You’ve probably heard the bromide that the Chinese word for “crisis” is the same as the Chinese word for “opportunity.” Ok, it’s not exactly true, but when Homer Simpson heard it, he coined the word “crisitunity” and that’s exactly where I find myself today.

A happy Yamaha CS-80

Last weekend, after years of dreaming, I finally acquired one of my “Holy Grail” synths: the Yamaha CS-80. It was produced from 1977-1980 and you’ve heard it even if you don’t realize it. It’s the star of the soundtrack to Blade Runner. It’s all over Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. It’s the signature sound in “Africa” by Toto. Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Aphex Twin, Kraftwerk, Genesis, Röyksopp. Daft Punk… the list goes on and on.

Only about 800 were made (I have #391). My brother and I drove about 1,500 miles round trip to pick it up (thanks, Eric!) and it brought a huge smile to my face the moment I started playing it. It was a bit out of tune and needed some basic tweaking, but it was 95% awesome.

Two days ago, I killed it.

Ok, that’s not exactly true, either, but let’s call it a serious coma. I spent about 3 hours tuning it and that process went so well that I decided to attempt to calibrate the aftertouch cards as well. The scaling on voice 4 was seriously wonky and I wanted to try and calibrate it before resigning myself to repairing the TKC or TSB boards.

While raising the card rack to get access to those trim pots, I managed to touch something I shouldn’t have. I’m not sure what that was. The CS-80 gave a little whistle and decided to take a nap. It hasn’t spoken to me since.

So we come to the point of crisitunity. I am going to wake her up. It is going to take me a pretty serious chunk of time. I’m reasonably competent with a soldering iron and a multimeter, though I’m a bit rusty. But I’m going to do it.

I will be chronicling the process here and hope to augment what I’m doing with links to online resources, as well as posting my own photos and videos of what’s going on. I’ll be doing this partly for my own records and partly in the hopes that my journey helps someone else along the way.

I imagine this will be a lot like remotely watching someone rebuild a classic car except that instead of it being an 8-cylinder engine, it will be an F-16.


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