Alesis AI3 arrived

Since I bought the DMX I’ve felt a lack of analog inputs. My current setup has a total of 18 analog ins, 8 on the Behringer ADA-8000 (all with preamps) and 10 on the Fireface (of which 6 have preamps). The Alesis AI3 will add another 8 ones without preamps to a total of 26. The only way to further expand is to buy an analog to SPDIF converter that will add 2 more inputs, a total of 28.

A couple of days ago I found an Alesis AI3 for a good price. I was first looking for another ADA-8000, but they seem to be keepers. I’ve read in several forums that the ADA-8000 actually uses Alesis manufactured AD converters, the same as in the AI3 and I haven’t found anything wrong with them. What differs from the ADA-8000 is that the AI3 has no preamps, even though it’s price is twice the ADA-8000’s. This means that there are no volume knobs and inputs on the front. That also means that I have to patch the inputs on the rear of the AI3 to a patch bay. Anyway, the package arrived today and here’s a view of it before it was unboxed.

The Alesis AI3 came in a familiar kind of box from Thomann, although this AI3 was a second hand. Thomann hasn't  had it for sale for ages.
The Alesis AI3 came in a familiar kind of box from Thomann, although this AI3 was a second hand. Thomann hasn’t had it for sale for ages.

The install was easy, two toslink cables were included so all I did was to connect the in and out of the AI3 to the RME’s ADAT2 in and out. The ADAT1 is used by the ADA-8000. I opened RME’s excellent Totalmix application and named the inputs accordingly.

View of RME's Totalmix software. 1-10 are the analog ins on the Fireface, 11-12 are the unused SPDIF inputs, 13-20 is for ADAT1 which in my case is the ADA-8000 and 21-28 is the AI3.
View of RME’s Totalmix software. 1-10 are the analog ins on the Fireface, 11-12 are the unused SPDIF inputs, 13-20 is for ADAT1 which in my case is the ADA-8000 and 21-28 is the AI3.

Except for the stereo SPDIF input, my RME Fireface 800 is now maxed. The only way to add more inputs is to add one or two more Fireface 800s and chain them together. When it comes to configuring the AI3, there’s not very much to configure. Two buttons on the front are all there is. One is to select whether the AI3 should output the analog ins or the ADAT in to the ADAT out. The other one selects operating level. I actually use -10dBv although it’s the consumer level (+4dBu is quieter). The reason why is that most of my gear has quite low output signals.

The AI3 has two buttons on the front, what to output to the toslink and what level to operate on. +4 dBu is the professional level, and is actually quieter than the consumer level - 10 dBv which is louder.
The AI3 has two buttons on the front, what to output to the toslink and what level to operate on.
+4 dBu is the professional level, and is actually quieter than the consumer level – 10 dBv which is louder.

One interesting thing is that the AI3 needs to have both the in and out ADAT connected for it to sync. Without the in toslink I got a very interesting “bit-crush” sound when the ADA-8000 was turned on. I don’t know why the ADA-8000 doesn’t need an in toslink, but I’ll buy one anyway just to make sure everything is in sync.

The RME Fireface 800 shows that both ADAT inputs are used.
The RME Fireface 800 shows that both ADAT inputs are used.
View of RME's Fireface settings. The RME is the Master of the ADA-8000 and AI3. I always record at 24-bit 44.1 kHz. Both ADAT-devices goes to max 48 kHz. Without ADAT units, the Fireface can manage 24-Bit 192 kHz!
View of RME’s Fireface settings. The RME is the Master of the ADA-8000 and AI3. I always record at 24-bit 44.1 kHz. Both ADAT-devices goes to max 48 kHz. Without ADAT units, the Fireface can manage 24-Bit 192 kHz!

 

I had to reorganize the rack to make space for the AI3 and one more Neutrik patchbay (which I haven’t purchased yet. The Roland S-330 and U-220 was moved below the Microwave. I had noticed that the S-330 power cable was a bit glitchy, so I decided to open it up and search for the problem. Read more about the power cable replacement here.

Testing the AI3 before mounting it in the rack.
Testing the AI3 before mounting it in the rack.
The AI3 is in the rack and the Oberheim DMX is back on top where it belongs! I saved a 1U free space for another Neutrik NYS-SPP-L1 patch bay. The reason for not putting the ADA-8000 next to the RME is because both have preamps and tend to get very hot. The patch bays are passive, and the AI3 doesn't get hot either.
The AI3 is in the rack and the Oberheim DMX is back on top where it belongs! I saved a 1U free space for another Neutrik NYS-SPP-L1 patch bay. The reason for not putting the ADA-8000 next to the RME is because both have preamps and tend to get very hot. The patch bays are passive, and the AI3 doesn’t get hot either.

 

Boss DR-110 arrived

I just received the Boss DR-110, a.k.a electronic toy. Very good packaging, condition looked as on the eBay pictures. Serial number 400300. However, when I started playing with it I noticed that only the HAND CLAP had any volume. The other sounds were there, but very quiet.

