• A Selective Survey of Lead L...
  • A Selective Survey of Lead L...
  • A Selective Survey of Lead L...
  • A Selective Survey of Lead L...
  • A Selective Survey of Lead L...
  • A Selective Survey of Lead L...

Magazine Archive

Home -> Magazines -> Issues -> Articles in this issue -> View

A Selective Survey of Lead Line Synthesizers

Roland, Yamaha, OSCar, Syrinx, Teisco and Moog

Will Mowat reviews the 'goings-on' inside and outside six popular monophonic synthesizers

Great! I thought. Wonderful! A survey of leadline synths. The whole market! Big ones, little ones, thin ones, neglected ones. Ugly ones with lots of knobs! Lewd ones with bleary faders! The odd pretty one. Then I woke up and looked around. A wilderness. Almost nothing. Where had all the one and two analogue-oscillator synths gone?

Roland's SH-101, complete with modulation grip.

Roland SH-101

The market leader, and may I say what a lovely little machine this is. The moulded grey plastic case is very high tech. It's slim, very light and the controls are well laid-out. You can get an optional doobrie that fixes onto one end which allows you to play the thing with it strapped around you like (dare I mention the word?) a guitar. The designers had in mind the "portables" when designing this (Casio, Yamaha), and they decided to make it transformerless in the interest of smallness and lightness. This means you should go straight out and buy shares in Ever Ready because in my experience you go through batteries like a hot knife through butter, and when the batteries get a little run down, all sorts of funny things start to happen. Better would be to use a 9-12 Volt DC adaptor, but here the disadvantage is that you have yet another wire going into machine detracting rather from its simplicity. The SH-101 has "all the features you would expect on an inexpensive monophonic synthesizer." By this the blurb means it has white keys (and black ones too but I never use them — they just confuse me), plus you can get a sound out of it and it looks good. But of course what it does, it does well. The sound source is a single oscillator chip with circuitry to give a sub-oscillator which exactly tracks the main oscillator one or two octaves below — your choice. The sound of the SH-101 is not as pure as it could be, but then my ears have become used to digital sounds which are something else (and maybe this is what the world is waiting for — simple digitally-generated leadline synthesisers); yet the square wave is commendably hollow, the sawtooth nicely brass-like, and the variable pulse width very effective. A narrow pulse and a sawtooth are very similar sounds — they differ only in the relative loudness of the harmonics contained within the sound; you can get very good brass sounds by using a narrow pulse instead of the more usual sawtooth, or even better, by mixing the two together as you can on the SH-101.

Over to the east wing of the synthesizer, and here we have a bend/vibrato lever I like very much. Pushing the lever leftwards bends the sound downwards and vice versa (work that one out!). It isn't all that accurate — you can set the upwards bend to one tone, but the downwards one will not be the same. This is probably correctable through calibration, but this brings me onto the question as to how far components in a modern 'highly-strung' synthesiser can cope with being light, cheap and pushed to their fullest extent at all times: what is their tolerance? Surely technology must suffer from being built to a price? Answers please on a postcard. The neatest bit of engineering on the SH-101 is also on the bender: when you push it away from you, you inject vibrato into the system. Very neat — you can get pitchbend and vibrato in one operation; neater even than the wonderful Oberheim lever system.

I have reserved till the very last the features on the SH-101 that undoubtedly make it sell. The sequencer will take up to 100 events (notes and rests) and is transposable as it plays; the arpeggiator will go up and down, or up, or down. The sequencer is remarkably easy to use; it plays in clock time, which means that it will correct your bad timing into a robotic pattern, though you can program in slurs and rests to approximate more or less any tune you have in mind. You can also edit the pattern; if you make a mistake, just stop the sequence before the bad note or passage and load in your corrections. A joy to use. As for the arpeggiator, all you can say is that it goes up. And down. And up. And down.

The sequencer's and arpeggiator's speed is controllable by a sequencer or drum machine and you can play a compatible synthesiser from the SH-101; all very incestuous but great fun!

