UPDATE (April 2017): I’m in the process of creating a “plug’n’play” keyboard replacement kit using a modern keybed and all cabling and mounting accessories. Even a novice can replace their old unreliable keybed, and the kit uses the same screw holes and so on – no modification of the Pro-One is necessary. (You can sell the old keybed on ebay or keep it if you want to have the option of restoring it to original.)
The TM-2 kit will be available here: The Techsmechs Vintage Synth web page
I will also post info on my FB page: www.facebook.com/techsmechsvintagesynth
The below post refers to my initial prototyping using a StudioLogic CMK-37. I strongly recommend getting my TM-2 kit instead 😉
STATUS: Done! (Nov 13, 2015).
This is not a very difficult mod if you have any experience with soldering and drilling and such. The tricky part was figuring everything out!
The Pro-One is a fantastic little synth, but the keyboards are not fantastic. They come in two varieties: “J-wire”, which is the best one, is found on serial numbers 1 to 8500. From serial 8500 upwards they used a “membrane” type, which really really sucks. That’s what mine has. Many keys don’t work at all. You can clean the membranes by taking everything apart, but it’s a lot of work and only helps for a while.
When googling around for replacement keybeds and MIDI kits, I stumbled upon Music Technologies Group. The guy who runs the show, Grant, makes a replacement CPU board for the Pro-One, as well as a MIDI kit. Great!
In his blog he also posted how he replaced the original Pro-One keybed with a modern one from Doepfer. The keybed inside is made by the Italian company Fatar, and it works pretty much the same as the original Pro-One keybed. All that is needed is some wiring and connector tweaks:
MTG Blog post about Pro-One keyboard replacement
In the comment section of that post other people describe doing the same thing, using keybeds from gutted StudioLogic CMK-137 midi keyboards, which has similar Fatar keybeds inside. A LOT of manufacturers (Doepfer, Novation, Access etc) use Fatar keybeds, they are pretty much the industry standard unless you are Roland or Yamaha.
Since my Pro-One was pretty much unplayable I decided that this would be my first modification of it. I searched the interwebz for these keybeds, but it seems 37 key versions are not popular at all anymore. Doepfer no longer sells them, Fatar is impossible to get hold of (and I hear that they don’t sell directly anyway). I basically couldn’t find any cheap 37 key MIDI keyboards in any of the usual channels (Thomann, Sweetwater etc).
Finally I found a store in France that had several “StudioLogic CMK-37” in stock. I bought 2 of them just in case. €59 a piece plus €20 shipping to Sweden.
I hoped these would prove similar to the one Grant used.
I was wrong 🙂
Opening up the keyboard, I did not find one red 20 pin ‘MicroMatch’ connector as expected, but rather two 16 pin ones. (A in picture)
They had flat cables attached, going to a small board which converts the signals from the keyboard into MIDI. (B in picture)
I knew I didn’t need that little board, the signals I were after had to be somewhere in those two 16 pin connectors. I just needed to figure out which ones to use. (The Pro-One has a single 16 pin DIL connector on its main board).
Now, using a volt meter I tried to figure out which pins were which. I knew the basic system used in these Fatar keyboards, basically 5 ‘groups’ with 8 keys in each. The first group would handle the first 8 keys from lowest C to G, next group would be G# to D# etc). The last group only has 5 keys, and in total 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 5 makes 37 keys.
Here is the only Fatar schematic I could find, the same as Grant has:
After spending hours measuring each pin combination, I couldn’t get it to work as expected. Only like 3 keys gave me a connection.
After some head scratching I took a look at the small MIDI board that I had discarded (but not thrown away) and noticed that there were connections between all the even numbered pins on the two connectors. Pin 2 on connector A was connected to pin 2 on connector B. Pin 4 to Pin 4. And so on.
Up until this point I had just had the flat cables hanging loose with the stripped individual wires flying around, and it was just too fiddly. I decided to order a circuit experiment board so I could solder down the flat cables. This would certainly make everything tidier and make measuring a lot easier.