I posted on the 99musik forum. I shortly got an answer from a guy that never had used a DR-110, but had taken a look at the schematics. He suspected the balance knob, according to the schematics all voices are wired through the balance knob except for the hand clap that goes directly to the amplifier.

dr-110-5-schematics-balance

ALL OTHER VOICES -> BALANCE KNOB -> AMPLIFIER
HAND CLAP -> AMPLIFIER

dr-110-4-balance-solder
The DR-110 has four knobs, from left to right:
TEMPO, BALANCE, ACCENT, VOLUME
As you can see, the BALANCE soldering doesn’t factory

I opened the DR, and guess what, the soldering on the balance knob didn’t look at all like the other ones. Note that the schematics are seen from the top, my photo is from the bottom, that’s why the knobs don’t make sense at the first look.

I’ll have to fix this, to be continued…

Oberheim DMX bargain

Just bought an Oberheim DMX. It was a real bargain, listed at 2000 Danish crowns ($350). I called him and offered him 2500 ($440) if he’d reserve it for me. He had one person that had contacted him before that wanted to buy it, and said he would call me if that person didn’t buy the DMX. At that point I told myself that it most certainly would be sold.

Later that day he called me and said that the buyer didn’t have the cash. So now I was first in line. I jumped in my car and drove to Denmark. Even if the condition wouldn’t be great, or if a voice card would be bad, it would still be a bargain. When I arrived and saw it in real life I couldn’t believe my eyes – it looked mint and worked flawlessly. I bought it for 2500. He told me that people after me in line had offered him 3000 ($530) and more. Very nice seller by the way! He told me that it’s this DMX that is used on this recording. I think the seller is the guy playing the bass in the video.

On the way back I turned on the radio and heard Into the Groove by Madonna. That must have been a sign. Just like when I heard Carrie by Europe when I was driving home with my JX-8P.

The sound is fantastic, very punchy. And extremely present! Already love it!
Now I have to stop writing and Google for MIDI-mods and check if the battery could cause problems.

Boss Dr-110 bought

In my studio I have lots of analog synths, but no analog drum machine. That changed tonight when I scored a Boss Dr-110 on eBay! I wouldn’t say no to a Roland TR-x0x, but since the prices have skyrocketed lately, the Dr-110 is a steal for $100. Have a look at the clip that persuaded me to buy it.

Must say that both machines sound fantastic, and very similar! One thing that scares me is the lack of MIDI, but the positive thing is that I really will have to learn how to program it!

I hope this one survives the trip from Canada over the Atlantic. Otherwise I can always call Dr Beat.

(Hey wait! That’s not a Dr, that’s Linn!)

Unitor8 and AMT8 chained

One really good feature is the possibility to chain two of these and get 16 I/O, shown to the computer as one device. Note that this works perfectly well with OS X, but on Windows, XP is the last version supported. NO 64-bit Vista / 7 / 8.

Unitor Family Driver 2.5

  1. Connect the two devices with the Mac-lead (haven’t tried the 422 COM ports)
  2.  Plug it in the USB-port
  3. Turn both devices on
  4. Turn Mac on
  5. Go to software update and look for updates
  6. Install the Unitor Family Driver 2.5 update
  7. Restart computer

 

Venom traded for Axiom Pro 49

I just traded my M-Audio Venom for the Axiom Pro 49 from the same manifacturer. The reason why is simple – I need knobs and not a VA.

I won’t use the HyperControl mapping since it’s mostly for software instruments. What’s great is that the Axiom also transmits regular midi CC.

My first hands experience says that:

  1. The keys feel very solid. They are visually piano style, but feels a bit lighter. The Venom had that cheap, light, plastic feel. Of all my keyboards, the Axiom keys remind me the most of the ones on the Kawai K3.
  2. It has aftertouch – very nice! Aftertouch is something new to me, the JX-synths has it, but the aftertouch always dies on them. Doesn’t matter now when I have the Axiom as master keyboard.
  3. It has A LOT of knobs and sliders  – great success!

Repairing an M-Audio Venom

I’m actually not very interested in virtual analogs. With an all digital audio path you could as well use software instruments. One good feature though is that some of the oscillator waveforms are sampled from real classics. The Venom also has classic drum machine samples from 808, 909 and more. This review is quite nice:

Anyway, a couple of months ago I pickup a (not that) used Venom for about 1000 SEK / $150. My plan was to use it purely as a midi controller since it has four assignable knobs that sends midi CCs, so I thought why not.

After a few hours use, suddenly the A3-key started to squeak every time I pressed and released it. It’s hard to describe how utterly annoying that is, I was near reinstalling my Roland PC MKII that has been turned on and worked flawlessly for 17 years (and still going strong=quality) and sell or trade the Venom for a Behringer BCR-2000. Also, there was something lose in the Venom that rattled everytime I moved it.

