CatSynth Pic: Cat and “Blue-Eyed” Korg Polysix

We recently found this pic featuring a cute cat and a Korg Polysix on matrixsynth.

Cat and Korg Polysix

More from the matrixsynth post, where you can also see more photos:

via this auction

“Sadly, something has to give. Too much kit in my life!

This is a 1982 Korg Polysix in excellent condition. It’s been fully restored within the past two years, and is in really good cosmetic condition. If you’re looking here, you know the specifications already, so no need for copypasta here.

Work done:

Old NiCad battery replaced with a brand-new NiMH battery. Not a lithium cell. The CPU card was blissfully unharmed by the usual battery leak problems that these get – check the photos.
The power supply transformer has been replaced with a super quiet, efficient toroidal unit, capable of running at 220V as well as 110V.
One VCF chip – an SSM2044 – was replaced with a brand-new old stock item.
Synth was completely recalibrated and tuned and is working perfectly.
A Tauntek MIDI input board was fitted. This really enhances the machine by allowing MIDI note in, as well as syncing the arpeggiator clock over MIDI.

Yes, I changed out the LEDs for blue ones, while replacing some scratchy, worn pots. Series resistors were recalculated to dial back the intensity. It’s not as piercing as in the photos. Will take some more pics soon. I think they really match the panel decals well, by YMMV. I’m happy to change them back to generic red (or anything, really) for the lucky buyer.”

No, it does not appear that the cat is included.

Additionally, there is a sample of a bass line played on this synth.

“A rather familiar bass-line. I’m just testing a newly-repaired Korg Polysix. This is playing in unison mode, although with only five ganged voices. No effects other than a small amount of reverb.”

When I went synth shopping for the first time in the mid 1980s (right after a birthday), among the first I encountered was one of this instrument’s more modest successors, the Korg Poly 800 II. The Polysix was long gone from the catalogs by then, and it was the time when digital synths were eclipsing analog instruments. I was quickly pulled in the direction of the Yamaha synths that dominated that era.

CatSynth Pic: Miep and Roland JX8P

Miep returns to CatSynth, this time with a Roland JX-8P.   You can see some of Miep’s previous appearances via this tag.

The JX-8P was a follow-up to Roland’s popular JX-3P. Some more info on it from Vintage Synth Explorer:

Though it is far more advanced than its predecessor, the JX-3P, the JX-8P has its drawbacks. Hands-on programming is sacrificed and reduced to assigning the parameter you want to tweak to a data-slider near the pitch/mod bender. Enter the PG-800 controller which gives you total control of all the JX-8P’s editable parameters with hands-on traditional slider control. Membrane buttons dominate the front panel of the JX-8P providing access to the various preset and user patches and to page through and assign editable parameters.


Weekend Cat Blogging with Sam Sam: Exploring the Modular and Roland JP-08

Sam Sam checking out the next studio setup

Sometimes Sam Sam ends up in CatSynth pics of her own, as when she recently got up to explore the redesigned studio space.  She is fascinated by the new decorative shelves as well as the narrow band between the video/office corner and the modular synth.

Perhaps she is picking up some scents on the modular case from our recent live performances.

I have been having a lot of fun in the studio lately, especially making videos and exploring our synthesizer collection in greater depth.  I really should be working on some more formal compositions, but it seems I am in more of experimenting and exploratory mood at the moment.  I have also, unfortunately, been battling insomnia.  It ebbs and flows, and on the worst night (about a week ago), I decided to sit up for a while and play with the Roland JP-08 boutique synth.

Sam Sam and the Roland JP-08

The size is actually ideal for playing in bed late at night.  I spent some time exploring the architecture (it’s basically a Jupiter 8 with a few extensions) and came up with some new and unusual patches.  We hope to share them with you in an upcoming CatSynth TV.


CatSynth Pic: Cat Mug and TTSH (Arp 2600 Clone)

Cat mug with a TTSH, a clone of the Arp 2600 synthesizer.  By Alexander Henriksson‎ on Facebook.

And another cat has found its 🏠

The TTSH is an Arp 2600 clone that can be built as a DIY project, as described by The Human Comparator.  San Pedro Labs builds full versions, including wood casings. (They used to be here in San Francisco, but have recently relocated to New Mexico.)


Pitta of the Mind, Usufruct, Alex Cruse, Murder Murder at Pro Arts

As we get ready for our next Pitta of the Mind show this Thursday, March 8, we look back at our recent show at Pro Arts in Oakland, where we were joined by Usufruct, Alex Cruse, and Murder Murder.  You can see a bit of all four groups in this recent CatSynth TV episode.

Pitta of the Mind’s color theme (we always have a color or pattern theme) for this evening was blue and featured blue-themed poems by Maw Shein Win, many from her new book Invisible Gifts.  

Pitta of the Mind
[Photo by Tom Scandura]

I used the Prophet 12 synthesizer, along with the modular system, my trusty Nord Stage, and some percussion instruments to create a musical interplay with the words as well as the space between them.

