Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

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Monger
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Monger » Sat Jan 21, 2012 1:46 am

checking it out now!

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Kevin Lightner
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Kevin Lightner » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:31 pm

Just a (long) note that I don't repair Polymoogs or Arp 2600s at all any longer.
I haven't for several years.
I am even considering quitting completely and selling everything.
I simply cannot afford the medical help to stay afloat much longer.

Vintage synths are getting increasingly hard to repair and find parts for.
At the same time, prices for new synths are very low compared to what vintage synths cost new.

Finally, there is the customer aspect.
Right now I have a Minimoog here that the client claims is/was terribly out of tune.
He claims he has perfect pitch, but I doubt he even knows the names of the keys.
He dropped it off one day, I explained there were several problems, gave prices and how difficult the repairs were.
A long list of problems and prices were provided.
His next email? "Good, I'll be by tomorrow to pick it up."
WTF??
I had never even indicated when it would be completed and he just TELLS me he'll pick it up as if this is a 24hr burger joint. No appointment time discussed, nothing.
Just a lot of high expectations and assumptions.
It's no wonder that huge service centers like MDS and Musictek went out of business.

True, not all clients are quite so assumptive to assume others don't have lives, they're sick, that it's the weekend (Namm weekend now too!) or whatever.
I can't walk easily any longer and despite my client knowing this, he doesn't even consider this.
He wants a perfect Minimoog. Period. Right now. Cheaply and quickly.
To him I am an impasse, not a help. I stand in the way of his dreams.

Have these people ever been to a US emergency room hospital?
I have and have watched people with gunshot wounds sit for 8-12 hrs bleeding on the floor.
My visit to Cedars-Sinai (a "non-profit" highly acclaimed hospital) got me about 7 mins with a doctor for $1600 who didn't help one single bit.
Obviously, I choose the wrong career.

Fact is, there are some GREAT clients out there, I have MANY thanks to give.
But there are also some really ignorant people who won't even take the time to Google basic information, learn or practice.
They see Eric Clapton play and think "He has fingers and so do I. Therefore, I can be Eric Clapton."
They don't consider the thousands of hours it took to get there.

Recent stories re one LA tech (I won't name names) indicate a 4 year turn-around time for a Moog Source.
Because he couldn't find out why the pitch was drifting, his cure was to add a fan. (!!)
Now really... if you can't find the problem with a small monosynth, is adding a fan the correct thing to do?
Other Sources don't need fans. Why did that one?
If the brakes on your car don't work, is it reasonable to tell the client you're going to add an anchor to throw out the window?
Same tech took 5 years to service a CS80.
Welcome to LA.

I know very few production musicians (film, TV, jingles, etc) that use vintage synths any longer.
If one plays live, that's another story. Anything goes. There's no deadline looming with a $50K+ payoff.
Make a mistake live, the show goes on.
Make a mistake on a filmscore and the whole film release date may be set back costing millions of dollars.
You may never get hired again by that director or production company.

Restoration of things is a dying art and I wholeheartedly suggest that if someone wants a good reliable synth, they buy a new one. A Moog, Macbeth, Synth.com... whatever.
You'll get new parts, a warranty, customer service and likely very few rare or any worn out parts.
If you can afford vintage... great. Good for you. Have fun and good luck.
But don't expect perfect service, quick turnaround and low prices from any tech on a consistent basis.

For those that MUST have a vintage synth in tip-top condition (stability, tone, feel, looks, reliability), waiting and paying fairly high amounts IS what to expect.

In LA we used to have Musictek. They were one of the largest synth service centers around.
They went out of business. There's a reason for that.
One simply cannot charge low prices, deliver a golden calf and do it overnight, but increasingly that's been the expectation of clients.
It's VERY common for someone to tell me "take as long as you need", then receive constant emails asking if it's done.
To me that's like waiting for a bus and constantly checking to see if it's there yet.
When it's there, you'll know it.
Straining to see if it's arriving won't make it happen any quicker.
It'll probably slow things down.

This market is very difficult. People are spoiled and I don't blame them.
They get an Ipad that does amazing things for $500, but fail to realize that just ONE of the factories making them employs 800,000 Chinese laborers asked to stand all day and be paid pennies.
Suicides have been very prevalent in these companies.
If someone came to me and asked me to make them an Ipad, I'd charge them 3 million dollars and likely not even do a good job.
We live in very different times than the 70's.

