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Scraping the deadline

True to my word, I will have a new music release this month, "Failing Equipment". There will be five archived songs some have heard before (in one form or another) and one new one. I will be posting it here and on the music page once I have it completed. Right now I'm uploading the MP3's to the online store. After that's done I have to create a cover, maybe add some liner notes and so on.

The reason there isn't too much new material isn't because of any lack of creativity - it's because, well, my equipment is old, hence the title "Failing Equipment". (grin)

All my music and recording gear with the exception of my computer (and a few guitars) is really, really old and is in desperate need of an upgrade. No matter how well you treat music gear, all of it will inevitably fail at some point or another. My Ensoniq MR-61 has definitely seen better days. The keyboard keys don't work at all and I have to use an Ensoniq SQ-1+ to control it via MIDI. Additionally there are periodic electronics failures. Sometimes the sequencer acts a bit buggy, other times MIDI is unresponsive and there's other little quirks. The SQ-1+ itself, albeit my 2nd one, is already starting to exhibit the same problem my first SQ-1+ did - unresponsive keyboard keys. When I play keys, I play hard and the pads on the inside just wear out over time. Combine that with the fact that any synth was never meant to do studio duty for longer than ten years and you find yourself fighting with the synth rather than playing and enjoying it.

With that said, I am on the hunt for a new synthesizer workstation. The next one I buy I intend to be my primary synth because I'm positively sick and tired of fighting with old gear.

Here's what I get to enjoy with synth workstations now compared to years ago:

1. A hard drive.

My first workstation synth's only means of storing data was on a flash card. That card could barely hold any data. Solution: Buy a 3.5" floppy drive to accept data via SysEx (System Exclusive) or MIDI or both, the Alesis Datadisk SQ. I still have one of these and it's a rock-solid unit. It's also cool as hell that it will accept multiple manufacturer formats. The only drawback is that the data it writes is proprietary to itself. You can't put a floppy written by a Datadisk SQ into a PC; the PC won't read it.. assuming your computer even has a floppy drive (which my laptop does not).

The MR-61 has a built-in 3.5" floppy disk drive which is readable by PC's, but again, this is for computers that actually have floppy drives.

2. 32-track sequencing

Thirty-two tracks is a beautiful thing on a synth workstation. My first synth had only eight. The MR has sixteen. Thirty-two would be damned convenient.

3. Upgradability

While it's true you could upgrade workstation synths back then, the upgrades available were almost not worth doing. You'd maybe get a few more sounds but then the internal storage would be taxed, and when you sequenced the sounds wouldn't "play nice" depending on how many voices it used.

4. USB

All modern synths "talk" to PC's easily; they aren't islands unto themselves.

5. Price

What I paid for my first Ensoniq SQ-1+ new: $3200.00
What I paid for my Ensoniq MR-61 new: $3000.00

There are several choices available that are under the $1500 mark, amazingly enough.

Before continuing: A workstation synthesizer is not just a box with keys that plays sounds. This is a unit where you can literally program sequences and songs and have them play back. You can also use it to control things via MIDI, store things, sample stuff (for those that have the ability) and do a whole host of other things that ordinary synthesizers can't do. There is a big difference.


The one I'm seriously considering trying out is the Alesis Fusion 6HD.

Here's what I like about it. I've never tried it, but hopefully I will soon enough.

You can go old school or new school easily with it. Old school is analog and FM synth (think Yamaha DX7).

It's got 180-voice polyphony (pronounced "poll-lih-fone-ee") which is a huge plus because I am ALWAYS running into the problem of running out of voices.

You have several easy (keyword there) options of external storage. CompactFlash, CDRW, SATA HD, it's all there and available.

The determining factor will be how it sounds. It's safe to say that all modern synths sound great. Some better than others. The reason I originally went Ensoniq was because they had a piano and orchestral strings that sounded better than anything else at the time. Nowadays, all of 'em have great pianos and string sets.

I may or may not buy this sight unseen (or unplayed in this case) because I don't know of any music shops near me that carry Alesis workstations. But we'll see.

Here's what I don't like about it:

Looks like a toy. It's got that "modern" design to it with curved button panels and so on. This is completely unnecessary.

It's silver. Any synth I've ever owned that was not black has always been garbage. Generally speaking, the less "cool" a synth looks, the better it performs. A truly good synth does not need to look good. It should look plain, ordinary and business-like because the true power is on the inside.

That's about it. What I don't like about it is all visual.

I have to do some more reading on the Alesis and find some reviews if any exist.

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