The end of March was really quiet, so I guessed folks were focused on doing/paying their taxes, rather than getting their gear repaired. I came across a nice professional work-station and rack that were available due to a lab move, so went and grabbed them to update the shop. Nice eh!
This unit had been powered off for many years, and although it looked nice once dusted off, oxidization had done its worst on key contacts, made sliders crackly etc. The brass section was not working, and the pitch slider was broken. I could not find a source for sliders, and ended up grafting a metal shaft onto the pitch control. The sliders are of a closed and sealed type, but thankfully (and surprisingly to me) injecting switch cleaner into screw holes in the slider cases banished the crackles.
Investigating the brass issue revealed cracks in a circuit board from impact, with a poor repair attempt in the past. I wire jumpered all bad and suspect circuit board traces such that if the crack grew a little then it would still work. The final issue was key contacts, and in the end I had to remove the buss-bars in order to clean them which is a major strip-down effort. The contact springs were really bad and had to be repeatedly treated using isopropryl as a cleaner. The results are pretty good, but the only way to get it to 100% would be to find new springs. Customer just loves it!
I do not know why, but March saw a stream of Roland Juno-106’s. Voice module failures were a common failure item, and I spent a lot of time running modules through the acetone bath. The acetone bath method is not a cure all, as once a chip is damaged by the epoxy coating shorting it, then it is bad of course. The acetone strip method is a good preventative maintenance item though. I have been suggesting that customers look at services such as the synthspa as they say they will replace bad modules as part of their stripping process, and I cannot compete with that as I’m having to purchase reclaimed modules for repair.
One unit had been dropped which resulted in a lot of broken keys, and a distorted panel. Another unit suffered a broken pitch bend lever, and another the plastic push “spring” for VCO modulation (both of these parts are available from Sam at www.syntaur.com).
Loss of patches due to battery failure was seen on 2 units, so I’m recommending replacing the battery now even if the voltage is good. The bad side of this though is that the patch loading tool for the Juno-106 only does a patch at a time (no sysex load/dump capability), so you have to do the tedious patch edit and save for all 128 patches.
Two units were highly touch sensitive, and this was due to multiple bad sliders. One issue leading to this is oxidization due to a bad storage environment, another is the crumbling gasket Roland used falling into the slider. The cure is to remove, open and clean all sliders, remove old gasket material, and make a gasket from stiffened felt. While I have been in this area I have also been replacing intermittent patch etc. switches, and really they should all be done if one fails as dust getting into the switch is the culprit.
A final issue seen is with the bubble contact strips failing and giving intermittent keys. On the Juno I seem to be seeing other factors such as a liquid spill (on the Korg Poly6/61/MonoPoly they just plain fail).
All of this is leading me to making the standard service for the Juno-106 include front panel switch replacement, slider removal, open, clean, and lube, gasket removal and replacement, battery change, and optional module acetone strip. This is all labor intensive so not cheap, but it would get the keyboard running nicely again, and last another 20 years.
This unit shipped in and per the customers description, had a dead keyboard and lots of slider issues. The sliders in here are rare, and the worst one was a dual slider type that could not be found anywhere. All sliders were found to be gummed up with old grease, dust, hair, and other debris. The unit had to be deep cleaned, and all sliders opened, cleaned, and lubricated.
The keyboard was giving a large negative CV out, so off the audible scale. The customer said it worked until he tried to clean the contacts due to a few bad keys. What he had done was to over aggressively clean it such that a lot of the CV contacts were dis-formed and resting on the gate bus-bar. These were straightened out, but the majority of keys were then intermittent and badly triggering. Closer investigation revealed that the contact wire that is welded onto the key spring was either missing, or broken at one end such that a consistent on and off point for the trigger and gate could not be achieved. Contact sites were rare and expensive, so it was a case of using the good trigger contacts from some of the contact assemblies to make complete good ones, then salvaging assemblies from my spares RS-09 (fewer keys) to fully populate the 101. This was a LOT of work, but the keyboard is fully functional now and the owner is delighted.
