on the workbench: kurzweil k2500(sw)x

I’ve owned my Kurzweil K2500SWx since shortly after it was released in the summer of 1998. It’s always been my primary controller keyboard for the studio, usually sitting between the monitor and the computer keyboard tray. When I lived in Japan for two years, it was the only synth to come with me; the rest went into deep storage or were loaned to friends. I find its VAST architecture very flexible, and it’s still nice to have a hardware sampler, even if it’s limited to 16-bit 48kHz.

Waynemanor Studios 2.0, circa May 2010.

So it’s no surprise that it’s had a few mishaps over the years. And while Sweetwater graciously offers “lifetime free technical support,” there’s the hassle of shipping the unit across an international border, and the scarcity of parts to deal with.

This holiday weekend I fixed 4 nagging problems: a digital jitter, a failed front-panel button, failed aftertouch and a fading front-panel display. Here’s how, since it took me a while to research and maybe you’ll need to do it yourself someday.

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on the workbench: elka rhapsody 610

picked up an Elka Rhapsody 610 61-key string synthesizer for a bit more than I would have liked on CL over the weekend. seeing the unit in person, it became clear that most of the damage was physical, and that it’d probably been some teenager’s keyboard or a badly treated gigging unit. half of the slider caps were missing (with the stem sheared off at the control panel), the piano output didn’t work, the sliders worked backwards (bass sliders controlling the treble and vice versa), 60Hz hum, etc.

got the unit on the new basement workbench as an inaugural challenge. found the schematic online and buzzed things out. problems found:

  1. physical damage to unit cracked 3 capacitors on the piano/clav filter board, preventing the piano output from making its way to the sliders and output. replacing with modern equivalents restored the piano sound.
  2. someone not very skilled in soldering “went at” the cancel board and mixed up a lot of wires. easily fixed, though rather than replace the entire wiring harness i just reattached the wires and added some tape/shrink tubing.
  3. the card edge connector for the wiring harness/fader panel is cracked in half. tried the classic “2 zip ties” solution to hold it together but i think i’m going to have to replace the connector entirely.
  4. toronto’s supremetronics/home hardware on college just west of spadina had slider caps that fit, even if they’re in stark white.

it felt good to get this thing repaired in just a couple of hours, and with only about $1 CAD in parts.

plans before i decide if i’m reselling the device:

  1. replace hard wired power cord with IEC power socket, with integral fuse/fuse puller. ($2.50 CAD in parts)
  2. replace proprietary volume pedal connection with standard 1/4″ TRS jack, suitable for use with 10-kilohm volume pedal ($3 CAD in parts)
  3. fix remaining physical damage (snapped plastic standoffs for cancel board, slider faders, ink scratched into front panel where former impromptu teenage rebel marked his favourite slider settings – probably about $10 CAD in parts and epoxy)
  4. possibly fashion replacement legs out of welded metal tubing, plates and threaded rod (unknown cost, guessing $10-20 CAD)

if you readers out there particularly want to buy a rhapsody 610 for that jarre-TD-vangelis sound, comment here with your real email address and i’ll be in touch. have yet to decide if i want to sell; it sure sounds nice through a phaser pedal or a spring reverb.

thing-a-day #11: mac stabilization

been fighting my mac for weeks now, with constant freezes, hangs, system-wide crashes or video corruption from 1-100 minutes after reboot. seems i followed some bad advice in the past and turned on something i shouldn’t have. so, my thing for today is sharply worded advice:

Do not enable QuartzGL (2D acceleration) on your Mac Pro. To check that QuartzGL is off, open Terminal, paste in this line and press Return:

sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver QuartzGLEnabled -boolean NO

Reboot to make this take effect. Voila, no more annoying crashes. You’re welcome.

thing-a-day #6: recovering old digital performer projects

I had a terrible scare tonight. None of my Digital Performer (my DAW) projects from before I moved to my new Mac would open. It suddenly felt like I’d lost 5+ years worth of musical experimentation.

