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The A-Z Of Analogue (Part 3)

Part 3, Chadacre to Crumar


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, standalone 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.

Special thanks to: Les Bradley, David Etheridge and Martin Smith for Chamberlin info, Andy Horrell of EMIS, RN Mooring of John Hornby Skewes, Mushroom, and Bob Williams - for help and information in compiling these entries. Compiled by Peter Forrest

C

Chadacre



6300 SYSTEM

A little-known range of modular synths.



Chamberlin



Designed and originally hand-produced in very small quantities by a Californian, Harry Chamberlin c. 1958/9 - early '70s, Chamberlin keyboards were used as the basis for the design of the much better known Mellotron.

Two instruments were brought over to London (without Chamberlin's approval) by intrepid entrepreneur Bill Fransen, looking for finance and improved production ideas. (Fransen had originally been cleaning windows when he saw the instruments in Harry Chamberlin's garage.) Fransen asked the Bradley Brothers to produce 70 matched tape heads, and ended up helping in their manufacture.

Chamberlin eventually received $30,000 for the rights to produce the Mellotron, and did once visit the factory.

RHYTHMATE M1/M2

Tape replay dual and single 35-note keyboards.
Original price: c.$750.
Target price: $1200 - $5000
Users include: Kenny Ascher (Dr John: Hollywood Be Thy Name), Eno and David Bowie (Low album; mis-spelt on the sleeve), Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello: Spike), Patrick Leonard, Mike Pinder.

  • Predecessor of the Mellotron; the Mark I Mellotron was virtually a copy of it (faults and all) and other Mellotrons used most of the Chamberlin's basic ideas.
  • Tapes of rhythm sections and fills assigned to left-hand keyboard (in the key of the note you pressed), ordinary notes for melody/chords assigned to right.
  • Each tape had six sections which could be fast-forwarded or rewound to, but the punched-hole system for stopping the tape in the right place was prone to failure.
  • Spring reverb (possibly Hammond) built in.
  • The absence of a proper internal chassis meant that machines disliked being moved. They were also noisy and unreliable - more so perhaps than the Mellotrons (except, perhaps, the Mark I).
  • Three versions were produced: the first closely resembled the Mellotron Mark II, with its two 35-note keyboards; the second was like the Mellotron 400, and there was a third (very rare) version with three keyboards.
  • Originally used three tracks on each tape, each playable individually, or in combination (A and B or B and C).
  • Later stereo version introduced with four pairs of stereo tracks on quarter-inch tape.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★★★
Character: ★★★★★
Controls:
Collectability: ★★★★★★
Memories: ★★★
Ease of use:



Chase



For the most part, the Chase range comprised re-badged Bit synths. There was, however, a further non-Bit addition.

CBP2

13-note bass pedal board (C-C). c.1983.
Original price: £299

  • Included controls for filter envelope and resonance, waveform, sustain on/off and length.



Cheetah



Although this British firm ceased production of musical instruments in early '93, two ex-employees of the company - under the name Soundscape - are committed to releasing a mark II version of the MS6.

MS6

6-voice, 6-part multitimbral, 12-DCO, 1U rackmount expander. 1988 -1992.
Original price: £300
Target price: £150
Users include: The Christians, Julian Colbeck, DNA, Tony Levin, Rhythmatic, Sheep on Drugs, Ultraviolet, Rick Wakeman.
MT review: Nov '88.

  • Very good value, reasonably solid construction, masses of facilities.
  • 320 ROM, 96 RAM memories, 64 performances.
  • 24dB Curtis filter, LFO, VCA, two envelopes, and two DCOs per voice - comprehensive.
  • Sensitive to velocity and channel aftertouch.
  • Most parameters can be accessed from front panel - but weird and wonderful routings aren't as accessible as on, say, a Matrix 1000.
  • No knobs or sliders.
  • Configurable as one 6-voice, six monophonic, or anything in between. The lack of dynamic voice allocation, however, means that you're stuck with what you've programmed - even if one part is silent when another needs the extra voice.
  • Expandable: will send out notes on MIDI overflow - but not controller information. Whoops!
  • MS6-II to featuring stereo outs, aux inputs for processing other sounds, and onboard digital FX.
Interface: ★★★★★
VFM: ★★★★★
Sounds: ★★★★
Character:
Controls:
Collectability: ★★
Memories: ★★★★★
Ease of use: ★★


ZEUS 24

61-note weighted MIDI keyboard. 24-note polyphonic, 12-part multitimbral c.1992. A prototype machine - only a few (probably four) were ever built - the Zeus ultimately contributed to Cheetah's downfall.
Predicted price: £2000

  • 200 patches, 200 combinations, channel aftertouch and velocity sensitivity.
  • Internal processors couldn't cope with amount of work required once demands on polyphony grew. Speed of functions would deteriorate.
  • Disappointing lack of controls - just four knobs, four sliders.
  • Internal reverb included; plus eight separate outs.
  • A heroic failure, it was to have been available in any colour you liked, as long as it was red.



