Monday, April 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Manuals have a rightly-deserved rep as boring and terribly written. While I’m sure no one tosses manuals (right?), they still tend to remain on the shelf unless there’s a problem or quandry. The manual comes out, the answer found, and then it is returned to the shelf.

Sometimes, like today, this pattern is pleasantly disrupted: I’d unshelved my mixer’s manual to look up a tidbit, and I found myself drawn in. The writing was lively, funny. More importantly, I started to get neat ideas as I read it. It got me thinking about other manuals I’ve enjoyed. Certain manuals are just fantastic — hidden gems.

One that particularly sticks out in my mind is the manual for the Prophet VS. I suspect it was, in large part, penned directly by the synth’s designers. It’s nerdy and technical, but you can feel their enthusiasm as they explain the guts of the thing. Another good one was the Yamaha DX 200. It isn’t exactly Shakespeare, but it’s full of zillions of ideas, and impeccably organized.

But, as per their general rep, some manuals totally suck. If you get anything from MFB, expect a single sheet of paper with both sides covered in broken English. The manual for my Roland EF-303 is 90 pages and plenty thorough… but it’s also a terrible mess, and the writing sucks.

The good ones, I read. The bad ones I just use as references. Make sure you haven’t missed the good ones!

Categories: articles, gear, studio

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