The Story Of Aviator No.28

January 22, 2014 in Exclusively Analogue, The Aviator

It’s always great to hear the stories and thoughts of Aviator owners and this post is more of a guest post than anything else. The owner of Aviator No.28 has written in to give us his story and how he has used it as part of the setup for his band Eat Static.

When I bought my Aviator, I was in an experimental techno band called Eat Static. That was around the time of our 3rd album, ‘Science Of The Gods’, so probably 1997. Your synths were as rare as rocking horse poo at the time and highly sought after. Luckily, I had become a successful Production Music composer in my day job and was able to pay a bit over the odds for mine. Worth every extra penny!

There were three members in Eat Static and we had an enviable collection of analogue synths and drum machines. No modular synths, though, (unless you include the Waldorf Wave with its then innovative digital ‘patchbay’). All three of us had (and I think still have) a Roland SH-5, famous for its raucous bandpass filter, ring modulation and useful patching switches. The SH-5 was perfect for creating the sound of imaginary animals or alien voices, a kind of signature in our music, so the Aviator was initially tasked with trying to outdo the Roland in this regard.

I remember that we used to sample little snippets of the Aviator making atonal screeches, sweeps, bubbles and other ‘cross-mod’ effects and then set up sampler patches with multiple Aviators, one sound on each key, (something I still do today). Also, we would use MIDI to CV/Gate units to send a rhythmic part to the Aviator to create deranged hi-hats, guiros, congas etc. Of course, the fun part was twiddling knobs ‘live’ while recording these rhythmic parts. The three of us were always in competition over who could create the most outrageous noises and make the others laugh most. To make things even more interesting and enjoyable, we would try to pull faces that matched the sounds. All this while surrounded by about 30 cats in my studio. Happy days!

That was before I got married, obviously! Now, we have only two gigantic Maine-Coon cats, though I still pull stupid faces when I’m playing with the Aviator or SH-5 on the next Hairy Bikers’ theme or whatever. : )

What I’ve always enjoyed about the Aviator is not so much its sublime, warm musicality, (which is there, of course), but its ability to ascend to the ridiculous via unheard groans, squelches, burbles and all manner of grotesquerie which innovates rather than imitates. Analogue synths have a character and, while others are known for their warmth, purity, complexity or rawness, for me the Aviator endures for its ability to do all those and be funny and rude without being offensive – probably because its British, and exclusive.

Aviator #28 - Exclusively Analogue

As you can see from the image above, Aviator #28 had a custom front panel and colour scheme making in a definite collectors item.

The early days of the Aviator

August 26, 2013 in The Aviator

Digging around the other day we came across a set of photographs of the very first Aviator, the “First of the Few”. This first unit was very much a prototype and although it had a full front panel initially it was mounted into a rack case with all the additional electronics circuitry bolted on. Later the unit was modified, put into a proper case and the additional circuitry tidied up. On the very early Aviators the 3 Voltage Controlled Oscillators and the Voltage Controlled Low Frequency Oscillator were built on individual circuit boards that were stacked. The 24dB Low Pass Filter, the Range Switch and Ring Modulator Circuitry were also on individual circuit boards.

Early Aviator from Exclusively Analogue

When we did the update last year to build the “Last of the Few” we did quite a major redesign to tidy up the circuit boards without changing the actual circuitry or sound of the Aviator. The 3 VCOs and the VCLFO were all put on a new single PCB, the Range Switch circuitry was combined with the Range switches into a new PCB, and the Ring Modulator moved to the main front panel PCB. We kept the 24dB Filter circuit separate since it allowed the option to put different types of filters other than the standard SSM2044.

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Aviator #33 and #42 Showcased

May 26, 2013 in The Aviator

We’ve already mentioned the “Happy Knobbing” event in a previous post where a group of enthusiasts in Germany get together for some Synth fun. One of their “meet ups” happened recently and the owners of Aviator #33 and #42 were kind enough to send us some photos. Aviator #33 uses the original design of the front panel while #44 (as can be seen in the photos below) has the new black front panel. The cabinet housing #44 also has in it a Theis TMSS modular synth.

Exclusively Analogue - Aviators 33 and 42

If you’re the proud owner of an Exclusively Analogue Aviator we’d love to hear from you. What other systems do you use it with? What do you regard as the best features? Drop us a note and say “hi”.

