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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Restored Fairlight CMI Series III for Sale

Fairlight CMI Series III - Demonstration Video

Published on Nov 21, 2016 DeftAudio

"Demo video to support the eBay listing
Unique restoration project explained in every detail, what's included with the system, condition, function tests and so on... read more inside the item description."

via this auction

Details captured for the archives:

"Here is the exact list what is included into the listing:
Fairlight CMI-III Rev 9.34 mainframe, fully populated with 16 channels (8 * CMI-31) and max 32MB of memory (3 * 8MB + 4* 2MB cards), CMI-337 input card, CMI-32, CMI-41, CMI-28, Q356, Q133, Q209, QFC9, Q777, ESP-CG3 VGA card, SCSI2SD scsi adapter with 16GB SD Card.
Weighted musical keyboard with a sustain pedal and a soft case.
Alphanumeric Preh keyboard with touchpad and stylus
NEC LCD VGA monitor
MiniPC with preinstalled CMI-Control SW, custom serial cable and PSU, touchpad and new keyboard
Musical keyboard uplift adjustable motor-driven stand with LCD mount
Mainframe stand on wheels
Power distribution unit
Documentation: user manuals, tutorials, CMI-III Service Guide, some prints
Connection cables: 3x power cables, serial to musical keyboard (10 feet), power to musical keyboard (10 feet), VGA cable (6 feet), DVI cable (6 feet), VGA cable (10 feet).

Condition and Restoration Details

Saying that the condition is awesome, actually, is saying nothing. Let me get you introduced to the whole restoration process, what has been done in order to make it so amazing. Every system component was restored, returned back to a factory specs or replaced. Having just about 200s Series III ever produced that’s a bit tricky.

Music keyboard belonged to Stewart Copeland (famous The Police drummer). That’s very rare weighted version which Fairlight put on a special order.

- CMI-III Mainframe
The work started from the mainframe. First, it was cleaned, stripped down, removed panels, all electronic components. I painted the frame into a gloss black, like the original.

Second step was to replace the cooling subsystem, i.e. all fans inside the chassis. They were too noisy due to the age and not efficient for the air flow. I didn’t compromise on the parts, so, used only server grade fans everywhere. And all inlet vent holes got new air filters (bottom and rear). The next step was to add a fan speed control unit with 4 independent zones with a temperature sensors and dedicated power supply to avoid any noise on power rails.

On the next stage, I did some work with original power supply. Digital power supply (switched-mode) was completely replaced by a different model with higher efficiency. You see that as a black box in the middle of the mainframe on previous picture. While analog power supply (linear type) was recapped. (Yes, system shares two different power supplies – one controls digital circuit such as CPU and peripheral, and another one just for analog circuits). I used only best parts available Panasonic and Nichicon.

As the result of all changes above, the improved efficiency of a cooling and power subsystem combined with automatic fan speed control, produced less heat.

Next step was modifying the storage. I have very positive experience with SCSI2SD adapter installation into a removable tray(brand new). It has a killer feature – it can partition SD Card to multiple (up to 4) separate SCSI devices. Fairlight CMI-III architecture has a limitation for supporting up to 4Gb per drive capacity. So, with SCSI2SD and 16Gb SD card I was able to create 4 SCSI devices by 4Gb each. During the boot the disk layout is displayed on a custom boot logo.

SD Card comes with thousands of samples on it in a CMI-III format, ready to be immediately used. I recovered full Fairlight library from WORM discs, the way it was distributed back in late 80s (Stewart Copeland collection). Combined with a set of user samples, that’s the most complete sound library.

Another important procedure that has been done is an audio card calibration. It’s done individually on every output card on the back by removing a white plate. It’s important that all cards are calibrated to the same levels, same parameters.

Also, time keeping battery on CMI-Q133 board was replaced with new one. That’s typical issue for all Q133 boards, at some point battery starts leaking and destroys the traces on the board. This was fixed prior any leakage appeared.

Finally, on the latest stage I ran burn-in memory test for 48 hours. It gave zero failures. Everything runs smoothly.

- CMI-III Musical Keyboard
This piece of history needed some work too. As noted above, this is rare weighted key version belonged to Stewart Copeland. The keyboard was in a bad shape, required painting, most of the keys were not working. To address the first problem, the keyboard was disassembled, cleaned, stripped down to a wood, coated, painted in many layers.

Numeric control panel with a display on the right side was freshly painted as well. Every weighted key was also cleaned, mechanics got a lube, spring contacts sprayed with a DeOxit.

- Alphanumeric Preh keyboard
it’s in nice condition, slightly yellowed due to the age. Every key works, touchpad works. With MiniPC included into the auction, you can put Preh keyboard on a shelf, since now you can control everything with a PC.

- NEC LCD VGA monitor
Not every monitor is compatible with CMI Series III. Most of them will work but cut about half inch area from the bottom part, so, you don’t see a function key mapping or otherwise, you don’t see top command line. This monitor is ideal; it fits complete screen without any cuts. Slightly used, but looks and works great. It’s mounted on a stand directly attached to a keyboard stand.

If you prefer original Series III green tube monitor instead, let me know. I can downgrade the system by taking off VGA card and including Monochrome card. I can also include both for a little extra, so you can decide any time which one you want to use (the replacement procedure is user friendly).

- MiniPC with preinstalled CMI-Control app
This is a special silent PC, no moving parts, no fans, no HDD, no noise. It boots from CF Card to WinXP and has CMI-Control application installed into autorun. This allows to use standard PC keyboard and a mouse instead of original one. That’s done with a custom cable, and actually you can continue using both at a time. I prefer touchpad rather than a mouse, and so it’s included in the listing. Silent design is just right what you need there, MiniPC is not that powerful but you can use it for samples transfer as well with CMIOS9 app or CMI Explorer.

- Musical keyboard uplift adjustable motor-driven stand
It’s a custom adjustable stand made out of IKEA Bekant motorized desk ($450 value). It matches to the size of the music keyboard, has two switches for every leg to control its position up and down. Power supply is integrated into the stand. VGA monitor stand is directly attached to the keyboard stand. Very reliable and expensive solution. Can be disassembled for the transportation needs.

- Mainframe stand on wheels
Hard to find in the US another IKEA treasure – matching size mainframe stand on wheels.

- Power distribution unit
Mounted on the back side of the music stand, provides common On/Off switch and a power for every components.

- Documentation and Connection cables
Everything is in great shape, no broken or failed cables. You get complete service manual (including FCNs), tutorial manual, introduction manual, command chart as well as some Fairlight brochures.

You may also see the history of restoration process in my Instagram:

Additional auction pics:

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