Sunday, September 11, 2011

Music gear hacks: ugly but fun

Contrary to what you might think from the photos on this site, I do care about aesthetics. I get jazzed about great industrial design, I love a good clean interface, and part of me always wants to take a working project and sculpt it into a beautifully finished product that anyone would be proud to own.

The other 90% of me really likes the "junkyard whirlwind" look.

I was going through old files last week and found some photos/videos of music gear I modified, then sold when I got bored. These were all cool little hacks, some more labor-intensive than others - but they're all pretty ugly.

Circuit-Bent Casio SK-1 Keytar
By far the coolest SK-1 you'll ever see. Unfortunately since I made it around 1998, the only evidence left is this crop of a highly embarrassing snapshot.

Of course I'm not making a "rocking with my keytar" face.

Yes, that's the handhold from a kid's keytar bolted on an SK-1. Yes, that's a full-size guitar strap. Yes, the yellow buttons are wired up as circuit bends. And there are others you can't see - switches, pots, and body contacts - to modify the already crazy SK-1 sample magic.

I loved this thing and only sold it because I thought I could make bank at the height of the SK-1 craze. Which I did. Maybe I sold a little piece of my soul too. 

Check out the rest after the jump...

"Arion Twin" Delay + Stereo Phaser
Ironically enough, this box only got super-ugly when I tried to give it a slick coat of yellow paint. Looked great for about a day, then peeled something fierce. It combines an SAD-3 analog delay and an SPH-1 phaser in a repurposed router box. This little monster sounded great, though it was easy to overload the input (because I couldn't be bothered to wire up a line-level input buffer). Stereo output!

Rackmount Casio Rapman with Feedback
The Casio Rapman was part of Casio's fully awesome '80s/'90s lineup that included the SK samplers and the VA-1 multieffect/vocoder keyboard. In addition to really cheesy "hip-hop" sounds and a completely useless scratch wheel, the Rapman had a headset mic with a pitch changer for stupid voice tricks... which of course sound great on synths, drums, samples, whatever.

This was maybe my third Rapman, and I decided to put it in a rackmount box with proper 1/4" I/O and a built-in feedback circuit, since the only thing cooler than Rapman pitch shifting is Rapman pitch shifting + feedback.

Technics Analog Delay/Reverb
Radioshack slapped delay and/or reverb on about half its products in the '80s, including of course those in the Technics line. This box was meant to add "dimension" to recorded music through short analog delay, digital reverb, and a really cool display. I cut it up to add delay time and feedback controls.

Hammond Organ Spring Reverb
No real hack here, since this reverb unit was already a standalone module inside the organ it came in. I basically just soldered up 1/4" jacks and a wall wart. But it sounded good and looked rough!

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