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Roland MKS-70 with full upgrades

Yes, you read correctly. A lovely customer in Miami, who I've got to know rather well over the past couple of years, sent me his beautiful synth module asking me to put everything into it. I can't think of anything that he didn't ask for and so ended up doing a Roland MKS-70 full upgrade. Of course I couldn't help myself and Brent's MKS-70 got referred to as 'The Miami Sound Machine'. 😀

DHL Express LogoBrent couldn't find a good deal on shipping so I arranged for his instrument to be collected on my DHL Express (import) account. Yes, it's a little extra work for me but I know that the package will be looked after, I don't pay import duty and Brent would only pay any duty on the cost of the upgrades, when it's returned to him. 🙂 Above all, it was considerably cheaper than anything he could find locally.

Yeah, I know so if you're in the US or Canada, then you're busting to know, right? Well, the cost of shipping The Miami Sound Machine from Florida to Hemel Hempstead, UK was less than 180 GBP and the package was here in three days. Brent couldn't guarantee he'd be in when DHL was scheduled to collect so he took it to a DHL depot. Be warned however. If you do that, DHL will most likely open the package for security reasons (fair enough).

Brent had already bought some bits 'n' pieces and packaged with his MKS-70 were Fred Vecoven's Super-JX Flash module, Fred's latest digital PWM kit and four Xvive MN3009 replacement chorus chips.

Vecoven Flash Module Installed In Roland MKS-70
Fred Vecoven's Super-JX Flash Module is part of my Roland MKS-70 full upgrade package.

Knowing that this Roland MKS-70 full upgrade was coming in, I bought a GU-280 VFD replacement display kit off Guy Wilkinson and had ordered parts to build a Nebula balanced outputs jack-board and a P0004 modular switched-mode power supply. Is there a Super-JX (MKS-70 or JX-10) on the planet that's not powered by a P0004?!?!?

Nebula is part of my Roland MKS-70 Full Upgrade
Delivering superior phase coherency, Nebula uses dedicated balanced line driver ICs to produce balanced outputs of each channel, as opposed to a dual op-amp configuration. Now available with screened internal audio cables.

Brent figured that while the machine was here, it would be prudent to also change the front panel switches... so I ordered them, too.

Okay, so Brent told me that his MKS-70 was displaying random behaviour like freezing, intermittent booting, bad sound and so on. I immediately suspected the power supply so when I got, I was NOT going to switch it on!

Instead, I ripped out the power supply as a P0004 modular switched-mode power supply was already on the upgrade list.

I could immediately tell the power supply was quite fatigued. The smoothing capacitors were starting to swell and there was some mild scorching around the rectifier joints.

Then, on removing the power supply, I was shocked to find that the 2SD1406 responsible for regulating -15V was so dry-jointed, that none of its pins were making contact with the tracks on the underside of the PCB.

Dry joints underneath MKS-70 Power Supply PCB
Here's the underside of the power supply PCB showing Q4 (a 2SD1406, highlighted in red ) which is part of the -15V regulator circuit. As you can see, it's had enough! Dry-joints are a common source of problems on these old PCBs, especially under components that get hot.

This Roland MKS-70 full upgrade isn't cheap but if you're a Super-JX owner, please  at least consider replacing your synth's power supply with a P0004.

Having the right equipment and using a couple of very well seasoned techniques (which might not be in the book, incidentally), I'm able to remove components without damaging the PCB or the components themselves.

MKS-70 Module-Board prepd for Digital PWM upgrade
This is one of Brent's MKS-70 module-boards which is being prep'd for Fred Vecoven's digital PWM upgrade.

As original components for this generation of electronics are becoming scarce and increasingly more difficult to procure, with the customer's approval, salvaging them off jobs like this is a godsend and will inevitably help another Roland MKS-70 owner some time down the line. It's a true privilege being part of this kind of community! 😀

Here's the underside of the PCB after another very clean removal of four 82C54Ps.

Of course, after doing all of that, you gotta test it all but a Roland MKS-70 full upgrade is so worth it and gives this legendary synth module a whole new lease of life.

Vecoven Digital PWM is part of this Roland MKS-70 Full Upgrade
And here is one of the Vecoven digital PWM boards installed on to a module-board.

A few weeks ago, I decided to take an idea I've had for a long time, to the next level; I made a pair of screened cables for the Roland MKS-70 to replace the original 'wires' that connect the outputs from the module-boards to the jack-board.

