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The A-Z of Analogue (Part 2)

Part 2, ARP to Buchla. Buchla? Yep, Buchla


MT's exclusive guide to every analogue synth made. Included are keyboards, expanders/sound modules and the better known electronic pianos and organs. Not included are drum machines, stand-alone sequencers and effects units, vocoders and those guitar/wind synths which aren't regularly used as expanders in their own right.

Readers are invited to submit details of little-known instruments which may be of use in compiling the series and also to point out any mistakes and/or omissions if these occur. All contributions will be fully credited. Compiled by Peter Forrest

A


ARP continued



LITTLE BROTHER

Expander module 1975-C.77. Often sold as package with Axxe - though its styling is much closer to the Pro-Soloist. Aimed more towards bassy sounds - ARP's advert at the time read: "A synthesizer expander with guts. Its extra voice comes in deep and low-down".
Original price: £300
Target price: £120

  • One of the first expander modules ever (preceded only by Oberheim's Synth Expander Modules)
  • Good CV/gate connections (nine sockets available).
  • Four mixable pitches and four mixable waveforms.
  • LFO speed, vibrato depth and delay controls.

Interface: ★★★
Sounds: ★★
Controls:
Memories:
VFM: ★★
Character: ★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Ease of use: ★★★


ODYSSEY

Classic 37-note, 2-VCO, duophonic synthesiser 1972-c.81. The Mk I is still a classic looking early synth, and - if working - classic sounding, too.
Original price: £800
Target price: £240 - £450
Users include: 808 State, Abba, Don Airey, Peter Bardens, BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Mk I and II), Boris Blank, Bob Casale/Devo, Billy Currie, Rick Davis aka 3070 (Cybotron), George Duke, ELO, The Enid, John Entwistle, John Evans/Jethro Tull, Johnny Fingers, Dave Formula, John Foxx (on Metamatic), Brian Gascoigne, Rupert Greenall, Dave Greenslade, Stephen Hague, Herbie Hancock, JM Jarre ('Oxygene'), Die Krupps, Dave Macrae, Gary Numan (even as late as 1985 tour), Andrew Powell, Andy Richards, Rufus, Bill Sharpe, Tim Simenon/Bomb the Bass, Tangerine Dream, Pat Travers.
(MT retrospective Jan '88.)

  • Like the Axxe, the first model was light grey; the second, black with gold legend (1977), then black with orange legend.
  • Almost as common on '70s records as the Minimoog. Sometimes used in tandem with it, adding sharpness to the Moog's warmth.
  • Very good interfacing on most Mk IIs - CV and gate, of course. None on original Mark I's, but later model Mk Is have ARP's usual mini-jack sockets squeezed in on right of back panel.
  • Some Mk IIs (gold legend ones?) don't have interface.
  • Fiddly colour-coded plastic knobs on Mk I and early Mk II - and rotary knob for pitch control.
  • Later Mk IIs have XLR socket out, and more chunky - but also more brittle - knobs.
  • External audio input for treatment of other sounds.
  • Early Mk Is have some components encased in resin - possibly to protect trade secrets and/or maintain temperature stability. But now prevent them from being repaired.
  • Mk II (late '77/early 78 onwards) is more reliable and has PPC - three rubber pads, the left to flatten pitch, the centre for vibrato, and the right to sharpen pitch. The pressure gradient was reversed; pressing hard at the front produced a semitone change, but pressing hard at back raised pitch by up to a fifth.
  • Mk II keys overhang case (more so than Mk I) and are subject to damage.
Interface: ★★★★
Sounds: ★★★★★
Controls: ★★★★
Memories:
VFM: ★★★★
Character: ★★★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★
Ease of use: ★★★


OMNI

String synthesiser with bass sounds. 49-note keyboard. 1975—c/81. ARP's bestselling keyboard.
Original price: £1200
Target price: £100 - £150
Users include: Roy Ayers, Boston, Cars, Commodores, Adrian Cook/Electrotunes, Floyd Cramer, Rick Davies/Supertramp, Earth Wind and Fire, ELO, Joy Division (Closer), Kansas, Al Kooper, Yusef Lateef, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Jean-Luc Ponty Band, Santana, Pete Townshend, War, Stevie Wonder, Bernie Worrell, Allan Zavod.

