Maiikro Bruto

You just got to love Japanese guys doing synth demos. I have no idea what he is talking about but this guy is awesome! By the way, an Arturia micro brute is definitely going inside my studio. It looks really handy, affordable and it sounds like there are industrial sounds inside waiting to get out! 🙂

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The spaces in between me and my P6

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I started refurbishing the Polysix synth some time around Christmas. Thought I could finish it up in a few weeks. But some things got in between. First the release of Noumenon that made us work day and night with “The last finishing touch”. Trimming small details of instruments until we were happy with them took us ridiculous amounts of time.  I think we synthesized and trimmed a single kick-drum for a few weeks just before christmas. I don´t know if that kind of attention to details really cuts through to the listeners but personally I think it feels satisfying knowing that we did the best we could do at the time being. There´s obviously a limit to what is sane when it comes to polishing music and perhaps we were balancing on the edge.

Some people would probably argue that this kind of attention to detail is pointless when it comes to Industrial music and all it´s harshness. But nothing could be more wrong, this genre is all about the details. We are happy with the result, but that last month or so really sucked the energy out of us. Even more so for Henrik since he is the musical mastermind of our musical project and the one that had to deal with all the small changes in the end. It was a tiresome process and  while the songs were mastered we started working on this site, our social media accounts, digital distribution channels and hell knows what. We tried some different masterings before we were truly happy. When everything was finally in place we were really really really tired.

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We took a small break form synthesizers and music and I thought about taking on the Polysix again but I didn´t have the energy. A few weeks passed and with all positive feedback for Noumenon the inspiration for creation and music came back. I had an idea for a theme that we discussed a bit and we decided to start working again. We constructed the thematic framework for the songs, their content, how they connect to each other and how they should be expressed musically. Then I sat down and started to write the lyrics.

As pretentious as it may sound I really want lyrics to mean something. For me it´s not just words that sound good together. It´s very much built on emotions. The songs on Noumenon are kind of reviewing in a sense. The new songs are more from the inside of peoples minds. That made me take my mind to places I rather not visit. I actually felt physically ill writing some parts. It doesn´t mean that I managed to transfer these emotions into the lyrics but hopefully a few % of it will shine through when Henrik puts music to my words.

I thought about taking a break from the lyrics but I realized that I would never find my way back to that state of mind so I finished it in a week or two. Henrik put up some musical ideas and as I told here on the blog before we are well on our way with the new tracks. Tonight I finally had the energy back to continue the work on my Polysix. I desoldered three 4051-chips and replaced them with new ones in sockets. There are still 4051:s to be replaced but a new problem arose. Im out of 16 pin sockets.

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I even felt more motivated when I plugged in the headphones to check that the synth was still ok after my soldering. This synth sounds absolutely amazing, even now when it´s totally out of tune. Im going to order 16 pin sockets and then there are about 10 more chips on the voice board that needs to be replaced before I can calibrate the machine. Hopefully I can finish that job some time before the summer vacation. Like Steve Jobs used to say, “one more thing”. I decided to replace the cpu-board with a kiwisix.

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Kiwisix is actually a complete replacement board. I did fix my cpu-board from some bad battery leakage. That feels a bit stupid  now, but I didn´t know about the Kiwisix at that time. Installing the Kiwisix is fairly easy but involves some soldering. I can really recommend this board that gives the Polysix a large amount of new features. Most important for me are 1024 patches that can be saved in memory and a midi-interface. Go get it!!!

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Project Korg Polysix (More capacitors)

A small change of plans this time. There was not enough time tonight to start replacing chips tonight. So instead all electrolytic capacitors on the power supply board were exchanged. After that the power supply was calibrated according to the excelent Korg Polysix service manual. So lets look at it before and after.

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Originally there´s two larger caps lying down and a bunch of smaller ones standing up. All of them are cheap standard components.

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After the replacement this board has only standing capacitors. There´s a VM connected to the checkpoints of the board (15v). It´s not that hard to calibrate everything to 15v, 5v, -5v and -15v. As soon as it was calibrated everything was connected and mounted back into the synth again. Too bad that the noise level were not a single bit reduced. There´s probably a problem in the amp section. We will get there in a while. At least the oscillators has some more bite and now they sound as a Polysix is expected to sound. Listen to this simple bass unison arpeggio for example:

At least now one of the boards are totally refurbished, no need to change anything more on the KLM376.