I have found a source of the correct original type of step switch used in the Roland TR-808, and put them in the Parts section of my main site. You have to be really careful on how you remove the switch actuator so as not to break it, and the ribbon cable to the panel is very fragile leading to intermittent/no step button operation. The originals get gummed up and dusty inside, and they cannot be cleaned. I stock 2 types, the original, and a sealed variant (which has a different action). If you replace a switch I would suggest doing them all.
This Oberheim Synthesizer Expansion Module had been modified to the extreme, with over a dozen holes drilled in it for switches and jacks (did I mention that I’m anti mods that are harming to appearance, undocumented, and make the unit unreliable?). It no longer worked, and the circuit board and connectors had been damaged. The mods were removed (see tray of junk) and the unit put back to standard as tracks etc. were repaired, and things put back to where they should be. I made a cover piece from Formica to cover the holes in the case, and obtained the correct power switch and jack. The unit was then re-capped, set up, and is finally back with Jim, its proud owner.
I often get asked to work on rack-mounted synths. Unless they are very early units I have to turn them away as without factory extension cables (which I do not have for any model) you can’t get the crammed in cards out on the bench in order to work on them. I this post you can see the amount of stuff that has to come out in order to perform a simple battery change on a Roland MKS-70.
Timothy is a good customer of mine, and always looking for something different. He scored this vintage Saarang Electric Tambura on Ebay and asked me to get it going. A number of controls had seized, or were scratchy. Some diligent work got it going, and he assures me that the sounds it makes are now correct! The most interesting thing for me, and the reason for putting it in the blog is the construction method. The wooden pieces of the case interlock and hold the transformer, circuit board, etc. in place. It is an extremely cheap way of construction if per hour labor costs are not high.
This Roland VP-330 came in for general service. As is common with Roland synths, the gasket material had crumbled and a lot of debris was in the slider controls and needed to be removed. Its amazing that something that was designed to stop dust entering the sliders ends up doing damage (this makes me shudder because of the hours spent cleaning off the foam turned to goo on the Moog Opus 3, Rogue, and MG-1).
I cleaned out the sliders, disassembling a number of them, and lubricated them. The old gasket material was removed, and I used double-sided tape to attach stiffened black felt (from Michaels), which I cut slots in for the shafts. The end result is nice, and certainly improves over the look of the gaping slider slots. The felt will shed a bit of course, but the cure is better than leaving it the way it was.
I have applied felt to a number of Juno-106’s using variations of the attach method (double-sided tape, glue, attaching to underside of case, or to the top of the sliders). I would be interested to hear of any better materials (neoprene?), along with supplier.
The MiniMoog, along with many vintage synths, suffers from oxidization of the key contacts. It needs all keys to be pressed regularly to break the building oxidization, before it becomes a problem. The symptoms of the keys going bad are they become “squirelly”, i.e. multi-triggering, or dead due to not triggering at all. Another issue you see on keyboards is that as the keyboard generates CV from a resistance chain (1volt/Octave being common), any resistance in the contact alters the voltage out, thus frequency.
The folks at www.synthfool.com came up with an optical method of detecting key presses, called the Opto-Key. This incorporates a micro-controller in the design, making it possible for them to also add MIDI In/Out. Jason, the owner of this early MiniMoog, decided that as it was in need of service, he would ask me to implement Opto-Key, rather than continue with the key contact clean regime.
The keyboard was re-bushed while disassembled for the upgrade, and I can report that it works nicely. A service was also carried out, and some pots had to be opened in order to clean them and banish crackles. For reliability the disintegrating C280 “Tropical Fish” capacitors were replaced, the power supply re-capped, re-greased, and bridge rectifier replaced. All switches and open-back pots were cleaned, and the unit set to spec. Plays nicely now.