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Me, myself, and MEK


marino

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Hi everybody.

After my announced "vacation" from KC, which ended up being a month long (not that anybody noticed...), I recently returned to the forum, and saw with pleasure that the ratio of useful stuff to nonsense blathering has returned to a more acceptable (for me) level.

So to celebrate, I thought to offer my impressions of the... DSI MEK. What? Yes, we are in 2011, and this instrument is no news for most of you. But since there are very few DSI instruments in Italy, I wrote an article for an Italian site, then I just thought to make a version for KC, in the hope that someone would still find something useful in it. It's complete with live impressions and audio clips. Have fun.

 

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Having experimented with the desktop Evolver for a while, I started GASsing for a MEK, the keyboard (mono) version. Of course, i was attracted by the army of knobs on its front panel, allowing for faster programming.

After a bit of hunting, I found one in the USA for a very good price. Encouraged by the favourable Euro/Dollar change, I bought it. It was an adventure to get it here, and they managed to do some small cosmetic damage to the instrument during shipping but I was so happy to have it finally here, that I didnt get too mad about it.

Now that I have had it for a few weeks, heres my very belated review of the MEK. Im not going to explain the whole architecture, as I assume that by now, most people know it. In brief: Four oscillators, two analog and two digital; lowpass filter switchable 2-4 poles; separate highpass filter; three ADSR envelopes, two hardwired to filter and amp, and one assignable; four (digital) LFOs; distortion; four busses for extra modulations, plus assignments for the most common sources; three delay lines; sequencer, arpeggiator; stereo voice channel; stereo ext input.

 

Also, Im not trying to give a complete review, magazine-style. For example, Im not using the sequencer or the external inputs yet, so Ill leave those out. Ill just offer my practical, individual impressions on the instrument.

 

Ill start to say that it is just lovely! The combination of great sound, features, ergonomy, ease of use, good looks, light weight, integration of functions, and small dimensions, probably makes it the nicest instrument Ive ever owned or at least, its up there with the very best. Tough competition in that department comes from my Studio Electronics SE-1 Minimoog clone, another heavyweight among integrated mono analogs. Ill make several comparisons between the two. Lets begin:

 

ERGONOMY: Excellent. I unpacked the MEK and started tweaking right away. OK, its an analog monosynth, so there are few surprises. But there *are* a few more esoteric functions, and even those are right under your eyes. Every function is clearly labeled and easily accessible, the panel is divided into logical sections, every knobs does what you expect it to do, and even the more obscure functions are just one move away. The octave transposer is right there on the upper left for on-the-fly changes (a must in a three-octave keyboard). The labels under each knob are a bit small, so in some light conditions theyre not easy to read but Ive seen much worse solutions in this department. The instrument is just a joy to program. I mean, with its small dimensions and light weight, you can put it on your bed or sofa, and start tweaking!

One exception is the main volume knob. What prompted DSI to place it on the extreme lower right of the panel is beyond me. Lets see, youre soloing, presumably with your right hand, and you need to make a small volume adjustment with your left hand.... on the MEK thats quite difficult, without getting in the way of the other hands playing.

Whats even more puzzling is, on the upper left of the panel, where this control would belong in my opinion, theres ample space for another knob, without changing a thing in the panel layout! But they chose to place the Evolver logo right there. Oh well its just a little thing in an otherwise excellent design. I found that somewhat of a constant in the MEK; great stuff and occasional bizarre quirks. Lets just say that they help to give this synth a personality.

 

ENCODERS VS. POTS. Being a programmable instrument, the Evolver, in its various incarnations, has been conceived with encoders (endless knobs), which always start at the current or programmed value, and add or subtract from there. The problem is that theres no visual feedback from the knobs of where the value is. You have to watch the display constantly. Now for instruments like the Matrix-12 or the Nord Modular G2, its not a big problem, since each one of the (few) knobs is placed right under a dedicated display. But here, you have a whole lot of knobs (wich is a great thing regardless), so youre referring to a single, tiny display, which is often not close to the most commonly used knobs.

