Photos of the Universal Active Filter

December 14, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue

The quieter Winter period has meant more time to build the various systems and modules we have to offer and one of the most recent has been the Universal Active Filter. Below are photos of one that was shipped over to Belgium recently. This one uses a number of the same original components from the eMu UAF while our Belgian friend built the wood casing himself.

Universal Active Filter - Exclusively Analogue

Universal Active Filter - Exclusively Analogue

The feedback we’ve received from the buyer about the Universal Active Filter has been really positive;

“It sounds great and is really well built”

Next up is a nice Christmas break and we wish you all the best for the festive period.

Last Of The Few: The Aviator

November 18, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Aviator

Summer is over and my day job, flying an airliner, has eased off for the Winter giving me some time at last to write this blog and work on my projects!

Exclusively Analogue has always specialised in making limited quantity custom built synthesizers and “The Aviator” was a perfect example of this. In total only 35 were actually produced back in the1990s so a rare beast and apparently much sought after. I recently had one of the earliest examples back for refurbishment and I have included some photographs of this unit so you can see a bit of what’s inside.

The first picture shows how the very early front panel looked followed by a picture of what sits behind the front panel.


Quite complex and it took a lot of building especially when you add the 4 VCO boards, 24dB Low Pass Filter Board, and Power Supply. Later “Aviators” had a slightly redesigned front panel and a ‘special’ rear panel as shown below.

I have a very limited stock of the required parts (CEM VCO and EG ICs are the difficult ones) left and after one particular person almost begged me to build him another Aviator I have decided to make “The Last of The Few”!! (Anyone with an interest in Aviation history will remember that Winston Churchill used the term “The Few” to describe the brave RAF Fighter pilots of the Battle of Britain. My “Aviators” are not at all brave but they are British and exclusive!)

The first of these will have a Black front panel and include a “Custom Built for ***********” text in the top left hand corner. An example of the panel artwork is below. I intend using the Solid Aluminium knobs from the Emu Modular system with this panel and once it’s built up I will post some pictures for you.

I plan to use up my stock and build a further 3 “Custom Built” Black Aviators and perhaps another 5 Original Silver and Blue ones if I can get the extra CEM ICs that I will need. These will definitely be the “Last of the Few” and if nothing else, could prove to be a sound investment considering how other old analogue synthesizers have risen in price. If you would like to be an owner of one of “The Last of The Few” Aviators then get in touch. It will be on a first come first served basis.

It is unlikely that I will ever make a Mark 2 “Aviator” simply because they are very time consuming to make. I am considering producing a scaled down 2VCO “Mini Aviator” version using more readily available components and a less complex design. It will still have a unique and Magical sound, mainly due to the Filters, be in a 19” Rack format and still have some jack sockets for ‘patchability’ just like it’s big brother. These won’t be available until Summer 2013 at the earliest.

Synth Apps on a phone vs The Real Thing and a new Universal Active Filter

August 2, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

It’s been a while since my last blog mainly because my ‘day job’ of flying an airliner has kept me very busy recently.

I, like so many people Worldwide, have joined the ‘Apple’ family and ended up with an iPhone and an iPad. One of the interesting things I noticed was a number of Apps (Applications) that you can get for musicians including some quite good analogue synthesizer ones. There is a very good app from Korg, that recreates the famous MS20 synthesizer, and another from Akai. Both allow you to recreate some very realistic analogue synth sounds on your iPhone/iPad. The downside however is the lack of tactility that you get from the ‘real thing’ and you are left trying to get used to finger movements on the screen and that takes time to master. It’s so much easier to just tweak a knob or switch on the real thing!!

No one has so far created an Emu Modular or Aviator app but judging by the apps I have looked at I’m sure it could be done. However, owning the real thing with the original sound and controls is, in my opinion, far better than a digital recreation. You could liken it to the difference between driving a high performance sports car in a computer game and owning the real thing. One of the main reasons is that any digital recreation with ‘analogue modelling’ can only go so far at producing the same filter characteristics. For instance the Emu Universal Active Filter (UAF) has a lot of discrete components (i.e. dual matched transistors) in it that help give it the range of filtering options available and the unique sound

I have been doing some experimentation and detective work recently with the primary aim of trying to find some alternatives for the AD820 and LM114 dual matched transistors used in the Emu UAF module. Fortunately I have now found alternatives from Linear Systems that match the characteristics of the originals so I can now build more Universal Active Filters if anyone wants them. I have done all of the work ready to produce new main and sub module circuit boards as well having the front panels already made.