My suggestion to someone who wants a vintage synth fixed is to have a lot of patience, research everything and have no expectations whatsoever.
That tech might die or run off with your synth. (we have a whole thread here about one.)
In the meanwhile, play something. Anything. Create. Make music. Have fun.
Life is short and in the end, only what you create will outlast you.
Spend time creating. Give to those that want to help.
I gave a considerable amount of parts to one promising young tech this year.

Nothing above is gospel or absolute. Flaming is possible if that's your desire.
To me, asking who a good tech is in LA is like asking what the winning lotto numbers will be.
Maybe you'll win. Maybe you won't. Good luck!

Kevin (LA based tech w/37 years experience.)
Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime. - R. Pupkin

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Voltor07
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Voltor07 » Sun Jan 22, 2012 6:47 pm

Thank you for this input, Kevin. It's always good to hear from you, especially when it comes to someone looking for an explanation of why synth techs are so hard to find...especially good ones. There's a shop in Chicago that, admittingly, is getting better techs in, but as a result, their bench prices jumped from $70 per hour to over $100! Of course, you get what you pay for, but if I was to take my Farfisa there, it would cost well over $1800 in just parts, never mind the 60 hours of labor. :shock: That's ok, though, because it doubles not only as a parts mine, but also a soldering station. :lol:
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by gd » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:04 pm

Kevin, those of us who have sustained severe injury fully understand where you are now and for the last few years. My wife and I are planning a trip to LA next summer, hopefully BK will be around. If so I'd luv to meet up with you and take you out for dinner just as an appreciation for all that you have done whether it be repair our synths or offer advise. I sincerely hope that the gods conspire to help you with your health!
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MC
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by MC » Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:16 pm

I have to concur with Kevin that few musicians realize there is a price of admission to owning vintage synths.

Twelve years ago I fixed a Memorymoog for a fellow AHer. He b#tched about the repair bill but ultimately paid it. If that is the aggravation I have to endure in that kind of business, it isn't worth it. I never offered my repair services to anybody again.

And some of those alleged repair shops in LA are not helping the situation either.
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Kevin Lightner
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Kevin Lightner » Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:22 am

few musicians realize there is a price of admission to owning vintage synths.
That's a great way to put it!

So want a used Ferrari? Cool.
Want to pay $9,000 for a new clutch?
Mmmm..... ;-)

Thanks for the kind words GD, especially since my post was so rambling.
I'm not a very good writer.
Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime. - R. Pupkin

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AlakaLazlo
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by AlakaLazlo » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:07 pm

Kevin just did a full refurb on my IIP. He is THE MAN! Highly recommended.

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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by thealien666 » Mon Jan 23, 2012 10:20 pm

AlakaLazlo wrote:Kevin just did a full refurb on my IIP. He is THE MAN! Highly recommended.

Yes indeed, Kevin is a great meticulous tech. But you might be one of his last lucky customer to benefit from his huge knowledge and experience, after reading his worrisome, and very true, reflections on the state of the synth repair business, only exacerbated by his slowly failing health very unfortunately, earlier on this thread.
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Kevin Lightner
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Kevin Lightner » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:59 am

thealien666 wrote:
Yes indeed, Kevin is a great meticulous tech. But you might be one of his last lucky customer to benefit from his huge knowledge and experience, after reading his worrisome, and very true, reflections on the state of the synth repair business, only exacerbated by his slowly failing health very unfortunately, earlier on this thread.
Thanks and you're likely right.
But nothing lasts forever and others will come along and try their best.
One day Voyagers will be vintage and newbies will learn of something called a Model D that actually came before it.
Then the same arguments will be said "I'd love a Model D, but only make $300K a year. How could I afford one?"
Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime. - R. Pupkin

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RL
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by RL » Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:28 am

Kevin Lightner wrote:If the brakes on your car don't work, is it reasonable to tell the client you're going to add an anchor to throw out the window?
:lol:

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Christopher Winkels
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Christopher Winkels » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:06 am

RL wrote:
Kevin Lightner wrote:If the brakes on your car don't work, is it reasonable to tell the client you're going to add an anchor to throw out the window?
:lol:
I believe that's what's known as the Wacky Racers school of synthesizer repair.

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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by narrowcaster » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:50 am

It's a drag, but I recently reached the same conclusion (for myself) as what Kevin is suggesting about vintage synth ownership. I had a Model D that I bought for $250 in the late 80s. It's still with a friend of mine, and he's willing to sell it to me for $400 (long story involving friends of friends and the way we approach gear sales/trades among ourselves). But after a lot of soul searching I decided it wasn't something I wanted to get into. It's true that nothing sounds like that synth, but then again I like the sound of the Little Phatty just as much, and it does everything I used to do with the Model D plus a lot more, along with all the new-synth advantages. The thing that makes the story relevant to this thread is that it's definitely the cost and diminishing supply of really good vintage synth tech services that tipped the balance towards no-go, as much as I wanted to be able to justify buying it back.

