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Dark Time firmware update

Posted under Musical Technology at .
Tags:failures, hardware, repair, sequencer, Dark Time, Doepfer

The Dark Time had a failure. Not really sure why at this point, but when I started it up yesterday it showed an odd pattern of lights and was entirely unresponsive. Repeated power cycling. And I’ll admit that’s a kind of pretentious-sounding phrase especially as applied to something you do just switch on and off rather than go through a more macroscopic shutdown/startup process, but it’s a bit more concise than turning off and on again. Did nothing apart from eventually change the pattern of lights.

So I thought, let’s check the power supply. The Dark Time according to the labelling uses 12V AC and this is the original adaptor I got with it (though not Doepfer own-brand, which may be normal), and is also rated 12V output. It’s actually giving 16V no-load, which seems a little high. Some PSUs limit the voltage until they detect a load but starting up high is less common. But a little online probing tells me that some Dark Times were supplied with 15V supplies, so maybe this is in-range. Powering the thing with 12V AC from a lab supply makes no difference. [1]

This being a bit more intricate than the things I usually repair, and given I have a backlog of repair jobs anyway, I’m reluctant to get too far into this. A bit more reading tells me that this failure resembles a firmware rather than necessarily a hardware problem. There is a firmware flashing utility available, not on the Doepfer site, but on a page which appears to be a Microsoft thing where Doepfer store some of their files. Even with security dialed down, it’s unusable, so I can’t tell whether the flashing utility really is there.

At this point I tried asking Doepfer direct and got some very helpful responses indicating that 16V is reasonable for the PSU, and implying that it adjusts down. And that I should try the firmware updater, warning me however that the utility, Bootdown v.1.5.1, is a 32-bit application and may not run on recent Macs. Well, that doesn’t sound like a problem. (smile emoticon) They also sent the raw and a zipped version of the update file. I tried the download site again from a recent Linux/Firefox combination and although the page was now visible it just told me all my download attempts failed, so I gave up on that.

A little further mail exchange with Doepfer, and they have again helpfully sent me the application.

The process is quite straightforward — power the Dark Time up with the update button pressed (once you’ve found and if you have an update button), connect by USB, run Bootdown, check it recognises the Dark Time firmware chip, load the updater file. (Actually that failed first time as the file had been through email encoding and decoding but the zipped version was fine.) Power down, and power up with the Reset button pressed. And all seems good. Total downtime about 30 hours.

I have heard good things about Doepfer’s customer support in the past but must say it seems justified. Obviously this is a simple fix and I’ll see how long it lasts, but full marks so far.

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  1. It’s always a little fun and nervy when the old AC lab supplies come in handy; I keep expecting them to blow up or something but really they’re so simple that they’ll probably outlast me, especially since I never seem to use them long enough for them to get warm.  

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