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$12,500 to spend. EMS Synthi A vs Modular
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next [all]
Author $12,500 to spend. EMS Synthi A vs Modular
sduck
You might be able to rustle up a clone - http://www.phutney.com

I'm in the process of building one of these for another muffwiggler. It's a really substantial build, not for the faint of heart.
joesdeals
Does anyone on this forum have the Hornet ?

I will look up that one too.
joesdeals
What beginning eurorack modules can I start with? Or should start with?
WaveRider
start with a voice or 2, and 2 sequencers, clock divider etc....

there is no point in starting too small, get to a point you can do something then after that learn, and buy modules 1 by 1...

so 1 voice can be:
1 osc, 1 filter, 1 lfo, 2 eg, 1 vca.... do not worry about witch modules you get, buy good brands.. get 2 of those

-a couple of sequencers

-clock dividers, switches, utility modules

then learn with what you have for a while, then get more esoteric stuff...
ersatzplanet
If you are lusting for a Synthi AKS then the first modules I would suggest would be the ones closest to those in a Synthi.

For a VCO, I would get a couple of Analogue Systems RS95E VCOs. They have similar have shaping as the EMS VCOs (only CV controllable), Vernier tuning knobs like the EMS, 1v/oct response to match current specs, but also a variable CV in that can go down to 0.5v/Oct witch will see similarly like the EMS's 0.32v/Oct (but of course not exactly).

For the Filter I would get the AS RS500e - "Genuine Ems synthi filter. This legendary filter can be switched between pre1974 and post 1974 filter type and response. For the first time response can be voltage controlled which was designed on the circuit board but not available on the matrix. This module is made under license from Ems."

For Envelope and VCA combo like the EMS ones (they were one module), I would get the AS RS510e - "Genuine Ems trapezoid generator featuring Attack, On, Decay, Off and Trapezoid output level. With v.c of Decay time, status led, Sig in and Sig out, Gate in and Outputs A and B this classic timing generator when used with Rs500e captures the essence of the VCS3
and Synthi A. This module is made under license from Ems"

Get a good LFO. The AS RS85 is a nice one with an extended range (it can go down to one cycle every 200 seconds and up to 1.4K) Level controls for the waveform outs make it similar to the EMS stuff which had only output level controls.

Note the AS stuff does have some extra hurdles to use in a standard Doepfer style Eurorack system. The power connections are different but you can easily get adaptors in cable form and as little PCBs. The hole spacing is slightly different so next to a Doepfer style panel there will be a 1/2HP gap. buy a whole row and this won''t be a problem or by the 1.5HP blanks that Doepfer sells.

For the other "modules" in the VCS3 or Synthi A, almost any equivalent will do. This will not sound exactly the same as the EMS stuff of course. These modules will be as close as you can practically get. The Ergonomics of course will be WAY different. There will be things you can do with these modules that you can't do this the EMS just cause it will be easier to patch them up to other things and you will have some added CV ins that you would have to mod the originals to do.

This would be a good starting place if the EMS stuff was a goal.
Sleipnir
joesdeals wrote:
Thanks for the replies. I wonder why the patch matrix is so rare on modern day synths. It seems so much more ideal than patch cables

Heh, I was going to also suggest you try the app and see if the matrix is for you, but you have and it seems like it is.
Personally, it drives me batshit and is super limiting (though that can be a feature in some ways).
Graham Hinton
ersatzplanet wrote:
If you are lusting for a Synthi AKS then the first modules I would suggest would be the ones closest to those in a Synthi.


Theoretically, but in practise they don't sound the same or feel the same. Several people have brought me those AS modules wondering if something was wrong with them and I had to ask what they expected out of context. The circuits are the same, but they are pretty low performance circuits. It was the same when SE were buying up Minimoogs when nobody wanted them [sic.] and repackaging them in 19" format with MIDI. An expensive disappointment.

The only part of a Synthi that stands up on its own, well after a few necessary mods, is the Oscillators. I have custom rebuilt (NOT cloned) a few in 3U format like this:



and this did have the feel of the original even though it was different.
I have been asked to do the same for the Filter/EG/RM board and refused--it just wouldn't meet expectations and isn't worth the effort at any price.
The Synthis are more than the sum of their parts, but you need experience with them to understand that.
gruebleengourd
ersatzplanet wrote:

This is spot on. Especially the "Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses." bit. (remember he was fond of DX7s for a long time.)


Well, he is at his best when he is using other musicians (cause then he doesn't sound so much like Eno alone).
wackelpeter
Isn't also the fact that there are some design flaws like crosstalk, bad wiring that gave those EMS synth that unique sound, or do i remember that wrong?

