Introduction: My Jupiter 8 story – The search for my “Unicorn”

This is the story of how I finally managed to find a Roland Jupiter 8 synth that I could afford and my journey to restore it up to working and cosmetically beautiful condition!

A friend suggested I document my journey so here I go with my first blog ! Hope you enjoy it and perhaps it might help someone else who has a jupiter 8 to overcome a problem with their synth. I feel very lucky and blessed to actually have one of the only 3500 legendary Jupiter 8s that that were made between 1981-1984, after wanting to get one for over 25 years, being offered one about 20 years ago for $2k and not buying it and regretting it more and more over the years whilst at the same time watching the prices go UP and UP !! To the crazy prices of $12k or more that you see them go for these days

Ive dreamed of owning a Jupiter 8 since … we’ll forever. As a kid in the 80s I saw it featured in film clips all the time (I used to pay very close attention!! with my nose pressed up against the screen.)

Like Animotion – Obsession here !

Or this journey clip!

Or this Pseudo Echo clip ..they had 2 jupiter 8s !! And didn’t even bother hiding the Roland back logo!!!

Or even on Howard Jones’ 12 inch cover !

It just seemed that everyone was super-proud to show they had a Jupiter 8… and it helped that it was the god-Damn sexiest looking synth ever. It is my real definition of a true “synthesizer” … and I was supremely confident that it would sound infinitely better than the frustratingly squawky Casio MT70 keyboard I received for my 14th birthday. Of course … then there was the price ….$5995 US in 1982. My lawn mowing was never gonna get me there and I knew it. This was something I was going to get later when I was “grown up”.

Cut to 1997 when I was single, moved out of home and paying rent, and working in a production studio. One of the guys floated through the door and announced “you don’t know someone who wants to buy a Jupiter 8 by chance do you ? $2k it’s the 14 bit one… looks perfect.” Of course my first words were “yes I do know someone …” and put my tentative hand up. But then the following day the reality sank in…you have no money. Chicks cost money. Rent costs money. Car repairs cost money. You’re broke. And commonsense started talking in my ear..You work in a MIDI studio and this thing doesn’t have MIDi. What are you doing? You think you are just going to be able to PLAY it? With your limited skills? You just acquired a Jupiter 6 from a friend that has MIDI, it’s the exact same thing but only 2 poly less (of course I know better now and this is far from the case…but) ..think logically here, this is very irresponsible right now to consider it …

I passed.

I lived to regret it every day for the next 20 years. A few more came into view in the next 5 or so years but the price was already up to 3k and I dismissed them as silly prices “I was just offered one for 2k are you serious???”. Then it was 4K. Then 6k by the time Ebay became popular. Then by the time the first jupiter 8 VST instrument plugin was released …

they were at 7k and the desire to own the “real thing” by many who experienced the plugin pushed the price quickly up to 8k.

Then I got married… landed in a mortgage, and had 2 kids. And almost to spite me, the price bumped up to 9k just right at that point.

And slowly, but surely, my Unicorn dream synth moved further and further away from view.

So in my case when one “presents itself” for a reasonable price, and you actually have your wife saying “you have to go Buy It”… you act. A wife actively telling you to go rush out and buy something expensive for yourself that you don’t really need and can’t really afford? Needless to say I married the best girl in the whole world. But how I finally found my Jupiter 8 is another story. And how I restored it is just as interesting. Click the “Follow” button on the bottom right of the screen to receive notifications and follow along with Cora’s progress!! (approx one per week)

(FINAL NOTE: It has been suggested that this blog should be read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson for added impact)

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The 3 crucial front panel screws on a Jupiter 8

There’s screws, and then there’s SCREWS.

You can go completely bananas trying to find out the exact same replacements for some screws. Only once you start looking at them closely do you realize the vast variation between them. And some are simply custom made for the manufacturer, or in some cases even custom made for the PRODUCT. And you simply can’t find them anywhere for sale new, unless you pilfer them from another one of the same product units.

The number of different types of head shapes alone is staggering. I’d never paid attention much up until now. I kinda stopped at whether it was traditional cheese-head or Phillips, what color it was and whether it fitted when shoved in the hole. Spotting them and knowing what you are holding in your hand can be an advanced skill in itself. It’s not as easy as you might think.

There is the types of screw head drive to think about:

Then there is the type of head profile:

Then there is the type of thread:

And this is before the length or color or screw material used for its manufacturing is even considered!

There are several thousand screws inside and outside a Roland Jupiter 8. On Cora, there was probably a few hundred less than what she was originally born into this world with. No doubt they are scattered about on bar stage floors, buried in road cases, still bouncing around in the back of roadie vans and littered around on the synth workbenches of the world from her emergency transplant operations it looks like she received during her travels since the 80s. The screws that were left, were in many cases shoved forcefully into the wrong spot, stripped on their heads or thread, and most of all…Rusting. Cora the Corroder was living up to her name in every way possible.

I was going to replace every single one of her screws. I would spare no time or effort or expense to track them down.

Every screw that hung out the bottom of Cora’s base panel underneath had its black head “shaved” from the lack of synth foot-rests. She literally sat on her screw heads. Many screws under there were bent or had their heads completely torn off !! with just the stump remaining as a result of the punishing years that Cora had being ripped on and off keyboard stands relentlessly, anything sticking out underneath a synth panel tends to invariably catch on something eventually. Plus the ones that were still left had bare metal remaining and thus were all rusting.

Most replacement screws can be found reasonably easily for a Jupiter 8. In an upcoming post I plan to list all the screw types and where I sourced replacements from. But there are a few that are truly Unobtainable. Case in point… the 3 crucial front top panel black screws that run along above the keys in plain sight. (Circled in red):

They are a unique pointy shaped dome head, with an unusually small “+” on them for their size yet a considerably wide diameter, and feature in every single photo you see of a Jupiter 8. You can get away with close approximations for many, but in these 3 locations if you dont use screws that are Right, your Jup simply won’t look Right. When you play your Jupiter 8, and stare down at her gorgeous panel, these 3 screws are … right there. In your face. You can’t miss them.

From my deductions and discussions on forums these Phillips screws were a Roland Japan custom job, exclusive to a period in the 80s. They do appear on several other Synths of that era including the Jup6, JX3P and Junos. On the outset, they are a standard M3x6mm thread. From Wiki:

The M3 is a metric screw specifying a nominal diameter of 3 millimetres (0.12 in); and standard coarse thread pitch defined as 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in). The M3 is the second most common screw found in PCs. … 2.5-inch hard disks and solid-state drive.

But it seems Roland wanted to keep them looking reasonably inconspicuous, and thus gave them a small head “+” imprint. Smaller than usual. They also were given a larger “round” or mushroom style head shape and larger head diameter (often also called Truss-head) as their important job was to help hold down the whole front panel from swinging open, from only 3 anchor points across the front, and they needed to do this without supporting washers which were deemed ugly. (Ed: note that the side cheek screws also help keep the from panel secure and closed from the sides). These needed to handle a decent amount of force on them without letting the metal panel beneath pull over their heads, so they were wider and stronger. And they were also a dark grey to disguise themselves further with the panel color… Not a traditional pure black. Then there is the socket type…ie the type of “+” is actually formed in the head is a different type to your standard Phillips. It is called JIS, or Japanese Industrial Standard, a screw that was mainly made and used in Japan.

JIS looks much like a Phillips screw (and even more similar to another cross socket called Frearson), but the cross is “tighter” so the screwdriver will not to pop out (or “cam out”) if it’s tightened too much. JIS screw teeth can be damaged by a standard Phillips screwdriver if it is tightened too far. These screws had a strict criteria to meet and are indeed …Special.

The problem is..they are also the Primary Gatekeepers to opening the top panel of a Jupiter 8 so as to gain access to its inner workings and voice boards… that let’s face it need access OFTEN and regularly. To fix stuff. So their tiny teeth are the first to get damaged… their threads the first to get stripped. And with all that handling yet small size they are indeed the first to fall off the bench, roll under the desk, get mixed up with other screws and thus…Get LOST.

Cora landed in my arms with ONE of these original screws remaining, that was in a miserable condition. Flogged to within an inch of its life. The second screw along was a brown wood screw! Shoved in there as a feeble attempt to hold things together, with the 3rd screw completely missing. Unbelievable. The blatant disrespect. Fortunately the wood screw was short and too small for the job, so it did not do irreparable damage to the securing thread below. This is what the single original screw that was left looks like:

It is not easy to find JIS screws on the Internet. Even harder to find black ones. Most are silver. These 3 screws get twisted and turned on a regular basis, it’s not just a simple case of spray painting the silver screws to a black color. Once a screwdriver touches the screw head for the first time the paint chips off with any kind of pressure applied. And then the silver shines through and it looks dirty and messy. I’ve been told it’s possible to spray paint a screw black and then ease it in gently into its location using Blu-tack on the tip of your screwdriver to help reduce damage but it’s a one-off proposition.

