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CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. #1833044 10/31/07 06:24 AM
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BrianK Offline OP
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This is a sudden announcement - we're rushing to prepare an exhibit for this year's annual (and final) "VINTAGE COMPUTER FAIR":

Why? This Con Brio synthesizer I've had for a decade is finally going to make noise in public again. Just this week we heard it for the first time - maybe the first one of these has been used in 20+ years...

http://www.synthmuseum.com/conbrio/conads20001.html

http://matrixsynth.blogspot.com/2005/10/my-favorite-retro-synth-conbrio-ads.html

It's been a legendary beast - mostly because of how it looks (of course). But until this week, we didn't know it was really GOOD. As a slightly outside observer, it was truly amazing - the design and interface are superb - you can fly on this thing and work very quickly. It sounds like other digital synths of the era - but with much better fidelity, its basic tone is pretty great. I am now gonna try and reunite the designers (one of them is coming along for the show and may give a talk). I will probably soon do a detailed web page showing some of the clever ideas and history.

The FAIR and the MUSEUM: Sat/Sun 10-6 pm!! Exhibits from 2-6pm!

http://www.vintage.org/2007/main/

So - if you're interested in coming by (Mountain View, CA) I'll be there with it. PLEASE pass on the info to your techie-geek friends who may also appreciate this or a roomfull (museum nearby) of vintage computers; Altair, Digital Equipment Corp., Timex, Commodore, early Apple, etc."


Relax and float downstream...
KC Island
Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: BrianK] #1833048 10/31/07 06:47 AM
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A unique synthesizer.

Any chance of capturing some video at the event?

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: Tusker] #1833158 10/31/07 11:28 AM
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Last I heard, Brian's Con Brio was inoperative. You actually got the thing restored? Wasn't that one built with wire wrap?!?

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: The Real MC] #1833198 10/31/07 12:21 PM
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Fabulous! Now if we can just get a working Coupland, McLeyvier, and Audity to join the fun...


Moe
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Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: mate stubb] #1833469 10/31/07 08:10 PM
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It works, partially. We can load sounds and sequences - so you can hear it. KEYBOARD Magazine jumped right on this and are shooting video and maybe a column about it "coming back", very exciting!

McLeyvier and Audity - we had both of those (McLeyvier worked) next to the Con Brio in our old studio. Quite a pile of inventiveness!

(Coupland - never worked, I think it was vaporware run by Akai's?)


Relax and float downstream...
Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: BrianK] #1833493 10/31/07 09:35 PM
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Last I heard, the Audity is lacking SSM2055 EGs which are serious unobtanium. But the more common SSM2056 and some adapter circuitry can substitute.

The Coupland was being developed until the sponsor ceased financial support, end of show. No one has ever reported seeing a working Coupland, the closest was a private demo in a hotel room near NAMM and the thing was dead on arrival with Rick Coupland tearing his hair out trying to get it working.

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: The Real MC] #1833519 10/31/07 10:08 PM
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 Originally Posted By: The Real MC
Last I heard, the Audity is lacking SSM2055 EGs which are serious unobtanium. But the more common SSM2056 and some adapter circuitry can substitute.


That sucks. I personally contributed several tubes of SSMs to that Audity via Dave Kean a few years ago, and hoped he would have the other 8 voices up and running by now. No 2055s though, just a bunch of 2030, 2040, and 2020s.


Moe
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Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: BrianK] #1834598 11/02/07 06:26 PM
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 Originally Posted By: BrianK
Why? This Con Brio synthesizer I've had for a decade is finally going to make noise in public again. Just this week we heard it for the first time - maybe the first one of these has been used in 20+ years...


5 CPUs, Dual 16-bit stereo (quad expand?) and very capable synth modes with additive crown. Considering those dates, ConBrio was ahead of its time and I have utmost respect for such creations.
I've heared some sounds and there is nothing unusable or ordinary about that sound. Very capable.

You have Conbrio and McLeyvier in one place? Hm, have a mercy on us and share some pictures please.

McLeyvier, even by present standards of aesthetics (synthetic idealism) , strikes me as superbly designed result.

Since you mention these rare birds, there is only one rare bird that troubles me as complete enigma. No documentation or ANY concrete data about its origin and concept dates.