Before I leave the SH-101, the manual is worth mentioning for its attempt at comprehensiveness: it takes the gentle reader through the basics of present-day synthesis, is reasonably well laid-out, and teaches you Japanese at the same time. Great!

Teisco 110F — duophonic flexibility?

Teisco S-110F

This one came as a very pleasant surprise (what a snob, I hear them shout!), most particularly because of its sound: deep and crisp and even. To include it in a survey of leadline synths is a must, although strictly speaking it is an unswitchable duophonic: you can play two notes at the same time, but you cannot switch it over to play only one note — I'll explain this later. It looks good, to start with: chic, high tech, with the fashionable wedge shape that makes programming a pleasant task.

It is a trifle on the heavy side — it feels very sturdy — though the keyboard is on the lightweight side, and it is overly wide: it looks huge but friendly. And it's the only synthesizer that seems to be designed with the hard-of-hearing in mind, because there is a system of green arrows that light up showing the path of the audio-voltage as it meanders gracefully from the VCOs to the High Pass Filter: if an arrow doesn't light up, it means the sound is stuck somewhere just before it! Pretty, but not terribly useful. Unless you are someone who is confused even by the workings of a zip fastener, synthesis on these relatively simple beasts is a soon-acquired skill, and the more you rely on flowcharts and patch diagrams, the slower you will be at wrenching the last drop of sound from them.

Back to basics! There are two Oscillators, controllable independently, and you can of course detune them to produce the standard chorus effect, or separate them octaves apart. When you play one note at a time, both VCOs nestle under one key producing a rich and varied tone (or a poor thin one if you're not good at programming!) When you play two notes on the keyboard, VCO 1 plays the bottom note and VCO 2 the top. And there's the rub: you cannot force the machine to play just one note, so that when you play a fast solo, unless you carefully pick up your fingers before placing them on the next key and playing a fresh note, you get a messy, slurred effect as the two oscillators momentarily split apart as your fingers momentarily play two notes. Any competent engineer would be able to modify this for you, though.

The standard waveforms are on offer — triangle (mellow), sawtooth, variable-width pulse, and both VCOs can be controlled by various sources: the first of the ADSR envelope generators, the Low Frequency Oscillator for trills and vibrato, or sample and hold; they can even be controlled by each other. If you send VCO1's audio signal or its Low Frequency (sub-audio) signal into VCO2, you virtually double the effects you would normally be able to get using only the main LFO as a source.

Now we come to the other of the 110F's wonders: the Filter Bank. It's so good that for me it would be the instrument's main selling point. Eight knobs control fixed frequencies, so that you can boost a particular frequency, or combination thereof, by up to an amazing 15dB. Every school wanting to teach the basics of sound should have one. I'm not one for saying that this or that instrument is good at mimicry, but the amount of subtle control this bank of filters gives you is an undoubted advantage in setting the exact harmonic content you are seeking. Naturally, on the debit side, this feature is over the top when you are using the 110F just for gigging and ordinary amplified music (we doctors call this 'pop' or 'rock' music) when you would set all the rotary controls to maximum and stand well back.

The 110F's ability to pitchbend the oscillators separately makes one wonder why Teisco did not incude a syncing feature between the VCOs where harmonic interplay could enhance its soundmaking capabilities. Again, an engineer should be able to do this — I would certainly have it done. Had it done to my cat last week.

Via the all-important backpanel, you can interface this instrument with all similar ones for increasing the number of oscillators under your control, and you can plug an amplified guitar or saxophone into the Filter to modify the sound slightly (this will not, repeat, not make your axe or horn sound like a synthesiser. For that you need a Pitch-to Voltage converter obtainable at all good chemists).

The manual is lucid and useful, though they really should get a native English speaker to write it for them — and this applies to the Roland as well: "...touch sensors... are very excellent in both of operation and creativeness, and thus they are very useful in the plays such as the timing execution of guiars..." Ah, so.