Not a viable option for 3 screws that need to be used every time to get into a Jupiter 8 synth. It’s also very hard to convince a powder Coater to do some screws. Every powder coater has a minimum flagfall fee. From my experience it’s between $100-$200. They don’t like mixing up the powder and cleaning their jet guns for anything less. Plus the powder coat tends to sit inside the screw head cavern and make it harder to get the screwdriver in successfully. The only successful method is to buy the right color screw, anodized that color from the factory. So I was going to try and find a black screw .. and see how it looked on the panel. I would then decide if I would need to spray paint the screws as well over the top of the anodized black to a panel- matching dark grey color. At least then if the spray paint chipped off it would uncover a black color underneath rather than a raw shiny silver. A black chip showing here and there through an otherwise dark grey spray paint would be acceptable.

Searches for a JIS black M3 screw on the Internet after several days were not very successful. I found an excellent JIS M3 screw but like many others looking for such a screw i was disappointed that the only one available was silver. Frustrating. However in a forum I was given the hint that a search for “truss head” was going to show up a similar dome-shaped screw head, although the “+” was not going to be the tight JIS shape. It was as close as I was going to get. At least it was not going to be the flat pan-head shape which is the main visual giveaway that the screw shape is “wrong”. I did some extensive technical calculations according to the graph below:

And after deliberation I finally found these on EBay:

They look pretty good! They were expensive for what they were … more than $15 for only 50 small screws. So they tilted my Value vs Effort graph somewhat. But if they were an acceptable match then they had to be tried out.

Finally they arrived. Below I convinced 4 screws to stand up straight in a line for their very first photo shoot. Bunch of amateurs they refused to stand still. It was about as easy as trying to keep 4 kittens still in a bathtub.

(Cue fashion parade music)…

“Well welcome everyone …First today we have Coras original Roland screw showing her age somewhat, looking rather miserable and wearing a decidedly rusted coat….Second in the line now its great to see new Ebay Screw which just arrived …looking just stunning in shimmering and glowing polished black! That domed head shape is eerily close in shape and design to Cora Screw we just experienced beforehand … this new arrival is one sexy screw! Third is Standard vanilla everyday black M3x6 PAN HEAD screw that is about as common as Pencil Sharpenings. As you can see, pan head screw for this special main-event purpose just ain’t gonna cut it in the looks department I’m afraid. That fat side rim and smaller diameter flat head is just miles away from the original. And lastly, as a special bonus we have for your entertainment a “truss head with washer” black screw combo that you might find comes up in your searches to find a match with Cora Screw. The diameter width is right, the color is right, it’s an M3x6mm Phillips screw all right but she is about as ugly as a Christmas sweater. Big thanks to all our participants I think we have one clear winner…number #2 step forward to claim your prize!”

Preparing the Jupiter 8 Decal graphics for printing

Now with Cora’s panel returned to me and finally looking beautiful after her powder-coat success, it was time to finalize the decal art file. I had tweaked and tweaked Jeff’s (from Custom Synths) original .cdr vector-based Coreldraw file for weeks in anticipation of this day. I used high- res SLR pics I had taken of her panel before I took the mighty plunge into stripping her that fateful day on the balcony some months ago. So I imported my pics into the decal session and laid the images underneath the parts to make some adjustments.

Vector based files are the only files accepted by laser cutting and decal printing workshops. And they can only be made in software such as Coreldraw and Illustrator and AutoCad. Vector based removes any chance of graininess that can occur when you zoom in on a graphic image such as a jpg or pdf because it is a point to point representation rather than pixel. In other words, if you have a line across the screen, all that a vector based file will contain is a start point measurement and end position, the thickness and the color of the line needed. Where as a JPEG graphic will require information about every single pixel position and color along the way from the start to the finish of the line. Vector based files are usually much smaller in size than their graphic equivalents. They’re a pain in the ass to create tho. It’s a whole other technique and skill required when compared to Photoshop. You can’t just scribble and paint in an area with a paintbrush. It just simply doesn’t work that way.

Jeff described how he needed to “cut up the film a few times to line things up” as part of the decal printing process. I would have no such opportunity or luxury as I was handing the job over to a workshop to do and one of the first things they stressed when they gave me the quote was “THIS is assuming the file you give us is lined up perfectly … Right?.” He emphasized that there would be no cutting or fiddling if any things were “out” and instead would only be prepared to make another set of films to fix the problem. Films run at $200 each for this job. You need a film per color. There is 2 colors on the Jupiter 8 panel (well actually there’s 3 if you count the rear Roland logo which is by itself in a cream white color). Things could blow out very fast if the films weren’t 100% perfect from the start.

Jeff suggested that I print to a clear film transparency first, on my own, and lay it over the panel to see how things lined up before the big dive into film. Transparency film is the clear plastic film they use for overhead projectors. A great suggestion however a clear film transparency of the size of Cora’s panel (over a meter long) would still run in the vicinity of $100 per print. I envisioned needing to print several times to tweak and this could still run into big bucks. Plus it was not easy to find a place that would print transparencies of that size.

Along the line as part of my investigation I had one print shop suggest that perhaps I would like to print to transfer paper instead for only a meagre $26. Yes, I would! That would be good enough to get the job done! Harder to see through but certainly more useable than printing to standard 80gsm white paper. But once I told him the size, this then became another difficulty. Nearly every print shop I contacted did not have transfer paper this wide… or long. It really needed to be one single piece or there was room for error to creep in. And a few complained about printing to transfer paper and problems of smudging as the ink tends to sit on top of transfer paper rather than soak in. Finally I found a print shop that was attached to a large university art department that said “sure… no problem.” The students used it for their large scale design projects. Perfect!!

Next problem was that printing places simply don’t print white. The rely on the fact that paper is white. They print with Red, Yellow, Blue and Black or any combination. Before printing I had to modify the file to a color. Black was no good as Cora’s panel is close to black and I would not see it as clearly. Yellow is usually a weak color when printed. I went with pure red, the strongest printing color with the most contrast against the black paint. Eventually The first transfer paper test print came back.

I overlaid it on Cora’s panel and sure enough, it was not quite right. Thank the lord I had done this step beforehand !!!

My trick was to throw an LED light source underneath the panel and simply get it to shine thru and look at where the holes were, and see where the decals lined up. It seemed to move more and more out of alignment as I moved across the panel once I lined it up on the left side. It was out by around 8-9mm by the right hand side. Lucky I had not gone straight to film! If I lined up from the centre of the panel, then the sides were only out by 3-4 mm in places. I started to suspect the printer had not printed 100% to scale, or that my photos that I took to use for lining up the decal were suffering from a small degree of “fisheye”, which causes this exact problem…things start to be more and more out on the sides when this problem is present and that was what seemed to be happening. But I made adjustments and movements anyway assuming the print was correct. But this time for the next print I would also add a tape measure ruler incorporated into the graphic all the way along the edge in mm to be able to confirm the print was accurate. (Something i should have done in the first place really if I was thinking ahead). I really thought the first print would be perfect and that would be all I needed! Wishful thinking indeed.

The way around any photo fisheye i discovered is to stand as faaarrr away from the subject as possible, and to use a lens that zooms in as much as you can. The further away you stand when taking a pic, the less fish-eye. So you need a good lens and high res camera to get the job done. An iphone camera won’t cut it.

Ok tweaks done …and off to the printers again for a second try, and now with the built in measuring ruler to see if it was indeed accurate.

Here is what it looks like in Coreldraw with the SLR photo of the tracing paper beneath:

This is how I can determine the position of decals… the SLR photo is lined up with the decal design exactly the same as it was printed. (The holes in the panel can be seen as white). Then the decal designs are moved around so that they are lined up with the corresponding white hole correctly. I’m sure there’s a more technically correct way to do it. But this is my way, it was more fun than just taking measurements and punching in numbers somewhere …and it worked. And then just before you go to print again, you remove the underlaid image of the transfer paper to just leave the decal vector image:

So second time I was much closer …95% there. And the printer was dead-on accurate with its scaling … the printed measuring tape was lining up perfectly with the real one which was good news and dispelled any concern there. So i was in the ballpark for sure.

