Our definitive directory of every analogue synth in the history of the whole world ever. Included are keyboards, expanders and sound modules. Readers are invited to expand upon or correct any part of the A-Z. Parts 1 to 12 may be ordered on Music Maker's mail order hotline: (Contact Details).
Part 13 - compiled by Peter Forrest
Monophonic 19-preset 37-note (C-C) synthesiser. 1979 - early eighties. Original price: £776 Target price: £70 - £150 Users include: Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman
Unlike most preset synths of the time, you can mix presets together - a massive advantage. As Korg claimed, "On what other instrument could you instantly mix together an electric bass, a trumpet, and then put a sample-and-hold synthesizer effect on top of it?" The answer now would be 'practically any multi-timbral synth in existence' - but the answer then was... none, except the massively expensive PS-3300.
Three banks of rocker switches - Effect, Synth, and Preset. Each rocker has an associated knob above it, to alter one parameter. So, for instance, the portamento rocker has a knob to alter the speed of glide; the 'sample and hold' rocker has a knob to control the rate of sampling the waveform; and most of the instruments' dedicated knobs control attack and decay or release.
Like most preset synths of the time, it is aftertouch-responsive - but not as flexible as most.
Not one but two joysticks: one for pitchbend (switchable and variable for each section) and/or vibrato, and one for filter, noise and other modulation on the synth sounds.
Would you believe a quarter-tone option?
Ring modulator will modulate synth voices with instrument voices to produce some interesting and occasionally staggering sounds.
CV and trigger in and outs - again a huge advantage over any of its contemporary preset rivals, though unfortunately working on the Hz/volt system.
Plus filter and VCO control inputs, independent outs for the Synthe and Preset sections, and a headphone socket.
High as well as low-pass (12dB/octave) voltage-controlled filters.
Large and impressive-looking. 86 controls, and quite a deep instrument (524mm).
Programmable synth; brass and string sections; and two piano and one clavinet preset.
Joystick operates vibrato, pitchbend or trill.
30 colour-coded push-buttons with associated LEDs. String synth section has variable 'bowing' sound - simulating the bow hitting the strings; variable attack, and high and low EQ. Strings and synth sounds often very good.
Brass section has variable attack.
Good flanger, with four control knobs: speed, intensity, feedback, and 'manual' - can work with any one of the sections at once. Why not all three?
Very good keyboard split/layer facility for its day: each section can be independently above or below middle C, or across the whole keyboard. Each section has its own volume control.
Some problems with relative levels - eg between piano and brass sounds - and volume wasn't a programmable parameter on the synth patches. Also (unlike on the PS3200) you couldn't adjust a control on a memory patch - you had to go back into 'manual' mode, and set all knobs correctly - bad news.
Five outputs, including separate sockets for each section. Trigger (for brass filter), VCF level and 'sustain pedal' inputs, plus overall volume control, and separate inputs for volume control of each section (if you're good with your footwork).
Electronic bass sounds - double bass, bass guitar, baritone sax, and others - even Livingston's adverts weren't sure how many: 'five or six tones rolled into one compact package'.
Basically a tube, with mini-keyboard at right-hand end, left-hand controller near the top, and chrome speaker at very top (left-hand) end.
Only right-handed players need apply.
A brilliant sixties artefact. Almost worthless - until someone digs one out and plays it on a video.
Ease of use:
Back in the days when films consisted of terribly false-looking aliens trudging over heavily scorched hills, spreading fiery death rays among naive countryfolk, the wail of the Theremin was an integral part of an atmospheric soundtrack. Designed in the 1920s by Lev Sergeivitch Termen, this huge and versatile beast was the introduction to the world of electronic instruments. In many respects it still out-plays some of the new synths available now, particularly in terms of real-time control, with its funny looking metal protrusions enabling an infinitely more flexible means of controlling pitch and dynamics.
Playing the Theremin is very intuitive. To raise or lower the pitch, the player moves his/her hand toward or away from one such vertical rod, aptly labelled the pitch antenna. By moving the hand rapidly back and forth, vibrato is achieved. The amplitude is controlled in much the same manner, but using the horizontal 'volume' loop on the left side of the instrument instead. In the same way that vibrato is created using the pitch antenna, variations in volume can be attained using the volume antenna. Using these techniques, both dynamics and modulation control are much less stifled by the preset speed, modulation and depth parameters imposed by newer synths.
Now the good news. The Theremin is to be relaunched, this time with the added option of a MIDI interface, which means you can control all your MIDI modules with it. The Big Briar 'Series 91' Theremins, built by none other than Robert Moog, retain their classic timbres, alternately resembling the violin, cello and also human voice. They are also available in a number of cabinet shapes and finishes, including models similar to those built by RCA in 1929, and by Leon Theremin during the 1930s.
For your Theremin (available from late September), contact: Barry Wooding on (Contact Details).
Knights of the Moog
It seems that never has a month gone by without us mentioning InterManual Rescue. They appear to have become the Michael Beurk of the vintage synthesiser world, forever present, rescuing cats from trees in the metaphorical guise of a new manual or a repair service. Well, if Michael Beurk is going to release a book about other peoples' mishaps, then it seems only fair that we should mention the jolly useful work that InterManual Rescue are doing.
Their support for ageing analogue gear has now been stretched to cover a service centre and full support for all Linn products, including the LM1 and Linndrum models. There is also servicing available for E-mu's earlier offerings, giving a tired old Emulator and its successor, the Emulator II, a pit stop before it chugs off again to make merry music. Most other vintage synths are also supported, incorporating products from the likes of Akai and Waldorf, so if your equipment has an ailment, contact InterManual Rescue on (Contact Details).