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Project Korg Polysix (New battery)

The first part of this operation succeeded.  I actually only made one little mistake wich was easily fixed. As you can see in the image below that hateful leaking battery is replaced with a CR2032 Lithium Battery that is placed in a socket. I actually had to put the battery upside down in the socket since the socket itself could not fit with +/- in the right direction. Thats really a shame but I promised myself to mark the socket in some way before I close this project.

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To the left of the battery there is now an empty socket where the damaged 74LS08 used to sit. To the left of that socket there is another new 74LS08 seated in its socket. I changed both of them when I was at it. Actually you can see the only mistake I made in this picture. Yes I forgot to put one of the 74LS08 chips back. When I switched the Polysix back on 4 of the 8 Program switches was lit. When that chip was put back in its socket everything started working. Finally to the right of the battery there used to be one capacitor (C40) that is now removed and just above that there used to be a resistor (R91) that resistor is replaced with a diode. The purpose of this diode is to protect the battery from voltage when the power is switched on. The new battery is not rechargeable so feeding it with power is a bad idea.

Once I had the Polysix up and running I downloaded the factory presets as wav-files and send the via my soundcard to the synth. I had to turn up the volume once but the Polysix updated the banks with the factory presets almost at once. Nice engineering with tolerance Korg!!! I never owned a working Korg Polysix so I had no idea what the presets sounded like. But now I know. They sound like shit! Well they are obviously from the eighties and my Korg Polysix still sounds very bad and noisey. But that´s what this project is supposed to fix in the end. Listen to this as I switch through the presets and in the end turn to a sawtooth and try out the filter and finally the chorus effects.

This Polysix sounds kind of weak to me. Some patches suddenly has some obscene clipping, perhaps they were in unison I didn´t check. And the noise level is terrible. Well there is plenty of work to do. Nothing that I do to the cpu-board will help with the bad sound but I am going to replace all the electrolytic capacitors and all of the 4000-series chips to expand the lifetime of this unit. I will report back as soon as the caps are exchanged. Soon enough I will try to get rid of the noise.

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Project Korg Polysix (Analysis)

I got my hands on some 30 year old vintage analogs. I will try to refurbish them and incorporate them in Interdictors future productions. One of them can be seen below. A Korg Polysix that seems to be produced in 1984. I am going to do a total makeover this one. I will document every step I take with this classic synth and it´s going to start today with some inspection and analysis. So here it is in all it´s glory.

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First of all I connected it and tried to browse through a few presets. I tried all buttons to find out what state it was in. The presets were sounding odd. I had a hard time to use some of the buttons and the lfo seemed to modify stuff that it wasn´t supposed to. I tried creating some patches but some leds where blinking in strange rytms and the noise level of the instrument was terrible. Some typical signs of a common Korg polysix problem, battery leakage. As you can see below two black keys were tilting and broken and the mod wheels were in pretty bad shape. The wooden sides are damaged from some touring and the arpeggio latch is totally broken. Overall it´s in pretty bad shape.

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So it was time to look inside. You  can find a very good guide of how to open the synth over at Oldcrows. In the four corners of the front panel you will find the screws that hold the front panel in place. These are the large screws. Remove these. Then it´s time to look under the synth. There are four more screws in the front end under the keyboard that should be removed. Now you can gently tip the control panel up in a “hood-up” position and start looking inside the unit.

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You can see above what it looks like inside. Located as the second board from the left is the KLM-367 board. That´s the cpu-board that more often than not has some evil battery leakage. So we start by removing this board for some further inspection. First of all we need to desolder a black ground cable that is soldered to the top left of the board. Then all connectors must be decoupled. Since the connectors are fastened with glue we need a a scalpel or some other sharp knife to crack the glue and then gently pull out the connectors from it´s sockets. Finally there are four Philips screws holding the board in place. Remove these screws. The board is now loose and can be slided upwards away from the keyboard and finally lifted up.

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So this is what it looks like.Beautiful engineering from the beginning of the eighties. Notice the large blue battery in the bottom of the picture. And to the left of the battery some of that infamous battery corrosion. This wasn´t that bad I guess. The leakage needs to be cleaned and as you can se the chip to the left of the battery a 74LS08 is affected by the corrosion so it´s best to change that. This is what I am going to do until the next time:

  • Desolder and remove the battery
  • Desolder and remove both the 74LS08
  • Put in a new battery using a socket
  • Put in 2 new 74LS08 using sockets
  • Try to read back the presets to see if this part of the refurbish procedure was successful

I will be back with some news in a day or two!

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