Casio, CBS/Fender, EMU-Systems, JVC, Korg, Moog, Oberheim, Roland, Sequential Circuits, Yamaha.
A Prophet for under a grand? Not exactly, but this year will see the first poly from Sequential Circuits that comes in at three figures. The Sixtraks is (not surprisingly) a six voice polyphonic with 100 programs, one bank of VCOs, a 24dB low pass filter and the standard configuration of envelope generators.
There's also a built in sequencer BUT Sequential have substantially extended its capabilities. For example, you could record six monophonic lines each with a different programmed sound, or a six voice polyphonic sequence, or get the Sixtraks to overdub the mono parts, even play them in reverse. Sequential claim it's more of a digital recorder than a simple sequencer.
The dubbing potential doesn't stop there. With a facility known as "stacking", you can construct and play a monophonic voice from six individual programs. Recommended retail in this country is £850. The Sixtraks is programmed by digital incrementation, much the same as the Korg Poly 61.
Speaking of which, Korg's British distributors were last year being coy about the upcoming Poly 800 arguing that the Poly 61 was still a fine device so no need to spurn it like a rabid dog because a newcomer was on the way. This year they're willing to chat. The 800 will have 50 programmable parameters now including a stereo chorus and white noise. It's light (about 10lbs), can be operated by battery or mains and is compact enough to dangle round your shoulders. A polyphonic sequencer squeezes its way on board, and the 800 is MIDI-ed. No price details when we went to press.
Roland are pursuing ever more ardently the idea of a synthesiser family tree — a system interlinkable on several levels, be they MIDI, computer port or Digital Control Buss. Further members of the brood are likely to be littered at Frankfurt, possibly a mother keyboard and a sampling system.
It's rethink time for two other companies. Moog unveiled the SL-8 in a wave of boyish enthusiasm at last year's Namm show in Chicago. It heralded a new technical era for the statesmen of synths. A few very large scale integrated circuits would fool the digital oscillators into unusual tricks. The SL-8 should still go ahead but price and cosmetics are among the factors to be refined.
CBS/Fender have also realised that the Polaris follow up to the Chroma could do more and possibly for less. With luck there might be some news in Germany of arrival times for this promising keyboard. At Chicago it seemed to be one of the few potential rivals to the DX-7.
Speaking of Yamaha, what could they do next? Quite possibly, nothing. They've never exhibited new-model-mania, dashing out another version for the sake of a date. Since the DX-7 was the result of three or four years of intense research, they could leave it alone for a while. Yet neither are they the sort to rest on their laurels. There will be something in Frankfurt and perhaps a hint at their future plans.