I would stay away from spending 12k on that synth, well it's really nice one, but if you have money to burn there are several ways you could get better get rid of it.

I've seen a few crap videos with an EMS synthi on Youtube and of course that doesn't mean that there aren't good ones. And from that decent videos i felt the half is just re-producing the On The Run by PF. So i would strongly believe owing an EMS results in no proof that the musical output will be satisfying.
I would look at gear form the point what features and functionality it will provide and what i can achieve with it, wihtout looking for names and brands.
I only limit myself to only include analog gear into my setup, using no midi and no stuff that has a display and menue on it. smile
joesdeals
Thanks, I will get started very soon with my eurorack journey

Looking at some cases as well

https://reverb.com/item/4614137-odd-aeon-eurorack-case-15u
lud
When looking at high end analogue synths did you check out the Macbeth Elements?
I haven't played it but it looks awesome
Graham Hinton
wackelpeter wrote:
Isn't also the fact that there are some design flaws like crosstalk, bad wiring that gave those EMS synth that unique sound, or do i remember that wrong?


It is as much a fact as that the Sun goes round the Earth. A medieval religious belief, enforced by burning heretics at the stake, that does not stand up to reason.
3001
Graham Hinton wrote:
ersatzplanet wrote:
If you are lusting for a Synthi AKS then the first modules I would suggest would be the ones closest to those in a Synthi.


Theoretically, but in practise they don't sound the same or feel the same. Several people have brought me those AS modules wondering if something was wrong with them and I had to ask what they expected out of context. The circuits are the same, but they are pretty low performance circuits. It was the same when SE were buying up Minimoogs when nobody wanted them [sic.] and repackaging them in 19" format with MIDI. An expensive disappointment.

The only part of a Synthi that stands up on its own, well after a few necessary mods, is the Oscillators. I have custom rebuilt (NOT cloned) a few in 3U format like this:



and this did have the feel of the original even though it was different.
I have been asked to do the same for the Filter/EG/RM board and refused--it just wouldn't meet expectations and isn't worth the effort at any price.
The Synthis are more than the sum of their parts, but you need experience with them to understand that.


Are these for sale?

I'm with you on the "stand up on it's own" aspect. I had a matrix panel from digitana with my AKS, and what I came to realize is that the synthi parts aren't that special on their own, it's the interface that does it. I swapped out the filter for the arp2600 filter, and it was very hard to tell the difference... The oscillators definitely shine though.

I do miss my synthis, and I've had a few over the past few years. But I keep getting bored as hell of them. They have some amazing sounds, but I feel that just about all the sounds have been over done, and you can get them other ways. And the nicest part...less noise floor on newer stuff...

Its time to move into 2017...we want to make "futuristic" music anyway, no?
joesdeals
3001 wrote:
Graham Hinton wrote:
ersatzplanet wrote:
If you are lusting for a Synthi AKS then the first modules I would suggest would be the ones closest to those in a Synthi.


Theoretically, but in practise they don't sound the same or feel the same. Several people have brought me those AS modules wondering if something was wrong with them and I had to ask what they expected out of context. The circuits are the same, but they are pretty low performance circuits. It was the same when SE were buying up Minimoogs when nobody wanted them [sic.] and repackaging them in 19" format with MIDI. An expensive disappointment.

The only part of a Synthi that stands up on its own, well after a few necessary mods, is the Oscillators. I have custom rebuilt (NOT cloned) a few in 3U format like this:



and this did have the feel of the original even though it was different.
I have been asked to do the same for the Filter/EG/RM board and refused--it just wouldn't meet expectations and isn't worth the effort at any price.
The Synthis are more than the sum of their parts, but you need experience with them to understand that.


Are these for sale?

I'm with you on the "stand up on it's own" aspect. I had a matrix panel from digitana with my AKS, and what I came to realize is that the synthi parts aren't that special on their own, it's the interface that does it. I swapped out the filter for the arp2600 filter, and it was very hard to tell the difference... The oscillators definitely shine though.

I do miss my synthis, and I've had a few over the past few years. But I keep getting bored as hell of them. They have some amazing sounds, but I feel that just about all the sounds have been over done, and you can get them other ways. And the nicest part...less noise floor on newer stuff...

Its time to move into 2017...we want to make "futuristic" music anyway, no?


The EMS Synthi potential was barely tapped into... millions of combinations to make unique sounds. It really is endless.
Graham Hinton
3001 wrote:
Are these for sale?