With not too much too lose, I decided to try to fix the Venom. The first thing was to open the damn thing. When I looked underneath it, I was chocked to find 42 Philips screws! Insane! Not knowing which ones to unscrew to open the case, I googled for a service manual but couldn’t find one. This had to be done the hard way…

Luckily, it turned out that it wasn’t very complicated, but rather time consuming. What you have to do is simply unscrewing all the of the 32 screws that in “rectangular” holes. The 10 screws in round holes (marked by a red square) are holding the keys to the bottom part of the case. We’ll get to these later.

The red square marks the screws that holds the keys to the bottom. All other screws must be unscrewed to open the case.
The red rectangle marks the screws that holds the keys to the bottom. All other screws must be unscrewed to open the case.
All of the 32 screws that needs to be unscrewed to open.
All of the 32 screws that needs to be unscrewed to open.

So I started to unscrew. After that, the top part could be lifted a couple of inches. The only thing left to completely detach the top from the bottom was this lead that connects the keyboard to the motherboard.

The lead that connects the keyboard to the motherboard
The lead that connects the keyboard to the motherboard
The motherboard and other circuit boards are attached to the top piece. The arrow marks where the keyboard lead is connected.
The motherboard and other circuit boards are attached to the top piece. The arrow marks where the keyboard lead is connected.

As soon as I opened the Venom, this little piece of glue fell out of it. This was also the piece that caused the rattling.

It was this little piece of glue that made the Venom rattle.
It was this little piece of glue that made the Venom rattle.

The next thing was to locate what made the key squeak. An interesting and quite confusing thing is that all white keys are marked E1 to E7, plus the C6 key that is marked E8. All black keys are marked C4.

For some reason all white keys are marked with and E and a number between 1-7. The most upper key, the C5, is marked E8. All black keys are marked C4.
For some reason all white keys are marked with and E and a number between 1-7. The most upper key, the C5, is marked E8. All black keys are marked C4.

You can also see the key spring. To remove the key, the spring must first be removed. Removing the spring is a no brainer, just lift the spring in the bottom or the top. As soon as I hade removed the spring from the squeaking key, the squeaking disappeared. I put the spring back and then the squeaking returned. I tried to swap the spring with one from  another key, but that made no difference.

To remove key, first remove the spring (notice that the spring is still there in the picture), and then push the key in the direction of the red arrow
To remove key, first remove the spring (notice that the spring is still there in the picture), and then push the key in the direction of the red arrow

I figured I had to remove the squeaking key and one other key to compare them and see if there was any visible difference. The simplest way to remove a key is to push it towards you, the same direction as the arrow in the photo. It doesn’t take much force. Putting it back isn’t hard either.

Two removed keys
Two removed keys

Looking at visual differences, there wasn’t any, other than the low quality plastic stuff on the edges left there from manifacturing. You never see stuff like this in an old vintage Roland synth…

Next thing to try was to swap the squeaking key with another non-squeaking one. The bad boy was the A3, so I decided to swap it with the A5 key. To my surprise, the A3 stopped squeaking and so did the A5. Don’t ask me how, but this was the solution! I put the Venom back together, only using a third of the screws just to make sure that it still worked. Which it did! Case closed!

BONUS:

During my investigation I also removed the key circuit boards to see if the error was there. Looking back, this was totally unnecessary. I took some photos, so I thought I might as well post them here.  Have a look at the gallery below.

Restoring factory presets in the Waldorf Microwave

When I got the Microwave it had a lot of german 90’s techno sounding presets strangely named like “Horny Bitch” and so on (Horny Bitch wasn’t even a brass patch = FAIL).

I guess this isn't a factory preset. Read my other post on how to restore the factory presets.
I guess this isn’t a factory preset. Read my other post on how to restore the factory presets.

I had to get the factory presets back! Fortunately Waldorf supplies these on their homepage.

Go to the Sounds folder and download the midi version. In the zip you’ll find the factory presets and some bonus presets. To transfer them to the MW, simply open the midi file and run it in the sequencer. For me it worked directly, some settings might have to be set first, instructions are in the zip file.

My favorites so far are:

  • factory.mid – The factory banks
  • ppg/mwave2_3.mid – I think these are the factory patches from the PPG Wave 2.3
  • wavepool/digital.mid – A lot of lofi digital sounding patches, very PPG:ish

Waldorf Microwave has arrived

Today my Waldorf Microwave arrived after a long journey from Germany to Sweden. What better way to spend the friday evening?

Another Oberheim DPX-1 bought

I just bought another Oberheim DPX-1 from a guy in Stockholm since the one I bought in the US arrived in a non working condition. This also has the 8-output and cd-rom expansion. I thought those were rare…

Another bonus is the sticker from “Music Mania” which was a music store where I bought my first synth/rompler, the Korg NS5R in 1996. I still have that one, but I don’t like any of its  sounds anymore.

80's synth and sampler blog