Project Merlin Confirmed And Why Knob Size Matters

April 20, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, Project Merlin

Depending on where you come from, and your particular interests, the word ‘knob’ can refer to a number of things including things not really suitable for this website dedicated to Analogue Synthesizers!

I’ve just had the pleasure of visiting someone in Germany who really enjoys analogue synths and he has an enviable collection of modulars, including an Emu which is why I was there. Looking around the room my eyes always focused on the big old modulars like the Moogs and then at the newer, smaller and compressed modulars. Whilst I can appreciate that small knobs and small format modulars work for a lot of people, (it saves building an extension to your house or flat just to hold the modular!), for me ‘Big is Beautiful’. In particular the large format of the Emu modular is a favourite which is why I’ve spent a vast amount of time and effort to recreate this classic.

Once I had completed the rebuild into a new 4 tier cabinet with new power supply and some additional Pioneer Tribute modules I surveyed the result of my labours and knew why I liked the Emu so much. To then plug it in and hear the results was even better, more so when the big smile appeared on the owner’s face. It seems I’m not alone in liking ‘BIG KNOBS’ because I heard that there is a group of analogue synth enthusiasts in Germany who hold regular ‘Happy Knobbing’ events where tweaking ‘knobs’ of various sizes on analogue modulars and synths is their ‘thing’.

There is a good reason for all this talk about ‘knobs’. I’ve started work on my next synth, (I’ve called it “Project Merlin” for now since it will hopefully produce ‘magical’ sounds), which for want of a better description will be a cut down Aviator with a new unique filter and some interesting modulation options. I have to decide on the format both in terms of the overall size and also the size of the human interface part, the ‘knobs’.

I’ve used the Emu style large knobs on the ‘Last of the Few’ Aviators and that seems to work very well against the black front panel. The original silver Aviators had slightly smaller coloured knobs which also worked at the time but I have to say that the overall look of these last few Aviators is better, in my opinion.

I’d like your help in determining which route to go down; choice for you is a small compact synth with small knobs or something a little larger, about 2/3 the height of the Aviator, with BIG knobs. Your opinions would be appreciated!

Aviator No. 41 Dispatched Plus More Sound Samples

March 9, 2013 in The Aviator

Aviator No. 41 is built, tested and ready to be delivered and work on No. 42 is about to begin. Here’s hoping that No. 42 will indeed be the answer to life, the universe and everything for the person that’s ordered it. Keep an eye out for some more photos of The Aviator in coming weeks as there have been a couple of custom requests we’ll hopefully be able to share with you.

In the meantime here’s a few more sound samples for you, quickly recorded on a laptop while testing No. 41 so apologies for the sound quality. One of the sounds demonstrates the VCO sync function used for the lead synth part of a Jean Michele Jarre piece and what makes it great is that it’s almost the analogue synth equivalent to an overdriven electric guitar. Another sound demonstrates the “Sample and Hold” in use controlling the VCF frequency to give random frequency changes of the resonating filter.

Why Analogue Synths In A Digital World?

February 2, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, The Aviator

I’m often asked why I remain firmly rooted in the past using technology from the 1970s and 1980s rather than taking the leap into the present and embracing the digital world. While you might think at my age I would enjoy nothing better than driving my car listening to classical music, heavy rock or perhaps the Bee Gees it might surprise you to know that Tiesto, the Swedish House Mafia, or a Trance compilation (played at the required high volume sufficient to get the whole car to become a bass resonator) is nearer the truth!

I know Trance is an acquired taste but what attracts me is that if you listen to most tracks you can guarantee that a lot of the sounds used are “analogue'” in origin and in particular a great deal of use is made of sweeping filters. Analogue synthesizers have been part of my life since the early 1970s when I used to listen to Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Wendy Carlos, etc playing their Moog synths. I was captivated by the sound and my journey into building analogue synths began in 1977 when I built my first one, based on an article in an Electronics magazine. This synth, a Minisonic, was built whilst serving on HMS Hermes and whilst it was a basic analogue synth is could still produce some awesome sounds.

Little did I know that my passion for analogue synthesizers would take me on an incredible journey. In 1992 that same journey took me to a studio in North London where I ended up working on one of the most famous analogue synths, Keith Emerson’s huge Moog Modular. To think that 20 years earlier I had listened to this monster being used on the numerous ELP albums and there I was working on it! 20 years on from that and here I am still pursuing my passion and building analogue synthesizers again.

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