Amanda's Pitta of the Mind Setup with Prophet 12, Modular synth and Nord Stage EX

Even though we haven’t performed in a while and only had one rehearsal, I felt this was one of our strongest performances – and the feedback I got from the audience backed up that perception.  In particular, I think the poem “You Will Be With Me in a Town Called Paradise” came out particularly well, with a sultry vibe and jazzy accompaniment on electric piano.

After our set, Usufruct, the duo of Polly Moller Springhorn and Tim Walters took the stage.

[Photo by Tom Scandura]

As the word “usufruct” implies, they make use of materials for which they have usage rights beyond ownership, such as public-domain text sources.  Polly’s vocal interpretations of the texts are processed electronically by Tim using custom programs written in SuperCollider.  The end result is simultaneously dark and playful.  But beyond the text sections, I was particularly taken with the instrumental portion at the beginning, which featured bass flute live and electronically processed.

Alex Cruse brought a very different vibe and sensibility to the evening, with an electronic performance that focused on beats, loops, and hits.

There were many delightful sounds and many hard-edged industrial noise moments as well.  The vocals were deliberately obscured by heavy distortion and other processing but provided a percussive element that worked well with the rhythms.

The final set by Murder Murder was again something altogether different.  With two drummers, two horns, two electronic performers, and vocals, it was nonstop intensity from the first drum hit.

The intensity continued for several minutes and then came to a sudden close.  It was the musical equivalent of a tornado tearing through our calm evening of voice and electronics, but perhaps it was a fitting coda to the evening.

We thank Pro Arts and Sarah Lockhart for having us at this series, which has become quite a mainstay of the Oakland scene.  I hope to be back again soon with one of my other projects.  And of course, we are looking forward to our next Pitta of the Mind Show – where we will once again be joined by Usufruct – at the Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco on Thursday, March 8 at 8 PM.

Modular Synthesizer Demo for Purim

Purim is the “most synthesizer-y” of Jewish holidays, given that one of it’s central rituals is noisemaking. This year we created a synthesizer demo running sounds from a gragger through several modules.

The demo uses a mixture of pre-recorded gragger on the QuBit Nebulae and live sound via the Mikrophonie and Make Noise Echophon. The full list of modules used in the Purim demo is:

  • Make Noise Echophon
  • Qu-Bit Nebulae (v1)
  • Rossum Electro-Music Morpheus
  • Mikrophonie
  • Make Noise Maths
  • Make Noise Tempi
  • Malekko Heavy Industry Noisering

I do wish I already had a Qu-bit Nebulae v2 for this project.  You can see our review of v2 from NAMM 2018 here.

Purim is a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from the king’s wicked advisor Haman, as told in the book of Esther. Traditionally, the gragger is used to mask the name of Haman when said out loud during readings.

CatSynth Pic: Rufus Meowing with Modular

Our ginger feline friend Rufus returns, courtesy of iamshadowdancer on Instagram.  He looks ready to serenade us with a new song.

He has a rather impressive modular setup!  The upper case is by Goike.  It contains a wide variety of modules – we see a classic Metasonix yellow, a Mordax DATA on the right, a Make Noise Maths, and many others that whose identification we leave as an exercise to the reader.

CatSynth Pic: Cat in the Studio, Arturia MatrixBrute, and More

This cat has the seat of honor in this synthesizer-heavy studio.  By Charles Whiley via the Facebook group Synthesizer Freaks.

God I 💗 that 🐈 . And those 🎹.

We know the feeling!

We identify an Arturia MatrixBrute on the left and leave the identification of the others as an exercise to the reader.

NAMM 2018: Arturia MiniBrute 2 and RackBrute

We continue to work our way through our experiences from NAMM 2018 with the Arturia MiniBrute 2.

Arturia MiniBrute 2 and RackBrute

The original MiniBrute made quite a splash a few years ago with its all-analog signal path, usability, and low price.  It also had a sound that was distinct from other low-cost analog synths, in part because of the “Brute Factor” knob.  That knob is back in the MiniBrute 2 along with a Steiner-Parker filter that together with the Brute oscillator gives the instrument its sound.  But there is now a second oscillator, and, perhaps more significantly, a modulation matrix and patch bay.

The built-in synthesizer topology includes a lot more modulation than the original, and the patch bay allows for reconfiguration and expansion with the RackBrute Eurorack cases that integrate 3U or 6U or modules with the MiniBrute in a single case.  This does seem to be a trend we are seeing with built-in patch bays to full analog mono synths (the Moog Mother-32 being the prime example).  One can also interpret the MiniBrute 2 as incorporating ideas from the flagship MatrixBrute writ small.  The ecosystem also includes an alternate form-factor, the 2S, which has drum pads reminiscent of the BeatStep Pro instead of the keyboard.

We were only able to scratch the surface at NAMM, and also had a bit of difficulty with our video.  So we are hoping to provide a more in-depth look at this instrument both here and on CatSynth TV in the not too distant future.