After panicing a bit, I did a whole lot of research, and came up with this process. It’s slow, but it works. And it’s a thing for today since no one else has ever written it all up in one place before.

  1. Go to the Terminal and change directories to your project, for example: cd Waynemanor/DP\ Projects/Barracuda\ Project/ (If use of a UNIX command prompt and escaping spaces are new to you, you may want to read through a tutorial first.)
  2. Use ls to find the files that are your project files. In this case, I have two: Barracuda and dys4ik 2006-02-28.
  3. Install the Apple OSX Developer Tools if you don’t already have them.
  4. Use the following command: SetFile -t PERF -c MOUP <project-file-name>substituting each project name in turn.

You’re not done. Your audio files may also be corrupted. Try loading the project into DP. Still problems? Getting a Resource file was not found (-193) error? Your DPII’s resource fork got lost, probably because you copied to a non-Mac system and back. Try these steps. Some guesswork may be required.

  1. Download, install and run SoundHack.
  2. Use File > Open Any (cmd-A) to open your first sound file from the Audio Files directory.
  3. Use Hack > Header change (cmd-H) to assign the correct sample rate, number of channels and encoding. Most DP projects have single channel. You just have to know what the sample rate is (usually 44.1 or 48) and how many bits deep it is (8, 16, 24, 32 are most common). Press Save Info
  4. Select File > Save a copy (cmd-S). Be sure to set the same bit depth here as you used in the file’s header, or SoundHack will do a conversion! Save a copy somewhere else, like your desktop. Be sure to save as the same name as the original file to prevent confusion later.
  5. Navigate to where you saved the file and double-click to open in your favourite sound program. This could be QuickTime, AudioFinder, DSP-Quattro, or even DP itself. Play to make sure it sounds right. If not, you got the sample rate or number of bits wrong. Go back to SoundHack and try again.
  6. Painstakingly repeat this for each of your sound files. This could take a while.
  7. In the DP project folder, move your Audio Files folder aside. Place all of the newly patched files into a new folder called Audio Files.
  8. Try re-opening the project in DP. You should be able to pick up where you left off.
  9. Grab a cold one. You deserve it!

thing-a-day 1: euphonix mc mix review part 1


After my photography buddies insisted that 90% of photography is your digital darkroom workflow, and convinced me to switch to Adobe Lightroom, I’ve been struggling to get my studio workflow similarly streamlined. I grew up on studio production in the late 1980s, meaning large analogue mixers, one channel per input, and everything mixed down to 8 sub-mixes running to a 1/2″ 8-channel reel-to-reel recorder (Tascam 38). I naturally think in terms of taking everything down to 8 busses, then doing a final mixdown “live” from tape to 2-track. It’s a two-step workflow that I can do in my sleep. It’s also 20 years out of date – long due for an overhaul.

So when I saw this press release from MOTU (makers of my DAW, Digital Perfomer, and my PCI-based audio interfaces) touting a new “high-end” control surface – the Euphonix Artist series – I decided the time had come to make a change. (The forthcoming MOTU Volta plugin pushed me over the top.) I’d heard of tons of difficulties using Mackie Controls and HUIs with DP previously, so reading an honest-to-goodness press release from MOTU left me hopeful they would proactively work to make the Euphonix devices the best control surface for DP. So, I bought a cheap used MOTU 24i to accompany my 1224, and ran every device in my studio directly into the computer. Knowing some of the limitations I might experience being an early adopter, I spent the cash on the MC Mix. I figured that 8 tracks of full-motion faders and endless rotary encoders (MC Mix) would be preferable to 4 tracks + a touchscreen (MC Console), as I’m used to grabbing for knobs and only looking at a meter bridge. Later, I rationalized, I could add the MC Console if I wanted. Also, my friend dys4iK gave me a Shuttle Xpress, which I use as a jog/shuttle/transport device – meaning I don’t need another one just now. (Review forthcoming.)


