Restoring A Fairlight Synthesizer

David Vandenborn is blogging his progress restoring a vintage Fairlight synthesizer:

Lately I’ve been busy restoring a Series IIx that had sustained serious damage from a leaked battery. Thanks to Peter Wielk at Horizontal Productions I was able to replace the broken cards. And after some extra debugging, the alphanumeric keyboard wasn’t working, I’m able to start learning and using this dream machine.

While I love vintage analog synths, I find it hard to romanticize old digital synths. You could spend a ton of money to keep a Fairlight running, and it’s always going to be kludgy compared to current computers. 

On the other hand, these were used to make a lot of great music, and used to cost an arm and a leg!


7 thoughts on “Restoring A Fairlight Synthesizer

  1. Gotta disagree about old digitals – they absolutely have a charm of their own. While I’m an analogue junkie, the endless romanticizing these days of anything analogue needs a good tempering and reality check now and then. Besides, Fairlights (especially the II series) had a way of stamping its sound onto its samples (see also: SP12, et al). Stand on the shoulders of giants and bring it all into the future, I say.

  2. I love digital– but not for emulating analog. Classics like the Wavestation A/D and Emulator II kick ass, and newer samplers and/or sample libraries have a charm all of their own depending on what you want to do.

  3. Yeah – but if an analog synth goes wonky, you can get it fixed. If your digital synth fritzes out, you’re stuck hoping to find an obscure part.

    And who wants to load patches from floppy disks anymore?

  4. As Walkathon mentioned, digital hardware synths do have their own feel about samples. I use a Yamaha sampler for drum samples connected to a rolan pad set because this old Yamaha unit really doe s anice job on the samples for percussion sounds.

    Emu’s are the same way; certain sounds when samples come out of those units much nicer, fuller, etc. than others. Akai has it’s own uniqueness to samples too.

    It’s also nice that this stuff is fairly old that it’s inexpensive to not care about for road usage either, just buy a new unit if you fuck it up. 🙂

  5. There are plenty of analog synths using obscure parts. Take the classic Roland TB-303… several of it’s components are no longer produced, and they’ve been so difficult to find even the x0xb0x isn’t available anymore 🙁

    Truth be told the synths with the obscure parts are often better as they just don’t sound quite like any of the others.

    There are plenty of cool things you can do with samplers… pushing a sample to the nyquist frequency, for example, always yields interesting results I find. A lot of drum/drill & bass wouldn’t be possible without digital hardware either. Also, the things you can do with a synth like the FIZMO or the Wavestation A/D are just amazing– and not really possible with analog gear.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love analog equipment (do I ever love it), but digital is pretty good too if you know how to use it 😉

  6. Synth Fan – good points.

    Maybe I’m displaying my bias for analog, but old digital synths just don’t do it for me. I love the hands-on of old analog synths, but not al the menus of old digital synths. Vintage digital doesn’t seem to have the usability or “feel” that old analog has.

  7. Cool Idea! A complete fairlight III in a smal device? Wow. But why limited? Whats about Mac?
    I imaging a separat box connected with Firewire, and slim controller board whith mayby 10 Pots, a display . In this case you can have fun, with a fairlight and a Laptop.

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