How to restore and update a retro synth

Retro synthesizers are still very important in music, offering high-fidelity audio and the ability to create authentic sounds at any time. For that reason, Kiwitechnics, Synthronics, Tubbutec and other companies have created parts to restore and update these classic analog instruments, making them more modern.


Common problems with older synths

These retro musical instruments usually have greater advantages than negative aspects, however, this time we mention the problems that some models present. For example, over time the NiCd batteries in Polysix and Poly 61 give off a chemical that can leave the CPU board completely damaged.

Classic faders and knobs, while very effective on musical electronic devices, also present problems over time. Some get stuck and others generate noise when twisted or slid, which is not satisfactory when rehearsing, playing live, or recording in studios.

Likewise, retro synthesizers need higher energy consumption to work, since the power supplies and internal components of many of them have technology from the 70s or 80s. In the same way, this produces high temperatures in their components or plates, which results in a short useful life.

Of course, not all of the problems mentioned are difficult to solve. There are some that can be solved by simply changing potentiometers or faders, but some synthesizers require the work of a specialist to repair them.


What type of potentiometer does the instrument need to be restored

It may sound complicated, but restoring a synthesizer that has one or more potentiometers damaged is a simple task, although it requires patience and, above all, a good pulse to achieve it. Potentiometers are basically rotary knobs, but inside they have small parts that can deteriorate if you use them for a long time. There are also slide knobs, which are basically used as faders on most synths and audio devices.

To find out what type of rotary potentiometer you should buy, check the number on its outside, for example, B50K, 10K, 250K, etc. The same happens if it is a sliding potentiometer, the most important thing is that the model is correct. In short, it won’t be difficult to figure out what kind of potentiometer to buy to restore your synthesizer.


How to effectively change the potentiometer

To carry out this step, the best thing to do is to take a photo or make a drawing of how the damaged potentiometer is connected or soldered. Then proceed with the disassembly of it; To do this, do not cut the cable too much, simply remove the necessary to remove the damaged potentiometer. Later, you will need to solder the new potentiometer to the corresponding wires, according to the photo or drawing made.

Take this aspect into account if you are not an electronics specialist. If it is, you may not need to draw a drawing, because you will know which wires to solder to the potentiometer.

Esta tarea es fácil de realizar, pero no todos los problemas de los sintetizadores son iguales. Si la falla que tiene tu instrumento es en el CPU, las placas o algún otro componente, lo mejor es que conozcas los siguientes aspectos; sobre todo si también quieres modernizar el instrumento. 

Por supuesto, te informamos que para actualizar un sintetizador retro necesitas invertir cierta cantidad de dinero, aunque tal vez esto no será un problema si quieres que ese viejo instrumento se convierta en el mejor sintetizador de tu colección.


Kiwitechnics y sus placas modernas

Esta es una compañía de Nueva Zelanda que fabrica placas para sintetizadores retro, de modo que con ellas quedan restaurados y actualizados.

When we talk about upgrades, we mean adding a variety of modern features to vintage synths. For example, the Kiwisix board from this company not only serves to restore a Korg Polysix, but also adds full control of the parameters by NRPN or CC. Likewise, it incorporates the possibility of making more variety of arpeggios, polyphonic sequences and MIDI tempo synchronization.

Another standout board is the Kiwi-106, which upgrades to the Roland Juno-106, so you can use more LFOs with various wave types, aftertouch, and velocity over MIDI. It even provides out of tune legato and polyphony, as well as unison modes, among other new features.


Synthronics, the plate cloning company

It is a German company that has solved various problems regarding retro synthesizer boards and power supplies. For example, thanks to its new Polysix boards, users will be able to solve those typical battery problems.

Likewise, this company provides physical restoration to old synthesizers, offering a metal panel for the Polysix. Therefore, it is possible to make an aesthetic restoration to this retro instrument, so that the original external design is not lost, even if it has some significant update inside.

On the other hand, Synthronics has created power supplies for classic synthesizers such as Monopoly, Juno 6/60 LinnDrum, Sequential Prophet VS, among other models. Some of the sources provide lower ground noise, multivoltage, isolation, and high-voltage protection, as well as other benefits, so that retro synthesizers have greater audio fidelity and durability.


Tubbutec and respect for retro design

Tobias Münzer is the German responsible for creating solutions for vintage synthesizers. One of them is Modypoly, which is used to restore or upgrade the old Korg Polysix, Mono / Poly and Poly-61 models. Some of the new features offered to these instruments is the MIDI in / out port, as well as a programmable arpeggiator, sequencer and additional LFOs. However, this component only replaces the CPU of the Polysix, so users should properly maintain or repair the board before using it.

Another component made by Tubbutec is Polysex. This is an additional control panel for Polysix that provides new options such as detuning voices and pitch modulations.

Adding to that is the June-66, for the Roland Juno 6 and 60 synthesizers. This component adds MIDI to both synthesizers, unison, duophonic, and detuned polyphony modes. It also provides CC filter control, programmable sequencer, two LFOs, among other functions. In a way it’s a nice upgrade from Tubbutec, to make those retro synths more versatile than ever. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *