System 100 LFO fixing

System 100 102 module VCF/VCA board

While making a godawful racket with the System 100 on Saturday, I switched to PWM on the 102 VCO and the pulse width stayed unmodulated. The LFO light didn’t light, no matter how much I waggled the slider. Hmph.

Should be easy to sort out a broken LFO, right? I’ve built all the bits of a 102 on stripboard, so surely I should be able to fix it?

Fretting that it wouldn’t be as easy as all that, I peered at the schematic.

102 LFO schematic

None of the outputs were working, so I reckoned the problem was in the tri-core, either the capacitor or the op-amp. Just to check, I measured the output of IC301, and it was pinned high.

At this point feeling strangely optimistic, I enlisted the help of my son, who was bored enough to come and watch/help/encourage/take the piss as appropriate. Is dad gonna be able to fix this thing?

I yanked out the CA1458G in IC301 with a desoldering gun:

Dead CA1458

I bunged a socket in, and replaced it with an MC1458 I had in the bits box. So far, so good.

Replacement MC1458 in place

Switched it on, and…

…it worked straight-away. WHOOOP.

I probably should have measured all the voltages and given it a bit of a once-over before I put it all back together, but my son was keen to start making some horrible noises, so I just had time for a couple of slightly wobbly bonus photos: here’s the VCO board – see all the keyboard specific components left unpopulated:

System 100 102 VCO board

and here’s the ring-mod/S&H board

System 100 102 ring mod board

It’s missing the circuit board annotations that my 101 keyboard has, and the soldering on the back is without solder resist (more like earlier System 700s, or my SH-5). The serial number starts with 46, so according to that Boss serial number lookup chart, it was made in May 1976. My 101 keyboard serial is 60xxxx, which works out to be July 1977.

Here’s my Sys101 VCF/VCA for comparison.

System 100 101 keyboard VCF/VCA board

I’ve not gone over the board to see if there are any differences in terms of components; there’s nothing extra soldered on to the back of the 102 VCF/VCA board, which suggests probably not. I pulled out the circuit board for my 104 sequencer recently, and it has a different circuit board layout to the one in the manual, with a load of bodged extra capacitors soldered to the back.

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System 100 patch sheet

System 100 patch sheet detail

So, er, to cut a not-particularly long story short, I bought a System 100 102 expander a while back. It came with a 104 sequencer for an only-slightly-outrageous price, so I decided to have it. After all that faffing with trying to clone one, as well.

I’ve had fun playing with it in the little time I’ve had, there’s been lots going on this year.

It seems like there aren’t any going spare on the internet so I’ve drawn up a patch sheet for the 101 and 102, here it is:


While we’re at it I’ve been peering at the “Being Boiled” patch sheets that Martyn Ware flashed up in various YouTube videos, here’s my attempt:

Being Boiled, ish

…and this is what it sounds like, with extra dicking around. Don’t get your hopes up.

…yeah, I know it doesn’t really sound much like the original record, but that’s what was written down, as far as I can tell.

I can’t think that over thirty years of aging components would have that much of a difference, so I suspect there was something else going on in the mix, maybe Ian Craig Marsh’s second 102 was involved.

Who cares anyway, it taught me that the CV timing input on the 104 sequencer is a fun thing to be used.

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DIY stripboard Roland System 100 ADSR envelope

System 100 ADSR front panel

The original envelope on the System-100 keyboard wasn’t really one of my favourite things about it. There’s precious little resolution on the decay slider for tuning in those tight bonky basslines, so I tend to end up moving the slider by infinitesimally smaller amounts to try and get the sound I want.

I should point out that it’s a different circuit to the possibly legendary System 100m ADSR envelope (“the snappiest adsr eg of the world…”). For once the hype is deserved, my stripboard 100m 140 clone felt super-snappy, with satisfying control ranges.

System 100 ADSR schematic

Let’s build the System-100 version anyway, maybe we can use different potentiometers or swap the timing capacitor size for something a bit smaller.

The rare-ish programmable unijunction transistor N13T1 was swapped for a 2N6027, although it has since been possible to get hold of the originals on eBay. The 700 LFO worked better with the N13T1, so that might be case here. I used 2SA733 and 2SC945 transistors as per the schematic, albeit the -GR variant rather than -Q, with 1N4148 diodes standing in for the 1S2473s that are splattered throughout.

System 100 ADSR stripboard

The original never quite fully opened the VCF so I’ve added a single opamp to optionally boost the level from 6v to 10v.

Here’s a video of the envelope in action – I left the text on there to keep the camera from trying to going apeshit trying to autofocus on the trace. Not being a storage oscilloscope makes it trickier to track slow moving signals but you get the idea.

In this test I’m using a 3.3uF tantalum for the timing capacitor as standard but smaller pots than the original: 500k for the attack, 100k for the decay (which is too small, really), and 500k for the release, all audio taper. At about 0:43 the sustain pot is turned to 100% which causes the voltage to ramp up slightly rather than staying level. I’ve not looked very hard into fixing this – I’ve just been turning it up to just below maximum.

Here’s the layout and the DIY LC file (without the 6v to 10v boost) should you feel in the mood to torture yourself with some stripboarding.

Roland System 100 ADSR envelope stripboard layout

Having been through all that, if you want tight and snappy then the 100m envelope is probably a better bet.

Due to other things (work, house move, more work…) the System 700 envelope PCBs I made have been left untouched in a box since March, I’m looking forward to getting those going and comparing them to the System 100 and 100m… eventually.

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