Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Arp Axxe & Roland CSQ-600 (Youtube video)

Celebrating my freshly repaired Arp Axxe's resurrection, I hereby present to you this little demo jam. A Roland CSQ-600 sequencer is driving the Axxe with CV and gate information (a 32 note loop). Watch me manipulate the Axxe's controls as the sequencer is rolling on. Just a bit of Korg SDD-1000 delay and Roland RSP-550 chorus added to spice up things.

When I was first offered my Axxe a year ago, upon first inspection it was in a somewhat pitiful state. A good friend of mine offered to repair it so I decided to buy it from its former owner for a good price and have it fixed later. All good. However, following last year's move, my Axxe started having trouble staying in tune; its pitch would fluctuate by +- 30 cents, even after hours of operation. So I handed it over to my buddy Tobi Tubbutec who repaired it by replacing its power transformer with a new one so it can now return in full splendor.

I don't want to repeat any of the Axxe's well-known specs as you can find them all over the internet. It is true that being a stripped-down 1-osc synth the Axxe cannot hold up to its older brother Odyssey's grandeur feature-wise. However, it does have THAT powerful Arp sound due to its massive oscillator and filter. Speaking of filter, this Axxe has the Timothy Smith filter mod that fixes a design flaw in the original filter circuit preventing the filter to open up completely. With this mod the filter works as intended and has improved response. Anyway, playing the Axxe is pure joy. It's so simply laid out that you can't get lost even if you try. You can build a new sound within a minute. Admittedly I am not a huge fan of the Axxe's PPC pitchbender as I have to press really hard in order to bend a semitone but it sure gets the job done. Another one of Axxe's quirks is its strange Sample and Hold feature. When turned on, pitch drops to the lowest C on the keyboard when you release the last key. Strange. Summing up, the Axxe excels at basslines and leads and actually quite a lot in between (effects, sequencer lines, percussive sounds, noise sweeps etc.). Sure I can imagine eyeballing its bigger brother, the Odyssey, but for its price I think the Axxe is a great alternative if you want that big ballsy Arp Sound.

Arp Axxe

The Roland CSQ-600 is a fun sequencer. It hails from the early 80s and has a strikingly familiar design. Sure enough it's from the same era as the TR-808 and has probably even been designed by the same person. For today's standards its 600 notes memory does not sound like much but I bet in 1980 it was a huge thing. And huge the CSQ-600 is, by all means (physically, I mean). It has great build quality, its buttons are a joy to push and it is ridiculously easy to operate, making sequencing other analog synthesizers a real breeze.

Roland CSQ-600

Sit back and enjoy this demo featuring two great vintage pieces of studio equipment and keep in mind: Never underestimate the Arp Axxe!

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