Chroma Fender/CBS



POLARIS

61-note, 6-voice, 12-VCO, velocity-sensitive splittable MIDI keyboard with 132 memories and 12 sequencer memories. 1984-c.1986.
Original price: £1700 (but sold for much less - and only $1495 in US)
Target price: £250 - £400
Users include: Herbie Hancock, Peter Vetesse
E&MM review: Nov '84

  • Strongish sounds, thanks to 12 VCOs, 12 VCFs, 12 VCAs, six five-stage (ADSDR) envelopes, six 3-stage (ADR) envelopes, and six LFOs.
  • Oscillator sync and ring mod available.
  • Simple onboard sequencer, limited capacity, but with sync in and out connections.
  • Polyphonic portamento.
  • Splits at any point - though only 3/3 voice allocation available.
  • MIDI In, Out, Thru, and Triad interface for Rhodes Chroma, Apple computer, etc.
  • 20 sliders for that all-important real-time adjustment lunge (better than big brother Rhodes Chroma in this respect).
  • Unimpressive (vaguely sub-Oberheim) performance levers.
  • Originally produced in 'ARP' orange, then blue on production models, there was some doubt over quality control.
  • Pretty rare compared with its contemporaries like Juno 6 and Polysix.
  • A manual is still available from Fender Product Services, (Contact Details)
Interface: ★★★★★
VFM: ★★★
Sounds: ★★★★
Character: ★★★★
Controls: ★★★
Collectability: ★★★
Memories: ★★★★★
Ease of use: ★★★



Clef



MICROSYNTH

30-note, 2-VCO, 1-VCF monosynth with noise generator. 1982-c.1985.
Original price: £199
Target price: £25 - £60

  • Also available in kit form at £129.
  • No separate LFO - like Minimoog, you have to use one of the VCOs for modulation. (This aside, it has very little in common with the Minimoog.)
  • Two sub-oscillators to beef up sound.
  • Noise generator - not often found on very cheap synths.
  • Thumbwheel for modulation.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls: ★★
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use:



Crumar



This prolific Italian company founded by MARio CRUcianelli put out new designs and re-vamped old ones with incredible frequency - particularly during period 1975-1983. Showed a bias towards multi-instrument or imitative instruments - string synths, organs, etc. Klaus Schulze was an early user.

Nearly all products designed for road use - either with built-in flightcase (of sorts), or carrying case. No Crumar analogue products were equipped with MIDI - synthesiser name changed to BIT for their first MIDI products.

BRASSMAN

49-note brass synthesiser c.1975. Voices included trombone, French horn, trumpet, and sax, with a muted trombone and two muted trumpet variations.
Original price: £346
Target price: c.£50
Users include: The Enid

  • Good amount of control: glide, 'rag', timbre and vibrato delay and depth, attack, decay, filter emphasis, 8' and 16' volume, master volume, vibrato speed and depth.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls: ★★
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


COMPAC

61-note electronic piano c.1966-c.1978. Limited, very early electronic piano without touch sensitivity.
Original price: £225
Target price: £50
Users include: The Beatles, Billy Preston, Edgar Winter.

  • Two voices - piano and clavichord.
  • Vibrato speed and depth variable.
  • Used on Sergeant Pepper - notably the classic clavichord arpeggios on intro to 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds' and perhaps worth looking out for for this reason alone.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls:
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


COMPOSER

49-note string/brass/poly-mono synth with breath control. 1982-1985.
Original price: £799
Target price: £100 - £200
Users include: Massive Attack
MT review: Apr '84
  • Monosynth featured seven presets, ADSR and usual VCF controls, plus breath control (all shared with poly section), touch sensitivity and pitchbend. Assignable to lowest or highest note played on keyboard. Decent results from modifying presets or setting up own 'free' sound.
  • Organ featured four presets, two percussion types with volume and decay controls, Leslie imitator with slow and fast settings. Average.
  • Polysynth featured three presets plus controls shared with mono section; two oscillators transposable by up to an octave each, detunable; modulation wheel.
  • Strings were not very pleasant, except as background for other sounds.
  • Single keyboard trigger can spoil promising layers of sound.
  • Breath controller comprised a longish bit of black tubing with simple mouthpiece. You look silly, it needs practice, but, like the Yamaha CS01, it can sound great.
  • Clear design, good build quality.
  • Four separate outs and main out, plus mixer.
Interface:
VFM: ★★
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★
Controls: ★★
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★★


DS1

44-note, 2-DCO monosynth. 1978-c.1980.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £120 - £160

  • Basically a capable, well-specified 2-oscillator, 2-LFO monosynth.
  • Two ADSRs, independently switchable oscillators (4' - 32'), both with sawtooth, square and triangle waves, and DCO 1 with pulse-width control set manually or modulated by either LFO.
  • Excellent LFO control and modulation routing, including, on one of the LFOs, sample and hold and staircase waveform.
  • Switchable white/pink noise generator.
  • One of the very first synths to have DCOs - and thus more reliable tuning, but a less interesting sound.
  • External audio in - routed straight to VCF/VCA
  • Some controls not effective over their entire length.
  • Gate in and out, (but no CV), headphone socket.
  • Quirky but generally pleasing design.
Interface:
VFM: ★★
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★
Controls: ★★★
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


