Introducing the Soundgas B Channel
WRITTEN BY: Tony Miln
UPLOADED: 12th Jul 2022
We aim to help more musicians access great vintage gear by providing an alternative that is both affordable and trustworthy, and hope to be part of curbing some of the worst excesses we are seeing. Here you can find out more about what we’re doing, and why.
Let’s go back, way back…
Soundgas grew out of my fascination with classic and oddball recording gear. Me and my studio partners would scour newspaper adverts (this was pre-internet, kids) looking for old or weird gear for our space. I often answered ads simply because I didn’t know what was being sold (no Google to research unknown gear). We never had much cash, so even though I could’ve doubtless bought an 808 or VCS3 for what is a tiny sum compared to today (my brother scored his 808 for £250 in the early 90s – a bargain even then), we were usually looking at stuff priced around or under £200-300. We slowly built a combined collection of cheaper analogue synths: Roland HS-60 (Juno 106 with speakers), Yamaha CS-5, Moog Prodigy, and Korg MS-10 etc. All four of these synths cost us less than the Akai S3000XL which we bought new for around £1700. We had a basic digital multi-effects rack (Digitech Studio Quad) and augmented that with a great deal of ingenuity, old/cheap guitar pedals, a cassette recorder and semi-functioning Melos Echo Chamber. Roland 201 Space Echoes were considered to mostly be not worth investigating as none seemed to work well enough to warrant the expense. I eventually found a mint RE-501 that worked perfectly for me without any attention for about 20 years.
If it ain’t broke… (or even if it is)
None of the gear we bought and used was serviced (we were able to do basic stuff such as cleaning sockets, pots and sliders) – at the time it was just considered out of date and too cheap to be worth it. These were the days when you could find perfectly good polysynths and guitar amps thrown in skips/dumpsters: I wheeled a Marshall 2100 Lead & Bass 50 combo I found in the pouring rain (thankfully it had casters) back to my flat where it dried out and remained for a couple of years until I found a tech to fix it – all original and sounded stunning. Even now, as I look around my studio at the gear I’ve used for years, a great deal of it has still not been thoroughly serviced. Some is quite cranky, but it generally does the job: as it’s my own set up, I can live with or work around faults. It’s not the same as a commercial or professional room where things need to be 100% reliable.
Soundgas began because I’d grown weary of the level of misrepresentation of vintage gear online – mostly on eBay, which was the main game in town (long before Reverb) and wanted to offer an alternative: interesting and old gear sold with the promise it would be as described. We didn’t have any in house techs and much was bought and fettled as best I could, with stalwart assistance from what became a solid network of independent techs, many of whom had been fixing gear for years – trained in the era of TV repair shops and valve amps.
Investing in the future (isn’t cheap)
Soundgas has grown and our tech training apprenticeship, overseen by our senior techs, means we now have a team of eight talented techs who refurbish the gear we sell to the highest standards. We still use a few carefully selected external techs – usually because they specialise in certain types of gear – but many of the original independents we used are either no longer trading or their quality of work does not match the high bar we’ve set for Soundgas.
We have built our reputation for honesty and quality by selling vintage gear that’s been refurbished to the highest standards possible and which comes with a warranty. This is not something that can be done both well and inexpensively (especially internationally) and the price of such gear reflects the time and expertise we put into it. The upside of this is our customers get the very best (‘vintage gear that works’), but the downside is other dealers (who might not be so meticulous) and many private sellers assume that if a Soundgas Space Echo costs £2,000 then their’s is worth the same. Maybe it is… maybe your jaw will hit the floor when you hear it and it will run with no issues for years. And hey, maybe if there’s an unforeseen problem with it after six months they’ll take it back and fix it for you…
However, what has been happening of late with vintage synth asking prices online is disconnected from all sense – or distinction between well-serviced excellent examples from experienced sellers and those in average (or below) condition with no more than the seller’s assertion that ‘it works fine.’ It’s not Reverb’s fault that people are taking advantage of an overheated market to ask high five or even six figure sums for unserviced CS80s, but when their system then sends automatic emails advising that ‘this is a bargain’, because it’s been reduced by 50% to ‘only’ £54k, then the messaging and the market is being further distorted.
Taking a look at Roland Juno 60 listings on Reverb a couple of weeks back I saw private sellers asking £3500-4k (there was even a ‘bargain’ Juno 6 with Tubbutec kit listed in the 60 section – because it’s ‘better’ than a 60?) – many were private individuals selling synths in average condition ‘As-Is’ (Reverbspeak for no returns/warranty). Caveat fricking Emptor, people.
Cheap filth for the people!
Because the value of some gear doesn’t warrant us giving it the full Soundgas service treatment, yet we feel it still has much to offer, we’ve already been selling certain items via our auctions and under the Toy Shop banner that comes without warranty, but with an accurate description of any issues/faults. We’ve had great feedback from musicians who cannot afford most Soundgas gear saying how much they love and use the pieces they’ve bought this way, and many regular Soundgas customers have also been inspired by their Toy Shop or auction gear. (Note that the “Toy Shop” page has for now been absorbed into the B Channel page as we try to stop our site becoming any more confusing…)
This, combined with my own gear experiences and with seeing asking prices rocketing out of reach of most people (I could not afford to buy a Juno 60 at today’s prices) has led to us introducing the Soundgas B Channel.
Actually there IS a Plan B
The Soundgas B Channel will be a mix of lower priced, interesting pieces, and also unserviced higher value gear that we feel can be sold reliably. We hope to source and supply good examples of certain core synths, but at a reduced price.
It will essentially feature the same great, somewhat idiosyncratic selection of gear as you expect to find from us and will be checked, tested, assessed and shipped by us – but we will not have performed our usual deep servicing routines and offer no extended warranty (beyond your usual rights) on these items.
We aim to help more musicians access great vintage gear by providing an alternative that is both affordable and trustworthy, and hope to be part of curbing some of the worst excesses we are seeing.
We will still offer our highest level of servicing and refurbishment on most items – and it will be very clear from the listing description if an item is B Channel.
We’ve started with a pair of Roland Junos – a 6 and a 60 now listed on our site and on Reverb – it is essential we start doing this on Reverb to bring some balance but it would help greatly if you can order from our site where possible. Reverb’s fees can now be as high as 13% on international transactions: you may not be aware that 5% of this is “hidden” in currency exchange is being charged to the buyer not the seller. The 240v Juno 60 listed is priced lower than all others on Reverb (many in less good condition and without any testing or assessment by a qualified expert).
We were considering doing this with Juno 106 also, but voice chips in these are failing much more often so it’s less likely these will arrive as they leave us. We’re considering selling one that’s working with spare chips so if you’re handy with a soldering iron and wish to try this option, do get in touch.
If they’re gone already, do drop us an email – we plan to list more soon. And naturally, we still offer Junos fully serviced and guaranteed.
Tony Miln is the co-founder & Head Gear Head of Soundgas.
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