  • String section phased/chorussed.
  • LFO speed variable, attack and release variable.
  • Synth section has VCF and ADSR controls; bass synth and synth mixable.
  • Mk I has multiple triggering - every time a key is depressed the single VCA/VCF envelopes are triggered.
  • Mk II (c. Winter 1977/78) has single triggering - while any note is held down, re-triggering won't occur. This is generally more useful on a string machine.
  • Bass on Mk I possibly better than on Mk II.
  • Stereo out. Synth and string section balance variable.
Interface:
Sounds: ★★
Controls: ★★
Memories:
VFM:
Character: ★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★★


PRO DGX

30-preset monosynth, 37-note keyboard with aftertouch 1977-c.'80. A development from Pro Soloist.
Original price: £600
Target price: £100- £200

  • Surprisingly good sounds. Even silly ones are redolent of their era.
  • Balanced XLR out.
  • Aftertouch sensitivity can be routed to pitch, vibrato, volume, brilliance, 'growl' and 'wow'.
  • Portamento and repeat also available.
  • Vibrato & repeat speeds variable.
  • Digital switching of presets.
  • Not significantly different to Pro Soloist.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★★
Character: ★★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


PRO SOLOIST

30-preset monosynth, 37-note keyboard with aftertouch c.1973-c'77
Original Price: £700
Target Price: £100 - £200
Users include: Tony Banks (Wind And Wuthering), Michael Boddicker, Tom Coster/Santana (Amigos), Deodato, The Enid, John Entwistle, Philip Glass, Dave Grusin, Herbie Hancock (Secrets), Mike Mandell, Patrick Moraz, Gary Numan, Billy Preston (Space Race onwards), Blue Weaver, Pete Wingfield, Wings, Bernie Worrell (The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein).
(MT retrospective: Aug '91)

  • Surprisingly good sounds. Flute warm, bassoon hollow and woody, brass & cello very usable, though not accurate versions of the real thing.
  • Touch sensitivity helps expression (see Pro DGX for details) - but some versions had keys that hardly moved at all before hitting the touch sensor - not easy to play.
  • Tacky switches - extremely wobbly.
  • Only high and low output sockets - no other interfacing.
Interface:
Sounds: ★★★
Controls:
Memories:
VFM:
Character: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★


QUADRA

16-memory quasi-orchestral synth. Split 61-note keyboard, 1978-c.'82. First available in Britain Aug '79. Really a hybrid of the Omni and Odyssey (developed out of the Centaur) it ultimately contributed to ARP's demise. An instrument of compromises (mostly financially based), there's less control available than on the Odyssey or contemporaries like the Prophet 5, but it is beginning to appeal to retro enthusiasts, with its CV/gate interfaces, seven control inputs, separate outs, a few 'memories' and part of an Odyssey lurking in there.
Original Price: £2469
Target Price: £250 - £650.
Users include: 808 State, Tony Banks/Genesis (Abacab, MIDI'd, in preference to 2600s!), Billy Cobham, ELO, Ramsey Lewis, New Order ('Temptation' - cf E&MM Mar '85 p55), Rick Wright/Pink Floyd, Joe Zawinul (whose Quadra gave up on him at start of European tour Autumn '80, to be replaced by two Prophet 5s.)

  • Bass on bottom two octaves; strings, synth and duophonic lead synth on top three or four octaves. (Lead synth is supposed to extend to five octaves if no bass sound is selected.)
  • Not a true polyphonic - uses divide-down circuit (like Polymoog) for Omni part - so no poly-portamento or poly cross-modulation.
  • Only has one VCF/VCA for polyphonic section.
  • Four separate outputs and CV/gate in/outs for bass and lead.
  • Single/multiple triggering switchable.
  • Memories aren't true memories - they simply recall which parameter sliders are active (and thus need adjusting) and which are standard settings.
  • Lead part duophonic, like Odyssey.
  • Separately variable portamento.
  • Aftertouch sensitive.
  • Good depth to sounds - quasi-orchestral, and quite satisfying to play.
  • Voltage-controlled phase-shifter.
  • Simple, but useful arpeggiator/trill for lead section - but no external sync available.
Interface: ★★★★
Sounds: ★★★
Controls: ★★
Memories: ★★
VFM: ★★★
Character: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★
Ease of use: ★★


QUARTET

49-note string/brass/organ/piano synthesiser, 1979-c.'80. Made by Siel in Italy and badged by ARP.
Original Price: £450
Target Price: £80 - £120
Users include: 808 State, Massive Attack.