Screened audio cables are part of this Roland MKS-70 full upgrade
Accepting the insane cost of the tool that crimps the wires to the terminals that are inside the Molex connector was the hard part! Also visible, is the insulating boot over the IEC C14 power connector and of course, the chassis is securely connected to mains earth.

Before I started work on The Miami Sound Machine and while everything was still factory, I used Brent's instrument to test my new screened audio cables for the Roland MKS-70. A plug 'n' play installation, this is a simple but very worthwhile upgrade. You can read the whole story here. 🙂

Part of the work I do, includes keeping the customer updated on progress. I'm not sure what's happened in the past year or so but things have just got rather busy. Maintaining regular communications with customers however, remains paramount.

Okay, so you want to know just exactly what the customer got on this occasion. What does this Roland MKS-70 full upgrade include? Well, here ya' go:

  • Guy Wilkinson's P0004 power supply for Super-JX.
  • Earth bonding kit with IEC C14 power inlet connector.
  • Guy Wilkinson's VFD Super-JX display module.
  • Nebula balanced outputs / upgraded MIDI jack-board.
  • Replacement of wires connecting module-boards to Nebula with screened audio cables.
  • Fred Vecoven's Super-JX Flash module.
  • Fred Vecoven’s digital PWM upgrade.
  • Live-forever battery mod.
  • Replacement of all front-panel switches.
  • Chorus chip replacement with 4 x Xvive MN3009.
  • Rerouting of internal cables to reduce noise.
  • RE-MKS-70 rack-ears.
  • MCK-70 memory checker ROM.
  • Check all functions and calibrate module-boards.
  • 15% discount over purchasing items individually.

Sub-assemblies like the P0004 power supply and Nebula are tested prior to installation. The MKS-70 is then tested after every single upgrade. If something isn't right, I'll know straight-away.

Some of the Roland MKS-70 Full Upgrade Options
I've highlighted some of the options included in this Roland MKS-70 full upgrade. Note the severe lack of the original Roland cable looms!

A lot of the upgrades are not apparent from the outside of the MKS-70 but Guy Wilkinson's GU280 based VFD looks absolutely fabulous!

Guy Wilkinson's VFD is part of this Roland MKS-70 Full Upgrade
Visually one of the most impressive upgrades for the MKS-70, is Guy Wilkinson's VFD kit.

You may have noticed a couple of perhaps unexpected items in the inclusion list above. Well, Brent's MKS-70 didn't have rack-ears so he asked me to include my RE-MKS-70 rack-ear kit. He also asked for a copy of Guy's MCK-70 memory checker and so The Miami Sound Machine was accompanied by a few extra bits on its return to, well... Miami.

A few extra bits for Brent
Included with the return shipping to the sunshine state, was my RE-MKS-70 rack-ears kit and a copy of Guy Wilkinson's MCK-70 memory checker.

A big T H A N K  Y O U to Guy Wilkinson and Fred Vecoven for developing some awesome kit for the Roland Super-JX. 😀

Switched-mode power supply for Roland MKS-70
Guy Wilkinson's P0004 switched-mode power supply for Roland Super-JX.

Never thought I’d make a new friend over lock-down but I have recently struck up a relationship with Guy Wilkinson of supersynthprojects.com.

While working on a very broken Roland MKS-70 that I have in for repair, I came up with the idea to design a MKS-70 power supply replacement but figured that after all these years, perhaps someone has already thought of this. After a few minutes of searching on-line, I stumbled across https://supersynthprojects.com. The work that Guy has done, is truly amazing. His power supply design is quite simply, elegant and I’m so impressed with his methodical record keeping. As it turns out, Guy seems to be a bit of an expert on several vintage machines.

Anyway, having a Roland MKS-70 myself, one thing led to another and I’m currently in the process of building one of Guy’s P0004 switched-mode power supplies and installing his Super-JX OLED display module into my own MKS-70. It’s a bit difficult doing this during lock-down but I’ll keep you posted of progress.

Guy Wilkinson's Super-JX OLED upgrade module.
Guy Wilkinson's Super-JX OLED module. The background images show an actualSuper-JX OLED installed in a Roland MKS-70.

Guy sells the P0004 switched-mode power supply bare PCB and the pre-assembled Super-JX OLED  display directly but you'll need some competence to populate the former and fit either, into a JX-10 or MKS-70. If you're cool enough to admit that all of that sounds a bit too much for you, then please don't hesitate to contact me to discuss getting either (or both) fitted into your machine.

