“Don’t be that guy”

Roland CSQ-600: in which the tech replaced the NiCad memory battery but installed the replacement battery in a ziploc bag ziptied to the mains wiring.

One interesting thing about restoring vintage synths is that almost every instrument that we work on has been worked on by another tech at least once before. And it seems that more often than not, those other techs were… not great. We see a lot of bad work, but my favorite examples also feature a very special element of absurdity. Here are some recent highlights:

Roland Juno 106: an XLR output mod consisting of an open frame XLR jack wired to the female end of a 1/4″ to XLR male to female impedance matching adapter plugged into an open frame 1/4″ jack wired to the board and RIVETED to the panel

Wurlitzer 120: guess which note doesn’t sound quite right

Roland Juno 106: in which someone’s solution to a lost 2-prong power cable was to solder a lamp cord directly to the power inlet. The entire lamp cord is incidentally extremely sticky, for unknown reasons

Farfisa VIP 345: in which a previous tech just gave up after putting in a capacitor backwards (the one that’s bulging) and ignoring the salt-encrusted fuse holder

Moog MiniMoog Model D: in which some wires broke and someone spliced them back together thusly

Rhodes Chroma Polaris: in which I have no idea. None of this is supposed to be here.

This is why you need to take your vintage synths to someone who knows what they’re doing!

14 thoughts on ““Don’t be that guy””

  1. Ever have a transformer hot glued to the side of the case? That fix didn’t last long.

    One of my “favorites” was the person who put foil between Moog modules to shield them.

    1. Oops, you’re right! Luckily I know the difference well enough that I haven’t ever tried to tune a Wurlitzer reed by sliding a spring up and down on it or tune a Rhodes tine by filing down its (nonexistent) lead pyramid.

  2. I restore vintage audio. Once had a Marantz 250 come in with a welding rod cut to fit the fuse holder. Probably had a small issue before he turned it into an arch welder. I was able to restore it but was not cheap. Love your work!!

  3. A short story on this topic if you’ll indulge me. I bought a TG77 off of Craigslist. I’m sure you’re familiar, it’s a frankenFM beast that you’d probably find Stevie Wonder playing in the 90’s, and is capable of absolutely absurd complexity in the Frequency Modulation range of sounds. The screen backlight wasn’t working but I bought it anyways, I’d read thta was a common fix and the parts were available. I got home, ordered a replacement backlight and when it arrived, opened up the synth to install it. When I installed the backlight according to instructions it wasn’t working. I followed the circuit and something had been modified, the power just wasn’t available to the backlight. Looking further, inside the case was another totally different screen, which was still partially wired to the machine! They had given up or something and duct taped it inside the synth. So I removed the original non-backlit but still working screen, and after looking up the model that was taped inside, I still wasn’t able to get it on, even installed correctly. Apparently someone tried to rewire it and I just assumed the power rails were desconnected somehow and I couldn’t figure out what to do. I googled the issue and a gentleman in Germany who does work much like yourselves had a blog post about how to install a new OLED into the TG77. His istuation was close but not exactly like mine so I messaged him on facebook. He got back to me almost immediately! Using my video camera on my phone, he had me zoom into some areas on the left of the inside of the synth, and he said “Go get your soldering iron!”. I had to trust the guy, he clearly knew what he was doing but it was just so funny and blade runner futuristic of a moment. So I got my Hakko, and some small gauge colored wires as he requested and came back to the video chat. He had me confirm the power supply of another area inside the TG77, it’s either unnecessary, or unused, and it measured the exact same output voltage as the screen required. So I clipped the wire, routed that to the old scren that was duct taped inside the machine but that I’d reinstalled, soldered the connections, placed everything back safely, plugged in the synth and you wouldn’t believe it. Perfectly bright brand new OLED and the synth has been wokring like a dream ever synth 😉 I literally yelled out in joy when it went on and did a dance around the living room while my kids and wife laughed at me. It’s hard to describe the feeling, it seemed like such a ridiculously long shot that it could work, but boom, it was like magic. Had they not left that old screen in there I may never have gotten it working. I wish I could find that person and tell them I got it going!

    1. Trying to find this German blog. I need to fix my TG77 (and Wavestation A/D) displays due to dead EL backlights. Are you sure it’s an OLED display? Do you have a link?

  4. I’m guessing the CSQ memory battery is in a plastic bag, and removed from the PCB to prevent it from leaking all over the circuit board when it gets old. I don’t know how well this would work, or if post-80’s batteries are still liable to leak in old age. But it’s probably not hurting anything, and the person likely lost a loved one to battery leakage; I can empathize.

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