In short, the demand from users to have regular potentiometers instead of encoders at least for the most used functions, was so big that DSI started making a Pot Edition MEK, and also selling a conversion kit to fit potentiometers in the older machines. These pots have three modes of operation, so everyone can choose the preferred one.... BUT I still prefer encoders to pots, and I bought the older-style MEK with encoders. The reason? Simple: You can grab a knob and not worry about its initial position; its just always adding or subtracting from the programmed value. I find this solution the less painful, all things considered.

But the problem here is of another kind: *these* encoders are simply not very reliable. A few ones jump values, other simply behave in an unpredictable way. Time for an email to DSI with a request for the famous De-Oxit.....

Another annoying thing is the fact that you cant *see* a programmed value until you move its relative knob slightly, with the obvious risk of changing it in the process. This would be no big deal for continuous values like filter cutoff, but a disaster in case of switches. Let me see, this lfo was modulating fm amount? Or maybe I moved it one further value, and it was affecting resonance instead? Ok, theres always the compare button in case of emergency, but what if you havent saved your previous changes yet? Big headache, heres what.

A view button like the one on the Alesis Andromeda would have helped here but since the display can only show one vaue at a time, you would need one view button for *each* knob. In this case, I would have taken a hint from Yamaha AN1x: *Push* a knob, it displays its value. Turn it, and it changes it. Again, its a matter of costs... the AN1x has eight knobs for programming, the MEK has *lots* more so using that kind of encoder would have been really expensive.

 

That said, I must say that I didnt find any of these limitations too severe. I just went on programming. Hey, after the Evo desktop, this is heaven!

Here is a bit of messing around with the sounds I programmed in the very first hours. (Im afraid theyll date me big time...) No external effects were used.

 

OVERALL SOUND: How does it sound? Well, to my ears, the overall character of the MEK sound, not surprisingly, is quite reminescent of the Pro-One; the MEK sounds perhaps a bit less compact and tight than its old cousin. But I also hear memories of the Korg Mono-Poly (another synth I used to love, which had a few similarities with the MEK), with a few shades of the Odyssey. So far, Ive made mainly classic lead sounds on it, and while the MEK has quite a different soul than Moogs, I must say that the results have been very pleasant.

 

OSCILLATORS: The MEK has two analog and two digital oscillators. The naked sound of the analog oscillators is quite raw, pushed and with plenty of character. In comparison, the SE-1 oscs have a rounder, fuller sound, but also a more well behaved, straight tone. The MEK does show a few artifacts that the SE-1 doesnt have, like a slight popping attack when playing distant notes. The MEK analog waveforms tend to move a bit, so for some ears, it has a less pure sound... but personally, I like that raw quality, and I like when analog oscillators show a bit of life of their own. I tend to leave the oscillator slop parameter to its max setting.

The digital oscillators can be very useful to give some extra beef, but you have to be careful with levels and waveform choice, because they alias like mad in the upper register. Some of the waves, however, are quite interesting, and you can modulate the wavetables for VS/WS/PPG effects.

 

DSI made a curious choice about the panel layout: While each of the three envelopes has its own set of knobs (for identical ADSR settings), the four oscillators share a single set of controls; there are lit up switches to select which oscillator youre editing. Fact is, some of the controls for the digital oscs are irrelevant for the analog ones, and viceversa. Alesis, for example, made the opposite choice on the Ion: shared knobs for its three envelopes (which are identical), and dedicated controls for each of the oscillators.

Another little thing: I would have preferred to have a separate section for oscillator mix, with dedicated knobs; as it is, theres only one level knob, shared by all oscillators. You have to select an oscillator, then adjust its level. I guess this is done for lack of panel space. The SE-1, on the other hand, hides its entire oscillator mixer under a display menu, so maybe I shouldnt be complaining too loud.

 

I really like DSIs choice of features for the oscillator section. You can hard sync the analog oscs and you still have the other two left for layering and detuning. Really great to have on a *mono* synth! Then you have *bi-directional* FM and ring mod on the digital pair. The sound of these audio-rate modulations is just a bit harsh perhaps but you can obtain *very* complex metallic timbres and sidebands with all these connections, especially if you modulate the values. On the analog pair, you can modulate pulse width with excellent results.