The MC Mix comes well-packed in an attractive box. The device itself is well weighted, and feels solid in your hands. A big kudos to Euphonix for only using red, yellow and green LEDs; no bright blue LEDs blinding you from this device! The OLED track indicators are also quite attractive and understated, with very little lag and no discernible flicker in my incandescent-lit studio. If I had any complaint about the physical device, it’d be that the rotary and fader knobs are made from metallized plastic. I guess for the powered faders this is understandable – less mass to push around – but a bit surprising based on their look. Still, they slide nicely, and after the initial “plastic surprise,” I haven’t thought twice about the build quality. The box also includes a hefty power supply, and a piece of 6-foot Cat 5 Ethernet cable. This went straight into the second NIC of my DAW. I would have preferred a slightly longer cable coming from the line-mounted power brick to the MC Mix itself, but I can’t complain, really.


Installation was straightforward under OSX 10.5.6. Connect power and the networking cable to the MC Mix, then load the OSX driver. As Euphonix frequently releases driver updates (especially targeted at improving Digital Performer compatibility!) it’s best to download the latest drivers from Euphonix’ site directly, ignoring the packed-in CD-ROM. EuControl launches at boot with a spinning green logo in the Dock. After the EuControl driver detects the MC Mix, the logo stops spinning, and the 8 MC Mix OLED displays change from the Euphonix logo to 8 dotted boxes — a gratifying indication that communication has been established. The control panel for the driver has a large “Upgrade Firmware” button that does exactly what it says, trouble-free. There are also settings to fix specific tracks to specific sliders (“layouts”), as well as toggle various behaviour of the device. I left all of these on their defaults.

The quick start and user guide for the MC Mix are straightforward, and worth a good read. Five buttons on the left of the device select various modes – what the manual calls knob sets. Used in various combinations, you can access all of the features of a traditional mixing console, as well as settings for plug-ins / channel inserts. By selecting a specific channel in the CHAN mode, parameters for a single channel are spread out across the 8 rotary encoders, and can be paged through separately. This is a particularly nice feature, though there are some implementation problems in the current driver that cause difficulty with DP6 (see below).

One interesting shortcut mentioned in the manual – holding Shift and touching a fader – will reset it to 0.0dB. Looking at the silkscreening on my MC Mix, when zeroing the fader the value is actually about 0.5dB; it would be nice if there was a calibration feature in the driver to align 0.0dB exactly with the silkscreened position. As it stands, I’ll just look at the value on the OLED display or my monitor instead.

In Action – CueMix

Before jumping into Digital Performer, I figured I’d give the surface a spin with CueMix, using the Mackie Control and HUI emulation modes. Often I’m just jamming in my studio, and don’t want the weight (and intimidation!) of a full DAW. CueMix most closely matches the analogue mixer I used to use for just this purpose, letting me set pans and levels via faders and knobs, controlling the rest via MIDI routing. This requires drag-and-dropping the CueMix application onto the Euphonix control panel, selecting the correct emulation mode, and rebooting (!) Once you’ve finished that, you create a new Mackie Control or HUI device in Audio MIDI Setup, connecting the new Euphonix MIDI device to the Mackie Control or HUI device via one in and one out port. Be sure to set the manufacturer and device in Audio MIDI; CueMix uses this to determine the correct emulation mode. (The Euphonix MIDI device sports 4 pairs of in-out MIDI ports, presumably necessary if you link together up to 4 MC Mixes or 3 MC Mixes and 1 MC Control. I just used the first pair of MIDI ports.) Finally, you enable and configure the control surface from the Control Surfaces menu in CueMix. I checked the Application Follows Control Surface setting in the menu, in the hopes that CueMix would scroll horizontally as I paged left and right with the MC Mix. Sadly it doesn’t, even with EuControl set to Auto-bank to selected track and CueMix set to Application Follows Control Surface. (Incidentally, it’s disappointing that CueMix doesn’t get wide enough to shall all of my channels, even though I have the screen real estate. CueMix will show a maximum of 24 channels + 1 master horizontally. Fixing either of these two problems would result in a useful workaround.)

