UPDATED for 2010!

Do It Yourself Special:
FREE plans to add MIDI capability
to the Roland MC-202 with the
Synhouse Original MIDIJACK!
 
 
 
Because they do sloppy work and don't have the tools to do it right (Dremel Moto-Tool). The work done here is super clean, beyond super clean, and it is a very, very rare occasion to see work done by users or other shops that is as cosmetically clean as the work done by Synhouse.

Most people don't focus on the tiniest details, nor even pay attention to important ones.

For example, the plans specify the exact size of drill bits to use to get a precise fit with smooth operation for the tact switch and for best accessibility for the trimpot scale adjustment, but almost any installation seen in the field (not done by Synhouse) has had those specified hole sizes simply ignored. It is common for people to complain about how cheap and crappy the MIDIJACK switch is, and they occasionally ask how to replace it with something better. Well, the old tech "something better" they have in mind is invariably something that has a lifespan rating that isn't even 1/10th of what the MIDIJACK tact switch is (the MIDIJACK tact switch is rated to withstand over 500,000 presses), nor does it provide the required tactile feedback. They break the switch because they mount the board wrong. Instead of using the perfect size drill bit specified by Synhouse (the perfect size drill bit for the switch stem and two screw holes is 9/64"), they blow a 50-acre hole through the side of the synth so that the switch swings back and forth like a joystick, eventually tweaking the contacts or just breaking off entirely.

Not one switch installed by Synhouse has failed. Ever!

When mounted in the right size hole with the right use of the washers as depth shims, it is almost impossible to break that switch. It will outlast the entire synthesizer.


It is for good reason that the MIDIJACK articles are 3,000-4,000 words long each, instead of just one paragraph. Every detail is useful.

When the MC-202 installation is done here, the Original MIDIJACK board is put in the battery box and the plastic chassis is chiseled out to accommodate that. The last one that was done here (June 2009) took 6 hours and ten minutes, and that didn't include changing the plug on the power supply. The plastic work with the Dremel took 2 hours and 35 minutes alone. A user would probably skip that step, because they don't have a Dremel Moto-Tool (nor know what it is), and do the plastic part of the installation in just a few minutes, by simply removing the now-unneeded battery box inner cover and outer lid. They would also probably skip the heat shrink tubing and epoxy potting because they don't have heat shrink tubing, a heat gun, or epoxy resin.

When the installation has been done here in recent years, this extra tedious work was done just to make it perfect, so it didn't have a gaping hole in the back, and so the inner battery box cover could still be firmly screwed in place to provide stiffness and strength to the MC-202, which is one of the flimsiest musical instruments of all time. It is difficult to rank them in a specific order, but all the top five are Roland models for sure (TB-303, TR-606, SH-101, etc.).

This brings us to another important point about why the MC-202 is such a difficult instrument to do a quality MIDIJACK installation in, the poor physical construction of the MC-202 itself.

While the circuitry of the MC-202 has a great sound, the physical construction of the MC-202 can be described, in strictly scientific terms, as a shit sandwich. It is all plastic outside with garbage inside. Even parts that absolutely must be made of metal aren't made of metal, like the shielding boards, which are paper with a metallic finish.

The MC-202 PC boards are of a quality grade that is about a thousand steps below the quality of the Synhouse MIDIJACK circuit board. Instead of being made of FR4 epoxy impregnated 94V flameproof fiberglass as anything from any decent company is, the PC boards that Roland used in the MC-202 (and Juno-106, and no doubt hundreds of other products) are made of paper phenolic. PC boards made out of this material are about as durable as stale saltine crackers. Some of the Roland PC boards aren't even double sided, they are single sided paper phenolic PC boards. This is a grade of material so low that it is doubtful that a reputable PC board vendor in the United States could even supply it. All PC boards should be double sided. It has nothing to do with the need to have components on both sides, it is because a board that is copper clad on both sides and has the holes copper and tin plated all the way through, connecting the top and bottom sides both physically and electrically, is vastly stronger and has better connectivity over the long haul.


