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Korg DW-8000 MIDI Enhancer

To get the Korg DW-8000 synth to understand MIDI CC messages for parameter control.

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The Korg DW-8000 (and other early synthesisers) was created during the early days of MIDI, before things like CC messages were standardised. As a result, it uses proprietary SYSEX commands to change parameters over MIDI. Most modern MIDI controllers use CC messages instead, and very few are flexible enough to be able to send the appropriate SYSEX messages.

This is a problem. This project is the solution.

The Korg DW-8000 has lots of tweakableparameters, but has a 'minimalist' user interface for adjusting these. There is exactly ONE slider for this. You press two digits to identify which parameter you want the slider to control. If you want to live tweak more than one thing at a time, you are out of luck

These parameters can be controlled over MIDI, so an external control surface could be used, BUT most control surfaces send CC (Control Change) messages, whilst the DW uses a set of proprietary SYSEX messages.

This project gets the DW-8000 to respond to CC messages with a little hack...

Rather than trying to rewrite firmware or anything clever like that, this is more of a brute force hack.

What I have done is taken a cheap Arduino Nano clone and physically spliced it into the MIDI IN path just before it gets to the synth's CPU. The Nano runs a simple program which translates CC messages into the corresponding SYSEX messages that the synth understands. All other messages are just passed straight through.


That's it - the synth now does the right thing when it is sent CC messages!

DW8KV12.bin

Revision 12 firmware. Not needed for this project, but worth installing if you haven't got it as it fixes the 'stuck notes' bug that earlier firmware had.

octet-stream - 16.00 kB - 07/05/2016 at 19:04

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  • 1 × Korg DW-8000
  • 1 × Arduino Nano

  • 1
    Step 1

    Unplug the synth.

    Turn it face-down (propping it up so you don't damage the joystick), remove all the screws around the perimeter, and the five large screws in the centre section.

    Carefully lift open the synth. It should look like this.

    If, as with mine, there is a biro rattling around inside, now is a good time to remove it. :-)

  • 2
    Step 2

    We need to remove the middle PCB. This one.


  • 3
    Step 3

    Carefully unplug all of the connectors from the board, EXCEPT for CN12A and CN13A which are soldered to the board - these need to be unplugged from the other end.

    Label the connectors so you know where they go afterwards. For the larger ones I wrote the connector number on the side with permanent marker, for the smaller ones I attached a label to the wire.

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Grit wrote 10/20/2018 at 15:10 point

I converted your code to a firmware for the Retrokits RK-002 cable, if you want the control but do not want to do the hardware hack this could be a nice solution: https://www.retrokits.com/rk002/exchange/57b9a5c1-f2aa-46c2-8654-8be9426f22d7/

  Are you sure? yes | no

chipperkwah wrote 10/23/2018 at 19:10 point

I've been using the converted code on my RK-002, as far as I can tell everything works perfectly with my DW-8000.

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clae wrote 10/05/2018 at 09:43 point

Neat - I could see this being useful for other minimal-interface synths, like the Poly 800 or the Sequential Six Trak

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