Monday, February 17, 2014

Sorting Out the Synclavier

Keeping in mind that I'm dealing with a very complex vintage computer music system, it is no surprise when things need to be sorted out. The vexing problem has been background distortion and ghost notes. Since I've been a Synclavier guy since the 80's, this is by no means new to me. I worked on my own system a lot over the years, and even built one for John McLaughlin to use at the 1987 AES show in NYC when his was suffering some problems. So, I dove in and sorted the voices out today (An all-day job).

One thing you need is good lighting. Oh, and dig those 5.25" floppy drives!

Then, I needed to remove all of the voice cards except those for voices 1-8, which you can see at the left of the bin.

Here are the removed cards. Each row of five cards is for 8 stereo voices. Today, all of this could be on a single chip! However, without the incredible digital to analog converters, you could not duplicate the sound, even though these voices are 8 bit!

After booting up as an 8 voice stereo system, I used a sequence to torture test them. Voices 1-8 turned out to be fine.

So, I went on to the next step, which was to install voices 9-16. Before doing that, however, I used a pencil eraser to clean the backplane contacts.

Here is the upper bin with 16 voices, which also tested fine.

On to 24 voices then, which also tested fine. I was certain by this point that the problem was with voices 25-32.

Sure enough, when I reinstalled voices 25-32, the distortion and ghost notes were back.

Here is the culprit voice card set.

This was an easy sort out, all things considered, since it was the final set that was causing the problems. So right now, I have 24 good voices, but that's enough to start working on Fuga Electronica!