I made the last few tweaks to the file but it would need to be printed a 3rd and final time to confirm dead-on accuracy for all of the graphics and to supply to the decal workshop. I wanted to be able to say “here is the file, and here is a print out of the file, as you can see it lines up perfect so don’t try and tell me the file is out if there’s alignment problems.”. From experience , Jeff told me, the workshops always blame the file when they screw up. You can see the ruler on this image below, that was printed out across the bottom in yellow this time to confirm printing size accuracy. And you can make out the panel shadows on this pic underneath the tracing paper…perfectly lined up with the decal. Yay!

Time to finally visit the decal screen printing workshop!

Meanwhile it gives me great pleasure to announce that Jeff has kindly agreed to allow the file that is the combination of both our hard work to be uploaded here for all Jupiter 8 owners who have rusty panels they want to fix. A BIG thanks to you from everyone in the Jupiter 8 community Jeff! You are a champion!

Some Notes: The art supplied is exactly how it appears originally on Coras panel before I stripped it, a Revision 1 Jupiter 8. The revision 2 has an extra label for the “DCB Port” on the rear that is not present on this art, and there may be other differences in spacing or positioning that Roland made so consider yourself on notice. You may also wish to make changes to the labeling. For instance I have made a change to Cora’s art because i know she will be receiving a Midi upgrade kit. So I have changed the clock sync switch to read “INT – EXT/MIDI”. All of the midi upgrade kits also require you to add a dodgy looking red momentary push button for control, which you will need to mount somewhere and drill a hole into your panel which I personally think looks like crap. So Cora has relinquished her front panel Tape “VERIFY” button for a label named “MIDI SETUP”. Finally on the rear underneath the jack outputs I have inconspicuously written Cora’s name on the decal art, because she asked me to do so 🙂 All of these changes were made post the files supplied here to avoid concern or confusion. If you want these changes I have described you will need to do them yourself to the file. However it is a unique opportunity for you to customize your Jupiter 8 panel if you are planning on following a similar path with your synth to Cora. Maybe you want to change the word “BENDER” to “EXPRESSION” for all I know. Well now is your chance. I don’t recommend going too crazy tho. You can start devaluing your synth if you stray too far away from the original look and vibe. But a few small personalizations can be fun !

Disclaimer: A lot of work has gone into establishing the accuracy of the content of these files. However the authors will not be held responsible for any inaccuracies that you believe to be present. In other words, it’s your responsibility to make sure they are aligned and accurate for your Jupiter 8 before screen printing. The alignment or accuracy has not been tested on every revision of the Jupiter 8 that was made.

Usage: These files are for your personal use only. Not for Commercial use or for sale. In other words, do not make money from them or from their use. They are free. Do not repost/upload these files onto other sites in this or a modified form thereof.

Okay Here we go:

This is what the final file looks like … each color layer separated out and marked:

High res PDF (for viewing) :

https://www.dropbox.com/s/jmsc8nctbirdr04/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL.pdf?dl=0

dwg file (AutoCad version – this is what the screen print workshop will often want to use) (zipped file):

https://www.dropbox.com/s/vgrhpfdsb01zdcv/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%28Autocad%20dwg%20file%29.zip?dl=0

EPS File [Some workshops will prefer to use this file]

https://www.dropbox.com/s/cfxavi3ntd6ivi4/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%5BEPS%20File%5D%20%5BText%20As%20Curves%5D.zip?dl=0

AI Adobe Illustrator version [Saved in “Text as Curves” mode – With layers] : 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/f8r3uwai0gd4bf8/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%5BIllustrator%20File%5D%20%5BText%20As%20Curves%5D.zip?dl=0

Unlocked Coreldraw final file with layers (you can use to make changes if necessary) (zipped file)

https://www.dropbox.com/s/0dt5t1gycvjd7mh/Cora_jp8_Decal_Graphics_FINAL%20%28Coreldraw%20cdr%20file%29.zip?dl=0

If you find the file useful please thank Jeff personally. I am sure he will appreciate it. Here is his Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100008276462369

Talk to Cora now on Facebook!!

Cora The Corroder is now on Facebook! Now you can talk to her and ask her questions! Join her new Facebook group to be able to get updates on when new WordPress blog posts on her progress land (especially useful if you don’t have a WordPress account to subscribe through) as well as be able to ask questions and discuss her restoration with others ! Join now!

Here’s the link:

https://m.facebook.com/groups/359832781432431

Finally …New powder-coating success for Cora! The Jupiter 8 Corroder

Great news! Finally I have managed a successful powder coat for Cora! Thank you to everyone who sent me messages of support to keep going! Well … i put in the time and work all over again and thank the Lord…this time its paid off.

This time I used a 3rd powder coding workshop who had been highly recommended to me as a place that handles “difficult” jobs. I was too embarrassed to take it back to the first workshop. Clive was on the other side of town and well over an hour’s drive away as well. I had a feeling I would be dropping in periodically this time to inspect the progress so ideally a place on my side of town that understood the importance of the job and has the right color in stock would be ideal. I found that place in Prism Powder Coating and the two fine lads Ed and Sash:

The minute I walked in I instantly felt confident that they knew what was required. We discussed the process of undercoat… and then powder coat… and then sand …and then second powder coat that I had done with Clive originally. But because I done such great prep work with the metal filling and sanding this time, they looked at the surface and were mighty impressed and convinced that they could pull it off with just an undercoat that would be sanded and then a single powder coat top. I was not convinced it would work but had to listen to advice and try. A second powder coat could always be added if it was not smooth enough at the end of the day. They explained a problem however, where the manufacturer of the Zinc undercoat paint specifies that it is not to be sanded in anyway before the powder coat is applied. It was the first I had heard of this. Even fingerprints can cause adhesion problems with the top powder coat layer. So this time instead of zinc undercoat they used what they called “Black Primax E-primer” that they believed would be better because it could be lightly sanded and the resulting powder coat would stick better, and they were right. And I trusted Sash to do the sanding in between as well. This job cost me a little bit more than Clive but the pictures speak for themselves Now I have a beautiful panel to work with and move forward to the next stage!

This was really Cora’s last chance at success with her original panel. If this had failed completely and required another strip back to the panel metal, she would have just been weakened to an unacceptable degree. I kind of expected it to fail to be honest and this is why I started measuring up every angle and every gap and every corner, and with some help had started designing the JUPITER 8 top panel in 3-D CAD as you can see from the video at the end of my last post. I’m excited but cautious, as there is still plenty that could go wrong at the next point in the process, with the decal application. One crooked print and it could require another powder coat if it can’t be removed cleanly to try again. So I’m going to continue with the 3-D CAD design to the end. A Jup8 panel has certainly never been 3-D generated before so that will be a first and useful to the synth community no doubt somewhere along the line in the future.

Here is Jedi powder-coating master Sash carrying out Cora from the workshop to my car:

And another shot inside the cardboard coffin I made for her to avoid any chance of damage:

Just magnificent and smooth.

Another angle… the rear:

Hinges are not welded shut against the panel (unlike a previous time) but are clean and free to swing… yay:

Underside looks perfection:

Now that I have her back I can do the last few measurements required to finalize the decal artwork file. Then I need to get a test print of the file to transfer paper to test it’s accuracy and just be 100% sure before sending it to have the expensive films made for over printing with paint.

Welcome back Cora!

A monumental powder coat #fail for Cora :(

It was a tragic mistake that ended in disaster… and the irony is that it was really not my fault. If only people would LISTEN to me and do as they were TOLD not as they think they should do, I would not be in this mess….

I experienced a massive powder coat #fail on Cora’s top panel last week. I am still reeling from the incident to be honest and it’s taken me this long to even be able to discuss what happened and why. I consider myself reasonably smart but you can never be smart enough to be able to completely account for and foresee the STUPIDITY OF OTHERS.

(Deep breath)… ok so I was working on Cora’s main top panel. Specifically, I was working around the area where the DCB plate is. Cora is an early Jupiter, without the DCB port on the rear or the expansion board inside. The DCB expansion “kits” were sold for early Jupiter’s such as mine by Roland originally, I’ve tried tracking them down but they are long-gone. I wanted to turn this empty plate into a place where the MIDI ports would reside. Others have done this in the past and it looks neat and effective. But I was going to do things differently …I was not going to use those ugly silver “aftermarket” looking plugs that the MIDI kits supply. They would be mounted from behind in a professional manner like in other Roland synths with factory MIDI such as the JD800. The actual gap in the rear of a Jupiter where the DCB port pokes through the metal panel is ever so slightly too narrow for a midi plug silver ring to fit through. There needs to be some degree of filing and cutting. So as I was nearing the design phase of the rear plate for the MIDI ports I went to work opening up the DCB port gap a little with some files and my Dremel cutter. I ended up with a really nice wider opening which could still be covered by the new plate but also allowed for nice access with the plugs. Here is how the slot looked originally behind the plate :

I marked it up nicely and then did some fine and careful cutting with the Dremel to make the slot wider in all the right places:

And then some fine finishing off with a file to clean and even out the lines:

(The full new MiDI plate Front Panel Express design file and pics will feature in an upcoming post).

