My Atari Blog

New Stacy Screen?

Since my STBook is out for repairs, I pulled out my Stacy to get it ready for some projects where I will need portability.  It has been sitting for quite awhile, and when I booted it up I noticed that the bottom of the screen is going out.  If I “squeeze” the display in the area of the speaker, the screen will come back.  My Stacy has always had a vertical line coming down from the top of the display about 1.5 inches long, so I have wanted to repair or replace the screen.  I started doing a little research to see if a replacement LCD may be available, before I try to repair the existing display.  I found the exact Epson part numbered display on eBay from a few sellers in China.  I have ordered one of those from the seller who had the least negative feedback.  I also ordered a display from a US supplier.  That one was very inexpensive, and has the right size and specifications, but a different part number.

Once the new display with the correct part number arrives, I’ll start the project and take photos of everything.  I know that the Stacy is difficult to disassemble, so I am going to take it very slowly and document everything in my blog.

I am very curious to see if I will actually receive a new, working Stacy display or not.  Hopefully it will be nice and bright in comparison with the current display.

I will also be replacing clock battery, and should probably also upgrade the hard drive.  It already has 4 MB of RAM installed.  I’m not sure if I want to mess with the TOS version or not.  It would be nice to have 2.06 installed if there are no issues with a Stacy.  (Update) I just read that 2.06 needs a patch for the Shadow chip on the Stacy.

New Falcon Arrival

My new Falcon arrived, and the things I ordered from Best Electonics for the US conversion and upgrades arrived on the same day.  I had a lot of fun setting it up.  First I replaced the power supply with a US power supply, then I installed a Compact Flash IDE adapter and 4 GB compact flash (this is a kit from Best, as you can see).  I also installed a Wizztronics 14 MB RAM upgrade (16 MB SIMM also came from Best).

The real-time clock battery was, of course dead, so the next evening unsoldered that and added a socket and a new RTC (Dallas 12887).  I was afraid that it might not fit under the shielding (see this article), but my socket was low-profile enough so that it fit just fine.  My method was to melt the solder on one row of pins in order to raise up the clock chip a bit.  I then cut the pins on that side.  I gently bent the other side by moving the chip back and forth until the chip was free.  I used a desolder pump to clear all the holes.  This was a bit difficult and time consuming because I think my pump is wearing out.  It always pays to have the best tools for doing this kind of work!  With a lot of persistence, I got the board all cleaned up and the socket soldered in.  I added the chip, and bit my tongue while I waited for the Falcon to boot.  All was well, and it booted up on the first try, and the clock is holding time perfectly.

I realized that I probably won’t be able to run Cubase with the Compact Flash drive, because the version of HDDriver needed to run Cubase is 7.93.  Cubase doesn’t obey all the SCSI “rules” so it will not work with newer versions of HDDriver.  I don’t believe that 7.93 supports Compact Flash adaptors, but I tried it anyway and it “bricked” my Compact Flash.  No matter what version of HDDriver or AHDI I tried, the Compact Flash was no longer recognized.  I tried the ICD PRO driver, and it recognized the drive and I was able to re-partition, but it only recognized 2 GB of the 4 GB, so I used HDDriver to re-partition again, and everthing was back to normal.

The next day I looked on Amazon for an a 2.5” IDE drive, and found a brand new Seagate 5400 rpm drive for $25.00.  I installed this drive and set it up with several 1 GB partitions for TOS and used the rest of the drive for a LNX partition for a later installation of Mint, and a large F32 partition.

Here are some “unboxing” photos, together with photos I took of the Falcon while I did the upgrades.  I also included a video of the first boot.

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New “Stock" Falcon on the Way!

I have owned my Falcon for probably 14 years or more, and it is highly upgraded.  I have always lived in fear that it will “die”, and I do not have a spare.  It is the heart of my little studio, and everything revolves around it.  Of course, without replacing the capacitors, all computers of this age are at risk, and it is possible that two machines will have the same shelf life.

