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MCK-70 Memory Checker for the Roland MKS-70 and JX-10.

Introducing a fantastic utility, MCK-70 is a memory checker for the Roland JX-10 and MKS-70, developed by non-other than Guy Wilkinson.

A few weeks ago, I received a Roland MKS-70 from a customer in Canada. He’d just had it upgraded with Guy Wilkinson’s fabulous VFD module and Fred Vecoven’s PWM mod but then weird things started to happen. This machine was then sent a couple of thousand miles across the Atlantic to see what I could do with it.

The first thing was to fix the power supply. Indeed, it was shot. Signs of heat damage and all regulated outputs showing zero volts except the -15V line which was reading -21.5V, wasn’t a good start. Oh dear. Anyway, I got that going temporarily as the customer agreed to have Guy Wilkinson’s P0004 switched-mode power supply installed.

The next issue was that some voices weren’t playing. After going over the voice-boards and confirming that they were both okay, I decided to look at the assigner (CPU) board.

To keep things simple, I disconnected the Vecoven PWM mod and I also installed the original Roland firmware. This meant that I had to have the voice-boards connected which is a bit of a pain.

After a lot of testing, chatting with Fred Vecoven and Guy Wilkinson, it seemed clear that the machine had a memory issue.

Guy told me that he’d developed a little bit of software to test the RAM in the Super-JX, so we agreed that this would be a perfect opportunity to actually check it out.

Guy e-mailed me the bin file, I promptly burnt a ROM, installed it into the MKS-70’s Assigner-board and switched on. Oh wow! This is so cool!

MCK-70 in action

Running in the processor's on-board memory and thereby leaving all other memory free, MCK-70 systematically checks not only the main RAM but also the gate-array RAM, writing all zeros as it sweeps. After a few seconds, you end up with an ultra-clean slate, a Super-JX that's cleaner than factory!

I then loaded some factory stuff into the MKS-70. Wow! All looking good so far. Programming a very simple tone and patch confirmed that everything was working and that the issues that were present before, were all gone. Guy, you’re a genius! THANK YOU, my friend. 🙂

MCK-70 Boot
MCK-70 will work on the Roland MKS-70 and the JX-10.

It was obvious that MCK-70 would be really useful to others and so Guy and I decided to make MCK-70 Memory Checker for the Roland MKS-70 and JX-10, available to purchase in my on-line store.

A great tool for anyone who may have similar JX-10 or MKS-70 memory corruption problems, MCK-70 will save you a lot of hassle and money. Removing the TC5564 RAM chip requires removal of the assigner-board and unlike the voice-boards, the assigner-board has a couple of delicate membrane cables connecting it to the display board and the cartridge board. You really want to avoid disturbing these, if you can. On top of that, the TC5564PL-15 isn’t at all easy to get hold of.

So, just imagine if you could check the memory in your MKS-70 and fully initialise it. Why on earth would you want to go to all the trouble of changing the RAM chip just because a few noughts and ones are temporarily in the wrong place?

IMPORTANT

  • Not only available as a downloadable .bin file allowing you to burn MCK-70 on to your favourite 27C256, MCK-70 can also be purchased pre-burnt on to a ROM which will be sent out to you.
  • MCK-70 will totally delete the memory in your machine. Don't mess with it unless you actually have an issue or your machine's memory is backed up.
  • To be clear, MCK-70 will work in the Roland JX-10 and the MKS-70.

The V01 mounting bracket for the Vecoven PWM mod, allows the two boards of the mod to be mounted off the voice-boards in a MKS-70.

The V01 custom mounting bracket for Vecoven PWM mod for MKS-70
Custom mounting bracket for Vecoven PWM kit in Roland MKS-70.

Occupying the space previously taken up by the transformer, the V01 can ONLY be fitted if Guy Wilkinson's P0004 power supply is installed.

V01 bracket fitted in Roland MKS-70
Notice that Guy Wilkinson's P0004 power supply is also fitted.

There are two main advantages to using the V01 mounting bracket for the Vecoven PWM mod:

  • You don't have to drill any holes into your MKS-70 voice-boards.
  • The PWM mod can very easily and quickly be disconnected from the voice-boards.

