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Elka ER33 Expander

Article from Making Music, July 1987


Thank you God. My first review for Making Music and I get an FM-based expander with no manual. So when you come across a descriptive fact you should mentally insert "presumably" or "or maybe not".

Anyway, this is (presumably) a nine-voice polyphonic rack-mounted digital synth (or maybe not), which happens to be a slightly lesser relative to the EK44 (reviewed in Making Music Jan 87) in that it contains one voice generating system — "DCG" — not two. The EK33 uses a Yamaha DX-type system for creating its sounds and features, a la FB-01, a multi-timbral facility whereby up to eight different sections can be assigned a different sound.

Also interestingly, each sound or 'preset' as embodied in a "DCG" is actually made up of two 'sounds' of four oscillators, each of which gives us a sort of layering facility. But you'll find that, to get the fullest possible sound, you'll probably use both of these 'sounds' in combination. So in an electric piano patch, sound 1 might supply the tone; sound 2 the hammer noise.

Unimaginably fascinating, you cry, but what on earth does it sound like? Pretty good, given that it's been equipped with a fairly mundane collection of factory presets which cover the usual range of imitative-type sounds plus one token 'weird' one - "spatial" - this sounded not a bit spatial, more like 'Turd On A Spring'. But the strings, for instance, sound very respectable, especially for a digital synth, and it didn't take much tweaking (hip musician talk for pushing every button in sight) to get good sounds.

The overall tone quality seems closer to a Casio PD synth than a DX — though it is rather easier to program, helped by its having an envelope system understandable by mortals, and also a helpful little display which manages for each edit parameter to roughly show you, via a bargraph, the respective settings of all the oscillators simultaneously.

Other interesting features include a MIDI on-off switch (why doesn't every synth have one?) and a 'help' button which gives you a little blurb on each displayed edit parameter (but often refers to the manual: see 'thank you God').


At £799 [Errata: £599] this product seems to be priced a little high, especially as it's keyboard-less. Also, a fully fledged dual mode is a notable omission even if its inclusion were to have reduced the polyphony to four or so notes. However, some interesting features are to be found behind the rather drab front panel, including the impressive multi-split facility. This, and the relative ease of programming, make the machine well worth investigating, especially to sequencing home recordist types (ie everyone nowadays).


PRICE £799 [Errata: £599]
SOUND SOURCE digital oscillators
POLYPHONY nine note
MEMORY 64 presets plus 32 programmable; RAM or ROM cartridges; 16 performance memories - recall split points, mod information etc
SPLITS up to eight split points
DISPLAY 32 character LCD
EFFECTS chorus

Also featuring gear in this article

Previous Article in this issue

Tape Dates

Next article in this issue

Drum Hum

Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - Jul 1987

Review by Alastair Gavin

Previous article in this issue:

> Tape Dates

Next article in this issue:

> Drum Hum

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