I recently decided that my last major purchase for the foreseeable future would be a second Falcon030.  The computer that I bid on and won is a UK falcon, so I will be putting in a US power supply, adding 14 MB of RAM and a 4 GB compact flash IDE “hard drive.”  I’m buying those things at Best Electronics.

It will be nice to have a spare “stock” Falcon for demos and games and such that is not all tied in to my studio equipment.  Hopefully both computers will never “die” at the same time, and I will be still be able to repair them myself or find someone to make the repairs!  Working with this vintage stuff is always an adventure!

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Alesis AI-1 and switch box for MINI MACMAN (LONG)

Last night I tried an idea of adding an A-B serial switch for the MINI MACMAN MIDI interface.  I was hoping that I could put the MINI MACMAN on the “A” side of the switch, and switch if off on the “B” side (nothing plugged on the “B” side) so that I don’t have to unplug and re-plug the cable all the time.  Unfortunately, even though the MINI MACMAN power LED was lit, the interface did not output any MIDI messages.  There may be lines on the serial switch I bought that are not implemented or something like that.  I’m sure it was designed for printers or networking.  I haven’t opened it or researched the issue.

I also hooked up my new Alesis AI-1 digital interface and sample rate converter.  What I like about this box is that it allows me to use the D/A converters on the ADAT XT for input into my Falcon Digital Interface.  It is switchable to use two tracks of the ADAT XT at a time, and convert the ADAT digital optical output to SPDIF for the Falcon Digital Interface.  I still need to work with this quite a bit to see if it will provide what I really want.  The concept is great, but from first testing I may have some issues.  

With the ART D/IO I was using, there was a gain boost knob, which was a great feature.  It seems that the signal being sent to the FDI always has to be quite “hot” for a proper recording level.  Even though I was boosting the signal coming from my mixer with the ART D/IO, the sound was still very clean without white noise.  With the AI-1 and the ADAT XT, there is no way to boost the signal in this way.  I will probably have to run the mixer too hot”, which may result in some noise.

I still have a lot of testing to do.  I have always found that setting levels in Cubase Audio Falcon is very difficult.  Without a lot of work, the final levels always come out way too low.  If you are using the analog inputs of the Falcon, there are level meters you can reference, but this is not implemented for the FDI.  You have to set the levels on your mixer, keyboards, etc, and hope that you are getting a nice, clean, strong level into the FDI, and Cubase.  There may be some things for me to learn to work these issues out.

The other thing that bothers me is that I’m not completely sure how Cubase is handling stereo input.  You have the option to record to the left or right channel of the FDI, but I don’t understand if there are two inputs on the left and two on the right so that you can record a stereo file from a stereo input.  The Cubase manual is very hard to understand, and I end up doing everything mostly by trial and error.

I think things were working properly with the D/IO, but on the first try with the ADAT, the left channel was weak, and it sounded like both channels were being recorded to left and right and not separated properly.

Anyway, the concept of the AI-1 is exactly what I was looking for.  I want to be able to record multichannel to the ADAT XT, and then bounce two channels at a time into the Falcon/Cubase.

I still have a lot of experimentation and research to do!  I’m sure I will get it worked out.

ADAT XT Sync - Fully Operational with ACI Driver

I discovered (thanks to help from friends on Atari-Forum) that there is an ACI.DRV in the MROS directory of Cubase Audio Falcon.  I assume that this stands for ADAT Control Interface??

With the ACI driver and the JLCooper Datasync2, the Cubase transports now control all of the functions of the ADAT XT.

When you select a tape track in Cubase, it even record-enables that track on the ADAT XT.

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Here is the right side rack of my studio desk with the ADAT XT and MIDI SOLUTIONS T8 Thru box installed.  No more room!

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Here the left side rack of my studio desk with the JV-1080 installed:

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Here is the JLCooper DataSync2.  The little box on top is just my headphone amp.

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Once my Alesis AI-1 arrives, this project will be completed.  I’ll probably remove the ART SGX-LT guitar processor, and put the AI-1 above the ADAT XT.

midiman MACMAN AND MINI MACMAN

I was in desperate need of an additional midi OUT so that when my JV-1080 arrives, I can have another 16 midi channels to send to it.  I have not been able to find any of the Soundpool, Steinberg or other midi interfaces, but I was able to find a midman MACMAN and a MINI MACMAN.