IMPORTANT: The V01 mounting bracket is a great solution and keeps things tidy but... due to the fact that the V01 mounts the Vecoven PWM boards in very close  proximity to the voice-boards, it's strongly recommended that vertical IDC headers are fitted to the PWM boards and that the Molex headers used on the ribbon cables are NOT foldback types.

Read more about upgrades for the Roland Super-JX here, or check out Fred Vecoven's awesome PWM mod here. Alternatively, you can just buy it now:

A full guide to mounting the Vecoven PWM daughter-boards to the V01 bracket and securing the V01 bracket into your MKS-70, is available after purchase.

Live Forever battery mod at Plasma Music
Large capacity CR123A battery mounted off-board in a Roland MKS-70.

My Live Forever back-up battery mod isn't rocket science. It's not even particularly clever but an incredibly simple upgrade to many synthesisers, sound modules and effects processors, it does offer the following advantages:

  • Reduced risk of battery leakage.
  • Reduced risk of damage to sensitive electronics as a result of battery leakage.
  • Easier replacement of memory back-up battery.
  • Easier measurement of memory back-up battery voltage.
  • Higher capacity battery means that it'll probably outlive you!

So just about all digital equipment has some sort of mechanism to provide memory retention. Your equipment has patches, right? So those patches are 'remembered' by your gear with the use of a memory back-up battery.

Newer equipment doesn't always have a memory back-up battery. Instead, memory is held within what is known as non-volatile RAM.

Anyway, older stuff does have a memory back-up battery and if left unchecked, the results can be devastating. I recently did a post on a gorgeous Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 Rev 2 that hadn't been touched for over thirty years. Of course during that time, the back-up battery had degraded and had in fact leaked all over the CPU board. It's going to take me months to sort out the mess and that's going to be expensive!

Battery Acid Damage in Prophet 5 2 (2020.12.16)
After thirty years, this battery in a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 is more than just flat!

My Live Forever battery mod doesn't just involved replacing the original battery with a larger type. If possible, I try to mount the holder for the new battery, usually a lithium CR123, directly on to the chassis and off any PCB. In the event that the battery does leak, then it won't damage any circuitry.

Of course mounting the new battery on to the chassis isn't always possible. The Marshall JMP-1 is a good example. There are two versions of the  JMP-1. One has a case with a little room to allow for a CR123 battery holder to be mounted to the metal. The other and more popular version doesn't. In situations where the battery can't be mounted off-PCB, I simply have to find the best place to put it.

MEMORY BACK-UP BATTERY TYPES

Most vintage equipment that uses a memory back-up battery does so with something like a CR2030, CR2032 or similar type 'coin' battery that's soldered to a PCB and located close to the RAM (memory chip). This isn't always the case, though. The Roland MKS-80 for example, used a CR-1/3N battery as pictured below.

Back-up battery in Roland MKS-80

My Live Forever battery mod involves replacing the original battery with a much higher capacity CR123 type cell which is also small enough to fit into many situations.

Super Nova has on-board back-up battery for Juno-106 memory back-up
My Super Nova replacement switched-mode power supply for the Roland Juno-106 comes with my Live-Forever memory battery back-up mod.

The default battery chemistry is lithium or rather lithium manganese dioxide (LiMnO2). They're cheap, readily available and very reliable.

Lithium CR123s however, aren't the only option that can be used for replacing the original memory back-up battery. While sticking with the CR123 form-factor, I'm a big fan of Lithium thionyl chloride batteries (LiSOCl2), for example. Designed specifically for very low-current, very long-life applications, they're ideal for the job. They are however, more expensive and more difficult to procure.

jhsbjshdb
On the left is a standard Duracell manganese dioxide (LiMnO2) CR123 battery. On the right is the super performance Saft Lithium thionyl chloride batteries (LiSOCl2) CR123 battery.

Finally, a long time ago, I experimented with clip-on retainers that fit over the CR123 battery holder, thereby offering more physical security to the actual battery.

