A Note from Dave Concerning Encoder Issues

June 5, 2009

As you probably know, DSI is a very small company. We strive to produce instruments with unique personality that the big companies are not making; we believe that our instruments speak for themselves. We also pride ourselves with unmatched customer service; when there is a problem, we respond immediately and resolve the issue.

There has been an issue with some of the encoders we use. It appears that we received some bad parts from our supplier that were mixed in our shipments for a short period of time. These encoders in question have a shorter lifetime than their specification, causing problems with some of our synths in the field. Please note that this does not affect all units; in the last few years we have shipped over 300,000 encoders on our products. Most of those work just fine. And, the encoders on the Evolver desktop, Poly Evolver Rack, and Mopho are from a different supplier, and have been very reliable with almost no failures in 6 ½ years of use.

Once discovered, we fixed the problem as quickly as possible with our supplier, so the number of instruments affected was minimized. For instruments in the field we are happy to fix any problems on a case-by-case basis. For most problem encoders, we have found that the addition of a contact cleaner/lubricant is all that is required. We send this product (Deoxit) free of charge on request.

Some encoders may not respond well enough to Deoxit, in which case we will replace the bad encoders with new ones. In extreme cases, we may just replace an entire circuit board with all new encoders. Again, depends on the individual situation. The bottom line is we support our products, and will not leave our customers in a bind.

Separately, as you also probably know, we are shipping a new version of the Prophet ’08 Keyboard, the Pot Edition. This is identical to the normal Prophet; the only difference is 37 of the encoders have been replaced by pots. As a background, I have always preferred encoders for control. Even back in the Prophet-5 days, I was always bothered by the issue of physical position of a pot versus programmed value of the parameter, since there is no perfect way of handling edits; after all, the Prophet-5 was the first instrument to deal with this issue!

Encoders solve this problem since you always edit consistently from the programmed value. So, I’ve used encoders exclusively on all DSI products. Over the years, we have received a number of requests for pots, and I’m finding that many customers are willing to put up with the pot editing limitations in exchange for direct, consistent, end-to-end control over a parameter. This is the area where pots perform better than encoders. Though all of our products have acceleration on the encoders, and with a little practice you can sweep controls fully, encoders are never quite as good as pots for this.

So, the perfect solution is to provide both versions of the instrument, which we do now for the Prophet ’08 keyboard. We of course will be watching the response closely before deciding whether to offer pot versions on other products. And, we offer a conversion kit for current P8 owners who want to switch to the pot edition. We are just trying to respond to our customers’ requests and provide the instruments that everyone wants!