Finally, it would be worth checking out the 110F's smaller cousin, the 60F: one oscillator, monophonic, not as much fun as this one, but then we can't have you enjoying yourselves all the time, dammit!

OSCar reaches new heights of versatility


You know the line, "Under his rough exterior lies a heart of gold''. Whoever said it obviously had OSCar in mind. Don't let appearance fool you; OSCar may look as if he (let's indulge in a little anthropomorphisation!) could win World War Three on his own, and I certainly wouldn't want to meet him on a dark night alone, yet it took me only a handful of hours to become very fond of him. Like all good synthesizers (or novels, songs, paintings) the deeper you delve, the more you find; this baby is quite a handful!

Chris Huggett's Oxford-built synth is based around software, which we are told is to be continually up-dated to provide improvements and extras; an open-ended system which should keep up with technological advance. One must trust that the small Oxford Synthesiser Company maintain their momentum and interest long enough to make a purchase on these grounds worthwhile. But even as it is at present, the OSCar is a serious contender for stage and studio work. For fast work, OSCar has 36 voice memories, 12 of which are user-programmable, and all of which can be edited to vary the sound. Upcoming software will make all the voices programmable, for it must be said, the preset voices are not amazing, and that is being kind. The only reason for having a preset voice is speed of access, but some do not even have the pitchbend feature written into the program, so that you waste time programming that in while the band are halfway through the next song!

The sound is basically good, full and clear though the filter is a little on the uncivilised side — it can introduce a roughness to the tone if you are not careful (especially when you are in the duophonic mode). The two audio oscillators are digitally based: a micro-processor puts out the accepted analogue waveforms of triangle, sawtooth, squarewave, variable pulse and modulated pulse (nice touch: the Pulse Width Modulation is not based on the variable LFO on the front panel but is a preset LFO set to give the optimum moving chorus effect wherever you are on the keyboard, releasing the main LFO for other tasks). The two oscillators never need tuning and never drift; you can tune them apart, or even calibrate the keyboard to a different scale (you need never fear C sharp again!). There is also white noise which can be mixed in with the oscillators.

The Arpeggiator is well behaved and can be programmed in with a voice. It goes up and down; why can't they go sideways for once? Or round and round? Or spirally?

The sequencer is a beast and a half. The makers rumbled we pop musicians' well-guarded secret, that sequences usually call for a lot of repeating in an average song. Consequently the nominal limit of 580 events in the 12 sequence channels can be stretched to thousands of notes when you chain these simple sequences together, using a repeat function. The sequencer is only useable in pulse-time, though with care and attention the rests, slurs and tied notes all combine to sound natural, with the option of sounding robotic if you want. There are plans to allow programming in real-time as well. It all helps! Certainly, pulse-time sequencing is of far greater use than real-time for most applications in commercial music, with the need for a rock-steady beat that's neat on the feet. And once you've got your sequence going, you can split the oscillators and play along by entering duophonic mode: this gives one oscillator to the sequencer, and one to your fingers. Ten songs, or chains, can be stored, all with voice changes and I found control of the sequencing on the control panel absolutely no trouble using the manual and the maxim: "It's Easy When You Know How!" And now for potentially the most interesting part of the synthesiser. This is worth all the attention you can give it, though you will not do it justice until you have bought OSCar and burned the midnight oil with him: you are able to make up quite complex wave forms of your very own, to love and cherish, choosing which sine-wave harmonics you want and at what relative loudness. It may be an idea to bone upon what harmonics are before you try to bodge something; on the other hand some accidents are nice.

You make up your own rules as you go along, since this is the first inexpensive synthesiser to give you so much control over waveform synthesis: the next step up is the P.P.G. Wave 2.2 with the Wave Term, and we're talking pound notes there! Note that the harmonics all share the same filter and loudness envelopes. Giving them each their own loudness envelope would be much more expensive.

