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Roland MKS-80 repair and upgrade at Plasma Music

Towards the end of the summer, one of my regular customers brought me a Roland MKS-80 for repair and full upgrade. While previously upgrading Jay's MKS-70, I mentioned my Aurora project to him and also showed him one of Guy Wilkinson's OLED modules that I'd installed in my own MKS-80. Jay was already familiar with my Live Forever battery upgrade.

Roland MKS-80 repair and service at Plasma Music
New rack-ears fitted to Jay's MKS-80.

Jay bought his Rev. 5 from Japan and while in excellent cosmetic condition, it did have a fault. Depending on the tone and parameters, one of the voices was either distorting or not tuning properly. 🙁

After learning about Aurora and seeing one of Guy Wilkinson's OLED modules in the flesh, Jay was keen to have his MKS-80 upgraded as well as repaired. As it turned out, Jay was going to be my very fist Aurora customer and we were both very excited.

First Aurora installation
Aurora, the world's first switched-mode power supply for the Roland MKS-80 and Jay is my first customer.

Then, on 12th August, things turned upside-down for me as Hemel Hempstead got hit by a storm which overwhelmed many drainage systems, including one which was in the road leading down to the rear of my premises. Within ten minutes, my studio floor was under more than 20cm of dirty flood water.

Flooded - Plasma Music Control Room (2020.08.12)
A truly devastating experience. Many thanks to friends and family who helped me through the worst of it.

Over subsequent weeks, My wife Julie, my youngest daughter Tsunami and I cleared out the rest of the studio. The lab was left 'till last however, as I had several customer units which were in mid-fix, Jay's MKS-80 being one of them. I also had to dry out and repair a lot of my own gear. It been a heavy few weeks with very little sleep.

Before proceeding with any upgrades, I wanted to fix the distortion / detune issue on this machine. The MKS-80 is very involved and the interdependencies between the analogue sections and even individual components, can yield some very surprising and unexpected results. Despite knowing this machine inside-out, fault-finding isn't always that straight-forward. I got there in the end though and changed two CEM3360 VCA chips, always dropping in turned-pin sockets when I do swap out ICs.

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.

I'd already built and installed Aurora into my own MKS-80 so I was confident on the process and that it all worked. Doing the same for someone else's unit is still a little daunting, though.

A close-up of Aurora Board A
A close-up of Aurora Board A up 'n' running in Jay's MKS-80 Rev. 5.

I love the Roland MKS-80 and know it really well. So if you have one that's in need of repair or perhaps you're even considering one of the upgrades mentioned here, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

In the meantime, you can read about Aurora here and my RE-MKS-80 rack-ears here. Visit my shop to check out prices for my Live-Forever battery mod and installation of Guy Wilkinson's OLED module.