These interfaces hook to the the LAN port on the Falcon.  It is very important that the LANPORT.DRV is in the MROS directory, AND THAT YOU DO NOT HOOK UP THE SERIAL CABLE UNTIL CUBASE HAS LOADED.  If you have the serial cable hooked up when you boot the computer you will get a blank screen.  If you have the cable hooked up before you run cubase, the mouse cursor will lock up.  READ LAN****.TXT in the MROS folder.

I seem to remember reading something about the timing not being as tight with these interfaces, but I have verified that they are working.  I think that only one out is supported by Cubase.  The other two on the larger interface may function as a THRU, but in Cubase you only have the option for the ATARI midi out (Falcon) or the LANPORT midi out (Macman interface), not multiple outs on the LANPORT.  I bought both of the interfaces out of curiousity because they were very inexpensive, but I think I’ll be using the MINI MACMAN, since it looks to me that just the one out is supported anyway.

UPDATE - I have a serial switch for the old Apple-type serial cables on the way so that I can just operate the switch to connect the MINI MACMAN instead of always plugging and unplugging the Lan Port serial cable.

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Sync with ADAT XT

My “new” ADAT XT and JLCooper DataSync2 arrived, so I have been working on getting the ADAT sycnronized with Cubase Audio Falcon.  It basically worked “out of the box.”  At first, I set the Syncronization dialogue to MTC, and the Cubase sequencer followed the SMPTE on the ADAT nicely, but the ADAT would not respond to the Cubase transports.  I enabled the MMC.DRV in the MROS directory, and set the Sync to MMC.  Now I can start and stop the tape with the Cubase transports, but it will not “rewind” or “fast forward” or go back to zero with the Cubase transports.  This may be by design so that Cubase does not get out of sync with the tape.

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New Mixer Arrived Today

My new Behringer QX2442USB Mixer Arrived today.  I tried it out by hooking up the outputs on my JAM PRO OUT to the first eight inputs, and recording eight audio tracks on the Falcon with Cubase Audio.  I wanted to make sure there was no crosstalk on the channels.  I haven’t had all eight analog outputs hooked up before.  I usually just used the first two.  Of course, I also wanted to “test drive” the mixer. 

I am sending the main mix to my studio monitors, and Sub one and two are going through my ART DI/O into Falcon Digital Interface.

The recordings came out sounding clear with eight independent channels and no noise, just like I wanted.  At first some of the pans on the GRAPHIC mixer I use in Cubase were not set fully to the right or left, so I thought something was wrong.  Once I got the Pans set correctly, everything was just fine.  It is a little tricky to get them fully right or left.  There are four buses, and you pan everything left or right to get the eight channels (bus one left and right gives you channels one and two, and etc.).

My JLCooper DataSync2 also arrived today.  It is in great shape and includes the manual and the ADAT sync cables.

Im not sure how I will hook up the ADAT XT when it arrives.  I have a lot of experimenting to do.  It would have been best to have a larger mixer, but I couldnt afford the money or the space for that.  My studio space is tiny.  

I’m hoping that the Datasync2 will sync everything together with Midi Time Code.  What I am concerned about is that I am not sure that Cubase provides the Midi Machine Control to move the transports on the ADAT XT.  The DataSync2 manual seems to read that the ADAT is master.  I would rather control everything from the Falcon, but I supposed if I can ready the ADAT to record, and it will start the Cubase sequencer and stay in sync, then everyting will be fine.  It is going to be an interesting experiment.  Cubase has drivers and mixer maps for the old Fostex reel to reel recorders, and it looks to me that as long as I am converting ADAT Sync to MTC, things should work.

Most of the time I will be recording to the hard disk on the Falcon, but it doesn’t do multitrack recording.  This is where the ADAT comes in.  If I need to do some multitrack, I can use the ADAT, and bounce that to the Falcon.