Well, apart from having installed my Live Forever battery mod into countless machines over the years, all of my own gear is fitted with my mod. In over thirty years, I have NEVER experienced a battery being dislodged from the battery holder and feel that any impact that would be strong enough to do that, would most likely seriously damage the machine that it's fitted to!

The main reason I don't supply the retention clip however, is that they have a very (VERY) tight fit. I'm concerned that if the battery ever does need to be removed, damage to the unit may occur while simply trying to remove the clip! 🙁

Anyway, my Live Forever memory back-up battery mod is available for just about any synthesiser, sound module or effects processor so don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about lithium manganese dioxide and Lithium thionyl chloride batteries, please check out these links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_battery_sizes#Lithium_cells

https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/difference-between-volatile-memory-and-non-volatile-memory/

http://www.tadiranbat.com/compare-lithium-cells.html

 

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland DDR-30 at Plasma MusicI didn't originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland DDR-30. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the DDR-30, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

  • Roland MKS-7 Super Quartet (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-10 Planet-P piano module (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-20 Rack mount version of the RD-1000 digital piano (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-30 Rack-mount of the JX-3P synthesiser (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
  • Roland MKS-100 Rack mount version of the S-10 sampler (released 1986)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

RE-MKS-80 Replacement Rack Ears Fitted to Roland MKS-80
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a DDR-30.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals
My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

Sadly, my own DDR-30 was sold many years ago and I can only model these rack ears on my own MKS-80 as pictured.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland MKS-10 at Plasma Music

I didn't originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland MKS-10. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the MKS-10, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

    • Roland MKS-7 Super Quartet (released 1986)
    • Roland MKS-20 Rack mount version of the RD-1000 digital piano (released 1986)
    • Roland MKS-30 Rack-mount of the JX-3P synthesiser (released 1984)
    • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
    • Roland MKS-100 Rack mount version of the S-10 sampler (released 1986)
    • Roland DDR-30 Electronic drum module (released 1985)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

RE-MKS-80 Replacement Rack Ears Fitted to Roland MKS-80
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-10.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals
My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

Unfortunately, I don’t have a Roland MKS-10 and so the rack ears are shown attached to my own MKS-80.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland MKS-100 at Plasma Music

I didn’t originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland MKS-100. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the MKS-100, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

  • Roland MKS-7 Super Quartet (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-10 Planet-P piano module (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-20 Rack mount version of the RD-1000 digital piano (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-30 Rack-mount of the JX-3P synthesiser (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
  • Roland DDR-30 Electronic drum module (released 1985)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-100.
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-100.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals
My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

Unfortunately, I don’t have a Roland MKS-100 and so the rack ears are shown attached to my own MKS-80.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland MKS-30 at Plasma Music

I didn’t originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland MKS-30. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the MKS-30, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

  • Roland MKS-7 Super Quartet (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-10 Planet-P piano module (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-20 Rack mount version of the RD-1000 digital piano (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
  • Roland MKS-100 Rack mount version of the S-10 sampler (released 1986)
  • Roland DDR-30 Electronic drum module (released 1985)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

RE-MKS-80 Replacement Rack Ears Fitted to Roland MKS-80
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-30.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals
My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

Unfortunately, I don’t have a Roland MKS-30 and so the rack ears are shown attached to my own MKS-80.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland MKS-20 at Plasma Music

I didn’t originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland MKS-20. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the MKS-20, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

  • Roland MKS-7 Super Quartet (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-10 Planet-P piano module (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-30 Rack-mount of the JX-3P synthesiser (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
  • Roland MKS-100 Rack mount version of the S-10 sampler (released 1986)
  • Roland DDR-30 Electronic drum module (released 1985)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

RE-MKS-80 Replacement Rack Ears Fitted to Roland MKS-80
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-20.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originalsUnfortunately, I don’t have a Roland MKS-20 and so the rack ears are shown attached to my own MKS-80.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

RE-MKS-80 replacement rack-ears for Roland MKS-7 at Plasma Music

I didn't originally intend to design a pair of rack ears for the Roland MKS-7. My idea was to make a pair of rack ears just for the MKS-80. Modelled on the rack ears of my own MKS-80, Lenton Engineering in Watford, delivered yet another superb job, based on my plans.

