Retroaktiv PG800 Mini

Retroaktiv have created a modern replacement for the Roland PG800 programmer that supports the JX8P, JX10 and MKS70 synthesizers called the PG800-mini.

There are many more remaining JX8P, JX10 and MKS70 users out there than PG800 programmers and because “real knobs” are highly desired among sound creators, it makes the PG800 mini worthy of serious consideration.

PG800mini-Test (1)

The cased version is my preferred option as it can be moved around for use with instruments in my collection or later sold separately.

 

It stands tall at 45mm case height and 56mm to the top of the controls. It is more compact in width and depth being only 105 x 200mm.

It replicates all of the original PG800 controls using miniature potentiometers that are typically used for trim functions in audio mixers. The controls have shafts with integrated knobs and two buttons serve for “Manual” and “Write” commands. Designing the product in this way means that it can be miniaturised and placed inside the synthesizer after drilling the front panel. Various stages of build up are available too.

PG800mini-Test (11)

This unit arrived with Version 2.0 firmware and contained the Vecoven PWM Page 2 feature.

Unlike the Roland PG800 I borrowed, in use the controls were ultra stable and were resistant to “twitching” of parameter values when the unit was knocked or moved.

Extensions

Vecoven PWM Page 2 Function

Support for Vecoven PWM 4.xx when using the SuperJX Flash module.

Hold the two buttons down when powering up, and the unit will boot up in “Vecoven Mode”.

Tapping the WRITE button will toggle between page 1 and 2: Page 1 has the normal PG800 controls and Page 2 has the remaining PWM extensions, the picture shown below illustrates the additional controls overlaid onto the panel.

PGmini-Page2

Random Patch

For those crazy moments where you need some random starting point for special effects or inspiration, simply hold down the write button.

Scratch patch

For sensible and more serious sound creation times, a starting point for a new tone can be created by holding down the manual button.

Pressing “Manual” at any time transfers all the current button positions to the synth in the usual way.

 

Configuration

When running Vecoven software, the JX10 or MKS70 can be configured to show the live parameter update using the “Edit Display” function that is inside the MIDI settings menu. Some example screens are shown below when using the replacement VFD in “enhanced mode”.

 

The enhanced display mode shows real time live updates of the Upper and Lower parameters as they are modified by System Exclusive messages, C1/2 sliders or PG800. The display in this mode is ultra fast and flicker free, it can be configured to “OFF” to save Assigner resources or if distracting during play.

 

 

Further Enhancements

Retroaktiv are keen to implement other features that users request and they can be contacted directly or via SuperSynthProjects.

Conclusion

The prospect of obtaining a vintage Roland PG800 at a reasonable price, are rare at best. Many vintage PG800s have worn potentiometers and usually require servicing or repair that is almost impossible due to obsolete components.

Some early PG800 programmers are starting to fail and are difficult to fix especially if the CPU or A-D have failed.

The PG800 mini offers a modern solution to the vintage Roland PG800 with brand new potentiometers that are “quiet” and don’t cause problems when creating sounds.

Guy Wilkinson

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Super Synth Projects, Guy Wilkinson. PG800 mini Copyright © & designed by Retroaktiv Synthesizers.

 

 

 

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