Mellotron Digital Workstation III :



Do you by any chance know something more about this one?

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: The Real MC] #1906946 03/10/08 10:05 PM
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[quote=The Coupland was being developed until the sponsor ceased financial support, end of show. No one has ever reported seeing a working Coupland, the closest was a private demo in a hotel room near NAMM and the thing was dead on arrival with Rick Coupland tearing his hair out trying to get it working.[/quote]

I've seen the Coupland called vaporware enough times that I figured I should set the record straight. While the slick looking, performance oriented unit pictured in Vail's book may never have made it past the brochure stage, there were several working prototypes built, and I had the privilege of spending 3 months in a 16-track studio with one of them.

In the Fall of 1980, I was poking my nose into some dim and dusty corners of the music building at the University of Arizona in Tucson when I came across what was obviously a computer with a keyboard attached. Being an EE major with a CSC minor playing keyboards in a band by night, I immediately went to the department head and asked if I could play with it. I was told that the professor who had brought it to the University had left, taking with him all knowledge about the unit. They said that if I could get it to work I could have 6 hours / week in the studio with it for the rest of the semester.

The unit consisted of a card cage with 8 or 9 wire-wrapped cards (one with a TI-9900 processor on it), a dual 8" floppy, 25x80 CRT "dumb" terminal, an 88 key pressure sensitive keyboard, a stack of unlabeled floppy disks, and a one page xeroxed "instruction sheet". Amazingly enough, when I plugged it all together and turned it on, the floppy drive read light came on, so I started feeding it the disks from the pile until I found one that booted to a command menu. After a couple of very late nights it was actually making sounds.

The control software on those disks must have been in a very early state, because it was nothing at all like the brochure \:\) The voice and the modulation waveforms were entered as mathematical functions of the form "sin(x)+cos(2*x)/2+sin(4*x)/4". You could get a square wave with round((sin(x)+1)/2), and with the mod function you could create sawtooth waves. There was no "filter" block, and no way (that I ever discovered) to use the ADSR to control any aspect of the voice besides amplitude.

Those limitations aside, though, it was a truly amazing synth for its day.

At the risk of being too long winded, I'll pass on a little history as well. One evening I took a girl I was dating into the studio. She saw the Coupland and told me that her father had showed her one just like it. It turned out that her father worked for Micor, knew Rick Coupland, and knew quite a bit of the history of the unit. He told me that there were 5 working prototypes: one at Arizona State University in Phoenix, the one I was working on, one that Rick had kept, and he didn't know what happened to the other two.

He also told me that Rick was very bitter over Micor pulling the funding for the project just as it was nearing completion. He said that when they pulled the funding, Rick quit Micor and took every shred of project documentation with him. Micor sued to get the documentation back, but Rick said that he had destroyed it, and no one could prove otherwise.

I asked if he could arrange for me to meet Rick, and he called a couple weeks later to say that Rick was not interested in talking to anyone about the project. Period.

I hope this sheds a little light into another dusty corner of electronic music history.

Dave Hamara (ishkabbible@gmail.com)

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: DHamara] #1907073 03/11/08 01:18 AM
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Thanks for the history, Dave. I still remember that ad with the safety pin. Classic!


Moe
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Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: mate stubb] #1907189 03/11/08 10:45 AM
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Interesting story on the Coupland, this is the first report of any working units. A shame that Rick will not share anything regarding his creation. He must be risking ligitation from Micor if he talks, probably from an very restrictive NDA that prevents the Coupland from being built by anybody other than Micor. Even if he destroyed the documentation, the NDA probably restricts him from sharing what he knows from memory.

Re: CON BRIO synthesizer lives again... this weekend. [Re: The Real MC] #1907419 03/11/08 03:40 PM
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I remember taking several pictures of the unit while I was working on it. If I can find them (27 years is a long time) I'll scan and stick them somewhere and post a link here.
I also still have a cassette of one of the compositions I recorded (ran across it a couple weeks ago when I was looking for something in my office), but I haven't had access to a cassette player in years. If anyone in Tucson is reading this and has a player that won't eat my tape, I would love to digitize it (assuming there is still sound on the tape). I have a laptop with a killer sound card that I can bring.


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