M-Audio Axiom Pro 25 / 49 / 61 hex files for flashing with JTAG

Download axiom-pro-25-49-61-firmware-hex.zip

Text from the readme:

These are hex files of the firmware for the M-Audio Axiom Pro 25, 49 and 61.

Most 1st gen Axiom Pros sooner or later get “bricked” because of some bug in the firmware – yes, it’s a self-destructing firmware. M-Audio won’t
help you since they changed owners and therefore claims they have no responsibility – a scandal…

Roger Roumen has discovered how to flash the firmware using the JTAG interface directly on the board, instead of using the USB port (which doesn’t
work since the Axiom Pro is bricked).
See the video here: http://youtu.be/mIqwYbaZw28

The problem I ran into was that the hex files generated with bin2hex using the command “BIN2HEX.EXE /O0x4000 /4 opalXX.dfu opalXX.hex” resulted in
276 015 bytes large hex files, instead of the 315 439 bytes large hex file provided by Roger. When flashing these files the Axiom Pro would still
be bricked.

I eventually tested to flash my Axiom Pro 49 with the opal61.hex provided by Roger and the thing actually booted and worked, though it said Axiom
61 in the user interface! I tested some of the features and it seemed to work ok, I guess the mainboard is the same on all models. However, I
wasn’t satisfied with this solution.

After taking a closer look at the hex files, I discovered that the opal61.hex from Roger had 512 more rows (row 2-513) than the ones converted with
bin2hex. I then copy and pasted those rows from the opal61.hex to the opal49.hex and flashed my Axiom 49 Pro. It worked flawlessly! Therefore, I
suspect that this will work on the Axiom Pro 25 as well.
opal25.hex, created by me, untested
opal49.hex, created by me, tested and verified
opal61.hex, created by Roger Roumen

FIY, I used a $15 Keil ULINK 2 clone from eBay to flash.

Check out my blog;
http://www.nattvard.com/cmi

 

Korg Polysix arrived

Today my “new”  Polysix arrived. Cosmetic condition is quite good, with the exception of one major dent in the fake wood. It has the CHD midi kit, though I haven’t had time to test it yet.

It’ll need a cleaning and the factory presets, because the current presets are not very exciting at all. The filter sounds amazing, and I really like the built in effects!

E-MU Emulator II bought on eBay

I just did something quite crazy – I bought an EII on eBay. It’s said to be working with the exception of the disk drives.  Those could and should be replaced with an HxC anyway. The big challenge will be shipping it to Sweden. To be continued….

Continued: It will be reshipped in a container since it’s larger than USPS allows. Will probably arrive around Christmas. Worth waiting for…

Bonus: someone has re-created “West End Girls” on an EII.  Fantastic!

Oberheim Matrix-6R

A couple of weeks ago I scored an Oberheim Matrix-6R on eBay. I’ve had a Matrix 1000 before, but we never became friends. It sounded too much techno and too little vintage. Therefore it might sound strange for me to go and buy a Matrix-6, since their guts are nearly the same. The thing that convinced me was the video review by my favorite Japanese guy, Katsunori UJIIE. He really brings out the nice brass and strings this machine is capable of!

Since I live in Europe and bought it from the US (the rack version is quite hard to find in Sweden, I’ve been looking out for one for a while), I turned to a guy I know to convert it from 110 V to 230 V.  I read on his blog that the built in PSU can be switched by doing something on the inside. I didn’t ask him exactly what, but for someone that’s good with electronics, doing the mod should be piece of cake. I suspect it’s something simple like repositioning a wire and changing the fuse.

When I got it back I plugged it in and was amazed by it’s sound! Fantastic brass presets, perfect for a brass guy like me. Compared to how I remembered the Matrix 1000, this sounded like something completely different. Maybe it’s the combination of more vintage sounding presets and the fact that the DCOs on the Matrix-6 aren’t controlled by the same clock.

Compared to the Roland MKS-70 that took two rack units, and really deserved them, the Matrix-6R definitely deserves its three rack units! I still have a JX-10 that has exactly the same guts as the MKS-70, but honestly, I think I like the Oberheim sound better! The JX-10/MKS-70 with their 24 DCOs are technically more advanced, but they are flirting too much with the digital trend of that time. I also find the Oberheim snappier and the filter more characteristic. To sum it up:

Roland JX-10 / MKS-70
Pros:
• 24 DCOs
• Roland chorus

Cons:
• Filter
• Slow envelopes
• Digital sounding presets
• Broken midi/sysex implementation

Oberheim Matrix-6
Pros:
• Filter
• Envelopes
• Vintage sounding presets

Cons:
• 12 DCOs
• 3 rack units (compared to MKS-70 2 or Matrix-1000 1)
• Slow CPU, lots of sysex chokes it

 

Roland MKS-70 swapped for SCI Six-Trak and cash

I just swapped my Roland MKS-70 for an SCI Six-Trak. I felt that I needed an American VCO poly in my collection. There aren’t many affordable ones available, but the Six-Trak is one. I also have a Roland JX-10 which is the keyboard version of the MKS-70.

Design wise, it’s kind of a strange combination of 80’s high tech and 70’s vintage. While it has the classic Sequential Circuits logo and solid wood sides, it has a “digital” user interface. You select a parameter number on a keypad and set the value with a pot.  This is probably a big reason for why it’s not more expensive, kind of like same thing with the Roland JX:s. However, it’s actually very easy to work with, and there’s a nice template for Ctrlr available. The Six-Trak has a very good midi implementation – each parameter is can be controlled by midi CC (!) and not sysex which was the common and annoying way back then.