  • String and brass sounds goodish.
  • Build quality good.
  • Fair amount of controllability.
Interface:
Sounds: ★★
Controls: ★★
Memories:
VFM:
Character:
Collectability:
Ease of use: ★★


SOLINA

Classic 49-note polyphonic string/brass synth ensemble, c.1975-c.'82. Another bought-in product - this time from Holland. ARP simply put stickers over the 'Solina' name. ARP had been producing a string synth (as played in prototype form by jazz trombonist Julian Priester in 1973) but it had obviously fallen by the wayside. The Solina did a fair job of filling the gap.
Original Price: £660
Target Price: £120-£160
Users include: Tim Cross/Mike Oldfield band, Thomas Dolby, Geoff Downes, The Enid (two), Herbie Hancock, Jefferson Starship, Lonnie Liston Smith, Jon Lord, Stuart Mackillop, Dave Macrae, Mike Oldfield, Bill Sharpe, Thieves Like Us, Tonto's Expanding Head Band, Ian Underwood, Bernie Worrell.
Sampled for E-mu's Vintage Keys.

  • Archetypal string synthesiser.
  • Limited voicing, but appealing.
  • Viola, violin, trumpet, horn polyphonic.
  • Contra bass and cello play lowest note monophonically.
  • High and low output sockets.
  • Volume controllable by external instrument or pedal.
  • Gate and trigger out (for some reason!).
  • Veneered chipboard casing - liable to road damage.
  • Very heavy.
Interface:
Sounds: ★★★
Controls:
Memories:
VFM:
Character: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★★
Ease of use: ★★


SOLUS

37-note monophonic 2-oscillator synthesiser, c. 1979-c.'80. A slimmed-down Odyssey Mk II, very similar to Axxe Mk II - except for return to pitchbend knob rather than PPC rubber pads, and two oscillators rather than one.
Original price: £400
Target price: £100 - £130

  • Integral flight-case - even inputs and outputs are inside lid.
  • Keys protected, unlike Mk II Axxe and Odyssey.
  • Oscillator sync, digital ring-mod, and comprehensive CV/gate connections available.
Interface: ★★★
Sounds: ★★★
Controls: ★★★
Memories:
VFM: ★★
Character: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★




Andreas Bahrdt



Custom-designed synthesisers
Users include: Peter Baumann, Patrick Mimram.
(E&MM article: Nov '84).
Flexidisc of music ('Axxess: Novels for the Moons') free with E&MM May '84.

  • Mimram's synthesiser (1984) has 16 voices each with four VCOs, plus noise, FM, lots of filters and modulation, all programmable in RAM and storable on hard disk.
  • Multiple sequencers.




Baldwin



61-NOTE COMBO ORGAN

Shown BMI Fair, Autumn 1968.
Original Price: £231

ELECTRONIC HARPSICHORD

Introduced Frankfurt March 1968. "A new instrument that is 400 years old" read the advertisement.
Original Price: £413 (At BMI Fair Autumn '68)
Users include: Mitchell Froom/Neil Finn (Crowded House), Jimi Hendrix 'The Burning of the Midnight Lamp', 'Axis: Bold as Love'), Roger Manning (Jellyfish)

HOWARD COMBO ORGAN

Shown BMI Fair, Autumn 1968.
Original Price: £143



Bird



DUPLEX


Users include: The Tremeloes, The Specials



Birotron



TAPE REPLAY

3-octave keyboard developed from a collaboration between Dave Biro and Rick Wakeman but which doesn't appear to have ever gone into commercial production.
Users include: Earthstar

  • Similar to Mellotron, but used loops rather than finite tapes that needed rewinding, so you can hold a note indefinitely.
  • No attack on sounds, because the system relied on loops not one-shot lengths of tape - although adverts promised "four sounds on each endless loop tape with attack and decay".
  • Used electronic rather than mechanical keyboard triggers.




Bit


Italian synth designs from the Crumar company, designed by Mario Maggi of Synthex fame. Marketed in the UK by Chase.

BIT 01

99-memory, 6-voice 12-DCO, MIDI Rack Expander. 1985-c.'88.
Original price: £499
Target price: £150 - £200
Users include: Peter Hammill, Don Snow

  • Memories comprised 75 single and 24 combination locations.
  • Good, clear, bright sounds, even warm at times, despite being generated by DCOs.
  • Variety as well as quality of sounds.
  • Full program chaining for panic-free live patch changes.
Interface: ★★★★★
Sounds: ★★★★
Controls: ★★
Memories: ★★★★
VFM: ★★★
Character: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★


BIT 99

61-note, 99-memory, 12-DCO, velocity-sensitive, splittable, MIDI keyboard version of Bit 01. 1985-c.'88.
Original price: £599.
Target price: £180 - £280
Users include: 808 State
(E&MM review: Oct '85)