A fantastic feature of the oscillator section is that you can set separate glide times for each oscillator! And each one can be set to either constant or fingered behaviour. I dont need to explain how much fun you can have with this stuff. Theres a drawback, tough: I couldnt find any fast way to switch from slow to fast glide rate or viceversa, a control which can be very useful live.

Finally, theres *analog* white noise, and it sounds very pleasant.

 

FILTERS: There are two filters, a low pass and an highpass. No, wait, the lowpass has 2-pole and auto-oscillating 4-pole modes, so you really have three. No, thats not correct either: The voice engine is split into two channels, and each channel has its own discrete filters, so this thing contains six filters! The way this separation is implemented is a bit mad, but very rich with possibilities. Bear with me: The lowpass has a Split parameter, where you set the difference in cutoff between left and right channels; this can be modulated.

The highpass filter, however, has no Split parameter. So lets assume you want to build a coherent bandpass filter by setting the two in series: The filter envelope is only affecting the lowpass, so you set a separate modulation bus (more or that later) to modulate the highpass with the same envelope. Then you also try to duplicate whatever extra modulation goes to the lowpass cutoff (velocity, etc.) to the highpass. All is good, until you start modulating the Split parameter in the lowpass filter section; by doing so, youre really modulating the cutoff of the two lowpass filters (left and right channels) at the same time, and in opposite directions. At this point, mantaining any kind of coherence between lowpass and highpass becomes impossible: You can only modulate the left and right highpass filters in one parallel direction. Now, you dont always *want* stable bandpass.... in fact, I love some of the results that Ive achieved from those settings. But you have to be aware that in order to obtain traditional bandpass, you have to leave the Split parameter unmodulated.

 

That said how do these filter sound? Theyre not razor-sharp like the Moog-type filters; the difference with the SE-1 filters is remarkable. The MEK filters sound less precise, more open, more squeaking, a bit shouting perhaps. Its like hearing some Italian character speaking loud all the time (the MEK), as opposed to a Brit speaking softly but very precisely and effectively, with lots of nuances (the SE-1).

So the MEK filters, taken as individual components, appear to be of slight less quality than Mini-type filters. But you know what: When coupled with their own oscillators, the combination sounds very good. These filters strongly contribute to give the MEK its own voice, which is *not* noble and creamy like a Moog rather, its aggressive, irreverent and intriguing, even more than a Pro-One; not too far from a Neptune, or even a VCS3 in some instances.

 

In the filter section, you find the usual controls for cutoff, resonance (which auto-oscillates nicely in 4-pole mode), env amount (positve or negative), key tracking, plus nice touches like velocity amount and the notorious Split parameter.

 

VCA: In the VCA section, you find the controls for the hardwired ADSR amp envelope, amplitude velocity amount, and a Spread parameter which makes the stereo field more or less narrow at the output stage. Plus, you have a couple of unusual controls: VCA level and envelope amount in case you need to output some amount of constant signal which is not entirely under envelope control. Again, nice touch. Note than in another section, you can set the overall volume for each program.

 

After the VCA comes the highpass filter(s), of which Ive told already, then a Feedback section which routes the signal back to the lowpass filter input. It has a Frequency parameter, and also Grunge, which only has effect at high level settings. Nice, but for some reason, I havent been able to obtain predictable results with feedback. Ill have to investigate a bit more here, to understand if maybe Ive missed something, or my unit is simply non functioning properly.

Next is the Distortion parameter. Its digital distortion, but it works great if youre careful. The strange thing here is, if you set it at zero, it has no effect (of course) and also *it cant be modulated*. Huh? Turn the encoder one notch up, and an NG value appears. This turns a noise gate on. For successive values, you have (modulatable) distortion plus noise gate. Personally, Ive found that for most sounds, a value of 2 is the max without running the risk of breaking the sounds; it just gives a nice saturation. Of course, a value of 2 is also the minimum to actually have distortion, so it would have been nice to have the possibility to modulate from zero. A value of 3 can be given for the most extreme sounds but Ive found that any higher than this, it ruins the sound quality.