After a little digging around however, I subsequently discovered that as well as the MKS-7, these rack ears will also fit a whole bunch of other Roland 2U modules from the same era:

  • Roland MKS-10 Planet-P piano module (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-20 Rack mount version of the RD-1000 digital piano (released 1986)
  • Roland MKS-30 Rack-mount of the JX-3P synthesiser (released 1984)
  • Roland MKS-80 Rack mount version of something in between the Jupiter 6 and Jupiter 8 keyboard synthesisers (released 1984)*
  • Roland MKS-100 Rack mount version of the S-10 sampler (released 1986)
  • Roland DDR-30 Electronic drum module (released 1985)

* If you have a MKS-80 Rev 4, then you'll only use three screws each side. Yes, that's right; Roland didn't standardise the rack case 'till the Rev 5 was released!

Please note that these rack ears are only available in black and as a pair.

RE-MKS-80 Replacement Rack Ears Fitted to Roland MKS-80
Image shows RE-MKS-80 fitted to a Roland MKS-80 as I don't have a MKS-7.

When the prototypes were ready to collect, I got a real shock. They seemed to fit better than the originals and they looked just great!

Just like the originals, these rack ears are made of aluminium, with a lovely horizontally running mill finish. Supplied with eight black countersunk pozidrive machine screws, the only thing you need to fit these, is a screwdriver! 🙂

My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals
My rack-ears have a horizontally running mill-finish, just like the originals

Sadly, my own MKS-7 was sold many years ago and I can only model these rack ears on my own MKS-80 as pictured.

I'm now happy to announce that these rack ear kits are available to purchase.

IMPORTANT: Shipping price is for worldwide delivery. 🙂


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.

Plasma Music uses local manufacturers

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

Aurora - a modern switched-mode replacement
power supply for the Roland MKS-80.
 

Aurora - switched-mode power supply for the Roland MKS-80
Aurora - the world's first replacement switched-mode power supply for the Roland MKS-80.

The Roland MKS-80 is an amazing piece of equipment and lovely sounding machine. As one of the last all-analogue-voiced synthesisers, I am hopeful that Aurora, a replacement power supply for the Roland MKS-80 will keep all of those gorgeous modules still left on the planet, working just a little longer.

Anyone who has a Roland MKS-80 with a power transformer that’s not native to their region, now has the option to upgrade the power supply in their machine and plug it straight into their mains supply, without the need of going through an external transformer.

Anyone with a Roland MKS-80 that has a bad power supply or broken transformer, can now bring a new lease of life to their machine. Also bear in mind that the old FR2 PCBs are now very brittle and prone to dry joints and even cracking.

At the time of writing, some Roland MKS-80s have been operating for thirty-six years! While designed extremely well, the power supplies are stressed systems (as in any machine) and the last thing any MKS-80 owner wants is for the power supply in their machine to go south. IC1 on the original PSU for example, is a M5218L. It's a crucial part of the +5 V supply and the 10 V reference circuit. If this packs up, the  +5 V rail could rise to values that could seriously damage your MKS-80 and even make it unrepairable. As time goes on, the likelihood of this happening, only increases. The +/-15 V supplies which drive the voice boards, are a little more robustly designed.

Aurora switched-mode replacement power supply for the Roland MKS-80

Electronics in general doesn’t like heat. Aurora runs much cooler than the equivalent linear power supply.

Over time, your MKS-80 may develop transformer born hum. This can't be 'filtered' out and you're kinda stuck unless you can acquire a replacement transformer. Hey, you're in luck 'cos Aurora doesn't produce any hum!

Roland MKS-80 transformer
Here's the transformer in a Roland MKS-80. After a couple of decades, they can develop hum.

Originally, Aurora was going to copy the footprint of the original MKS-80 power supply. A single L-shaped board however, would have meant a lot of wastage and potentially necessitate the removal of the front panel to replace the original mains wiring which would have been too short to reach the single PCB.

The solution was to split Aurora into two PCBs; Board A being the main part of the power supply and Board B taking care of mains protection and filtering.