Not really. I built one for somebody on this forum and a couple of people who happened to have an EMS Oscillator card have asked me to make them one too, but it's hard work. As it is built around an EMS pcb it has to have all the hand wiring, so it is very labour intensive.
Custom EMS Oscillator Bank

Quote:

I had a matrix panel from digitana with my AKS, and what I came to realize is that the synthi parts aren't that special on their own, it's the interface that does it.


I've never seen the point of what digitana does. A Synthi somehow works with the combination it has, but when you try extending it it just falls apart. Like a Synthi 100.

joesdeals wrote:
The EMS Synthi potential was barely tapped into... millions of combinations to make unique sounds. It really is endless.


I can't agree with that. Most of the permutations of the matrix don't give you anything usable, but it does allow you to easily patch things that would be very difficult on other systems and that you just wouldn't think of doing.

A few people wrung a lot out of them in the '70s and then moved on. You don't see any of these collectors doing a 2 hour live set with just a pair of Synthi As, like Zorch or Crystal Machine did, and you don't hear much apart from cliches and bug noises from the cloners.
djhyperspace
always interested in what mr.Hinton has to say
WaveRider
djhyperspace wrote:
always interested in what mr.Hinton has to say


agreed smile

...there is not that much mythical stuff from that golden past anymore, yes a few synths remain unequalled but the golden age is really TODAY

...never been so many good synths and drum machines, affordable gear than now... Rockin' Banana!
ersatzplanet
Buy a Buchla Easel and a Buchla Easel-K. Then you would have two portable systems that have a lot of sound potential. Or just buy one and spend the rest on Euro.
nickbaba
Hey dude. lots of good advice here.

The Macbeth Elements is a gorgeous hi-end monosynth but its apples and oranges compared with an EMS. There's a resemblance 'cos of the Vernier dials, (and it sounds great) but under the hood they are different beasts. Elements is basically a fixed architecture synth, you have some A/B routing options on switches but there's no deep patching available like an EMS matrix.

I also looked into the Portabella recently, with tax it was going to cost close to 7,000 GBP in the end - that's a major chunk of your 12,000 US. I have not played with one but there's always that clone thing of "how close is it?" especially if you really wanted a Synthi in the first place and got the clone as plan B. I'm sure it'll be an amazing portable synth, but chances are it'll be its own beast.

If you want and desire a vintage Synthi then you may have to bite the bullet and admit that nothing else will scratch that itch. Yes, they are overpriced in today's market. Will prices continue to rise? Most probably. The rarity and the 'woo' factor will see to that. Just ask someone who nearly bought one 10 years ago and didn't because the price back then seemed like silly money at the time.

Synthis do still change hands in private sales for less than dealer/Reverb/bay prices. There was one on BST here a few weeks ago for 8.5k (US) in NY...that's less than the Portabella will cost you. Yes, you are buying vintage kit, and may have issues down the line. Unfortunately there's no way round that (maybe apart from buying a used Cornwall Synthi or VCS3 if you can find one). We in the UK/EU are in the same boat (as it were) with the BEMI Easel... prone to failures and no tech support this side of the Atlantic. But there must be tech dudes in the US who can service EMS for you. At worst there are a couple of guys here in UK & EU who know their stuff, not to mention EMS themselves who will also service and support their vintage units.

Yes, you could buy a bunch of euro for that money. You could have a bunch of VCOs and VCFs and FX etc etc. You will be able to make a bunch of sounds. It will be a very useful set of tools. And maybe that's what you want and need. Fair enough, that's very sensible.

But will it thrill you? Will it make you feel excited to flip the On switch? These things are functional musical tools, of course, but they also inspire emotions in us. Just like music itself, on one level it's simply maths, but it also makes us feel things which cannot be quantified.

Personally I don't disagree with the advice given here by these very knowledgeable people. You could buy a lot of modules/other synths for 12k. The Synthi is limited in function, and vintage in character. But imho a good EMS is also the hands-down best-sounding monosynth there is. It just has a living breathing hefty quality to it that's hard to find elsewhere. And you could end up spending the price of a real Synthi on chasing that sound in euro or on a Synthi clone.

If I was in your situation, and I had decided I really wanted to own one, I'd bide my time, wait for the right deal, and spend the rest on a small euro set-up to complement the Synthi and 'fill in the gaps' on the functions it lacks. I very much doubt you'll regret buying one, but even if you do, I doubt you'll have a problem selling it on.
mousegarden
ersatzplanet wrote:
Graham Hinton wrote:

The people who made the Synthis famous, and hence "worth" silly money, got them because they were cheap and accessable, unlike modulars at the time that cost more than a house. They overcame the shortcomings and made records that sold millions and then stopped using them because they could then buy what they really wanted. David Bowie bought Brain Eno's Synthi A at a silly price because it was used on 'Heroes' and he thought he needed it to get "that sound" again, then died without using it. Ironically, that one is "worth" even more now, whatever happened to it. Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses.