The cassette interface means you can save voices, sequences and waveforms collectively or individually. There is no interface possible with mere analogue synths so the only jack sockets are for audio output (which is noisy: keep your amp down and the non-programmable OSCar volume knob up) and cassette dumping/external triggering.

The manual is a decent work of art: it assumes a certain level of knowledge of synthesis and may not be comprehensible to the beginner. Don't be put off — keep your ears open and take the plunge!

OSCar: a remarkable instrument equally at home on the stage, in the studio or in the classroom, whose main disadvantage is that you can only really do it justice by owning it, using it, and ultimately loving it. I suppose it requires an act of faith to go out and buy something so new and different: my guess is the Oxford Synthesiser Company are looking to have their prayers answered! Go forth and synthesise.

Synton Syrinx for the experimenter


This one, it must be said, almost got thrown out of the window; if only someone would come out with a synthesizer that was uniformly surly, uncooperative and generally up to no good from beginning to end, then one would have no qualms at all about burning it for winter fuel. But they all seem to have mitigating features which save their hides, and such is the case with the Syrinx. Undoubtedly, the filter section on this animal is amongst the most comprehensive to be found on an inexpensive lead synthesizer; that, and the fact that you can choose what colour you want the control panel (electric blue, shocking pink, sort of magnolia with big green spots, only joking!) are the saving graces of this otherwise synthetic step backwards in time and technology. It's very much a boffin's machine for experimental and studio use, where the filter can be made to work for its money and all the subtle resonances heard; on stage the effects would get lost, and the remaining features are not enough to carry the instrument through.

The synthesizer is a 'low-tech' machine incorporating none of the recent innovations in synthesis, even of the past few years, apart maybe from tuning stability. The designers seem to have picked and chosen features which interested them and thrown them together rather sloppily, apart from the filter, which though incorporating nothing new in synthesis, is packed with ideas that reward close attention.

The 3½ octave keyboard is good and long for a small synthesiser, and the control panel is nicely angled towards the user. The oddest sight apart from the colour is the bend pad which is bolted onto the control panel to the left so that you can operate it with your left hand. The best way to operate it is with the thumb, with your hand resting against the side panel: any other way, such as the one suggested in the manual, either means you knock the LFO knobs or inadvertently play the bottom note with the heel of your hand. It does seem that synthesiser designers have a bee in their bonnet about performance controls. Bob Moog came up with the modulation wheel which has worked for years; Oberheim have the lever system which also works: what is the virtue in going to ridiculous lengths producing difficult-to-operate alternative systems? The control knobs have almost no resistance to them: you can accidentally brush one with your sleeve and throw the whole thing out of tune, like on the centuries-old Cats and Kittens from Octave.

The point to be made is this: the technology is there to produce good, cheap, reliable and fun synthesisers that look good and are well laid out. Why do some manufacturers insist on turning out the same tired stuff? But I digress; let's do a left-to right review of the panel. There are two low-frequency oscillators. Hooray! Unfortunately, and I think this word will crop up quite often since many of the features have bad sides to them, unfortunately LFO 1 is hard wired to sine modulation of the VCO 2 pulse width; a whole LFO wasted on a relatively minor feature. LFO 2 is more credible, though severely overworked: it provides rampwave or triangle modulation to the VCOs, but the only way to get vibrato as a performance feature is to hunt for the relevant knob. And if you have the misfortune of using the otherwise very nice 'one shot' feature on LFO 2, you lose vibrato altogether. 'One shot' resets both LFOs to zero and triggers once the LFO 2 waveform you have selected — only really effective on the descending rampwave. 'One shot' used with the filter is an interesting source of modulation, and the speed of descent may be set with the LFO two rate knob or the bend pad.

