Open Mic: What’s Your Worst Synth Disaster?

Synth Disaster

Open Mic: Own and perform with synths and other electronic gear for any length of time and you’ll eventually run into a synth disaster.

Maybe you shipped a carefully packed keyboard and it came back smashed. Maybe you stored too many keyboards on a gorgeous glass table….until the glass broke.

Or maybe you were onstage, ready to play, and looked down to realize that your keyboard had completely lost its memory.

The Sequential Circuits ‘Five Trak’

Sequential Circuits Six TrakMy personal synth fiasco started with a winning bid, several years ago, on eBay for a Sequential Circuits Six Trak. I paid my money and awaited the arrival of my first polyphonic analog synth.

When it arrived, I unboxed it and tried it out. It sounded pretty good….except for every sixth note, which would never make any sound. One of the synth’s voices was dead on arrival!

So, contacted the seller. He said to just get it fixed and he’d credit me for the repair. I shipped the Six Trak off to a company called Wine Country – the best-known Sequential service center. They fixed it up and sent it back, good as new – at a cost, with shipping, of a couple of hundred bucks.

It was starting to look like things were going to work out – until I emailed the seller the invoice for the repair work. At that point he fell off the face of the earth, never to be heard from again. eBay’s dispute resolution process accomplished absolutely nothing.

The disaster, though, is that instead of appreciating the Six Trak as a vintage analog synth, I still see it as a visual reminder of getting scammed on eBay.

Getting scammed on eBay is pretty bad. But it’s nothing compared to building the ultimate synth cave and finding out that it leaks every time you get a good rain.

What’s your worst synth or electronic music gear disaster?

27 thoughts on “Open Mic: What’s Your Worst Synth Disaster?

  1. once I thought it might be fun to take acid before a show, then as it was coming on the band before us was jumping up & down so hard on a home made stage that my whole keyboard set-up (eps smapler, ms20, sh1 & sh1000 – all patched together) fell to the floor, off the 4ft high stage. I managed to re arrange & patch it all using a cigarette lighter to see by. The first 5 mins or so, everything sounded backwards until I sorted out the patching. I survived & so did all the keyboards & It was one hell of a night.

  2. The preset memory on my Polysix gave out during a live set. The sounds randomly changed or simply stopped. As the synth was one of the main ones, the set sounded pretty bad. It was our “highest profile” show, too.

  3. Buying a Sakata DPM-48 drummachine on ebay that did absolutely nothing, gone were my 100 euro’s…. even worse a casio cz-1 with blown out op amps…i am still trying to fix that 200 dollar beauty… a yamaha r1mx that had non-functioning keys….never ever used that piece of shit…never fixed it and just threw out 200 euro’s of gear…. bottomline i have bought my share of shit on ebay. you gotta know what you want to or going to buy…..but NOTHING beats dropping your laptop on a marble floor……everyhing turned to shite and that was that….i cried like a grown man without teartubes

  4. I left my poly800 on for like 2 weeks straight (on accident of course) and now oscillator 1 only makes white noise sounds. Bums me out whenever I think about it, I can’t really bring myself to get rid of it, but I don’t think I could repair it unless I get one of those rare sound chips…

  5. My worst synth disaster might be the post above. Name and email field wasn’t showing up when I typed. (ggggndafsdasbadfadtergsdf)

    Anyhoo, my real worst synth disaster was either the time my nord blew a fuse an hour before a show in Germany after flying all the way from NY due to a less than stellar power converter. I had to borrow a virus. I stuck with one patch, so it sounded a bit odd. Another time, my laptop froze onstage in LA . I used it for kontakt to trigger samples. Suddenly, it froze while in the middle of manipulating a sample, making a horrible repetitive sound. Fortunately, I always use a mixer onstage, so I was able to gracefully fade everything out. Finally, and probably the most humorous synth disaster, is a show in Sheffield. Everyone was late, including the headlining band. That meant we had 10 minutes to get ready. I didn’t have time to check my levels. This was before previously mentioned show, so I was still using a laptop on stage. As a joke, I would sometimes trigger goat and kitten samples to screw with the vocalist. Unfortunately, Kontakt levels were really, really hot. BAM. Goat sample from hell. Vocalist almost fell over trying not to laugh. The audience, fortunately or unfortunately, was unfazed. They just stood and stared. In my mind, all are equally as bad for different reasons.

  6. My worst synth disaster happened in 2005. I had just really begun putting together on a “home studio.” I had been working with a $2000 tower that I had recently put together, a evolution uc-33 controller, a boss sp-505, a korg delta, a couple of outboard effect pedals, a roland 16-track HD recorder (which I had just purchased a week or 2 prior) an MC-303, and a microkorg, as well as my newly purchased creative audio interface and a new set of monitors. I was working on a set in ableton 5 and I realized I was out of drinks completely, no coffee, no soda, no juice, no whiskey, nothing… so i departed to the grocery store which was only a few minutes down the road. since I was only going to be gone for a few moments, I decided to leave it all on.

    By the time I got to the grocery store, it had begun raining. By the time I was walking back out to my car, it was thundering and lightning. I had no idea it was even supposed to rain. I hurried to my car, hopped in, and drove erratically and quickly back toward my apartment. I was sitting about 300 yards from the entrance of my apartment complex when a bolt of lightning flashed right over top of it… so loud it felt as though it rumbled my car. My head fell against the steering wheel and I screamed “FUCK!” so loud that I think the woman behind me covered her child’s ears. The light turned green and I sped into the complex.