This is spot on. Especially the "Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses." bit. (remember he was fond of DX7s for a long time.)


Be interesting to hear what Brian Eno thinks about the current modular trend...
wsy
ersatzplanet wrote:
Buy a Buchla Easel and a Buchla Easel-K. Then you would have two portable systems that have a lot of sound potential. Or just buy one and spend the rest on Euro.


Yeah, I was going to say that.

New BEMI easels are available and the price isn't crazy... and when i had a problem, new boards magically arrived in the mail
from BEMI and got me up and running in just a couple of days!

No, they're not the same thing. The question is this: if you enjoy it or not. If nothing but an AKS will do, then, well, nothing but an
AKS will do. If you want that "flavor" of machine, then I would definitely go with the Easel or Easel-K, because I've used
both and I definitely like the Easel-K more (yes, get the AUX EXPANDER!)

It also might matter where you are- if you're in the UK then servicing a vintage (== cranky as heck) AKS will be easier than it is
here in the USA. The reverse will be true in Europe - I would see what Schneidersladen and such had good service relationships with
and try to work within that.

Get what you think will please you more in the long run. Including cost and frustration as well as joy and satisfaction.

- Bill
mousegarden
The funny thing is,when I had my VCS3 in 1976, I didn't think it was anything special, it was just a secondhand synth, one that I could afford at the time. I really wanted a Mini Moog, but couldn't find one at the right price. I found the VCS3 annoying, it seemed to be badly made, not very robust, and it hummed like crazy. I never connected with it, I wouldn't mind one now, purely for nostalgia reasons, but that's it.
I sold it as soon as I could and bought a Mini Moog, which enabled me to do exactly what I wanted to do simply, and with the minimum of fuss, unlike the VCS3.
Graham Hinton
mousegarden wrote:
I found the VCS3 annoying, it seemed to be badly made, not very robust, and it hummed like crazy.


When the VCS3 was announced it was priced at £175, but by the time it was actually shipping it had jumped to £330. That was a lot more than a decent guitar then especially when in my first job then I wasn't taking home £20 a week. When I first got my hands on one in 1972 I was disappointed, it didn't really meet its own spec and some of the corner cutting was unbelievable. In particular the nasty cheap Erie pots they used sounded and felt like broken bones grinding together--instant recoil. I was glad that I hadn't tried to save up for one. Then I found that it was very easily modified and with a small effort it could be vastly improved. I didn't actually get my own until 1980 when I bought one from a drummer in a band who though it was "old rubbish" (which was pretty much the general opinion then) and as they had it sampled on their Kurweil they had no further need for it [sic.]. I didn't argue with him. First thing I did was replace all the Erie pots.

To be fair nothing else was well made then, nobody used pcbs with solder masks because they were an expensive optional extra. Moogs and ARPs were pretty ropey inside too, the first decently made synth I saw was the Prophet 5 in 1976.

Somebody posted a picture of the EMS factory on the EMS Synthi waiting list thread recently.
Several things struck me: no up to date production methods even for the time, what a dump that factory was (I had forgotten), but mainly that even in its heyday sales were not covering the wages. If you want to make a little money out of synths... start with a lot of money. The current price of around £5k is probably fair for the work involved, but that begs the question of why that much work is involved. It could be <£3k and easier to make, but as long as people hold an irrational belief that it would lose something if it isn't "original" that isn't going to happen. When Robin told me that he was having the Erie pots remade especially for him I was too stunned for words, mine was all conductive plastic, but that's the difference do you want a myth or a tool? A myth is priceless, but I wouldn't pay $12500 for a 3 VCO mono voice.
ersatzplanet
I was always amazed by all the hand wiring inside the thing. All these neat cable tied bundles coming off the pots and going down to the edge connectors for the PCBs. I am amazed Robin hasn't at least made a PCB for that bit. All the Pots and switches PCB mounted with the edge connectors on it for the 3 PCBs. That compromise alone would save him hours of labor (though they would still have to deal with the matrix). That is, if he is still making them the same way mine were in the late 70's.
mousegarden
I had a few problems with my VCS3 when I had it, and I also needed some first hand advice about how to get certain sounds and effects. I rang EMS a couple of times and their atitude was very strange, like, I should really know what I was doing, and my god, it's obvious that to cure that problem you had to do this, don't you know that? Also there were long gaps in the conversation, like they'd hung up, it was like they thought I had stolen the thing or something and wondered who on earth this ignorant person was.
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