The Bend pad: you like it or you don't. I don't trust the principle: it's inaccurate and ultra sensitive — you cannot even lightly rest your fingers on the pad before it starts pitch bending. The two halves control upwards bend and downwards, and you can have varying depths of filter cutoff and loudness in both directions. After practice you can begin to emulate the action of the guitarist's fingers on the strings, but keep the sensitivity well down so that the pitch hardly changes. Standard portamento is offered plus the now usual automatic glide from note to note which only comes on when you play legato-wise. The VCOs are individually tuneable but sloppily arranged according to where the designers found space on the panel. The standard waveforms are there, though there ain't no user-variable pulse width — it's either square wave or narrow pulse, or modulated by the LFOs. The sound seems strangely subordinated by the hardware, but it's decent enough when you get stuck into the 'raison d'etre' of this synthesiser: the filter. This is a 24dB roll-off low pass filter combined with two independent band filters. All three parts have their own frequency cut-off controls, resonance and keyboard tracking controls. The sources used to modulate the filter stem from the positive and negative ADSR envelope generator 1, and positive and negative versions of LFO 2. On paper this doesn't sound much, but I guarantee you will spend all your available waking hours working out the best combination of control settings. Don't set out trying to mimic a sound: just be pleased with what you come out with. I got a superb funk-wah type bass, but don't ask me to find it again! The Syrinx's ability to route the audio path through various parts of the filter is also a good point, nay, a very good point, using the two band filters and low pass filter in series or parallel, and introducing the (very weak) white noise and uninteresting ring modulator.

With EG1 controlling the filter, EG2 does the honours with loudness; the attack and release times are less than generous, though that is in keeping with the general tone of the instrument. The manual needs overhauling to cater for the beginner, who is surely one likely sort of person to buy the Syrinx. European and American manufacturers should look at the Japanese books to see how it should be done.

If the review sounds grumpy to you, so be it. I would refer you to a line in the manual (and don't forget, the Syrinx is a new instrument on the British market and a few months old on the European one): "The Syrinx is the first synthesiser where the portamento automatically can be adjusted to the playing technique. (Switch on Auto)." Where have they been for the past two years? The Pro-one (Rest in Peace, sadly missed etc...) had this feature. And this line betrays Synton's problem: they lost touch with the market while they had their heads down designing the Syrinx. This is not a credible alternative to the competition, but check it out and tell me you like it. Maybe it was the colour that finally got to me!

The Moog Source and programmable power

Moog Source

The Source is a perfectly normal analogue synthesizer, set apart from other designs by its microprocessor-controlled functions. Whereas most synths would have one control knob for each function, the Source has only one knob, on the left-hand side, which acts as an incrementor for any of the control parameters. You choose the functions you would like to change — there are touch switches where the knobs should be to do this — then you turn the master control to the desired setting.

The disadvantage is immediately obvious; every time you want to change a setting that would normally be set by a rotary pot, you have to make two distinct movements, one to select the function to be changed and one to turn the incrementor knob. The advantage — well, here you have to argue the toss. It would seem that this design was chosen for neatness and reliability (fewer moving parts), rather than for ease of use.

And the sound? Smooth, "expensive", uncomplicated, not particularly raunchy, very "professional". Drum sounds are particularly good but because the range of control functions is a little limited you can't get even mildly surprising sounds and you tend to get stuck in the "Keith Emerson lead line" rut of a few years back.

