Katsunori Ujiie

I’m on the road for the next couple weeks. Actually, I’m just away from home (not really on the road) spending a little time out in beautiful, cold Minneapolis. There was frost on the ground this morning. I guess they got snow last week. Whew.

Anyway, being away from home will force me to be a little more creative with where I source blog material from. Or maybe a little less creative. This is going to be like having a substitute teacher…you kids are all going to sit down and be quiet and watch a lot of videos!

And speaking of which, I love this guy’s videos. He demos different synthesizers out (both old and new) and talks about what makes them special. Most of the older videos are subtitled in English. Even the ones that aren’t subtitled are fun to watch. He’s so enthusiastic and pleased with the sounds from each synthesizer! It’s a joy to watch someone take such delight in each tone:

Fine China – their rare first single

Fine China was a band that never really made it too far, even by underground standards. That’s a shame, because I’ve liked just about everything that they put out. They started out by releasing a couple EP’s on Velvet Blue Music in the late 90s. They teamed up with Ronnie Martin pretty early on, and he produced most of their early stuff. That’s how I came to find them around 2001, as I was/am a hungry fan for all of Ronnie’s projects.

“When the World Sings” was their first full album. I bought it brand new at the Christian bookstore downtown. They had a kiosk where you could scan the barcode on any CD and listen to a preview. I scoured many of prospective CD that way. The album is solid indie pop with a good measure of drum machine beats and some background synths, helping to support the guitar-centric band. I know it’s not for everyone, but I’ve always liked the album. I recently came across this blog post, which had a significantly-negative take on Ronnie’s contributions to Fine China. That author seemed to think that Fine China was a great band except for the times that Ronnie belched his production synth filth all over the band’s innocent guitars. This guy believed that Fine China was a great band until Ronnie messed them up. To each his own, but I disagree.

Anyway, in honor of the band here are two songs off their first single, from 1996. This contains the original acoustic version of “Fine China”, which Ronnie’s Joy Electric remixed. I picked it up ages ago and I’ve barely ever seen it around since. I don’t think they’ll mind spreading a little of the wealth. As I listened to “In the Winter” again tonight, I realized that Fine China was part and parcel with Ronnie’s synth stuff from pretty much the beginning. So take that, negative blog guy! Also, your three strikes analogy totally doesn’t work.

Until then, here is Fine China’s “The Beautiful”:

I’m Sorry

1. In the Winter     

eBay blues

I am not an accountant, nor do I really have a mind for financials. However, my job tends to get me mixed up in that world. I often have to dig up and provide a lot of the data that feeds financial reports. So now that I’ve cleared out a round of equipment and shipped the last of it this afternoon, I found myself wondering whether I came out ahead or not.

I often buy used music equipment with the excuse that trying it out is basically free. If I don’t like the equipment, I can sell it for about the same price I bought it. Right? Of course there are various transaction costs, so the goal is to buy stuff at a slightly bargain rate. How is that working out for me? Overall, it looks like I did pretty good with this round:

I sold five or six items. As you can see, I had a little trouble estimating my shipping fees. I always underestimate those! It tends to feel like eBay (plus PayPal) takes a big cut, but according to the graph it’s actually a pretty small slice. The last red bar (original item cost) is a sunk cost. I spent that money a year or two ago. Still, if I want talk about profits, I have to factor that in. So I made a profit of $150. Not bad. But if you dig deeper into individual auctions, it’s a mixed bag.

The most painful auction was for a junky old patchbay that only half-worked. I thought about throwing it away but that felt wasteful. So I decided to just list it for cheap and hope that someone could get some use out of it.

I should have just thrown it away. I wound up paying $10 just to get it off my hands (not counting the $13 I paid for it). I badly underestimated the shipping cost. With rackmount equipment, you’re guaranteed to always have one side that’s 19″. The other sides were tiny, but the odd shape (and solid metal construction) meant that it cost a ton to ship. Add in the fees and it’s even worse.

Luckily, other items fared better. I picked up a steal on a rackmount Casio synthesizer this spring. I barely used it so it was swept out during this autumn cleaning:

Again, I misjudged shipping pretty bad. It was almost twice as much as I had expected. But when you buy something for $20 and sell it for $180, it’s hard not to come out ahead. Ahh, if only they could all be like this! Instead, I’ll leave you with the typical sale.

This time, it was for a rackmount mixer that I didn’t use anymore. The final sale price was exactly the amount that I paid for the mixer (including shipping):

I didn’t get too skewered on the shipping, though I did take a small loss. Factor in a few fees and I walked away about $13 lighter because of the experience. However, I got to use the mixer for a while, so I paid $13 to rent that piece of equipment. Not too bad.

It lives! It lives, it lives, it lives!!!

The Emulator III has returned! As of this afternoon it is now back in working condition!

How did this happen? Well gather round and let me tell you about today’s serendipitous events. It all started when I noticed a closed auction for sampler memory for Roland samplers. As I’ve thoroughly documented, I’ve got a Roland S770 that I’m going to keep, but I’d really like to max out its memory to a full 16MB. The memory that it takes is pretty old and not the easiest to find. The auction reminded me that I really should buy some memory and get it installed. I found a few auctions that were promising candidates, but I was still a bit unsure and decided to open my S770 and closely inspect some of the memory that was already in there.

As I was searching for information, I found a page that claimed that the E-mu EIII used the exact same memory as the S770. That got me thinking…maybe the EIII’s cryptic problem was just an issue with faulty memory? That would be easy to check! With the S770 opened up, I had some spare sticks of memory that I knew were good. This would be a great time to check. Soon I left the S770 behind and was on a rabbit trail tearing apart the EIII.

The EIII is a beast inside. The rackmount version has five long cards that slide into place. I had to take out the processor card in order to get the memory card out. Once out, I swapped out the SIMM sticks and put it all back together. And…

…nothing. It still didn’t work. Except this time, I didn’t even have funny characters on the screen. I had nothing at all. It wasn’t trying to check the floppy drive or anything. That’s when I started thinking about a post I’d read on an excellent E-mu website called eiiiforum.com. That post had talked about having a dead display when you try to power up the sampler. The cause was some errant voltages coming from the power supply.

Power supplies generally scare me. That’s probably cause I assume that all power supply problems are going to mean burnt-up transformers or dried-out capacitors. But things were different in this case. The EIII’s power supply has a small trimmer pot that allows you to adjust the output voltage. For some reason it can stray slightly, and that can lead the entire machine to crash. So I pulled out my multimeter and checked. Sure enough…the voltage was about 1 volt too low – enough to put it out-of-tolerance.

I followed the steps in the post and reset the voltage to 5.05 volts exactly, plugged everything back in, and it’s back in business! Such an easy fix! And to think that I’d been dreading that for months!

I’m really excited to have the EIII back and working. The 2012 Ultimate Sampler Showdown is back on!

I’ll leave you with this parting photograph. I think that the back of the EIII is pretty impressive. There really is nothing about this sampler that leaves you doubting that it means business. I don’t think I’ve seen quite this many jacks on a piece of equipment. Clearly, a formidable instrument: