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Sequential Circuits Six Trak Full Midi Controller

I am hesitant to write about this synth at all. It is truly one of the last great analog synths that is still affordable to the bulk of the indie world. But there are too many unused and underappreciated Six Traks out there not too pass on the good word. The Six Trak is one of my favorite sounding analog synths of all time. It has midi implementation, 6 note polyphony, "unison" mode which merges the polys into a giant fat monophonic blast, an on board sequencer and the ability use stack mode to combine 6 different sounds on top of each other. This is certainly not a punchy techno or dance style synth. (Which explains its affordability. Once a synth gets popular with the techno and dance crowd, the prices go crazy!) If that is what you are hunting then look elsewhere. The Six Trak is all at once smooth, dreamy, dirty and gritty. It has warmth, sizzle, soaring leads, screams, sparkle, overdrive and growl. There is only one shortcoming of this beast... All of the parameters must be tweaked by a single knob which can only adjust a single parameter at a time based on a numerical selection. It is a horrid way to tweak such a great analog synth! However, despite some internet misinformation the Six Trak does accept full midi parameter control.

First you must ready the Six Trak to receive midi CC messages by pressing the (Control button followed by the number 4). Unfortunately this must be done every time the unit is power cycled. I choose the Behringer BCR 2000 as my midi CC knob controller for the low cost (dirt cheap used on eBay), large number of knobs, led knob feedback, simplicity to program, CC value display and ability to save numerous presets. I put a good amount of thought into the knob layout and labeled them with color coded stickers.

The midi messages are only received by the Six Trak, not sent back to the BCR 2000. This means that when you open up a saved sound in your Six Trak the BCR knobs will not automatically move to and display the correct positions. This will cause the Six Trak parameter settings to jump to the new BCR 2000 knob setting when it is tweaked instead of adjusting up or down from the Six Trak's current parameter setting. Fortunately there is an easy fix for syncing them up. If you build your sounds using the BCR 2000 then you can simply save the BCR 2000 with the same setting number that you save your Six Trak sound. As long as you remember to save your settings changes on both devices every time, it works great. It is best to back them up via a program like midi ox as well in case something goes wrong. I will attempt to make the BCR 2000 midi CC file and the sticker printing file available for download for those interested. With those files it should only take a quick glance at the operations manuals and you will be ready to roll. If you don't see the file links here then email me and I will try and get it to you.

This midi CC data can also be recorded to your DAW for modulation automation which is extremely helpful as it allows you to record complex sound changes in a song and adjust them later. The processor is not fast enough to handle a ton of midi CC changes at once so don't get carried away with multiple automation changes at once. The most it can consistently handle is two parameter changes at once during a performance. I have successfully had it successfully play through 3 or 4 midi CC changes at once, but it is more likely that much data will overload the processor and freeze up your synth. No long term damage, just power cycle it and pair down the number of simultaneous Midi CC messages.

If you already have your own sounds built that you want to sync to the BCR 2000, then it becomes a bit more time consuming. There is a page in the manual for writing in the value of each parameter for a saved sound. (I highly recommend that you use this for a manual backup of your sounds) You can then tweak each knob of the BCR 2000 until it displays the correct value and then save both devices under the same setting number. This is a bit of a pain to do, but I developed a neat trick to back up your Six Trak sounds, link up the BCR 2000 knob settings and have them automatically sync up to the sound that you built for each specific song all at once! You simply find a blank are of your track and record the above process of knob tweaking on the BCR 2000 until the MIDI CC parameters match your sound. Then later when you play back the MIDI CC automation it will be received by both the BCR 2000 and the Six Trak. All parameter display settings will be in sync, set to the exact sound that you wanted for your song and ready for smooth tweaking! The original setup of MIDI CC tracks can take a while, but after you have done it once it can be saved as your default new song structure so it is ready to go on every new track. For this method you must make sure that the CC messages are being recorded as the absolute value and not just a change in value from the current position.

If you already have your parameter settings written out by hand then the whole tweaking and recording process can take only 3 to 5 minutes. You can always shorten the programming time during playback by moving the CC messages closer to each other and overlapping a few. But remember, don't try and stack those parameter changes into too short of a time... You will just overload that processor and freeze the unit.

After this little project you have an amazing sounding well laid out, easily controlled, fully knob tweakable, fully DAW controllable poly/mono mega synth. Enjoy!

(Right click or option-click the link and choose "Save As..." to download these files.) If you have a hard time with downloading then shoot me an email. If I can still find them I will email them to you.

(click here for Six Trak setup instructions)

(click here for Sticker Label file #1)

(click here for Sticker Label file #2)

(click here for Sticker Label file #3)

(click here for Six Trak MIDI-OX sysex file)

(click here for Six Trak MIDI-OX .xml file)

(click here for Six Trak MIDI midi file)

(click here for a Cubase Instrument Controller file)

(click here for Six Trak Owners Manual file)