  • Velocity sensitivity adjustable and keyboard pleasant to play.
  • Splits and layers.
  • Stereo output.
  • Decent MIDI implementation for year.
  • Modulation wheels awkwardly placed - but that does mean the synth is very compact.
Interface: ★★★★★
Sounds: ★★★★
Controls: ★★★
Memories: ★★★★
VFM: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★


BIT ONE

61-note, 64-memory, 12-DCO velocity-sensitive, splittable MIDI keyboard synth. c.1984. (See Bit 01/99 entries.)
Original price: £799.
Target price: £140 - £200.
Users include: 808 State
(E&MM review: Nov '84)

  • First, short-lived version of Bit polyphonic.
  • Poor MIDI implementation - Mode one (omni-on poly) only.
  • Excellent sounds and decent touch sensitivity.
Interface: ★★★
Sounds: ★★★
Controls: ★★★
Memories: ★★★
VFM: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Ease of use: ★★




Buchla



Designed by Don Buchla, a collaborator with Bob Moog on first voltage-controlled modules.

100/200/300/400/700

Modular synths.
Users include: Charles Cohen

ELECTRIC MUSIC BOX

Modular synths with sequencers, but no keyboards, c.1969. 'The Buchla Box' - originally built for Morton Subotnick (Silver Apples Of The Moon).
Original prices: $4000+
Users include: Wendy Carlos, David Rosenboom/Jon Hassell, Morton Subotnick.

  • Ambient sounds.
  • Less stable oscillators than Moog.
  • Touch-pads instead of keyboard - not for traditional players.
  • Patching system perhaps not as sturdy as the Moog.
  • Hand made and very rare.
Interface: ★★★★
VFM:
Sounds: ★★★★★
Character: ★★★★★
Controls: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


MUSIC EASEL

Modular synthesiser.

TOUCHE

61-note, 24-DCO, bi-timbral, 64-memory, splittable keyboard synth. c.1980.
Original price: $8500.
Users include: David Rosenboom

  • Quirky and powerful analogue/digital hybrid.
  • Layerable sounds
  • Rare and hand-made.
Interface: ★★★
VFM:
Sounds: ★★★★★
Character: ★★★★★
Controls: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★★★★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


to be continued...

Key Facts

Dates:

These refer to the approximate year of manufacture. New instruments were often on sale for quite some time after production ceased and precise chronological information is difficult to come by (all help gratefully received!). Where any doubt occurs you will see a question mark.

Prices:

The original price quoted is that which you would have paid in the shops; the target price is what you could expect to pay now for a fully-working example in reasonable condition.

Users:

If the exact model of synthesiser used is unclear, users are included under the maker's name.

Stars:

A maximum of five stars (except for truly remarkable instruments) is given in these categories:
  • Interface - how easy it is to connect up to other synths or sequencers. MIDI, obviously, scores highly, so to does the ability to MIDI up using an external unit or internal interface. CV/gate at 1 volt/octave scores higher than a volt/Hertz implementation - which in turn scores higher than having no interface at all!
  • Sounds - simply how good the thing sounds. Obviously subjective, this is an area open to potential disagreement. Who's to decide whether a Moog 3C sounds better than a Prophet 5..?
  • Controls - how comprehensive, versatile and useable the controls are. A good set of dedicated knobs and switches obviously counts high, and so do touch-sensitivity, foot-pedal options and the feel of the keyboard.
  • Memories - 100 or more memories (and MIDI) will tend to get five stars. Anything less will get proportionately fewer.
  • VFM - Value for money. Again, an area of subjective opinion. Many feel that programmable MIDI polyphonies with VCOs represent the best value, but you might not!
  • Character - that indefinable 'something' that makes a synth desirable. Wood panels, knobs and uniqueness score highly.
  • Collectability - people collect strange things, but this category takes into consideration rarity and general interest/desirability rather than bizarre obsession.
  • Ease of use - intuitive, unfussy and easy-to-adjust controls count high. So too does the lack of complicated hidden menus, button-pushing and parameter access.

Where no stars are awarded, it means that either certain features are not included at all (eg, no interface connections) or the category is not applicable (eg, value for money in respect of a synth only released as a prototype).


Series

Read the next part in this series:
The A-Z Of Analogue (Part 3)



Previous Article in this issue

Circus Lumière

Next article in this issue

Growing Together


Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Music Technology - Sep 1993

Topic:

Vintage Instruments


Series:

The A-Z of Analogue

Part 1 | Part 2 (Viewing) | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


Feature by Peter Forrest

Previous article in this issue:

> Circus Lumière

Next article in this issue:

> Growing Together


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