Immediately upon trying the Mackie Control emulation mode, I encountered a problem. The track titles displayed on the MC Mix OLED displays were actually the track title for the first channel, spread out across the first 6-7 OLED displays. Switching to HUI mode correctly assigned track names to each track, but there are still bugs: I can only display the first 3 letters of a track name, plus a single digit. As an example, a track named “CS-80 L” displays as “CS-” only. I also noticed that CueMix’s faders go from -inf to 0dB, while the silk-screening on the MC Mix goes from -inf to +12dB. Not a problem – EuControl maps +12dB (MC Mix) to 0.0.dB (CueMix), giving you the full slider length for use in CueMix. Support still isn’t perfect: the MC Mix shortcut of holding shift and tapping a fader to set it to 0.0dB still uses the (approximate) silkscreen 0.0dB level, which translates to -4.9dB in CueMix. Similarly, the gain for each track displayed on the OLED is with respect to the silkscreening, not the CueMix level (-inf to +12.0 dB). So, with the fader all the way up, the OLED displays +12.0 dB, but CueMix recognizes it as 0.0dB. This is a minor nuisance, but one I’d have not expected, especially in emulation mode. This is further complicated by the fact that live channel levels don’t display on the MC Mix – only in CueMix itself. (Sadly, this limitation still exists in DP6 as well.) The blame here may well lay with MOTU in their HUI control of CueMix; I’ve not used a real HUI with CueMix so I don’t know if it has the same limitations.

Of the other controls, mute and solo work as expected, except for the fact that the MC Mix has an “ON” button instead of a “mute” button. This is a strange choice on the part of Euphonix, but one I can live with – as long as I make the mental shift to expect the button to be lit instead of extinguished. Bank Left and Right, along with Nudge Left and Right, work as expected, shifting channels by 8 or 1 across the surface of the MC Mix. OLED displays and illuminated indicators shift along as expected. Pan works fine – though the rotary encoders are a bit jumpy with fast movements, they’re just fine at slower speeds. Oddly, trim mode won’t stay selected; after a fraction of a second, the rotary controls switch back to pan mode. This is a definite bug. Finally, none of the other knob set buttons have any effect. As a result there’s no way to access input mutes from the MC Mix, nor the CueMix talkback buttons.

This one isn’t documented, but is very helpful: switching CueMix’s console between output buses is accomplished using the Mix button and each fader’s SEL button. In this mode, each channel represents a pair of outputs, with bus muting working via each channel’s On button. Once you’ve switched to the bus you want to work with, use the Input button to return to channel mode. Once I discovered this, it was a snap to mix and assign my 34 inputs across the 14 outputs I have between my MOTU 1224 and 24i interfaces.

In short – despite its many small bugs, HUI mode for CueMix is functional, allowing me access to volume, pan, mute and solo across all available CueMix buses. Hopefully, MOTU will bring native EuControl support to CueMix as well, possibly updating the application to match their newer CueMix FX application for FireWire interfaces. (A girl can dream, can’t she?)

Tomorrow: the MC Mix under Digital Performer 6.01.

camera dead

You might have noticed that my last few posts have been image-less. This isn’t because I’m protesting visual communication. I love it – in fact, I’m downright jealous of what most other bloggers pull off with the visual design of their sites!

My camera died. Yeah, the “new old” Olympus C-5050 I bought broke. I only have myself to blame. The camera was on my kitchen counter. I reached for it, but scooted it off the counter, dashing it on the floor. The damage could have been worse – only the mode dial came off. I can’t just reattach it using the screw hack someone posted, because the impact on the floor cut through traces on the flexible PCB. And they’re too fine to bridge easily. Besides, disassembling to the point where I could even consider repairing that damage ended up cracking a couple of very delicate plastic tabs, ones designed to hold the whole thing together. I could try and glue all of it together, but…

Someone on eBay has the entire mode dial assembly for $39, plus $8 for shipping to Canada. Soon I’ll have a working camera again, and by then the studio should be warmer, so lots more pictures and music for everyone.

