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Author Topic: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead  (Read 1022 times)

Geoff Doane

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Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« on: November 01, 2017, 08:32:41 pm »

I actually thought I had sold off all the old rack processing gear when I fully embraced digital consoles 6 or 7 years ago.  And then my brother mentioned that the SPX90 in his basement practice room had stopped working.  I think the symptom was something like "display lights work, but no audio passes".  A little bit of internet research indicated that the usual problem with these things (after 30+ years!) is that the power supply, specifically the electrolytic capacitors, goes south.

So I opened it up on the weekend, made a list of all the caps in the PSU and placed an order Sunday night with DigiKey.  This afternoon, Fed Ex delivered them, I installed them in the PSU and plugged it in.  Woo hoo!  The lights come on and it passes audio just like it used to. 

I had a look at the memory backup lithium battery, which I seem to recall Yamaha recommended be replaced once it was 10 years old.  It's soldered in and still measured almost 3 volts, so I didn't bother with it (not the end of the world if some my special presets from the '80s aren't instantly available in my brother's basement practice room).

I'd almost forgotten what a landmark piece of technology it was back in the day.  It was only 12 bit and I probably paid $1000 for it, but it actually produced reverb that didn't suck (unlike the spring reverb or Yamaha R1000 that I paid just as much for a year or two earlier)! I eventually had two of them (and a REV 7 for drum verbs) in the FOH rack, with an Alesis MPX midi patch transmitter that could change the presets simultaneously on all three.  This was the "gamechanger" of 1984.  It didn't have the cachet of a Lexicon, but every working soundman knew how to use one and get the results he needed (even if it was just using an unmodified Memory no. 1  ::) ).  It's also amazing when looking inside how many chips it took to accomplish all that.  It's 10.5" deep, and the main board is covered with 14 and 16-pin DIPS along with half a dozen LSI chips.  Today, that would likely be done in a package with half that depth or less.

I didn't take a picture of the inside, but here's a user memory, still displaying the custom title it was given 30 odd years ago.

GTD
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Craig Leerman

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2017, 09:47:18 pm »

I still have a few on a shelf somewhere, including an SPX90II

The batteries do die after a lot of use especially when the unit has not been plugged in for a while.
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Lee Douglas

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2017, 07:00:50 am »

In addition to the usual effects duties, I use to use one as a poor man's sampler, playing keys in a bar band in the late 80's.  The awesome 500ms freeze function was just enough to grab quick samples that I have pre-recorded on to a cassette tape in a Walkman.  With no way to archive, I had to load each sample from a cassette between sets.  The Ensoniq Mirage and any other option available was too expensive and I had one of these already.
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GenePink

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 02:25:30 am »

It's soldered in and still measured almost 3 volts,...

Under 3 volts, it is on that steep part of the decline curve to death. Hurry up and replace it, as you may only have 2-3 years until it fails. ;)

Serious hint: If you replace a battery with the unit powered up, you don't have to reinitialize and start over from scratch. Usually. But only do this if your skills with a soldering iron are good enough to not short anything else out.

Gene
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Ron Hebbard

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2017, 03:10:52 am »

Under 3 volts, it is on that steep part of the decline curve to death. Hurry up and replace it, as you may only have 2-3 years until it fails. ;)

Serious hint: If you replace a battery with the unit powered up, you don't have to reinitialize and start over from scratch. Usually. But only do this if your skills with a soldering iron are good enough to not short anything else out.

Gene
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Keith Broughton

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2017, 08:10:17 am »

When I finally got my hands on one of these, and combined with a Delta Lab Effectron, I though I had the world!
Then one day, I heard a Lexicon reverb. My life changed . :-)
 
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William Schnake

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2017, 08:45:54 am »

I'd almost forgotten what a landmark piece of technology it was back in the day.  It was only 12 bit and I probably paid $1000 for it, but it actually produced reverb that didn't suck (unlike the spring reverb or Yamaha R1000 that I paid just as much for a year or two earlier)! I eventually had two of them (and a REV 7 for drum verbs) in the FOH rack, with an Alesis MPX midi patch transmitter that could change the presets simultaneously on all three.  This was the "gamechanger" of 1984.  It didn't have the cachet of a Lexicon, but every working soundman knew how to use one and get the results he needed (even if it was just using an unmodified Memory no. 1  ::) ). 

Brings back memories.  I had an SPX90II, SPX90, REV7 and Roland SDE3000...I think...in the FOH rack and two SPX90 in the monitor rack.  I had another SPX90 in my guitar rig and I swear it warmed the sound of the guitar rig.

Bill
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Spenser Hamilton

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #7 on: November 03, 2017, 10:15:26 am »

My first gig was an old analog Yamaha, some Ashley EQs, and a SPX90 and the SPX900  8)

I'm still holding on to my old PCM80, just can't give it up.
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Geoff Doane

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2017, 06:05:53 pm »

Under 3 volts, it is on that steep part of the decline curve to death. Hurry up and replace it, as you may only have 2-3 years until it fails. ;)

Serious hint: If you replace a battery with the unit powered up, you don't have to reinitialize and start over from scratch. Usually. But only do this if your skills with a soldering iron are good enough to not short anything else out.

I have to admit to being a bit lazy on this project.  I had a quick look on-line for a replacement battery, but couldn't find any that were designed to be soldered in.  Sockets are available, but without removing the board to see what's underneath (the "-" connection) I couldn't tell if any of them would fit.  I'm not too worried about changing the battery "hot", although I'd need to use a cheater plug on my soldering iron.  They all have grounded tips.  I think whatever I did, I'd have to remove the board from the chassis, which entails removing all the mounting hardware from the I/O jacks on the back.  At least it's not as bad as doing any kind of work on a Mackie mixer.  ::)

Here's the main board, and a close-up of the battery itself.

GTD
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Ivan Beaver

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Re: Bringing an SPX90 Back From The Dead
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2017, 08:32:16 pm »

When I finally got my hands on one of these, and combined with a Delta Lab Effectron, I though I had the world!
Then one day, I heard a Lexicon reverb. My life changed . :-)
It goes to show, that just because something is on every rider does not that it is the best for the job.

Just that it is "popular".

But once you have experienced it, it is REAL hard to go back.
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