Aurora Board B on mounting bracket
Aurora Board B on mounting bracket. This occupies the space previously taken by the transformer.

I made use of the reinforcing plate that's underneath the original transformer. The size of board B is the same size as this plate. I simply added four M3 mounting holes. This all provides for a very tidy and cost-effective solution that requires minimal reworking of existing wires, etc.

Aurora's 10 V reference source started out as a precision circuit using 0.1% tolerance components and a high-grade op-amp. The results were impressive but later, I changed the design and incorporated a multi-turn trimmer so as to allow for adjustment of the reference which may result from component drift over time.

Provision for fine adjustment of 10 V reference on Aurora Replacement Power Supply for the Roland MKS-80
Adjustment of Aurora's 10 V reference, allows for compensation of component drift over time.

Each supply has it's own status LED. I thought this would be a nice addition and in keeping with the original design although unlike the original, Aurora has a different coloured LED for each supply, including the 10 V reference.

Also note the test points allowing for easy checking of all voltages.

Individual power rail status indicators on Aurora switched-mode power supply for the Roland MKS-80
Aurora has individual power rail status indicators (LEDs) and conveniently placed test points.

So I was going to teach myself Arabic or Mandarin during lock-down 2020 but instead, I kind of decided to design this. It just seemed like a really cool thing to do! 😀 😎

You can read about the development of Aurora Replacement Power Supply for the Roland MKS-80 here.


INSTALLING AURORA

Aurora Tidy Cabling
Keep cabling neat and tidy.

Installing the Aurora boards requires a certain degree of knowledge, experience and skill. I therefore insist that the installation be performed by a suitably qualified technician. Aurora is a power supply that converts mains voltage to several DC voltages that your machine requires. Safety is paramount and although fully tested prior to shipping, I strongly recommend that you test Aurora outside of your machine prior to installation. Since there is mains voltage on both boards, care should be taken that the boards are lifted clear of any work surface during such testing, using for example, PCB stand-offs (spacers).

Removing the original power supply including the transformer also requires a certain degree of knowledge, experience and skill. Remember that these machines are over thirty years to over thirty-five years old.

The voltage distribution headers for example, are soldered to the board. The pins on the headers are not conventional straight pins. They're arrowheads and have a tight fit. Once you're confident that you've removed all of the solder, gently prize  them off the board (GENTLY). I suggest that you wiggle the connector from the component side while observing the underneath so as to ensure that all pins are indeed free.

Header on MKS-80 power supply showing arrowhead pins
+15 V header on MKS-80 power supply showing hollow 'arrowhead' pins.

Don't simply cut the wires to the transformer and the terminals on the original power supply board. Instead, try to unwrap so as to preserve the original length of wire. You may trim some of these later but you don't want to be left short!

Require tools and equipment are as follows:

    • Temperature controlled soldering station (e.g. Weller WE1010)
    • Temperature controlled de-soldering station (e.g. Duratool D00672)
    • Small wire cutters
    • Small pointed pliers
    • Adjustable cable strippers
  • Set of cross-head screwdrivers
  • Small flat-head screwdriver
  • Set of box-spanners (metric)
  • Tweezers
  • Digital multi-meter (DMM)

PLEASE don't use a plumber's or electrician's soldering iron and please don't use a manual solder pump. You'll just wreck things. In fact, if you're thinking of using that kind of equipment, you shouldn't be operating on your MKS-80, let alone installing Aurora!

Aurora showing close-up of SMDs.
Finally Aurora is up and running... beautifully.

