you have my full attention
Old 12th April 2016
  #30
Gear Head
 

Thread Starter


FPA Prototypes 001 & 002: Two chicks at the same time!
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