You need to be very careful as the Dremel head can get away from your hands very quickly if you’re not holding tight and fly off in a sideways direction if it grips the steel. Then you get these tyre-mark type skid lines across your powder coat. The file is the same, don’t let it get too close to the end of the file or it comes out of the slot and then you get the equivalent to a vinyl record needle scratch sound and damage (Whoops!). The whole Roland panel metal is only 1mm thick, and the thin side of the slot has a tendency to bend and deform under pressure so you need to go gently.

Inevitably I had made a few scratches and marks here in there whilst doing this procedure so I wanted to get just this small area powder coated, also so that the raw metal could be sealed that I had exposed to avoid rust in the future. Sounds simple enough. For such a small job I figured I didn’t need to drive across town back to the master expert Clive (who did the amazing powder coat job on the whole panel). I could use someone closer around the corner just for this small area. I found a workshop that had the same powder coat color nearby.

Its funny how every supposed “expert” Tradesman seems to have an opinion about the work of others and it’s always a critical one. This guy commented on Cora’s powder coat and pointed out some apparent flaws in the work (that I couldn’t even see), as if to suggest that if he had done the job that it would have turned out better and that he knew more than whomever did this work. You get this all the time when you present something at a workshop that someone else has previously worked on. I can only guess that this is one of the chapters in the Tradesmen handbook on How to Demonstrate Apparent Credibility in the Eyes of the Customer.. “Criticize everyone else’s work to make yourself appear as the only true Expert”. Well this guy must have just finished a refresher course, because he served it up in spades. A real smart-ass. At any rate, I just nodded and dealt with it, after all this guy was doing such a small and insignificant job that I didn’t really need to listen too his sales pitch much. I just nodded my head and played along and said “yep, yep, ok just do this little area for me as discussed… cheers.” I waited a few weeks and received the call to pick it up.

What I discovered when I arrived at the workshop was a horrific sight.

Now here is where I don’t quite understand exactly what the HELL happened. Clearly my instructions were not followed to the letter. I’m not sure whether it was because he screwed up the job and then secretly tried to fix it without telling me, or whether he just thought he would be much more “cleverer” than Clive who did it originally and felt like he needed to prove something to himself or me and wanted to try and “improve” the paint job. But this moron had COMPLETELY STRIPPED Cora’s whole panel by SAND BLASTING the whole bloody thing!!!! Without asking me!!! What the hell!!! He had unknowingly thereby removed all of the Roland silver that had covered the welds in the process, as well as my detailed and intricate own filling work that took me weeks. And then he had proceeded to powder coat the whole panel yet again… BOTH SIDES. I took one look at her panel and my heart sank. She was a total mess. There were welts and weld marks and crators everywhere showing clearly through. She looked like a pimple-faced teenager who had gorged on a block of dark chocolate the night before. There had been no sanding between coats. The previous coats were gone after all and she now just had this new foreign one. Worst of all this IDIOT was not even aware that there had been a Zinc undercoat to avoid rust. And because he never called me or told me what he was doing, that was missing too. Incredible. So this coat that he had put on was completely useless and she would have to be stripped to bare metal… AGAIN! Just to get the Zinc coat back on underneath.

All my hard work and time spent and $$ has been… Erased.

Basically i had to start from the very beginning. Actually, back before that even. Because of this smart-ass fool. And he had damaged the panel in the process.

There is nothing worse than a bad Tradesman who is told exactly what to do, but then inevitably strays into the margins and attempts to Grow a Brain.

Because all of Roland’s silver filler had been blown away by the damn sandblasting process (a definite NO NO for a Jupiter 8 panel as i explained in my powder coating post), it left significant new holes that were not even there originally. Plus sandblasting weakens and stresses the metal, making it thinner and creates new pits as well in 35 year old metal. I was even originally warned it might likely buckle the panel (but one saving grace is that it was not the case here it seems). For him to have gone and just done this without consultation was Criminal. He tried to tell me that it’s “normal” for metal to look like this with an “uneven surface” once it’s powder coated (or some crap like that) and tried to tell me it looks better than it did before.

I wanted to punch the guy square in his smug face.

Instead I collected my poor girls’ damaged body gently up into my arms and carried her outa there. She had been interfered with and abused by a monster. I was so sorry that I had somehow let it happen to her. I felt so guilty. I put her battered shell in the boot and sat in my car across the road and slapped around the steering wheel like it was this guy’s head…screaming at the top of my voice “Fuuuuuuukkk!” I pounded on the dashboard with my fist to get it out. And then shortly after that took a breath, and then proceeded to cry like a baby. Real tears. Sobs of anguish and frustration…and regret.

A few days later after processing it all I summoned the strength to take a closer look at the damage:

As you can see, everywhere you turn to look you discover weld crators and sand-blasted pits. It’s a sad, sad scene.

And I’m at a crossroads now. Do I work on re-filling and sanding and cleaning this original panel AGAIN, that’s been weakened and damaged already, and spend the $250 on the Zinc rust coat plus two layers of powder coat, or do i cut my losses and start again by getting a whole brand new panel laser cut, bent and powder coated for double this price, with brand new steel, for $500 as I’ve been quoted. I would need to make up the laser dwg file for this price (it would be over $1000 if I just handed them the panel). But I feel I could successfully make the dwg file as I learned from doing Cora’s aluminum side cheeks successfully about the process and the tricks in Coral Draw. No-one in history has ever made a brand new Jupiter 8 panel laser cut from scratch. I’m heading into uncharted waters for sure. There’s lots of new potential pitfalls there as well (eg one slight measurement mistake and a slider won’t make it thru the panel!). But this is where things seem to be going. Maybe if I did it first and provided the laser file then as a personal bonus I might find that others want to follow my lead and do It as well, making it worth the time spent on re-creating Rolands’ original design. I doubt even Roland’s head offices would even have such a file. Or do I try one more time with Cora’s original panel, and spend $250, only to find that it didn’t work out again and it still looks like the surface of the moon. And then need to go and make the new panel, totaling $750. Losing more money, and time.

A crossroads for sure. I still need time to think about this one.

Today I took a big step forward and started to strip the ole girl yet again back to bare metal, to survey the damage and extent of the job ahead …she looks very different to last time without the Roland silver and filler, but instead a rough sandblasted raw face. I apologized over and over to her as i worked. I’m sorry Cora for what this asshole did to you. But I won’t ever give up on you. I promise.

There’s only one way to move … forward …but the road has just become that much longer. 😦

New aluminum cheeks for a Jupiter 8 Part 1:/ Laser Cutting

(Note: To be read in the voice of Jeremy Clarkson…)

Such a seemingly simple thing …getting some new aluminium cheeks for Cora made up. Such a drama.

Getting trade businesses to actually do something for you is such a frustrating and energy-draining exercise. From my experience, the closer into town they are located, the longer they take and the less they care about doing the job well or in reasonable time. They need to be called and called for updates and massaged just to keep your job seemingly in a mysterious and fluid “queue” and even then after all the torment it still doesn’t get done. You end up hearing all about the problems with their business over the period (“…the guy we had here just took off..”,”I got bigger jobs I have to clear first then I’m into yours first thing”,”…our supplier has just gone under …”,”Christmas has thrown a spanner in the works”, “Easter is coming up”…etc etc). It never ends.

I dropped off Cora’s two road-beaten Aluminium end cheeks to a local workshop closeby in November of last year, to be remade. A fairly simple job you would have thought….

a closeup of the damage due to Cora’s hard-living past…from collisions undoubtedly with keyboard stands, microphone stands, roadcase hinges, flying beer bottles, lead singers’ stage-diving antics etc:

The first business I visited was described as a “metal workshop”. The guy took a look at them and said “sure, no problem” and took me for a walk through his factory to the rear where he located some clean 4mm thick Aluminium sheets, perfect for the job. Excellent. He already had the raw material to get started. “Give me a week, or so.” Every Trademan’s first universal rule that all the buggers learn… be vague with dates and purposely leave any deadline open-ended. Hence the “…or so” thrown in at the end. That “…or so” seems to give them license to extend a week to over 6 months. The other trick that Tradesmen employ when you attempt to nail them down to a completion date is the old “I’ll call you when it’s ready” chestnut. It goes something like this:

Me: “So how long do u think it will take?”