Let's nip around the Source and see what it's got. Wheels control pitch-bending (the amount being fixed at about five tones either way) and modulation, with rate programmable for each memory. The three-octave keyboard, which feels very good indeed, can be transposed up an octave by hitting a button. There are two types of switch on the panel, those which are used together with the control knob, and those which select between alternatives (such as single or multiple triggering of the keyboard). Then there are those that select the memories, 16 in all, and these have a dual function which again leads to much hand-and-eye movement; you have to be so accurate with your finger that it becomes an irritation, and the idea crossed my mind that the design was coming between me and the sound, hindering rather than helping. The assign buttons that select which functions the sixteen switches should have are on the extreme right of the instrument, rather than on the left which would have been much more logical, and these are used to access the sequencer, arpeggiator and a few other functions. The waveforms available are sawtooth, triangle and variable pulse, and at least there is the possibility of syncing, locking oscillator two onto oscillator one. There are two envelope generators, one each for filter and loudness, and the filter itself is of very high quality, oscillating when the resonance is full up. By careful use of keyboard filter tracking it's possible to get microtonal scales on a sinewave, which is the nearest you can get to experimenting with sound on the Source. The sequencer suffers from the same flaws as the rest of the instrument; it's fine as far as it goes but it doesn't go far enough. It's a realtime sequencer with two banks of 88 notes each which can't be linked together. Realtime sequencing over that number of events is not of much practical use, although it may help to sell the instrument, and you have to adopt a curious style of playing when loading the sequencer. For reasons of short sighted design, if you play as normal, lifting your fingers up between notes, the computer reads each note as two events, and you halve the already meagre allotment. The arpeggiator of 24 notes is slightly more interesting in that it behaves like a sequencer in clock time. It will replay any pattern of notes put into it, within the limitation of the fact that playing the starting note activates playback.

The Source can be interfaced with a wide range of other synths, though the sequencer is not controllable by external clocks being realtime, and you can store sounds and sequences on tape for later retrieval. The manual is truly excellent, informative, clear and friendly. Come to think of it, the synth probably comes free with the manual rather than the other way round!

The Source; solid, professional and bland, the Edam of synthesis. Good at what it does, but what it does is sadly limited. Yet because of the programmable presets it could be just the straightforward, uncluttered instrument you've been seeking for stage work.

Yamaha's CS-01 for music on the move

Yamaha CS-01

As a welcome constrast to professional synthesizers which often stumble over their own ambition, this little machine is such fun! The marketing is unashamedly directed towards those who have still to choose their first instrument, but I know many wizened and cynical old pro's whose lives have been made a little less grey by playing the CS-01 in the studio. The sound, you see, can be tremendous. Clean as a mountain stream, clear as a bell, it's the sound that captivates those tired old ears. And for pro and beginner alike, the simplicity of layout and ease of use mean that there is virtually nothing to come between the user and the sound.

I was hard pushed to dislike anything about the CS-01, but the inevitable criticism is of its limitation. Filter Resonance, for example, can only be switched high or low, the keys are rather small (miniature Casio size) and there is only one envelope generator. What really sells this machine is the optional Breath Controller, a little unit shaped rather like a baby's dummy which you blow into to produce a control voltage to the VCA or VCF, or a combination of both. You plug the Breath Controller's minijack into one end of the synth, and after a few minutes of lying on the floor getting your breath back, you get the hang of it: the harder you blow, the louder and brighter the sound.

"Tongueing" gives a fast attack to the envelope, and by judicious use of the resonance and the ADSR controls the most wonderful bass funk sounds can be found. The best part of it is that your use of the Breath Controller can make the sounds so "human" and approachable. No two notes that you play are the same, and it's good to see that this leap forward for keyboard players is being adopted on the bigger up-market goodies such as the DX-9 and DX-7.

The CS-01 is a hybrid of the small Casio and Yamaha polyphonic portables that are so much in vogue at the moment and a real grown-up instrument. From the one source it inherits smallness, lightness and ergonomic elegance, and from the other most of the features you'd expect to find on a leadline synth. Add to that a guitar strap, a set of batteries and the breath controller and you have a serious contender for stage domination.

A guided tour of this little animal is necessarily brief. To the left of the 2½ octave keyboard are the rotary controls for the loudness and filter sensitivity to the Breath Controller. Above, positioned for use when the CS-01 is strapped around the body, is the pitch bend wheel (one octave up) and the modulation wheel. The bend wheel is spring-loaded and is my favourite feature on the CS-01 — very comfortable and positive (bit like me really). The glissando feature is interesting; it gives a stepped portamento effect between notes, an idea which Yamaha took up years ago. It sounds like a smooth glide when the speed is set to fast.

