It may be a surprise to some, but much modern music is being made with technology that is 10 or 20 years old. The sounds produced by old, analogue synthesisers are possibly more popular now that at any previous time. It stands to reason that these instruments were manufactured before MIDI made synth interconnection relatively easy, and a cottage industry has sprung up to modify these instruments to work with MIDI. One of these companies is Kenton Electronics, who have been retrofitting pre-MIDI synths and drum machines with that now ubiquitous five-pin DIN socket. Some people, however, don't like the idea of tampering with their hardware, no matter how professional the service, so it's no surprise to see Kenton building a stand-alone device that does more or less the same job.
Their brand new Pro2 MIDI-to-CV interface is a two-channel device — it can control two monophonic synths on two different MIDI channels. But Kenton didn't stop there. Each channel of the Pro2 features a Control Voltage (CV) output, a Gate (V-trig) output, an S-Trig output (for Moog synths), and two auxiliary outputs, which can be freely assigned to any MIDI controllers. For example, if your synth has additional inputs for controlling filter cutoff frequency, you could route aftertouch or any other controller to do the job via Aux 1. Additionally, there is a programmable arpeggiator clock output and a Roland standard Sync 24 output for synchronising pre-MIDI drum machines and sequencers, such as the ever-hip TR808 or MC4.
All connections are on mini-jacks, except the MIDI In and Out sockets and the Sync 24 socket, which are all five-pin DINs.
Setting up the Pro2 involves a collection of 10 mini pots accessible from the front panel, a two-character LED display, and three buttons labelled Select Option, Inc(rement) and Dec(rement). All the programming options are printed on the front panel, so once you've learned what the parameter value limits are, you won't need the manual any more. The Select Option button scrolls through the 16 parameters available, and the inc/dec buttons change the selected value. It's a simple operation. Programmable parameters for each channel include MIDI channel, Aux 1 and 2 source (any MIDI controller), Aux 1 and 2 offset, note priority, trigger/retrigger, arpeggiator clock divide, and continue = start (where an incoming Continue message will be treated as a Start message at the Sync 24 socket or ignored). I would have liked a reverse select options button, but there are not a huge number of parameters to scroll through. The Trim pots are used for fine-tuning the electronics, such as adjusting the CV range, CV scale, the pitchbend range, and the Aux 1 and Aux 2 ranges.
Incidentally, there is an option for a Herz-to-voltage connection on Channel A. This is in addition to the normal CV connection and is necessary to control some Korg and Yamaha synths, which use linear voltage control rather than the 1 Volt per octave system that was more or less a standard.
Kenton appear to have covered all the available bases in quite an accessible manner. If you haven't dusted off that old Pro1, Minimoog or Mono/Poly yet, here's the perfect reason for doing so. Kenton are to be applauded for providing a solid, reliable and flexible product with a friendly user interface at a rather attractive price. It's a real winner.
Pro/2 £176.25; Pro 2/HZ (with Hz/V option) £205.63. Prices include VAT.
Kenton Electronics, (Contact Details).