P.S. He wouldn't sell it to anyone else for that price, or even to me unless I was intending to hold on to it or to sell it for the current market rate and split the difference, so please don't ask :(

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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by drogoff » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:42 pm

thealien666 wrote:
AlakaLazlo wrote:Kevin just did a full refurb on my IIP. He is THE MAN! Highly recommended.
Yes indeed, Kevin is a great meticulous tech. But you might be one of his last lucky customer to benefit from his huge knowledge and experience, after reading his worrisome, and very true, reflections on the state of the synth repair business, only exacerbated by his slowly failing health very unfortunately, earlier on this thread.
Kevin (and Monica!) are great folks and do excellent work. I'm in OC (Irvine) and do some synth repair for fun and to help out folks. Since they're my favorite, I pretty much just work on Yamaha CS-80s including tuning, repairs, and installing Kenton MIDI kits. I've also done the occasional Oberheim FVS, Polymoog, and other late-70s analog polysynths. I've probably fixed up 7 or 8 CS80s and a couple of FVSs in the last 5 years.

I've got a CS80 arriving from the east coast soon for a major maintenance update and MIDI install that will take most of my free time (from my day job - designing digital chips...) for about 3 months. However, I try to help out folks who have simple problems or just tuning/calibration, especially for synths that Kevin doesn't want to deal with.

I wish I could do this for a living, but designing computer chips pays a hell of a lot more!

Also, my wife isn't going to let me do this to the dining room again (I think it looks great):
Image

David

ps - my website ( http://therogoffs.com/cs80/ ) has lots of collected Yamaha service manuals and photos of repairs
pps - I also run the Yahoo CS80 group (http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/yamahacs80/) that's been going strong for almost 9 years now!

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Kevin Lightner
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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by Kevin Lightner » Tue Jan 24, 2012 4:32 pm

I've heard David does good work on his CS80 repairs.
He has helped me (and thus helped others) in ways I cannot say.

But a CS80 weighs 220lbs (about 100kg) and I fear he may get hurt one day too.
It's a real drag because the CS80 is very complicated inside, made with custom chips and filled with poor quality adjustments (and LOTS of them!)
By the time you get to be any sort of expert, you're likely too old to move one. ;-)

This is why I think it's important to share knowledge and experience.
I also think a properly tuned and operating CS80 is just an amazing instrument.

One thing the CS80 does have going for it inside reliability-wise is that despite it having hundreds of wires everywhere, there is only one connector (to the power supply.)
That hugely increases the reliability especially for something that might be dropped when moving or shipping, but makes repairs more difficult.

As far as vintage instruments that use custom chips, I really hope that in the future many of the CEM, SSM, Yamaha, Moog, Korg and Roland custom chips are copied and made available again.
This is already being done with the main VCF/VCA chips in the Juno 106, but it would be wonderful if the CEM line was remade, for example.
There would be sooo many new analog synths made.

I would also love to see a Polymoog where the sustain pedal works like a real piano.
Moog (old Moog) goofed on their custom "$100,000 chip" and it meant that if you played the same note twice when velocity was turned up and the sustain pedal down, the 2nd and further notes played would sound much louder.
No one could play it with standard piano technique and instead had to play the piano preset like it was a Hohner pianet, an instrument with no sustain pedal.

I once owned a brand new full Polymoog synthesizer and I was dismayed that an instrument that did so many wonderful other sounds, couldn't play like a normal piano when it came to using the sustain pedal.
Tony Bank of Genesis and other top keyboardists have made similar statements and that didn't help Polymoog sales either, but it's truth: the Polymoog has a huge "bug" in their custom chips.
I can only imagine the frustration people at Moog must have endured knowing they couldn't afford to fix it.
Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime. - R. Pupkin

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Re: Synth repair in Los Angeles?????!!!

Post by luckynerd » Tue Jun 27, 2017 10:11 pm

As this link is one of the first hits for "Moog repair", I thought I'd add to it as an update.

Kevin died in July, 2014. Thankfully, he left behind lots of knowledge on this forum and elsewhere on the web.

He is missed, but he is not suffering the agony he endured for 6+ years as a result of the way health care was before the ACA kicked in.
Learn To Fix

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