    Leaving the drinks in the car while it was running, I leapt out of it and ran into my apartment. i was greeted with the most saddening smell I can remember to date: burnt electronics. I walked in and my comp was off, the sp-505 was flashing odd colors, the monitors output no sound… everything was fried. the only thing I managed to salvage was the mc-303 and the UC-33, both of which worked with only half-functionality. I wept that night like a little girl. The next day I bought a new bare-bone kit, a cheap yamaha piano with midi out, and a crummy set of speakers. That was my set-up for the next year until I could afford a mac.

    Oh, I don’t skimp on surge protectors anymore either. lesson learned. I will never forget my loss, even if the equipment was sub-par, I still loved all of it.

  7. My first synth, a Korg 01/Wf…I put a lot of work in with the internal sequencer, and I saved all my work (well, you kinda had to, as it didn’t retain anything on power-off)…well, the day came when I did the human error thing: I went through the motions of the save before shutdown, and right when I hit the button to commence the procedure I realized I NEVER loaded the disk when I fired the synth up…so I overwrote my precious work with nothing…major pain indeed. I didn’t want to touch the synth after that, I sold it and proceeded to buy the just released Kurzweil k2500s. I do miss my korg though, it was my first.
    MORAL of the story: back-up coupled with redundancy is prudent

  8. A couple weeks ago, In the studio where I work, the manager hired a handyman to clean up the water reservoir on the roof of the builiding. The moron decided to clean the reservoir from the insides, but it was friday, he wanted to go home and so he “forgot” to apply a layer of water sealant after he’d done the job. The result was that when the reservoir was filled up again, it started leaking frenetically, and continued to do so during the WHOLE WEEKEND. When we arrived there on early monday, the upstairs floor was completely flooded, the staircase had turned into a waterfall and the walls were all decorated with roscharch drawings in brown from the dirty water. Shit happens in such a way that most of the water “rained” over the synth room, which is right below the reservoir, flooding 10+ synths. During a week, we dismantled every single one of them and dried all the rusty, brown water out of it. Luckily, turned out every single one of them was saved. We are still waiting for the bad humid smell to vanish from the rooms.

  9. My first synth, a Roland D10 bought with hard earned summer job cash, had practically all its trumpet and xylophone presets over written with my own finely crafted synth sounds. It took a good year to create all the sounds. Then one day a menu item stalled. I called the shop to ask their advice and they promptly told me how to reset it. “Great, that worked” I said only to find all my synth bass and leads had turned back into trumpets and xylophones!!!

  10. In 2000, i had just gotten an Yamaha A3000 sampler for which i had saved up for over a year
    and i was very proud.
    Even got a ridiculous expensive SCSI harddisk, and then decided to take 2 weeks of holiday to produce an EP . after 10 days of working the harddisk crashed during saving a 2nd !security copy of the sampler program. this resulted in a data loss of the entire HD. all those nights i spent ripping loops from my vinyl collection and a whole year of tracks gone. I spend 8 hours in a stupor and completly stopped music for almost a year.

    After that incident i developed an obsession with data backups and now do daily mirrors of my music partitions to 2 seperate harddiscs.

  11. Spilling an entire beer on my VirusTI MK1 desktop. Shit had me in a panic… true testament to the build of Access hardware though… the thing kept working long after it happened.

  12. I bought an used NI Maschine, the seller gave me a serial number that didn’t work during the installation and I can only use the software as demo, days later he told me that he lost the serial number. I sent emails to Native Instruments and they said that they can’t transfer the register without the serial number. Now the Maschine is a dust collector

  13. My band was playing a gig at a biker rally sometime back in the 1990’s. There was wet T-shirt contest that the band got to judge. We picked a winner and everything was OK until the next set when a member of a “rival” motorcycle club walked up and poured a pitcher of beer onto the keyboard player and his Korg M1 synthesizer! Apparently, the biker didn’t agree with our choice for the wet T-shirt winner! That was the end of the show! The Korg survived, but was never quite same afterward.

  14. A few years ago I had a shelf in my lab that failed and came crashing down at about 2:00 AM. Dogs went in to full howl, all hands on deck intruder alert mode. When I made it to the scene of the disaster is was… well… a disaster. One end of the shelf hit the Alesis Fusion on the way down, knocked the keyboard stand over and broke three keys. There were books, CDs, software boxes, cables, percussion instruments, and manuals all over the floor. It was a mess.

    I was relieved that the Fusion fired right up and still works perfectly to this day. The keys were easy to replace myself. Today all of that crap that was stored on that shelf is in the sturdy metal lab cabinets that I installed this summer.

    Do put wall shelves over your synthesizers.

  15. 2 words… Hurricane Irene: <-post-hurricane, spinning in circles here

    1937 Hammond BC and Leslie 122: abandoned due to rot and mold. Yes a f*k'g 122.
    Casio CZ-1000; CZ-5000; Crumar Toccata, Roland D-70; Literally Given to synth shop due to flooded nature
    Crumar CPB-2, waterlogged, I dried it out and still have it.
    Bunch of E=Mu rack synths, drowned, but dried out and work!
    Abandoned a couple of incomplete drumsets and about 8 – 15" speaker cabinets
    Abandoned a Peavey 4×12, Traynor TS-98 (super rare) and I can't even begin to remember now.

    Glad I still have my Moog Prodigy and MPC2KXL ; )
    and The SCI Prophet 2000, 2002, AND 2 DX-7's w/E!
    and….. you get the idear. Anything above the tideline was salvageable.

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  17. Sequential circuits 5 trak… ha ha. That’s tickled me.

    In think the Yamaha DX7 mk1 I bought off eBay which had obviously lived under the bed of somebody who chainsmoked Galoises since it was new, as it was an even worse tinge of brown than when it was new. And upon opening it up, it was solid with carpet fluff!

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