Serial# ZPO1825

I like the fact that this has 76-keys, but is still “synth action”. It has a really good keyboard feel, reminiscent of the D-50. The sounds aren’t bad either. A bit too techno for me but there are some nice patches.

Here’s the story of how I got it:

In the paper today: an ad for “Mars Music Closing Down Blowout Sale”.

Mars is a pretty big nationwide chain of musical instrument stores, and recently they filed for Chapter 11 or whatever the legal state of financial restructuring is. It seems that this didn’t work out, and the stores are now starting to have liquidation sales across the country. The music newsgroups I frequent have been talking about them as various stores in various towns close up shop. Some have had so-so deals, others have massive 50% discount on everything. I guess it’s the turn of the one in Las Vegas.


When I moved to the States I reduced my music keyboard arsenal to just one: my trusty Korg M1. It’s more than 10 years old now, still a source of interesting sounds and the “master” device through which I perform the keyboard parts, even if it no longer forms the nexus of my studio. It still seems to be reliable but I’ve been anticipating its failure from old age for about a year or so now, and I’ve been scanning catalogs and music store displays for possible replacement candidates, in order to be prepared for how much it would cost to replace the M1 with a comparable keyboard.

One possibility was the “Fantom” by Roland. I liked it because it has 76 keys (the M1 has 61) and I could use the extra octave, and also the keyboard had a good feel. Often similar products with that many keys also offer “weighted piano action” which is nice for classically trained musicians used to real pianos, but not so good for me. The Fantom has “synth action” which means it’s nice and bouncy and good for trilling lead passages.

In my occasional price surveys I’ve seen it usually going for $200 below list price in typical music stores. Mail order catalogs said $300 below list for a while, the last one I got said “price too low to print! Call for price” although it’s not like Roland have announced a newer model or anything. On E-Bay I’ve seen it offered for $450 below list, but I wouldn’t go there unless I was desperate. (Call me an e-bay virgin, I don’t mind.)

I haven’t been planning on a purchase unless the M1 failed. If it did, I would be prepared to go out and pick up a Fantom without thinking, secure in the knowledge that I’d done my homework and it was exactly what I wanted, and that the expense is budgeted for and justified.

So back to today… seeing the Mars Music “closing down” sale advertised in the paper made me think that I should at least check it out. Even though the M1 isn’t failing (yet), I’d kick myself if I didn’t at least see if they had any Fantoms on sale.

I took a few hours out of the work day to check out the sale and drove off into town.

There were a *lot* of cars parked outside Mars Music.

As I walked in to the store, it was chaos. I couldn’t see many sales people around, but there were piles of boxes, purple cards with “reduced price” stickers, red cards with “take an extra 20% off marked price”… I walked around a rack of bongo drums and dodged an aisle of audio mixers, and headed for the keyboard section. Piles of acoustic foam ripped off the walls were scattered around.

“Ok, focus,” I told myself. “Don’t get distracted. If they have a Fantom, and it’s, oh, say, $600 below list, then get it. Otherwise, don’t be seduced by all the “great deals” because you don’t really need them, even though they look like complete bargains…”

They had one Fantom left. The overlapping price tickets indicated it was marked down $400, no, $600, no, $800 below list.

It was the display model, but given that the keyboard worked across it’s full range and I could navigate its LCD screen, there was nothing an application of a dilute solvent wouldn’t clean up. (Some grubby finger marks!)

So I picked it up, took it to the register, and looked keen until I could find a sales person. You had to grab them when you found them, they were rare and looked very flustered and busy. It turned out that the latest marked price *still* didn’t have the final discount applied to it. Yeah, it was a steal, basically half price.

No case or box or anything, but they did manage to dig up most of the manuals for me.

It *just* fit into the trunk of the car. 76 keys makes for a wide keyboard!