 

THE DELAY SECTION comes last in the MEKs audio chain. Again, a great addition, with some peculiarity. There are three separate delay lines, which is great, since each one has its own time and amount paramenters. Whats strange is the fact that there are two separate feedback knobs, and they *both* affect all three delay lines simultaneously! The results can be wondefully complex, but its difficult to keep track of what the heck is going on. Say you want to use one delay line for a chorus effect, and the other two for ambience; with the feedback controls being shared between the three lines, good luck making precise adjustements for the separate effects.

That said, Ill also say that Ive come to like this arrangement. Why? Precisely because its a bit mad, a bit unpredictable, but like other aspects of the MEK, it almost always gives interesting results. Its part of the instruments personality, so to speak.

The manual says that the delay lines, in combination with the tuned feedback, can give you Karlplus-Strong string modeling. Wow.... Ill have to do some serious research soon.

 

LFOs: There are four. In the LFO section, you find the usual controls for rate, mod amount, destination, and waveform, for each of the four low frequency oscillators. Wave choice is triangle, sawtooth, reverse sawtooth, square, and random/S&H. LFOs are syncable to MIDI with a copious choice of rhythmic subdivisions. Theres a Key Sync parameter, individually switchable for each LFO, and of course its incredibly useful for the different uses you could make of them. Another very nice touch.

 

ENV3 is the third, freely assignable envelope generator, which gets its own section on the panel. Now, to be sure, you can assingn the other two envelopes to every sort of duty, too (and also disconnect them from their regular assignments, by setting their hardwired controls to a value of zero). The third envelope, however, offers a couple of extras: Other than ADSR settings, destination choice, and mod amount, it can add a delay parameter, and a velocity sub-mod. Great.

 

MODULATORS. This section occupies the upper right part of the front panel, and while it works very well, it also triggers the biggest critique I have on this instrument.

Lets start by considering the possible modulations you can have on a patch. You have the hardwired ones, like env and velocity amount on the filter cutoff and VCA. Then the third envelope and each of the four LFOs have *one* assignable destination from their respective section controls.

On this Modulators section, you can assign one destination (and respective mod amount) for each of seven sources: Mod Wheel, Pressure, Breath, Velocity, Foot pedal, and a couple for the ext input.

 

Then you have some freely assignable (source, destination and amount) busses.

How many? Four.

FOUR!

Maybe you dont realize what youre missing, until you consider the list of possible destinations: Things like ring mod, FM, every individual segments of every envelope, filter split (see above), the cutoff and/or resonance of the two separate lowpass filters (left and right channels), the frequencies and levels of every separate oscillator and LFO, etc. etc. etc....

So DSI, you make us salivating by cooking a fantastic dish, you put it in front of us, then explain that we can only have a spoonful of it. Thats sadistic, heres what it is. With this plethora of modulation possibilities, I want forty busses, not four!

 

MISC PARAMS: In this section, you have control on patch volume, name, key mode (low, high, or last, with or without retriggering envelopes), patch transpose (in addition to the on-the-fly octave transposer on the other side of the panel), pitch wheel range, envelope linear or exponential response. Tip: For vintage-style sounds, set the env response at exponential and forget it. No logarithmic but who cares.

There are also a few settings for the ext inputs - and all of this is saved at the patch level. Excellent.

 

Ill spare you the description of the global paramenters, MIDI stuff, etc. Ill only mention that at this level, you can set the global velocity and aftertouch response curves.

 

PRESETS: Now, really, you dont expect me to discuss the preset, do you? Especially in an instrument like this. I mean, they are all masterfully done by a bunch of analogheads, and a few are truly inspirational. But I mean, this is a SYNTHESIZER. If you want to play presets, buy something else, a workstation perhaps.

Exception: I was intrigued by some of the sequenced patches. I have never been too interested in step sequencers, but some of these are cleverly done. Of course, I knew them already from the desktop Evo, so it hasnt been a real first-time discovery.