Oh, and I’ll have my first actual honest to goodness conference submission done by then too (deadline: Dec. 18th). It’s been a long time coming but it’s good to have actual research data and prepare it for publication again. YES!

howto fix mackie onyx firewire under osx 10.5.5

After upgrading Waynemanor Studio’s Intel-based Mac to OSX 10.5 (10.5.5), I was unable to get the Mackie Onyx 1640 FireWire interface to stream audio successfully to/from the Mac. When playing audio from the Mac to the Onyx (just from the System Preferences Sound panel, selecting the Onyx FireWire 0838 output for system sounds and clicking the Purr sound – no DAW software), I’d get the spinning beachball for ~10s, then stuttering, clicking, popping sound would come out. Actually running my DAW made things worse; the application would hang, and Force Quit didn’t help. (Power cycling the Onyx allowed the Force Quit to work.)

Mackie lists this audio driver rollback (PDF) on their website, but the first try at it didn’t work. Here’s how I managed to finally get everything working correctly under Apple OSX 10.5.5:

  1. Sign up for an Apple Developer Connection account. It’s free, and required to download the software you need.
  2. Download both the FireWire SDK 26 for Mac OSX and the FireWire SDK 24 for Mac OSX.
  3. Mount both image files and install the package files from both (FireWireSDK26.pkg and the confusingly-named FireWireSDK23.pkg). This will create directories under /Developer on your system drive.
  4. From /Developer/FireWireSDK26/FireWireComponents, install the Leopard Final drivers. Reboot.
  5. From /Developer/FireWireSDK26/FireWireComponents, install the FireWireAudio 2.4 drivers. Reboot.
  6. Select Software > Extensions on the left-hand browser. Look for AppleFWAudio, and make sure it is version 2.4.0.
  7. From /Developer/FireWireSDK24/FireWireComponents, install the FireWireAudio 2.0.1 drivers. Reboot
  8. From the Apple menu, select About this Mac, then click the More Info button to start System Profiler.
  9. Select Software > Extensions on the left-hand browser. Look for AppleFWAudio, and make sure it is version 2.0.1.
  10. Go to the System Preferences > Sound panel and try sound output to the Onyx Firewire 0838. It should sound clear as a bell.

I don’t know why installing the latest SDK FW base drivers and the FireWireAudio 2.4 drivers first was required before the 2.0.1 drivers would correctly fire up, but it was. One warning: do not install the Leopard FireWire (not FireWireAudio) drivers from the 24 SDK. This caused my machine not to boot correctly, and I had to repair it using another machine.

Here’s hoping this helps someone out in the wild. I’d post it to the Mackie forum, but the moderators there have yet to enable my posting rights. :(

ms. “maytag” repairman

Tonight I had to repair my own dishwasher. After weeks of dishes coming out dirty, and after reviewing some references, I decided I probably had a bunged up inlet valve. HG Service Engineer for Dishwashers After much disassembly, reassembly, and testing, I discovered:

  • that even modern dishwashers still come with service technician notes behind the kickplate, though they no longer include exploded parts diagrams,
  • that, if a chopstick breaks in half in the washer, it will melt partially, then drop into the chopper assembly, further mangling things,
  • that rocks in the chopper assembly are also bad things, though the built-in plastic guard prevents them from becoming horrible things,
  • that the rubber valve assembly in the tube that feeds the middle and upper spin arms is horribly specified, and easily sticks open,
  • that by turning said valve assembly upside down, you can prevent a large leak (by mating the stuck-open hole with the normal position of the upper drawer – high or low),
  • that increasing numbers of parts inside dishwashers are now plastic, grrrr,
  • that plastic inlet valves are fragile, and moving them even the slighest bit for purposes of service can cause them to start leaking a bit during inrush of fluids (fixed for now with old absorbant facerag on floor),
  • that someone had rearranged most of the hand tools in the basement (shakes fist), and
  • that the built-in diagnostic mode for the dishwasher is fun to use.

I am waiting for the Good News that should come when the dishwasher ends its normal cycle in about 90 minutes, I open the door, and the dishes and utensils are actually clean.