Shady Tradesman: “A week OR SO…” (note the necessary insertion of “or so”)

Me:”So if I come around in 2 weeks, on the Monday, it would definitely be ready then because that’s 2 weeks away, and you think a week is all you need, that’s what you just said … Right?”

Shady Tradesman: “…um..I’ll call you when it’s ready Ok.”

Then you don’t receive a call after the 2 weeks, the Monday passes, you wait another week to REALLY make sure it’s ready and then you call back yourself …and the explanations begin.

This went on for 6 weeks before the first workshop finally produced… something. But oh my god what a dogs breakfast it was. It looked like some kid had hacked away at a chunk of Aluminium with pliers and then filed the edges with a brick. It was missing curves altogether, and the edges were rounded off unevenly in places. The left and right cheek had differences in shape by over 1cm in places! If I had presented this in my 5th grade school workshop as a finished product it would have been a FAIL. But he had the audacity to hand this over the counter as “job done” with the added “…you just need to get a Polisher to finish it off… we don’t do that here.” My eyes were shocked. Unfortunately I don’t have a pic of it because i handed it straight back over and said “how about you try again” and he essentially chastised me for complaining, saying that it was as good as it was going to get and that if I was not happy the best thing was for me to just take my money back if I was going to be fussy (I had to pay up front to get the job started). Thankfully he offered me this option as I gently mentioned that “perhaps that would be best” and got the hell outa there. He did offer me one piece of advice as I had my hand on the door knob to leave ..”what YOU need I think is a Metal ENGINEERING place if you are going to get pedantic about the result. Try the one down the road.” And that’s exactly where I went. I jumped in my car and without a moment to spare (I had already lost 6 weeks) I drove straight to “Attempt #2” Metal engineering.

His workshop had some impressive looking industrial machinery. It was a big factory, but with only one guy named “Gary” there. (That should have been my first warning sign… one guy in a huge workshop? Where were all the others?). He agreed to take on the job, explained to me that it would be “perfect”, but quoted me twice the price of the original hack-job place. Well I figured it would be double the price but this time done properly. So away he went, keeping Cora’s original cheeks for reference and giving me the textbook Tradesman response “Give me a couple of weeks… I’ll call you when they’re ready.” Yep. Why do I always believe them when I should know better?

Two weeks turned into 4 weeks at which point I was told categorically that they would be done “before Christmas…”.

Christmas comes and goes, and of course the workshop is closed for 3 weeks until Jan 21st, and then the excuses of “we are really backed up with jobs from being closed for 3 weeks…”. Then another 4 weeks and then he proclaims “I’m really embarrassed now, yep let’s get this job sorted for you before Easter…”. Then Easter comes and goes … and then apparently he’s running behind due to Easter holiday messing things up. Another 3 weeks and my normally patient and reasonable self starts to get a little cranky with this and does a calculation of the time so far and it’s been over 5 months.

I finally walk into the workshop on a Monday and there’s a young trainee guy there working the machines who tells me that Gary was “away on holiday for 3 weeks”. I had not seen this guy before and explained the situation to him, he had no idea about the job but had wondered about the Aluminium “brackets” that were sitting on the bench. I asked him if, under the circumstances, he could give them some priority and them done by the end of the week after waiting over 5 months and he said casually “probably.. not…”. So I calmly walked over to Cora’s cheeks, took them back into my possession and made a B-line for the door, bumping into another customer who had just arrived on my way out as I was leaving. Now with an audience I spun on my heels and politely told the trainee guy to make sure he passses on the message to Gary to “Go Fuck Himself”.

Back to square one.

I sat in the car out the front in the street…thinking to myself “surely it can’t be this hard to get someone to do something as simple as this? Even I could bloody make them…” and considered the possibility for a moment. Then I made a plan to simply break this job down into 4 parts and manage them myself.

There was no way someone was going to do all of this for me in a “one stop shop” and if they did agree to do it then the cost would be so high as to be ridiculous so this was really the only way.

There were plenty of metal laser cutting places around. I went and visited two nearby with Cora’s cheeks. It quickly became apparent that no laser cutter wants the job without something called a “dwg Autocad file” as they needed one to feed the laser and making them was “too much stuffing around and too time consuming to be worth while”. I would have to make this file myself. Part 1 just became more complicated.

The Autocad software was a completely foreign beast to me, and Adobe Illustrator and i have just never gotten along well, but Coreldraw and I had a basic understanding, I had learnt how to use it whilst tweaking Jeff Toman from Custom Synth’s Jupiter 8 decal file. And it could output a .dwg file too which was fortunate. So I spent a few nights measuring and designing Cora’s metal end cheeks in Coreldraw to perfect specification. Finally the laser cutters would actually give me a quote! And they all accepted the dwg file. Here it my file available for download, zipped along with a pdf representation of what’s inside to view:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/8f4gwejbrrlca5p/Jupiter%208%20Aluminium%20Side%20Cheeks.rar?dl=0

So now I had my file to cut. I wanted 3 quotes (the official minimum for a reasonable comparison) so i contacted 5 laser cutting places. Because from experience two always don’t get back to you. I called them all to get a feel for the place (don’t email a workshop for a quote if you want a response!) and they all wouldn’t quote without seeing the file ..”send it thru first” they said …Sure enough, only 3 responded out of the 5. Two were similar and a reasonable price. They both said it was the same price whether I made 2 or 4 cheeks. I figured that I was going to make 4 cheeks in that case! And have 2 as spare in case there was a drilling mis-hap, or to sell later. The third place quoted DOUBLE the cost of the other 2. I rang him back and asked him why and was quite rudely and he abruptly said “I DONT NEED THE WORK MATE” which is a classic trap and why you always get 3 quotes. This asshole knew the going price for the job but wanted to see if I was stupid enough not to get other quotes and “tried it on” by quoting double the cost. He was hoping to rip me off, either way it appears he could not care less. He failed. Always ask for 5 quotes (if possible) and don’t start until you have 3 is the lesson my father taught me years ago.

So away i went with one quote and 8 days later I had 4 basic Aluminium Jupiter 8 cheeks…

Next up… time to drill the holes and countersinks…

Putting a Jupiter 8 back together…the base panel Part 1:

Whilst Cora’s top panel was being worked on by the decal workshop I realized i had the base panel and other parts back from the powder coater and could start re-assembling the power supply and main voice boards back into place in anticipation of the top panels’ arrival. So I got to work…

Every single thing originally needed to be removed from the base beforehand for the powder coating process. Essentially the whole body and soul of Cora was removed. Every single organ was removed …every board, wire, plastic attachment, screw, washer, every single little brass pcb spacer. You can’t shortcut things as the base plate has to go into an oven to bake at 200 degrees once sprayed. It’s a massive job to remove everything, and fraught with potential damage and troubles. This is why so few people attempt such a feat. It’s so easy to lose track of the right parts for a location, and so easy to actually lose the parts! Fortunately today with digital cameras you can snap away 100s of pics without it costing a fortune and this is exactly what I did as I was disassembling things. And I took sweeping video of every angle too so I simply could not make a mistake. It’s easy when you’re dis-assembling things at the time to say to yourself “oh ill remember where that goes it’s so obvious” but sometimes you aren’t re-assembling things back together days or weeks later, often it’s many months later (or sometimes years!). And the fog of time makes something that seemed obvious at the time… less clear. Even with all my pics and video, I still had a few “huh?” moments, particularly centering around the long green ground wire that twists and turns it’s way around the entire base panel. It’s often hidden under the keybed so it becomes tricky.

A lot of the time, it’s just a matter of taking the wire looms, starting at one end plug, plugging it in, laying it gently out and seeing where the kinks and bends flow to give you an idea of were their destination lies. It’s important not to bend wires straight when dis-assembling any old synth, it’s a natural urge you need to fight from doing as the cores inside the wires can snap if you flex the old wire too much. CS-80s are famous for this problem, if you just touch a wire inside the synth it becomes faulty, just another thing that makes a working CS-80 even more rare.