 

IN USE: Wow! This is a fun *and* deep instrument, highly intuitive, fantastic-sounding, and inviting under every aspect. The only problem for the user is to decide between playing and programming.... both things are addictive on the MEK.

Onstage, I had played the desktop Evo already, so I know its cutting well thru the mix as a lead sound, with its clear and punchy attitude. Here are some clips from a students concert held last year, where Im sitting with one of my ensemble classes. In this occasion, I was playing the Evo MIDIed to some small Korg keyboard, so I had to do all pitch bendings with that... thing. Urrgghh.

I have cut the guitar solos out of this clip.

 

I gave my little MEK its Italian onstage debut recently. The day before Easter (April 23th), I was invited to play a gig with my friends of Banco (formerly Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, legendary Italian proggers since the 70s). Its always a pleasure and an honor to play with them; they just play so well! Plus this time I was called to play *their* classic material. Ulp! Its like a British keyboardist would be asked to sit with Yes or Genesis for one concert, playing their stuff. To complete the intimidation factor, Bernardo Lanzetti, singer from PFM, was called to do the vocals. I hoped that my prog chops werent too rusty, and also that my perception of fast-changing time signatures was still alive...

Btw it was a festival, and I was supposed to play the resident keyboards for piano and organ sounds. They gave me an S90ES and a master controller driving a laptop with B4, so it wasnt too bad. I was allowed to bring one more keyboard. The synth parts on their original records were played on a 1972 Minimoog, so obviously my first thought was to bring the SE-1. But that would have required another keyboard as a controller, and external effects, and hoping for a receptive soundman...

So I decided to take the risk, programmed some sounds on the MEK for the occasion, and brought that.

Here are clips from that concert. First you hear a theme from the classic Darwin album, then the same theme (from a later section of the song) harmonized with sax, then another section follows, where the MEK plays long notes, doubled by sax in unison.

They were so kind to play a song of mine too, which I used to play with the group Indaco. Here is the coda, in which the MEK plays a more nasal, Odissey-like sound.

All in all, the MEK behaved extremely well in that powerful context, and nobody onstage said anything to me about not bringing a Minimoog or clone. On the contrary, everybody was curious to watch the little beast in action (there are very few DSI instruments in Italy) and everybody was surprised by just how powerful it can sound.

 

As I said, its a close run between the MEK and my older SE-1 for nicest instrument in my rig. The SE-1 has probably a smoother sound, and, like the MEK, its lightweight. But the MEK has a keyboard, and onboard delays (no need for external effects live, except maybe for a tad of reverb from the main console).

Best of all, Ive discovered that the two instruments layer amazingly well, for a monster seven-oscillator monophonic!

 

CONCLUSIONS: In case it wasnt clear enough yet, I love this instrument. Its not perfect, but as I said at the beginning, it has one of the best combination of elements, which ultimately helps to create a relationship between instrument and player. Its very cleverly designed, its thought for the performing musician, it has a personality, its easy to use, it looks good, and above all, it sounds great. Hats off to DSI.

Cons? A few: The wall wart PS should be outlawed. Four assignable mod busses is a joke. The filter is not the best-sounding in the world (though it still sounds good). And the main volume knob is in the wrong place. Then theres the encoders diatribe, which I have reported above.

But these small quirks are largely overshdowed by the MEKs qualities, and especially by its overall personality. Suffice it to say that now Im GASsing for a PER....

 

 

 

 

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What Mr. Golly said.

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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It's good to see you again, Marino! Excellent review. I particularly enjoyed your comparisons with other synths.

 

I find the distortion pretty unweildy, too. Aside from the fact that it cant be modulated from "zero", I also wish it were possible to dial in less than "two". I actually get it up to 15 once in a while :D

 

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Great write up Marino and welcome back. A couple of comments. I have the PEK paired with the rack. The distortion must be scaled differently than the MEK as I usually work with values between 7 and 22. Also one thing that drove me nuts this past weekend is if you pan hard left and right and solo oscillator 2 or 4 the amp envelope/sound cuts off early. I made sure ALL the modulations were off and played with the envelopes, filter split etc. but no luck. I finally found that if you totally remove the distortion this "problem" goes away. It must have something to do with how the distortion works and now that I know it it's not an issue.