(I also removed all the keys so I could follow the connections and traces on the keybed circuit board).
Now I could easily connect the even numbered pins with jumper wires:
Success! Now the even numbered pins matched the ‘keys’ (T0 to T7 in the Fatar schematic) and some of the odd numbered pins matched the ‘groups’.
‘Key shift’ issue
Unfortunately, the CMK-37 I have does NOT follow the key group arrangement described in Grant’s blog or the Fatar schematic. It is ‘shifted’ by 4 keys. So instead of starting with 8 keys, it only uses 4 keys in the first group. Which gives us 4 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 1 = 37. And that is 6 groups, not 5. Noooooooo! Did I just buy 2 unusable keyboards?
After a deep breath, I took a look at the keybed circuit board. I could see that it was basically arranged in groups of 4 keys. So this:
4 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 8 + 1
…was actually more like this:
4 + (4+4) + (4+4) + (4+4) + (4+4) + 1
Now what if I could regroup it to:
(4+4) + (4+4) + (4+4) + (4+4) + (4+1) ?
Hacking the keyboard
After some inspection of the circuit board, it looked like it could be possible. Time to cut some traces and solder some tiny wires! First purchase: magnification lamp thing:
Green letters are jumper wires. (C is actually on the experiment board)
Red letters are trace cuts.
Here are 5 close-ups of the haxx:
And there we have it!
Using the volt meter I could verify that the signals I needed were present.
NOTE: “Make” and “Break” switches
Modern keybeds usually have two switches per key, “Break” and “Make”. When you start pressing the key down, the “Break” switch changes. When you reach the bottom of the keybed, the “Make” switch closes. By measuring the time between these two events, velocity can be determined. In an old synth like the Pro-One, velocity isn’t used, so in this project we only use the “Make” switches.
I added Molex type pin connectors as well so I could easily test out the connections between the ‘Fatar side’ and ‘Pro-One side’.
Here is the pinout I have arrived at:
Connecting the two sides
Using test cables on the Molar connector, I first connected “MK0” and “T0”, to see if I was anywhere close to getting this right. That should give me a working “lowest C” on the keyboard. And I guess the planets were all aligned- it worked! I then connected more test cables and got more and more keys working.
Great success! I only had enough test cables to get 5 of the 8 keys in each octave working, but figured if I had it right this far, the rest should work as well. I removed the test cables and started soldering permanent cables.
Now I tested again. A slight problem, there was a hanging note, the G# in the lowest octave. It was as if that key was permanently pressed. I noticed that that key was the combination of “MK1” and “T0”, which are right next to eachother on the experiment board – short circuit? Yep. When cutting the traces between the two sides, I accidentally managed to create some thin strands of copper between the traces. After looking with my magnifying lamp I could see the problem and could clean up the traces with a knife. And then everything worked.
Out of curiosity I took a pic of the old keybed and the membranes. It seems like this keybed had been “fixed” with some rubber and electrical tape. Seems legit. Bye bye, membrane hell!
Mounting the new keybed inside the Pro-One
I mounted some wood rails under the Fatar keybed using the existing screw holes:
I then placed the keybed in the Pro-One, put the lid on, and aligned the keybed. I then carefully removed the lid, and drew markings around the wood rails on the Pro-One bottom plate. Then removed the keybed and made marks where I wanted to drill 6 holes (being careful to avoid the existing screws in the wood):
After drilling the holes in the bottom plate I put back the keybed, and put the lid on again. I put back the front screws to make sure it was in the correct position.
Now I could use a pen from under the Pro-One to make dots on the wood thru the holes. Then it was simply a matter of drilling holes in the wood rails and screw the keybed to the bottom plate.
ALL DONE! (2015-11-13)
UPDATE (Nov 23, 2015): I saw that the schematic for the Fatar 49 key model resembles the one I have very much: two flat cables, first group starting with 4 keys. I’m guessing if the world runs out of 37 key keybeds, one could buy a 49 key model and a saw and get to work on it! 🙂
If you need it, here are the schematics for the Pro-One:
Pro-One Schematics (pdf)