One of the first things that slowed up the process were the brass pcb standoffs. These are bolted to the base chassis throughout and hold the voice boards and others in place, and keep them perched away from the base metal and any conductive electrical short. The originals were a filthy dirty brown from years of rust and oxidization, and some had the thread stripped from them rendering them useless. I tried polishing a few of them up with the Dremel and a soft rubber tool head . They looked nice and shiny new afterwards.. before and then after on the right:

I considered accepting this polished condition and working on the rest of them. However a few days later I noticed the previously shiny brass had already become dull again (as real brass does) and was on its way back to looking like a mess again. I decided that these old spacers had to go. The Jupiter 8 has some unusual sized spacers. These ones were 22mm high. They would need to be replaced with the exact same size… even just 1mm difference could cause components to touch with the next level board, or cause the top panel to be unable to close. I would replace these with a brass spacer that looks like a nice shiny silver (modern designed nickel plated version that does not oxidize), and is just as strong, but of course an exact 22mm high match (not so easy to find):

The attraction of the old brass spacers to oxidization meant that although they were not rusted (its impossible for brass to actually RUST) there were pools of rust around the spacers where they connected to the steel base panel. When two different metals sit together touching it’s always where rust attracts. This is one of the reasons why modern spacers are coated in nickel… to reduce this problem. So not only would Cora look cleaner inside she would (hopefully) rust less into the future.

Note that I did make a small design change, however. The original lower 10mm spacers were hollow threaded and had a screw that travelled all the way through them and out the top to provide the thread for the next level second spacer to screw onto. I would simplify this design by using a new 22mm spacer on the top that already has the screw stem built-into it. This meant I could use the same shorter M3 black screws I already had for the base plate to secure them also. (I have a feeling such male threaded screw spacers did not exist in 1981? which is perhaps why Roland didn’t use them because otherwise it would have made sense to do so.)

The difference looks like this (left=original Roland setup, right=new):

(Details of the exact spacers used Mouser codes etc are in the upcoming thread “The screw sets inside a Jupiter 8”)

Here is the base plate populated with Coras restored metal bracket plates and the new silver spacers :

Shes looking brand spankin new !! Note the new silver spacers installed with new screws and washers coming in from underneath through the base plate and note the different sizes in different positions. Some are the 22 mm some are 10mm high. Here is when it pays to have taken good images when disassembling to get this job right the first time !

Transformer and restored mounting plate back in with all new securing screws and a power lead on the right of the pic re-threaded into the keybed bracket:

Front kicker plate re-installed across the front with all new spacers and screws:

All base screws used are new black ones. However you might be wondering about the the new silver screw, nut and washer that you can see in the foreground. That is to secure the Jupiter 8 rubber feet. When Cora arrived she was missing feet altogether! And just had holes in the 4 locations. She just sat on the desk directly atop the myriad of base screw heads. You could imagine the poor state of all the original screw heads beneath before I started, they were scratched and twisted and rusted to all hell. Pity the top surface of the desk she sat on as well! Some of the black screws had to be drilled out as the teeth fell apart when a Phillips screwdriver even went near them. I could not quite believe it and for a minute I thought that possibly Jupiter 8s didn’t have rubber feet? But some online pictures quickly confirmed that all 4 were indeed MIA – missing in action. Gigging musicians would often remove them as they would catch on their stage keyboard stand when placing or removing the synth or the feet would invariably land right in the spot where the stand supporting arms were located causing the synth to sit crooked on stage. The fact that they were missing was just another reminder of Cora’s hard-gigging past. (Luckily i sourced another 4 genuine Roland ones from Syntaur.) Here below is the restored keyboard bed dropped back into place, with brand new M4 black screws and washers securing it from underneath:

You can see the mysterious “green earth wire” in this pic above snaking it’s way around the place from top to bottom along the bracket and ending up where the mod controller panel will be. The plastic wire tie-down clips made from Unobtainium were cleaned up with water and a toothbrush and re-installed into the base panel with all new screws and nuts:

The locations of the boards is quite simple once the spacers go in. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle where you only have one option really based on the pcb shapes. But we also have the service notes to guide us in case we have forgotten, and printed labels on the boards by Roland. Here is what the service notes show position-wise thanks to a beautiful diagram:

We open up the magical pcb box where I had carefully pack away Cora’s soul, and commenced with the heart re-transplant back into her body. Her organs were wrapped in some old bubble wrap of the “soft” variety that I felt has sufficiently discharged. (How do you tell? You hold the wrap to your hair and feel if it pulls your hair strands across or not hehe) …

Lower row of voice boards installed and grey audio leads run back to position. Each board has a power lead, audio lead and digital signal ribbon lead or 2!:

Roland has made it easy to remember what audio lead goes to which voiceboard, Yellow is for the top left voice board:

Red is for the top right voice board:

Bottom left board is grey,..

bottom right is blue….

Power leads reinstalled and attached:

All new rust-free silver top M3 screws securing the precious voice boards:

The Voice board audio cables were carefully laid back into their original positions using the same 35 year old bent shapes (important to avoid stress on the internal cores):

At this point I remembered that i would need to remove and replace Cora’s old battery. So before the CPU board was to be screwed down the battery needed to be desoldered:

and battery wires soldered to the connections in its place so the new battery can be re-located off the board in the future for easy replacement and to ensure there is no battery leakage debacle like Polysix synths have experienced world-wide. It’s very fortunate that Roland used a quality battery in the 80s that has managed to avoid leakage / damage to the board for most Jupiter 8 owners. Thank you Battery Gods for not leaking inside Cora!

After only a couple of hours we have a basic overview of the base panel rebuild up to now:

In part 2 I will re-install the re-capped power supply and newly remade ribbon cables into Cora The Corroder … stay tuned !

New Replacement Ribbon cables for inside a Jupiter 8

As part of my journey to replace old and potential problematic parts inside Cora with new “like for like” parts if available, my travels next steered my focus towards the many and varied ribbon cables inside a Jupiter 8. These big grey tentacles of various size and width stretch all over the place inside a Jupiter 8, taking digital control signals to and from the main CPU board to voice boards, slider boards, etc. They are mainly there to assist in the purpose of saving patches to memory. An old analog synth that doesn’t need to save patches, like a Minimoog, doesn’t need digital stuff ie no ribbon cables inside. The digital signals work together in a parallel fashion, where one wire in the ribbon is dedicated to a certain function or value and all of the wires work together “in parallel” at the same time. This is a very Ole-Skool method of digital control, confined to digital systems of the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t so long ago that hard drives in the common garden variety PC used this parallel form of communication with the “grey ribbon”…

Nowadays, digital signals are sent around in a “serial” fashion (eg SATA). In theory, parallel communication and the grey ribbon cable should be faster (=better?) than serial. And it IS a faster option when your signal processing “decoding” chips are slow and big and expensive, as they were in the 80s and 90s. Parallel means you don’t need so many of the decoding chips, as the signal is already split up and ready to use. But once they made signal processing chips fast and small (surface mounted) and cheap, the world of digital moved to serial, where every communication value of every different signal all goes down one (or 2) wires in a row, one after the other in a “serial” fashion and fast little surface mounted decoding chips are scattered around the synth and pull the data they want from the “main data line” that is only useful for that part of the circuit. This diagram sums it up nicely:

As a side note, an early example of serial digital communication is MIDI. It was easy for Dave Smith to choose serial for his MIDI protocol because there was not that much data that needed to fly down the midi lead. Just a few data bits for what note was pressed. But anyone who has run all 16 midi channels with notes down a single midi lead along with some pitch or mod wheel movements will know that the timing of notes playing quickly gets sloppy … The 1981 speed spec of 31.25k can’t keep up. In contrast, Roland’s early attempt at digital communication was DCB, and Roland went for Parallel. That’s why DCB leads are thick and full of wires. And probably why it didn’t take off, even tho it probably would have had better timing under load, the leads needed to be short, they were thick and expensive and the plugs bulky.

My point is that for all these reasons, Cora, born in 1982, has the old parallel communication inside her… ie the grey ribbon cables, whereas today’s modern analog synths look neat inside and don’t need the ribbon cables all over the place. Jupiter 8s have yards of the stuff.

It’s important to note that these ribbon cables do not carry audio signals. It’s critical in synth design to try and separate digital signals going thru ribbon cables from audio signals so as to avoid introducing digital “noise” into audio… that annoying clicking and purring that you can sometimes can hear in a cheap PC soundcard’s output for instance. The Roland Jupiter 8 voice boards are brilliantly designed and a beautiful work of art for many reasons, one is because of the way they keep the ribbon cable signals away from the audio output signal wire on the board.

Even the direction that the leads run when connected is important .. one makes its exit bottom right whilst the other goes up and away. This is no accident. Far away from each other as ideally possible. Nice.