As to the encoders verse pots to each his own - I am a happy pot user. I do agree the unpredicatability of the feedback and filters and it's why I continue to gravitate toward this synth.

 

Nice to see some real synththesizer subjects here ocassionally. Thanks for posting.

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Thanks everybody.

 

Mark, what you're hearing is probably the effect of the noise gate, which is always on when the distortion parameter is set higher than zero. If it behaves differently on the right channel than on the left, it probably needs calibration - sounds like its treshold is set too high.

 

You're also giving me some very useful info...

 

The distortion must be scaled differently than the MEK as I usually work with values between 7 and 22.

Very interesting. I wonder if it could get rescaled in that way on the MEK?! (unless that would bring the noise gate problem! Maybe the two things are linked?)

I do agree the unpredicatability of the feedback
Well, it's nice to know that it's not just my unit. I have to experiment with feedback a bit more...

 

 

 

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But the problem here is of another kind: *these* encoders are simply not very reliable. A few ones jump values, other simply behave in an unpredictable way

 

True - my MEK program change encoder flys all over the place. I could send it back to DSI, but for now I am selecting the patches I want with the buttons rather than the knobs.

 

Good thing the core programming values are not assigned to the program change encoder.

 

Welcome Back Marino!

 

I believe that a remote floor unit would pair up nicely with the MEK.

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But the problem here is of another kind: *these* encoders are simply not very reliable. A few ones jump values, other simply behave in an unpredictable way

 

True - my MEK program change encoder flys all over the place. I could send it back to DSI, but for now I am selecting the patches I want with the buttons rather than the knobs.

 

Good thing the core programming values are not assigned to the program change encoder.

 

Welcome Back Marino!

 

I believe that a remote floor unit would pair up nicely with the MEK.

 

Tarkus, there is an easy fix! Contact DSI and they'll send you a tube of Deoxit. Or buy your own deoxit. A few drops applied to the offending encoder really fixes it.

Having said that, I converted to pots, and I'm thrilled!

 

... PEK... The distortion must be scaled differently than the MEK as I usually work with values between 7 and 22.

I'm also using a PEK, and only get above 10 when I want a very nasty sound. I wonder if this is a matter of personal taste rather than scaling.

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Hey, Carlo, when you began programming, how did you start (which patch)? Just curious.

Steve, for the patches you hear in these clips, I always started from a blank state (patch 128, the "neutral" patch), because I wanted to learn the machine, like hearing the sound of the naked oscillators, etc. Later, I've done a few variations based on those early patches.

I've noticed, though, that on this synth, I almost *always* prefer to start from scratch. The reason is exactly what I described in the review: There are a few eccentric 'crossing points' in the signal path, where realizing what's exactly going on isn't too immediate. The delay section is one, but also some things in the osc section, the tuned feedback, the interaction between lowpass and highpass filters, etc..

I'm not religious about that; if I hear a preset with 90% of what I need, except maybe a slightly slow filter attack, I tweak that and I'm done in 10 seconds. But in general, I prefer to know where I'm going. :)

 

 

 

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... PEK... The distortion must be scaled differently than the MEK as I usually work with values between 7 and 22.

I'm also using a PEK, and only get above 10 when I want a very nasty sound. I wonder if this is a matter of personal taste rather than scaling.

 

Playing around tonight I see that on many of my patches I tend to pull way back on the Amplifier Env Amount. This allows more headroom (i.e. higher values) for boosting the distortion without totally decimating the sound.

 

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Thanks everybody.

 

Mark, what you're hearing is probably the effect of the noise gate, which is always on when the distortion parameter is set higher than zero. If it behaves differently on the right channel than on the left, it probably needs calibration - sounds like its treshold is set too high.