The oscillator has five waveforms, including pulse width modulation with an independent speed control quite separate from the vibrato speed. What a nice touch — it means you can thicken the sound using slow pulse width modulation and still have a faster vibrato modulation available. The loudness and filter contours can be shaped by the same envelope, but try bypassing this and using your own breath. Gone are the days when you sounded like a machine! There is a small monitor speaker built-in which adds to the portable charm of the little package, but you don't realise how good the sound can be until you've plugged the machine into a proper sound system and given it some stick. You can even hum into the breath controller giving a "growl" effect to the sound: it all adds up to a "Big Little" instrument which would be ideal for learning on, though used as a teaching aid it wouldn't be versatile enough and you would soon get bored despite the excellent manual by Dave Bristow. You would do better perhaps to learn on a more complicated beast which would give you more to chew on, and then come back to the CS-01 for fun reasons. I know I have.

The Conclusion

From whose point of view do you judge a synthesizer? The person with no money will say cheap is best; the school will say intricate is best; the performing band will say memories are best; and there are those irrational beings who adhere to one make in the belief that that is best. You see, they all have their reasons; synthesizer preference is so subjective. You can criticise badly-made machines. But even those with poorly laid out panels have their adherents if the price is right. And it is this price factor that has to be the final criterion of the purchase. Let's quickly look at the handful of instruments reviewed and find their strengths. The SH-101 is cheap and simple: a basic synth with an element of fun and blessed with modern goodies like a sequencer and arpeggiator. The CS-01 is even cheaper and simpler, it's a very basic instrument with a huge element of fun when you buy the breath controller as well. The Teisco 110F is versatile with an interesting filter and strong sound; well laid out for easy access. The Syrinx too is reasonably versatile: the filter allows a good amount of experimentation, and the keyboard is longer than the average. The Source is ideal for a busy stage band — an uncluttered, immediately accessible programmable sound which is straightforward and solid. And the OSCar is good for on and off-stage work, with an open-ended design allowing continual updates to be made and blessed with a very versatile control potential.

And their weaknesses? The SH-101 and CS-01 have no weaknesses because their price is right. If they cost more, then you could start the criticism. The Teisco and Syrinx are old technology at a price that is on the high side. They are put to shame by the little Roland and Yamaha instruments. The Source is well over-priced for the little it does. It is smugly self-important, relying heavily on the clout of its maker's name. And the OSCar: the look is diabolical, a real British engineer's dream, and not enough thought was given to the needs of the busy performer: you shouldn't have to access the memories via the keyboard.

However, if there's a Best Buy to be found, it's the OSCar that is the most captivating: what clinches it is the price, which feels right for what you can do on the machine: a nice combination of imagination and technology. But I know which one I'd reach for when life gets too much. Now, where's my breath controller...

Average prices: Roland SH-101, £249. Moog Source, £500 plus. OSCar, £485. Synton Syrinx, £320. Yamaha CS-01, £117. With thanks to the London Rockshop for the loan of the CS-01, to Chase Musicians for the Teisco 110F, and to Rod Argent's Keyboards for the Syrinx (exclusive agents) and OSCar.

Also featuring gear in this article

Previous Article in this issue

Coming Up

Next article in this issue

Synthesizer Design

Electronic Soundmaker & Computer Music - Copyright: Cover Publications Ltd, Northern & Shell Ltd.


Electronic Soundmaker - Sep 1983

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman


Should be left alone:

You can send us a note about this article, or let us know of a problem - select the type from the menu above.

(Please include your email address if you want to be contacted regarding your note.)

Feature by Will Mowat

Previous article in this issue:

> Coming Up

Next article in this issue:

> Synthesizer Design

Help Support The Things You Love

mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.

If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!

If you're enjoying the site, please consider supporting me to help build this archive...

...with a one time Donation, or a recurring Donation of just £2 a month. It really helps - thank you!

Small Print

Terms of usePrivacy