The cosmetic condition is very good on this one, I heard it was previously owned by the guy who managed SCI imports to Sweden back then.

Soundwise, it’s not a Prophet 5. Compared to the Roland Juno-6, which also is a one oscillator poly, the Six-Trak sounds very weak. To come alive, some external effects like chorus and reverb is recommended. There are no built in effects.

However, there’s a unison mode that definitely turns the Six-Trak to an monophonic monster! This mode can make it deliver extremely fat leads and basses.

Genelec 8030

Yesterday I received a pair of second hand Genelec 8030s. They’re fantastic, I’m hearing stuff I’ve never heard before! They reveal more stuff in all frequencies, and the bass is much fuller than in the old Tannoys. In comparison, the Tannoys didn’t have any bass at all, even though they’re also 5″.

I’m asking myself why I didn’t do this upgrade earlier.

Cheap prommer that works (GQ-4X) and one that doesn’t (TOP853)

I’ve had a few readers asking about the TOP853 eprom programmer and how I got it working. The truth is, I never did. Of all eproms I’ve tried, only a few 21V Mitsubishi 2764s have been successfully burnt. My conclusion and advice to everyone – don’t buy the TOP853 – it doesn’t work!

Here’s a quick list of what I tried before giving up:

  • tried several computers
  • different versions of Windows
  • different USB ports (1, 2 & 3)
  • different USB cables
  • a powered hub
  • various older versions of the software
  • modified an USB cable to draw extra current from the computer’s PSU

Unfortunately, nothing helped. I felt liberated the day I put the TOP853 in the trash and ordered a GQ-4X instead. It costs more than he TOP853, but on the other hand it works. I haven’t had one unsuccessful write yet. Other good GQ-4X features is that it supports modern 64-bit OS:es too, the software is in English instead of Chinglish and is frequently updated. I think the manufacturer is Canadian.

The GQ-4X can be found on eBay. Since I’m in the EU (Sweden), the best thing is to order it from another EU country. I bought mine on eBay UK from the seller cus_co_uk

Organix JX-3P MIDI Expansion Kit ordered

I just got added in the waiting list for the Organix JX-3P MIDI Expansion Kit. The JX-3P already has midi, but the Organix kit adds some features. The one I need the most is the ability to use the PG-200 and midi at the same time (this isn’t possible when standard). Another cool feature is that the PG-200 will send midi CC’s, and the JX-3P will receive midi CC’s. This is extra valuable for those who don’t have a PG-200 and want to use a standard midi controller like a Behringer BCR-2000 or Korg nanoKONTROL. Since the JX-3P is from 1983 it can’t even receive midi sysex!

Now I just have to wait… 🙂

Kawai K3 for Akai S900

I just swapped my Kawai K3 for an Akai S900 and a pile of cash. The K3 was one of those synths that are nice, but of some reason never is used. For that reason I decided to sell it.

I’ve also been working on converting Fairlight I/II/IIx disks to other formats. Akai S900 is one of them. So far I’ve used one of my Oberheim DPX-1s to playback the disks, but a lot of the S900 file formats aren’t fully documented. To be able to reverse engineer those formats I needed a real S900 to be able to set parameters. The DPX-1 is a sample player only, no parameter can be changed.

What’s interesting about the S900 and S950 is the fact that they have variable sample rates just like old drum machines like DX/DMX and Linn. This means that the S900  can play back sounds at any speed between 7.5 kHz to 40 kHz, and it does this by changing the clock. This could be described as manually turning a vinyl disk at different speeds. Most newer samplers uses the “drop sample” method instead. What this actually does is to throw away or duplicate samples. If a sound is to be played back at the double speed using the drop sample method, every second sample is discarded and never played back.

Next thing is to temporarily take the HxC SD Floppy Emulator from the Roland S-330 and put it in the S900 for testing my own generated disk images.

JX-3P bought

I’ve been thinking about not renewing, but “reoldering” my synth park lately, since I’ve realized that drum machines and poly synths of the early 80’s is my thing.

Today I went to Denmark and bought a Roland JX-3P with a PG-200 programmer and a case. I got a fairly good deal!

So far, I really like the sound of the JX-3P. It sounds a lot more vintage than the newer JXs and feels a lot more responsive. The programmer is a very nice addition, it should have been built in the synth from the beginning. The presets are mostly hideous, but that’s easily solved with the PG-200. Custom patches can be saved to any of the 32 user slots. This must be one of the most underrated analog synths ever. It can do amazing brass sounds and I really like brass. It’s nice with two DCO:s and faster envelopes, compared to the other JXs.

The JX-3P was released in 1983 and one of the first synths with midi. And it works very well, I noticed that even program change messages work. One thing that doesn’t work though, is using the PG-200 and midi at the same time. There’s a switch on the back where you decide what to use. This is quite annoying if you have a midi sequence running and want to tweak the sound. However, there’s a cheap mod available called the Organix JX-3P MIDI Expansion that fixes this issues and also makes the PG-200 send midi CC! And some other stuff too. I’ll order it ASAP!

Another thing about midi and the JX-3P is that it was made in two revisions, I have an early one and it lacks midi through. Later revisions have it built in.

80's synth and sampler blog