But when it comes to grey ribbon data cables .. well there’s certain problems with them. Firstly and foremost, they’re big and bulky and stop the effective flow of air (= heat) around inside a case. This was a big reason why they were banished from inside PCs.. they blocked up airflow and pushed hot air in different directions for every PC… it could never be reliably predicted how the air would (or wouldn’t) flow around inside and one random twist of a big ribbon cable could change everything inside airflow-wise. Looking inside a Jupiter 8 you can see how a big pancake layer of ribbon cables sandwiched in the middle does the boards no favours when it comes to breathing. Just imagine a chip stuck underneath that big grey cable in the pic above .. it’s going to run hotter than if it lived out in the open on the left side somewhere because it is trapped and can’t breathe ..and that equates to shorter lifespan in the long run.

Another biggie is ease of damage.. one pinch of a ribbon cable.. and those tiny strands can be internally severed. And it may not be that easy to see visually.

Then there’s ageing… the plastic coating becomes brittle, and the wire strands rust inside and become stiffer/less able to bend, and the impedance of the lead changes. ie 1m Long cable starts to behave like a 10m Long cable. Therefore occasionally a signal bit doesn’t reach its destination .. and chips lock up in fright. Your synth crashes randomly sometimes and you dont know why.

Then there’s reliability of those black plastic connections on the ends. The whole plug is a fairly primitive one.. Up to 50 metal pins all line up to get shoved into 50 holes all at once and need to rub against 50 little terminals inside. It’s not a plug-system that enjoys frequent cycles before going faulty. And of course there’s the issue of having somewhere to grab onto properly with your fingers when pulling and tugging at a ribbon cable plug to get it released … most people just grab a hold of the wire rather than the actual black plug and just yank at it. Pins bend.. wire threads stress and snap. Sometimes just enough to make the connection unreliable. After all they can be stubborn suckers at times to get unplugged and released. Plus the pins.. they corrode. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve fixed a synth that is behaving “glitchy” by just cycling / reseating its ribbon plugs… effectively scraping away some of that oxidization from the pins and creating a solid contact again just from the process of unplugging and re-plugging the cable back in. I’ve read several forum posts where people complain that their Jupiter 8 is fine until it’s moved or just repositioned slightly .. then it behaves badly. Often.. a slight twist of the case, and bad ribbon cable connections can raise their ugly head. Open it up, unplug them and plug them back in. It’s that simple…A lot of the time, Problem solved. Then you’re told that it was the “Johnson Rod that was fusing with the Torroidal chip causing Mainline fluctuations” ….cost=$300 for (in reality) a ribbon plug reseat. Happens far too often. Here is a similar situation demonstrated well in Seinfeld:

In my case, the ribbon cables inside Cora were..well …”stuffed” is the word. Some had changed color in areas to a burnt golden brown from years of laying in the wrong place across the power supply and cooking from excessive heat…

They are meant to be a bright grey color but Cora’s had reduced to a blotchy yellow- brown. Some had broken down and stiffened in places and the one that runs to the top panel had been twisted and jammed carelessly in the wrong place when the top was closed by Cora’s previous disrespectful owner, causing it to look buckled and damaged. They looked like a mess, covered in dirt and grime …far from the nice and neat examples I had seen online. They were hanging in there and seemed to be still working, but only just.

All of this equated to a big requirement for.. new ribbon cables to be made.

I started with buying some standard light-grey 50 core stuff from my local electronics store. It is easy to create smaller width runs by simply counting the cores required and pulling away the extra wires but always leaving the wire #1 (usually pink or red striped wire running along one edge) that assists with orientation.

I quickly established however, that not all ribbon cable is the same. The Roland wire felt thick, substantial, quality. The stuff I purchased from the local electronic parts shop felt thin, flimsy, cheap. I checked the two other main electronic supplier chains in my city and they all had the same kind of cheap flimsy stuff. This was not going to be as easy a job as I had first imagined. Roland Japan used quality ribbon cable for a reason, and if I was going to replace it, then it would need to be with the same or better quality stuff as well. My suspicion was that voltage would drop more in the cheap stuff between points, ie it’s impedance would be greater, acting like more of a giant resistor wire in its travels which would throw out all sorts of problems with correct voltage signals arriving between points that would affect accurate sound recall, timing, reliability etc.

I conducted some exhaustive searches online over several weeks. Ribbon cables come from different brands, and have AWG (Wire Gauge) counts, voltage and impedance ratings etc. I learnt that good brands were 3M, TE, Amphenol and Harting ….I found them easily enough on sites like RS Components and Mouser, but in every single case, the good quality stuff was only by the full reel! And cost up to $300!! I could not find anywhere online that would sell me quality branded ribbon cable by the metre. (You need to buy 5m worth to be able to comfortably replace the lot inside a Jupiter 8).

I would need to look further and deeper locally. I tried several small independent shops, and at one of the last little spare PC parts places I tried, I hit pay-dirt. It was a hot day and there was no air conditioning in the shop. This miserable looking staff member eventually dragged himself out from the back to the counter looking deshevelled and beaten down, but holding the most beautiful roll of 3M 60 thread cable. I knew that good quality 50 core comes in at around $10 per meter so I was expecting to pay a little more p/m..

Guy:”So .. how much do you want?”

Me:”5 meters would do the trick…how much you got there on that roll?”

Guy:”I dunno..I can’t really be bothered measuring it out in this heat how does $20 bucks cash for the rest of this roll sound?”

Me:”Done!”

Nothing like a disillusioned employee to help you out with a bargain!

I was estatic with joy. Score! There was over 7m on the reel! Here’s a pic below with both the standard 50 core ribbon cable on the left and the high quality 60 core branded cable on the right…it’s not easy to tell just from a picture but once you hold it in your hands, feel the weight and see the thickness of the strands coming out the end it’s a significant difference and you understand instantly :

Now a closeup of the cores to try and demonstrate better the difference …the top cable is the cheap stuff. Look at the size of the small silver dots (strands) compared with the larger/more significant size of the silver strands poking out the end of the high quality cable underneath it …

… Time to start cutting it up and stripping it into replicas of the originals. Cora has some 50 pin sections, 40 pin, 26 pin, 20 pin and 10 pin. This is why 50 (or more) core lead is the ideal choice as you can easily make up all of the lower generation sizes from it. You will need to buy lots of new black ribbon cable plugs of these sizes. They are not re-useable so all new ones are the order of the day, plus they are cheap and readily available everywhere and the old plugs are very likely oxidized inside and part of the problem. I highly recommend you treat your original cables very gently during this whole process, bend them as little as possible, there’s every chance the ones you are remaking could have some fault in your plug attachment process (which can be tricky affair), and you might need to revert to your original leads to track down a problem.

There is a ribbon cable plug attachment tool that you can purchase. They cost around $30. They look like this :

If you are going to be making lots of ribbon cables up in the future then they are a worthy investment but for the few attachments we need to do for this job it’s just as effective to use a bench vice that had its claws covered in some gaffa tape to protect the plugs from damage in the attachment process. This is a completely legitimate method that many use for just a couple of plug attachments like we plan on doing:

You get only one shot at attaching a ribbon cable plug. The top of the plug teeth line up perfectly with the cable core and pierce thru the outer cable cover.

The top clip helps with the process and the side clips click into place as the plug closes. Get the alignment wrong, or attach the plug on crooked (or the wrong way around…easy to do!) and you have to throw out the plug and the ribbon need to be trimmed and you need to start again. You simply can’t undo the clips without them breaking. Trust me when I tell you that you will get a few wrong. Buy extra spare plugs or you will be making several trips to the electronics store. Practice on the smaller plugs first, because they’re cheaper to buy more of when you get it wrong.

The plugs I used have the directional lug on them (the most common you will be able to buy) that is used for male sockets that accommodate it. The early days of these sockets and plugs didn’t have this lug and Cora’s sockets are of this early type, so the lug needs to be shaved off so it can fit into Cora’s sockets. Here’s a pic … I just used a box cutter knife to take off the lug BEFORE attaching:

Make sure the cuts you make to the ribbon cable are PERFECTLY straight across. Otherwise you’ll attach the plug on an angle too, and it will cause stress on the cable if the runs are not sitting straight in your Jupiter 8. Or if you adjust the plug to be straight and the cable sticks out the end of the plug crooked it’s hard to impossible to neatly trim it later once the plug is attached. Just get it right from the start. Use a guillotine or mark up where you are going to cut with a black pen and use scissors to cut.