With this in mind, the installer must exercise extreme caution when doing an installation in an MC-202.

For example, the simple act of separating the upper and lower circuit boards by pulling them out of the plastic standoffs can crack the PC boards themselves. If this happens and you are lucky, you will see an obvious crack, but if not, it will be some hairline cracks that you won't see, and constant or intermittent problems will result. Many Roland Juno-106s, etc., have been seen in apparently good cosmetic condition but were not working, and the problem was found to be a cracked PC board inside.

The pricing for some installations has been changed, with the MC-202 being highest. If the amount of time spent on the last one (including power supply) were spent on any other service work done here, like repairing a Fairlight or Synclavier, it would have been a $350 job, period. Since the MIDIJACK is a mature product now, there is no reason to do charity work on it, so the pricing was changed.

Since the MC-202 pricing should be constrained closer to what the resulting MIDI MC-202 is really worth, there is some discount, but the current pricing is well more than double what it had been in the past.

Don't like the price? Fantastic! Do it yourself for FREE using the plans below.


For this reason, the MC-202 article below has been improved to make it easier for customers to do free self-installations.

Even with all this said, once the Original MIDIJACK is installed, the MC-202 is a self-contained MIDI analog monosynth, only requiring the external power supply, and for this reason, the Original MIDIJACK is better than everything else and no MC-202 should be without it.

There is another option available for the MC-202, the Synhouse MIDIJACK DINSYNC, which is cheaper, easier to install, and can use either battery power or the original Roland external power supply (which is insufficient for use with the Original MIDIJACK), but it subjects the user to the considerable limitations of the MC-202 sequencer.

The updated article is below:



     The following plans describe a method of adding MIDI capability to the Roland MC-202 with the Synhouse Original MIDIJACK. The Original MIDIJACK converts the Roland MC-202 into a MIDI analog synthesizer module, allowing you to use a proper MIDI sequencer with full editing capabilities instead of the tiny internal sequencer. The MC-202 is especially well suited for this modification due to the tiny size of the MIDIJACK circuit board and the fact that it is the first analog MIDI retrofit ever made that costs less than the instrument itself! The Original MIDIJACK will control the MC-202's internal portamento circuit to make it think that it is playing a sequence programmed with portamento so that the the MIDI notes will have the amount of glide set by the portamento pot position.


The internal views of this mounting of the board in the battery box can be seen here in photos MC-202-pic1b, MC-202-pic1c, MC-202-pic1d, and MC-202-pic1e:


















In the years since the MIDIJACK first came out, a new tool has appeared in stores, the step drill. While hardly a professional grade tool, they are very low priced, selling for as little as $15 for a set of three at Harbor Freight Tools, and would be a cheaper and faster choice than a chassis punch for users who need to mount the DIN jack in the synthesizer chassis. In the case of the el-cheapo plastic case of the MC-202, the chassis punch could never be used, but the new step drills can cut the hole much more quickly than an X-Acto knife ever could, as shown in MC-202-pic1i:






Photos MC-202-pic1j, MC-202-pic1k, MC-202-pic1l, MC-202-pic1m, and MC-202-pic1n show the hole having been trimmed up with an X-Acto knife, extra holes drilled for mounting and screw clearance, and the DIN jack installed after the contacts were bent slightly inward for clearance:








(note that the stainless 4-40 nut and washer combinations were replaced with 4-40 Keps nuts here)




Photos MC-202-pic1o and MC-202-pic1p show the battery box door having been trimmed with a Dremel Moto-Tool to provide clearance for the DIN jack:








Photo MC-202-pic2c shows the result after the center portion of the trace has been heated and lifted off, exposing the paper phenolic garbage PC board underneath:



The later installation done for this 2009 update had the metal leads covered in miniature heat shrink tubing and the wires secured in place by potting them with epoxy for safety, as shown in MC-202-pic7a:





Fancy!

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