 

Yes, now that you mention it that is what's happening Carlo. The gate closes down when any soloed oscillator is panned hard to the right channel (full reverse pan on osc 1 and osc 3 cause noise gate shut down as well). The PER behaves identically to the PEK reinforcing that it's not a calibration issue but just how that noise gate behaves. When the solo is removed enough signal is going through to keep the gate open and let the envelope run it's full course.

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... PEK... The distortion must be scaled differently than the MEK as I usually work with values between 7 and 22.

I'm also using a PEK, and only get above 10 when I want a very nasty sound. I wonder if this is a matter of personal taste rather than scaling.

 

Playing around tonight I see that on many of my patches I tend to pull way back on the Amplifier Env Amount. This allows more headroom (i.e. higher values) for boosting the distortion without totally decimating the sound.

Of course, that's it. I tend to use the VCA at full blast in my patches - I guess I'll have to learn to leave some headroom for the following stages. Thank you for the clarification! :thu:

 

 

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Playing around tonight I see that on many of my patches I tend to pull way back on the Amplifier Env Amount. This allows more headroom (i.e. higher values) for boosting the distortion without totally decimating the sound.

Excellent! I will try that... ooh I can't wait!

 

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I had a PEK/PER combo early on, and made the mistake of selling it to get a Prophet '08; I would seriously consider reacquiring one except I now am waiting for the arrival of a Solaris, which should cover some similar ground.
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Great post! As a PEK owner I can relate to a lot of what you say. I plan a proper post later... especially as I have reawakened my interest in this keyboard in the last weeks.

 

Quickly, I will say the Deoxit at least from my experience, is really just a temporary fix I'm afraid... I think those encoders are just plain bad. My filter frequency settings are basically uncontrollable. However, admittedly, I did not use the PolyEvolver so much in the last year... YMMV, but I will be going over to the "Pots" eventually for the reasons you mentioned.

 

My Matrix 12 encoders were also going crazy at the same point last year and the Deoxit as proved wonderful there.. still working perfect! But I have used that machine on and off throughout the last 18 months that I applied the deoxit..

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OK, back home now and a bit of a longer post (though I'll be shorter than Carlo :D ) I am still debating the encoder->pot modification as it is pretty expensive esp when one considers the costs of post and import... :( However, the way it is set up atm, means I often lose a lot of my patches while I'm working on them... pretty painful...

 

Like Carlo, I start with a vanilla patch... I've created about 10 new patches which is more than I've done in one synth since about 1989. :D My feelings is that I can get pretty close to an Oberheim 4 voice sound at times... I've accidentally played stuff from Weather Report (Havana) and Rainer Brunighaus and I've even got an almost dead on Arp ProSoloist Flute which I A/B'd with my own Arp ProSoloist even at waveform level through an oscilloscope... I'm going to try and get a few more Arp ProSoloist sounds going...

 

Actually, I did not know you could modulate through the digital waveforms (though I see the shape sequence knob I have not used this so far)... I guess if its what I am thinking this is a recent update because the LFOs on mine don't have that destination and I asked at HC and got no response there.

 

At present I am debating whether or not to get a s/h PolyEvolver rack because to have a few more voices would be the icing on the cake.

 

Funnily enough I don't see the PolyEvolver as being particularly fat like a Roland JX10 or something of that ilk, but it does have a certain warmth (and even coldness) which appeals. In many ways the keyboard has a similar kind of timbre to the Matrix 12 (esp on those buzzy VCF quartal stacks) but the mellowness of the Matrix 12 is something else... funny thing is that the ease of use of the PolyEvolver has got me more intrigued about the possibilities of the Matrix 12... most of my Matrix 12 patches are the usual analogue variety... no real clever modulation going on...

 

 

 

 

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Quickly, I will say the Deoxit at least from my experience, is really just a temporary fix I'm afraid... I think those encoders are just plain bad. My filter frequency settings are basically uncontrollable. However, admittedly, I did not use the PolyEvolver so much in the last year... YMMV, but I will be going over to the "Pots" eventually for the reasons you mentioned.