Then into the vice with the new plug sitting gently in place and the vice cranked hard and I leave it closed for 15-20 seconds or so before backing the pressure off …

Nice and clean plug attached!:

There is a small degree of leeway when it comes to exact cable lengths as there’s a bit of room for error inside a Jupiter 8. One of the things I noticed was that Roland never made the 50 pin cable that connects across the main voice boards together exactly the right length, and there’s some excess. It’s not quite as easy for this big cable to find room for the slack, it’s a tight, short distance and the cable is stiff and wide. Jupiter 8s have this cable inside “dipping” down between the voice boards to try and use up this excess cable. Here’s what I mean …

Now that we are remaking these cables, here was a perfect opportunity to get the ribbon cable length “just right” and fix this sloppy measurement. I could not think of any justified reason why Roland would have done this on purpose, it sure wasn’t some primitive kind of cushioning as the boards are all screwed down and rigid in their position. My guess is that they designed the synth and started building it and then the guy walked into the factory “your 10,000 ribbon cables have arrived” and then they grab one from the pile to attach and realized “oh shit… they’re a bit long… someone’s screwed up, we gotta use them we got 10,000 ok let’s just tuck it around the place…”. So when making this cable up yourself, pay attention to the 50 core voice board socket plugs and measure them out on the synth to make the plug positions fit so the cable lays in a neat and relaxed manner…there needs to be some slack in case there is some movement in the chassis so they don’t pull and stress the boards but not so much slack that the cable starts to buckle up. It will look much neater and won’t require you to stress the ribbon cable from the tucking and bending job that Roland needed to do. Here is an idea of the two cables next to each other and a ruler…

So now with the middle plug lined up on the old and new cable (on the right)… here is the difference in the short end …you can see the plugs on the left are not aligned… and if the kink in the old original lead was completely removed it would look even more significant (I didn’t want to bend out the old lead completely in case it fell apart)

And here is the longer run of the lead .. again with the centre plug (on the left) aligned:

You should align these yourself with your own synth as you are making them. The lower voice boards’ 50 core cable can be a little tighter as they are locked down in place, whereas the top voice boards need to be able to swing up on their hinges to gain access. Make sure there is enough slack particularly in the top ribbon cable for the voice boards to swing right up together with the cables still connected… you don’t want to be unplugging and plugging the ribbon cables every time you swing the boards.

Another problem I discovered was that for a particular reason, Roland decided to skip installing a plug at the end of one ribbon cable, and instead hard-wire the cable directly into the pcb. The pcb in question is the switches and slider panel controller board that sits strapped to the underside of the main top panel and cable hangs down inside and runs a long distance to the cpu board. This makes it a monumental pain in the ass to replace this cable due to it being hard-wired…

It was however not a cost-cutting measure as this would outwardly seem. There was a good reason why Roland’s forward-thinking engineers specified it. This ribbon cable attachment sits upside down when Cora is closed. Roland wanted to make their flagship synth as road-proof as possible, they knew that Gravity Works and would be pulling downwards on this cable inside constantly, and that there was a chance that this plug could be encouraged to fall out of the socket if the synth was knocked around in a road case and the G-forces on it multiplied. So they removed the socket so the cable simply could not fall out and there was one less thing that could go wrong. It’s the same reason why they glued down the big power supply caps on top of them being soldered, in case they flew loose due to the stresses of pop music touring. Smart. Roland were thinking ahead and a care-factor was present (unlike most design and manufacture these days). It’s so true that they really don’t make synths like the way they used to. But this did not make it easy with the job of replacement.

I had to remove the ribbon cable but decided instead of hard-soldering the new ribbon cable back in, I would install a socket in its place. As a workaround I would put a blob of hot glue across the plug to secure it. Cora would never be going “on tour” that’s for sure so there was also not the concern of the plug falling out whilst she was in her roadcase that was being used as a mattress by a lighting roadie who was getting paid by a groupie the backstage pass he had promised her. First job was to desolder the old hard wired connection :

And then to solder in a 40 pin socket to be able to easily connect a new ribbon cable and easily disconnect a faulty one or work on the board easier in the future without the giant umbilical cord of a cable being dragged along.

Finally …some of the newly remade cables next to the old originals… ready to be swapped out and installed:

Got the synth, got the Jupiter 8 T-shirt (..and poster)!

I have wanted a Jupiter 8 T-shirt for ages. But I just could not justify owning and wearing one without having an actual Jupiter 8. I could just envision doods rolling up to me at the bar and saying “cool T-Shirt man… what is it like to own one?” Only to have to reply … “err… well, I don’t actually have one, this is like my wish-list T Shirt.” #fail. So now that I actually do own a Jupiter 8 (well it’s in over 200 pieces right now spread across several boxes and tables but let’s not be pedantic I have a receipt for one!) it was time to get that T-Shirt and to start collecting those secret nods of respect and admiration from ppl “in the know” when out and about!

My first point of call was the awsome T-Shirts from Jeff at Custom synths. They are 100% cotton and a very fair price. And the designs are very cool! His Jupiter 8 T-shirt was #1 on the list! Jeff was due for an update email on Cora anyways so I dropped him a msg, let him know and grabbed some! Here is his Jupiter 8 T-Shirt design:

You can pick one up on his Ebay site here:

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com.au%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F232665907980

I always had a second T-Shirt design in mind for a Jupiter 8 one as well. It incorporated the beautiful rainbow of Cora’s buttons across the front. So I also went about designing my own, at a cool website called Tee Junction. There’s dozens of T-Shirt design sites online, at least a few based in most capital cities. Basically you design it online in your browser and upload the graphics and it arrives in the mail (pay notice of the size measurements). I had all the Jupiter 8 logos and screen print design in high res files so this was going to be easy… it’s important to save the graphics as .png files for use rather than jpg however, because png files are universal and the difference is that they allow saving without a background color. There is no point to printing black onto a black T-Shirt, and as a matter of fact it looks terrible because you can then see the black trimmed “box” around your graphics on the T-Shirt where the black print is shinier or slightly different shade to the cotton black color. So use Photoshop and remove all the black backgrounds so only the actual graphic is printed that you want to show, and save as .png before uploading and it will look really clean. Here is my own custom Jupiter 8 T-Shirt design:

Next was a nice big poster of Cora for the studio hallway, announcing her presence to friends in advance. There are two Jupiter 8 magazine double-page advertisements that I have found online that would be cool as a poster. The problem with both was their poor condition and resolution if you were to blow them up to poster size. Here’s the first:

I found it here on matrixsynth along with a few other Jupiter 8 synth pics:

http://www.matrixsynth.com/2015/03/roland-jupiter-8-synthesizer-sn-070396.html?m=1

I believe this came out of the Roland synthesizer promo booklet that featured lots of other Roland analog synths in the 80s as well, with double spreads for each. It was nice enough… but quite “white” looking … and I’ve always seen the Jupiter 8 as a big black dark beast. The offset positioning of the synth to the left in the ad also made my OCD flare up a little … it just seemed out of balance to me and I could just envision this in poster size on my wall driving me crazy.

The second was a lot more like what i envisioned! A big black 80s looking ad with splashes of colorful rainbow stripes and Jup8 featuring middle center! :

It can be found here :

http://retrosynthads.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/roland-jupiter-8-two-page-ad-keyboard.html?m=1

There were many problems with this second one however. Most were fairly easily fixable in Photoshop like the fact that it was hard cropped on the sides, mis-aligned in the middle and overall quite dull. But once the contrast was cranked up it quickly became more apparent the left and right pages were not only different contrast (most easily seen by the different color of the white keys left and right side) but also different print colors. The link that came with it suggested that this was printed on the inside cover of Keyboard magazine. So the left side was printed on the rear of the cover that would have been a thicker and glossier paper, and the right on the main thin magazine stock. That explains the different orange decal colors left to right also.

I fiddled with it over and over for a few nights with Hue, saturation, etc of both sides before I had to give up. It just looked like a mess at any kind of decent resolution and the Jupiter image just didn’t look right no matter what I did. There was compression grain and dust all around the fonts. But damn it I really wanted this poster! So a few nites later I decided that I would try again …and make the effort to completely re-create the whole poster from scratch. Going all out this time …re-typing everything on the ad with the same font, but this time in hi res, re-drawing the little graphic designs and rainbows, and swapping out the Jupiter 8 image for a high res one. The result turned out great …a sharp and clean replica that looks amazing when blown up to poster size ! And here it is:

And the high def file on Dropbox direct download for you to print! :

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hu5lxdlegmahdro/roland_jupiter8_nov_1981_key_Restored%29_%20%5B600dpi%5D.pdf?dl=0

Last is the obligatory Jupiter 8 coffee mug. Coffee simply tastes smoother and more “analog” from this mug:

You should be able to find this one quickly on eBay here:

http://r.ebay.com/GkYJSW

They sell for about $10 bucks plus shipping.

Now you can join in with me to celebrate Cora’s resurrection with these links and cool Jupiter 8 accessories!