One serious limitation I was running in to is the single MIDI out on the Falcon.  There are few add on MIDI interfaces you can use, but they are difficult to find.  I need two outs for my two synths, so I am going to try the MACMAN MIDIMAN interface that you can hook up to the LAN port on the Falcon.  I found both the standard MIDIMAN and the MINI MIDIMAN on eBay for a great price.  Hopefully one of these will do the job.  I need two MIDI outs!

Well this is getting way too long!  Here is a photo of the new mixer:

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More Studio Updates

I decided to go ahead and upgrade to a better mixer.  When looking at all the things I’m getting ready to set up, I decided that I would not be able to get by with my current mixer.  I purchased a Behringer QX2442USB mixer.  It is not expensive, but it has all the inputs I will need, and four subs, plus many other bonuses that I don’t have with my current Alesis mixer.  It was important to me that it fit on the same spot on my desk, and it is is exactly the size of the available space!

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I also decided that I want to have more sounds available at once in my MIDI setup.  I have always liked Roland gear.  The first keyboard I ever owned was a Roland JV-80, and it wasn’t the best thing around at the time, but for me it was a very solid and enjoyable keyboard.

I wanted to add a module with Roland sounds and some expansion, so I have a Roland JV-1080 module.  Now I will have plenty of polyphony, and I can add expansion cards to the module for even more sounds.

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As usual, I’ll post some actual images once I have the gear set up in my studio, and hopefully I’ll be able to share some nice music before long.  

Studio Improvements, and more on the way!

My STBook is still in Scotland, so I am going to start blogging about my studio for awhile.  I hope to develop a Cubase Audio Falcon “how-to” guide, as it is something I have found quite difficult to master (I’m still learning after years of using it).

Over the last several months I have made some major inprovements to my little studio.

I added Alesis Elevate 6 studio monitors.

I added an Akai MPX 16 sampler.

I added and Alesis VI61 MIDI Controller

I added a new studio desk to hold everything.

I have an ADAT XT on the way.

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I have a JL Cooper Datasync2 on the way, which will hopefully sync my Falcon and Cubase Audio to the ADAT XT.

There is a Soundpool ADAT interface, but they are very rare and impossible to find.

Here are some photos of my setup:

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My rack mounted (Wizztronics Falcon Rack) Atari Falcon030 is on the bottom right of the desk.

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From top to bottom is an Alesis S4 plus synth module, a Jam PRO OUT which provides eight analog outputs from the Falcon, an ART SGX LT guitar processor, and the Falcon on the bottom with a 4 GB external SCSI drive sitting on top.  There is also a Steinberg Falcon Digital Interface connected.

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The ATARI FX-1 case badge is just something fun I added.  It is a case badge from a prototype that was never released.  The little button where the Falcon Rack headphone jack is supposed to be sets the Falcon to 030 or 060 (CT60) modes.  It was a convenient place to put the switch!

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The little ATARI case badge is also something I added for fun.  The red momentary switch is the power switch.  On the mouse/joystick port is a PeST mouse adapter for PS/2 mouse that I purchased from Alison Challis (RIP Techie Alison!).  On the right is the PC keyboard port (original with the Falcon Rack).

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In the center is a SONY DVD-RW that I use mostly for backups with Anodyne’s Extendos and CD-Backup software.  On the top in front of the external SCSI drive is the extender for my EtherNat USB inputs with a flash drive plugged in.  Under MINT OS I can write files to the flash drive and share them with a non-Atari computer.  It is a great safety for my very important files that change often.  I always have a copy somewhere else.

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This is my ART DI/O, which I use to provide 44.1 clock to my FDI, and it routes a digital signal from everything I send to my mixer.  My mixer has a digital output, but I have had trouble with it.  The DI/O is rock solid.  It also has  tube warmth that you can add, which is very nice.

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My Mixer is an Alesis Multimix 12 FXD.  It was a very inexpensive mixer but it has great features and a very small footprint.  It is no longer produced.  One channel seems to be dying.  I’m not sure if I will find something that can replace this that will be this small!

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