DS2

44-note, 2-DCO monosynth with string synth section. 1978-c. 1980.
Original price: £645
Target price: £160 - £220
Users include: Mel Wesson (TV Smith's Explorers)
  • Effectively a DS1 with simple polyphonic background section.
  • Polysynth has high and low-pass filters, and can use either of LFOs.
  • Footswitch used to bring poly section in and out.
  • Separate mono and poly outs.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★
Character: ★★
Controls: ★★★★
Collectability: ★★
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


HAVEN TRAVELLER

Combo organ
Users include: Annie Lennox/The Tourists

MULTIMAN

61-note string/brass/piano synth (Multiman S re-design -1977). 1975-c.1981. (Known as 'Orchestrator' in USA)
Original price: £499
Target price: £60 - £100
Users include: Stereo MC's
  • Brass: filter attack, decay, emphasis and amount controllable.
  • Strings: vibrato switchable, violin and cello sounds splittable either side of keyboard split.
  • Neither piano nor clavichord presets are particularly realistic, but clavichord is better.
  • Separate bass control on bottom octave or optional pedalboard (£49).
  • Separate output for piano/clav. Socket for sustain pedal.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls:
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use:


MULTIMAN S3

61-note string/brass/piano synthesiser. 1981-c. 1983.
Original price: £649
Target price: £70 - £100

  • Totally re-designed and re-jigged front panel.
  • Other changes from original Multiman/Multiman S include extra controls on strings - crescendo and timbre; improved modulation; detune; an organ preset; and separate out for bass as well.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls:
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use:


ORGANIZER

61-note synthesised organ (Organizer B re-design -1977.) c.1974-c.1980.
Original price: £429
Target price: £60 - £80
Users include: Madness

  • (Slightly flimsy) drawbars to left of keyboard.
  • Percussion attack and level controls.
  • One and a half octave bass sounds, tabs that light up.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls: ★★★
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


ORGANIZER T1

61-note organ synthesiser. 1981-1983.
Original price: £575
Target price: £100 - £120
Users include: Barry Andrews (XTC, Shriekback), George Duke, Annie Lennox.

  • Nine main drawbars and Two percussion drawbars in centre of control panel.
  • Three preset footage registrations and 'full on'. Fourth button selects drawbar control.
  • Good control of percussion at a wide range of different footages.
  • Leslie simulation, including slow-down/speed-up. Two key-click options.
  • Synth bass section on bottom two octaves - mixed or split.
  • Two basic presets plus filter cutoff and resonance controls.
  • Pitchbend lever (like pinball flipper), vibrato and tremelo.
  • Good range of Vox/Farfisa and straight Hammond sounds - but to get anywhere near the classic 'gutsy' Hammond sound requires outboard overdrive/gentle fuzz - and possibly a valve amp.
  • A reasonable and cheap alternative to the Korg CX3, if you add the overdrive.
Interface:
VFM: ★★
Sounds: ★★
Character:
Controls: ★★★
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★


ORGANIZER T2

2 x 61-note organ synthesiser. 1981-1983.
Original price: Unknown
Target price: £150 - £250
Users include: Mike Barson (Madness), George Duke, Dean Klavett (Lene Lovich).

  • Upper manual identical to T1; lower manual presets different.
  • Basspedals (18-note) available.
  • A reasonable alternative to Korg BX3, if you add the overdrive.
Interface:
VFM: ★★
Sounds: ★★★
Character:
Controls: ★★★
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★


PERFORMER

49-note string/brass synthesiser. c.1978-1983.
Original price: £379
Target price: £60 - £150
Users include: Mats Oberg, Nick Rhodes.

  • Meaty brass sounds - so much so they work well as monophonic bass lines.
  • Brass section features variable attack, decay, filter cut-off and resonance controls.
  • Classic 8' and 16' string synth sounds - buzzy, phased and chorussed.
  • String section features attack and decay controls plus 3-band EQ - effective in making them sound more realistic.
  • Only single filter, so envelope only works when there isn't a note already held down.
  • LFO modulation of pitch or filter, with variable rate and depth.
  • Much sought after in USA
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds: ★★
Character:
Controls:
Collectability: ★ (★★ in USA)
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★


PERFORMER 2

49-note string/brass/organ synthesiser, c.1983.
Original price: c.£499
Target price: £60 - £100
Users include: Thomas Dolby
  • Re-designed front panel, much smarter.
  • One tone control slider and (not very impressive) organ preset instead of 3-band EQ on strings - a shame.
  • Detuning available on brass and organ.
Interface:
VFM:
Sounds:
Character:
Controls:
Collectability:
Memories:
Ease of use: ★★★


POLYTRON

Fully polyphonic synthesiser, c.1980. Never went into production.
Projected price: £900 - £1000

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 4)



Previous Article in this issue

State Of Independents

Next article in this issue

The Listening Pool


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

 

Music Technology - Oct 1993

Donated by: Ian Sanderson

Topic:

Vintage Instruments


Series:

The A-Z of Analogue

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


Feature by Peter Forrest

Previous article in this issue:

> State Of Independents

Next article in this issue:

> The Listening Pool


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