The Universal Active Filter will be the first module that can be purchased separately so it can be added to existing Emu Modular systems or even to other modulars provided a suitable power source is available. Further details will be on the website shortly but if you are interested in getting a UAF just send us an email.

The picture above shows an original UAF sub module and a new one that I completed recently. In a side by side test the sound you get is identical!!

Paying Tribute, Chance Meetings And A Salute To Longevity

May 21, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue

I was sad to hear of the death of Donna Summer recently. I still think that her “I Feel Love” song, with the powerful and instantly recognisable Gorgio Moroder synth bass sequence, will remain one of the icons of the synth era. As a tribute to her I am in the process of recreating that iconic sound on the Pioneer ‘Tribute’ system and I will endeavour to put the results on here later.

It’s also a very small, and strange, world we live in and at the weekend I had one of those experiences that demonstrated how fate has a way of conspiring to make things happen. I attended a dinner in Oxford on Saturday and ended up sitting next to someone who it turned out was connected with the music industry. After lengthy conversations I discovered that both her and her brother knew various people that I did and that her company, Timespace, had lots of clients who might be interested in the uniqueness of the Exclusively Analogue products. Time will tell whether anything comes of this but I was taken aback at how this chance meeting at a totally non musically connected dinner happened!

It is perhaps worth re-iterating that Exclusively Analogue has always focused on producing unique and exclusive products in limited numbers. As an example I have just been asked to custom build two ‘Aviators’ which will be very unique. To demonstrate this uniqueness both will have “Custom Built for _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” on the front panel.

On the subject of Aviators, a studio in Sweden has sent their Aviator, number 9, back to me for an overhaul. It has been in constant use for almost 18 years and had a minor fault with the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) on one of the VCOs plus a couple of pots that were showing signs of wear. The PWM fault was traced to a faulty 45 pence diode! It was pleasing to note that everything else had remained fully functional. It’s always rewarding to see that my attention to quality in the past has paid off and that ethos will continue in the newer products like the Pioneer modular.

Photos of the Pioneer “Tribute”

April 4, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

As promised in the previous blog post we’ve now got some photos of a completed Pioneer “Tribute” system in the Oak cabinet. Take a look below to see the finished system and remember to get in touch if you’ve got any questions.

Here are a couple of closer images along with the newly designed back panel.

A tale of two modules..

March 16, 2012 in Exclusively Analogue, The Pioneer

As I continue building up the modules of the “Tribute” system, for my own set and also for the first of the extra sets for lucky buyers, I have looked at what is beyond the basic set. I was fortunate to have some extra original submodules and PCBs for some of the less common modules including the rare Universal Active Filter (UAF), Lag Processor, and Ring Modulator. Unfortunately the discrete dual transistors used in the UAF means that it will not be possible to make many of them, most likely only 4, before having to do an upgrade of the parts with a resultant possible change in characteristics. I have built up the first UAF using an original 1122 submodule, original main PCB and a new front panel to match everything else in my system. The end result is great both visually and sonically!

The Lag Processor and Ring Modulator however are as difficult so I have just ordered the panels for these so that I can include them on my system as well as having some spare if people want them.

Because of the problems with the parts for the UAF I have decided to utilise the Multimode filter I originally used in the Aviator in the first of the new “Pioneer” modules. This filter is based on the Oberheim SEM 12dB design and provides Low Pass, Band Pass, High Pass, and Notch outputs so in some respects is very similar to the UAF. The only thing missing is the voltage control of Resonance (Q as Emu call it) but I personally have never really found much use for that function musically. I have aimed to maintain the same look as the original LPF 6″ x 6″ panel with the addition of a Mode selection control to select the output type just as it was on the SEM and the Aviator. The artwork picture below gives you an idea of how the new EA2120 Multimode Filter front panel will look and I have just put the order in for some of these to be made.

The MultiMode Filter will complement a new “Pioneer” EA2101 24db Low Pass Filter which is based on circuitry similar to the well known SSM2040 IC so with the two modules all the various filtering options will be covered.

So back to the soldering iron, PCB design software, and CorelDraw to work on some more modules to add to the new “Pioneer” system. The Dual LFO, Noise and Sample & Hold combined module looks favourite for my attention next.