A few hints on workflow:

  • Do NOT rush it! Take your time.
  • Check and double check your work after each stage.
  • Do not rely on the status LEDs as indicators of required voltages. Use the test points to measure the voltages with a DMM.
  • When removing screws and nuts from your MKS-80, use a 'gently, gently' approach. You really don't want studs to loosen or threading to shear.
  • Do NOT over-tighten screws and nuts. You're dropping a replacement power supply into a vintage synth module and not building a spaceship that's destined for the outer planets!
  • The 10 V reference has been set by me using a regularly calibrated DMM. Please do not mess with it!!!!!
  • Note the orientation of the headers before you remove them. It's actually not too important other than to keep things tidy except... for P7. Unlike the other headers which each carry a single supply, P7 carries the 9 V supply and a digital ground, to the programmer (MPG-80) port via the output board. It's VERY important that this connector's original orientation is maintained.
  • Your MKS-80 MUST BE EARTHED.  If you have a 2-pin IEC mains socket, you must replace it with a 3-pin IEC C14 socket. The earth pin should be connected to Aurora Board A and Aurora board A should then be connected to the chassis. There's a hole in the lower case in between the mains socket and the side of the MKS-80 chassis which will take a M4 screw. DO IT!!!! Aurora board B must also be connected to this point.

Here's a wiring diagram showing how the two Aurora boards are connected to each other, the mains input, the switch and earth / chassis. Also illustrated is the use of existing (original) wiring as well as some new wiring.

Aurora Wiring
It's really quite straight-forward. You just need to take your time and remember that you're working on a vintage synth module.
Aurora Star Earth Bonding
If your MKS-80 has a 2-pin IEC mains input socket, then you MUST replace it with a 3-pin (C14) IEC socket and connect earths as shown. Also note the insulation boot over the C14 connector.

UPDATE - 7th October 2020

Since August's flood, I've had to move ops back home, temporarily. It's very cramped, things are taking longer (it took me two days to find my oscilloscope) but Julie my wife, is amazingly patient and understanding and a big support during this challenging time.

I currently have three MKS-80s in for Aurora and OLED module upgrades. Two of them have already been done but the fourth (a Rev 4 at the back), has a dead voice which I need to fix before I do anything else.

Looks like people are finding out about Aurora
MKS-80 heaven; two Rev 5s and a Rev 4 (ex Trevor Horn), in for Aurora and OLED upgrades.

UPDATE - 2nd December 2020

So the past few months has seen more than a few Aurora sales and installations. Many customers whose units I've had in, have asked if I could also install my Live Forever memory back-up battery mod and it got me thinking.

Aurora has two boards. Board B comprises mains protection and filtering so, not a lot. With a little nudging, I was able to fit a CR123a battery holder on to the PCB and so Aurora Bx Board was born! Read more about it here.

New Aurora Bx board with large capacity back-up battery
Aurora Board Bx with on-board back-up battery mod, is now available.

UPDATE - 24th December 2020

Aurora installation instructions are now available in German.

Die Installationsanleitung für Aurora ist jetzt in deutscher Sprache verfügbar.


UPDATE - 24th April 2021

Aurora is now offered with the optional V06 data cartridge re-enforcement bracket. Such a cool solution to a problem that many Roland MKS-80 owners will be familiar with, the V06 basically strengthens an undamaged cartridge slot and reinforces a broken one by putting 2mm of solid steel behind it!

V06 Bracket for Roland MKS-80 Data Cartridge Slot
V06 bracket for Roland MKS-80 broken data cartridge slot assembly.

Existing Aurora customers take note; once your Roland MKS-80 is open, V06 can be installed in a few minutes, with just a M3 (5.5mm) nut-runner.

Read more about the V06 here.


Plasma Music Limited -

I'm deeply concerned about the environment and the exploitation of labour and so  I always use local manufacturers in preference to the Far East, with the following in mind:

  1. I can be confident that workers are treated fairly and earn a proper wage.
  2. I can be confident of the standard of quality of each item that is delivered to me.
  3. Communication is important and using local manufacturers, all correspondence is quick and understandable.
  4. I believe in supporting the local economy.
  5. I can be confident that the disposal of manufacturing waste is managed properly and in accordance with national and EU law.
Environmental considerations of delivering Aurora
Remember the 'Colours of Benetton' adverts from the eighties? A little shock, horror to make the point. So rest assured that Aurora boards are manufactured here in the UK by Minnitron Limited.

Using local manufacturers isn’t the cheapest option but the above points are important to me. I hope that they’re important to you too.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding the Aurora Replacement Power Supply for the Roland MKS-80 or, if you want to buy Aurora or book in your MKS-80 to have it fitted, please check out my store.