Click here for prices.

If you're fitting the switched-mode power supply module yourself and your MKS-70 or JX-10 has a 2-pin IEC mains input socket, then you must replace it with a 3-pin IEC mains input socket. The replacement switched-mode power supply MUST be connected to earth as must the chassis of your Super-JX.

I offer a comprehensive earth bonding kit comprising the following:

    • 1 x IEC 3-pin chassis socket.
    • 1 x insulating boot for IEC socket.
    • 2 x Pre-cut earth leads terminated at one with earth tag.*
    • 1 x M3 earth tag (for one side of IEC socket).

*One earth lead connects IEC earth to chassis via one of the screws that secures the IEC socket. The other earth lead connects the P0004 power supply to the chassis via any M3 screw.

It is paramount that if fitted, a 2-pin IEC mains socket be replaced with a 3-pin IEC mains socket and that the chassis and the P0004 are connected to earth.
It is paramount that if fitted, a 2-pin IEC C10 mains socket be replaced with a 3-pin IEC C14 mains socket and that the chassis and the P0004 are connected to earth.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

The IEC C14 socket that I use, is a drop-in replacement for the 2-pin IEC connector found on many Roland keyboards and rack modules. It is NOT necessary to drill, file, cut or modify the case to fit this IEC C14 socket.

A little known fact is that even keyboards with integral (hard-wired) power cables, have the power cable mounted to a metal bracket which is secured to the same screws holes and with the same type of screws, that are used on versions with IEC connectors! Behind that plate, is a cut-out for an IEC C14 connector.

Below is an image of the back of a Japanese JX-8P with a hard-wired power cable. You can clearly see that the cable goes into a cable gland which is in a very IEC C14 sized metal plate. T H A N K  Y O U, Roland!!!!

Power cable inlet on hard-wired JX-8P
Even a hard-wired power inlet can be fitted with an IEC C14 power connector WITHOUT having to do any drilling!

UPDATE - 10th MAY 2020

Last night I installed the assembled switched-mode power supply into my own Roland MKS-70. I'd already tested it outside the machine but I was still nervous. Hey, the MKS-70 fired up straight-away. The power supply worked just fine and quite honestly, if you're having issues with the power supply in your Roland MKS-70 or JX-10, then getting one of these is a no-brainer!

Guy Wilkinson's switched-mode power supply installed into a Roland MKS-70
Look, no transformer! Coooool.

UPDATE - 12th MAY 2020

Took a while and was a bit tricky but the display got done and works absolutely brilliantly (pardon the pun). In fact it looks positively beautiful.

Guy Wilkinson's OLED installed in MKS-70
Never knew what people meant when they referred to tech as "sexy". Now I do. I can't stop looking at it!!!!

The Super-JX OLED module 'learns' the system's firmware so before I switched on the unit to test, I thought I'd drop in the Vecoven Super-JX flash module. Pressed the power button and everything powered up just great.


UPDATE - 19th MAY 2020

Several days ago, I posted here that I'd keep you updated of progress on this project. I also suggested that I'd probably end up making a new post. Guess what? So, click here for more on Roland Super-JX Upgrades. 


UPDATE - 9th June 2022

I'm a big believer in the saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". On the other hand, isn't wisdom all about taking action before stuff goes wrong?

Today I had the most terrible job of telling a customer that the only way he's going to get his MKS-70 up 'n' running, is by acquiring a new assigner board. 🙁 That basically means buying a new MKS-70!

Yet another PSU failure and yet another totally scrapped MKS-70.

I can't emphasise this enough;

GET A P0004 POWER SUPPLY BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!!

Look, there are two MASSIVE hidden bonuses when using something like Guy's P0004 power supply;

  • Unlike the original Roland PSU, the +5V supply on the P0004, is NOT derived from the +15V line and is fully independent. Hence, any fault on the +15V line, won’t affect the +5V supply.
  • In the event of a failure, the respective supply will simply stop working and chuck out 0V.

Big deal, so... Well, sadly, I occasionally see a MKS-70 which has had a failure of the +5V supply. If the failure is as a result of the +15V going wacky, this often results in the +15V line jumping to like +22V, thus maxing out the +5V regulator circuitry and taking out your assigner board. That’s basically a bricked MKS-70! 🙁