A Tale of Two Polys
About a year ago I got a reasonably good deal on a Poly 61 and a Siel DK-600. Both were described as “working, but need TLC”. That turned out to be, at least in the case of the Korg, a bit on the charitable side. (The Siel is a future project.) Note that the picture above is not the unit in question – I really need to make more of an effort to take “before” pictures. Trust me, though, it was a mess.
Problems were, in no particular order:
- Half the keys were completely non-responsive.
- Most of the keys that did work only did so intermittently.
- Pressing down on the center of the keyboard caused the whole thing to go nuts – LEDs went random, the sound jumped all over the place. There was obviously a short somewhere.
- Most of the screws were missing.
- The battery was dead.
- A good bit of the plastic laminate on the case was gone, and the case itself looked as if it had been attacked by angry beavers.
- The joystick didn’t work.
- Although this wasn’t immediately apparent, the mylar ribbon cable that connects the two main boards was only being held in place by gravity and good wishes – it was cracked in several places.
- It was filthy.
It did, however, power on. All the major parts were present; all the panel buttons and LEDs worked. It did make noise as long as you played very gently and managed to hit any of the few keys that functioned. I added it to my “to be fixed one of these days” list & stuck it in the closet.
A couple of months later, I found another one on Ebay that had no bids on it. The case looked to be in good shape, but the seller said the keyboard didn’t seem to work and all the patches sounded the same (dead battery). It was yet another as-is sale, as they had no idea if anything else was wrong. So, I picked that one up too.
With two semi-functioning units my initial goal was to combine parts to come up with one working synth, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a really bad idea to trash a piece of vintage gear. So, I went with plan “B”.
Since I no longer have a wood shop, or even just the tools, making a new case wasn’t on the table. However, veneering the old one seemed just as good a choice.
Again in no particular order, here’s what I did
- Rebuilt the keyboard – I’ve done enough crappy Roland keyboards to have this down to a (tedious) science.
- Replaced the battery.
- Cleaned & re-aligned the joystick.
- Removed the ribbon cable and connectors, and replaced with regular wire. This was Not Fun – I had to solder both ends of something like forty wires to the headers on the logic boards.
- Replaced missing screws and standoffs.
- Removed the rest of the plastic veneer, repaired the damage to the case, and veneered with red oak.
- Cleaned all switches and pots.
- Reloaded the factory patches – which also verified the memory and tape interface work.
A couple of the presets seemed to be incorrect, but I chalked that up to the dodgy WAV file I had to use to restore the factory settings. Entering those patches manually took care of it. The bottom line is that now I have one functional synth in a pretty sweet custom case.
And the other one? The electronics weren’t as bad. I replaced the battery and rebuilt the keyboard on that as well. The only thing not working is the arpeggiator. Normally, I would be hesitant to dive into that level of repair, but based on the way it’s acting I know what the problem has to be – I just need to see if I can use the crappy schematics to find the chip that needs to be replaced.
Even if I sell it as-is, though, I’m sure I can get at least $100 for it, which means I got the other one for a song. A squelchy, buzzy, pitch-bent, impersonal and oh-so-cool song.