 

I called DSI about 2 years ago regarding my flaky pots. They offered up the Deoxit solution or as an alternative I could swap out my 3 encoder boards for a new set/version. Newer meaning the encoders come from a different manufacturer than the original ones and are much more reliable per DSI. This cost $75 and it really solved my flaky encoder problem. So if you prefer the encoders(to pots) and are having problems with them I would recommend calling DSI to see which version you have and if this is an option.

 

I still went with the pot conversion a couple of months ago - never been happier. Hated all that turning to get where I wanted to go and I now find the synth much more enjoyable to program. But of course to each his own.

 

 

 

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Great post! As a PEK owner I can relate to a lot of what you say.

Ciao Neil! How are things? :)

 

Quickly, I will say the Deoxit at least from my experience, is really just a temporary fix I'm afraid... I think those encoders are just plain bad. My filter frequency settings are basically uncontrollable.

 

...the way it is set up atm, means I often lose a lot of my patches while I'm working on them... pretty painful...

Ulp. That's awful!

Btw, have you tried to apply the De-Oxit in the way that's described on the DSI site, that is, opening the machine?

Also, I don't know if this could be of help, but if the culprit is the dust and dirtiness that accumulates in the encoders, you (we) could try turning every knob a few times in both directions. Tedious, but now that I think about it, my encoders work better now that I've used them for a while. Also, this works for the Andromeda pots (they don't jump values, but they tend to activate themselves without any human activity, suddendly changing screens on the display!).

As a last resource, you could opt for a whole new set of encoders, as Mark did.

 

Actually, I did not know you could modulate through the digital waveforms (though I see the shape sequence knob I have not used this so far)... I guess if its what I am thinking this is a recent update because the LFOs on mine don't have that destination and I asked at HC and got no response there.

Sounds like I'm wrong here. I had heard a few presets doing the Wavesequence things, and I assumed they were sweeped by some modulation source, but they were actually sequenced. Even though the effect is similar, as sequences are attached to patches, technically I was in error. My apologies.

 

At present I am debating whether or not to get a s/h PolyEvolver rack because to have a few more voices would be the icing on the cake.

One of the reasons why I wanted a MEK was the dimension/weight factor. I have too many big keyboards already, and I enjoy immensely to take this little thing around and making sounds anywhere. And no computer editors, please - except for librarian purposes. Even a Mini or Voyager weights 20 kg... At the prog concert of which I talk in my 1st post, I took the MEK and not the SE-1. It's small, light and integrated, and it sounds great. When/if I'll have the money, I'll try to get myself a PER - but I'll never get rid of this little beauty. :)

 

Funnily enough I don't see the PolyEvolver as being particularly fat like a Roland JX10 or something of that ilk, but it does have a certain warmth (and even coldness) which appeals. In many ways the keyboard has a similar kind of timbre to the Matrix 12 (esp on those buzzy VCF quartal stacks) but the mellowness of the Matrix 12 is something else... funny thing is that the ease of use of the PolyEvolver has got me more intrigued about the possibilities of the Matrix 12... most of my Matrix 12 patches are the usual analogue variety... no real clever modulation going on...

I think that probably our perception of a "fat" sound has changed a little over these years... btw you can really get perverse with the Matrix-12, like a modular without patch cords... I'll try to post some examples as soon as I can.

 

 

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Carlo making a mistake??? Say it ain't so! :(

 

I have lost all faith in humanity..

 

;)

 

VERY funny.

 

:rolleyes::D

 

(I want the old emoticons back! Where's the one who sticks out his tongue... :D )

 

 

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I think that probably our perception of a "fat" sound has changed a little over these years... btw you can really get perverse with the Matrix-12, like a modular without patch cords... I'll try to post some examples as soon as I can.

 

 

Well the JX is now 25 years old (even that surprised me and I had a JX back then!) Perhaps the JX's get a lot of that fatness with the chorus... I'm gonna have a good go at trying to extract that kind of sound from the PEK...

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  • 2 months later...

I may need to get my MEK serviced.

 

I will try the De-Oxit solution.

 

At first it was the program change Encoder that went hay-wire, and now more of my encoders are mis-behaving...

 

Frustrating... :{

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