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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Aviator Sound Tests

January 19, 2013 in Exclusively Analogue, The Aviator

Following on from yesterdays post about the first Aviator to be built in 16 years we’ve now uploaded a few sound files from the testing that was undertaken before it was shipped. These 3 sound files demonstrate the filter options available on the Aviator.

The above sound file is based on the intro beat from the Swedish House Mafia track “Greyhound”. It uses the Exclusively Analogue Aviator synthesizer with the 24 dB Low Pass filter before switching to a 12 dB Multimode filter and demonstrating Low Pass through to High Pass.

Based on the track “Greece 2000” and starts with a 24 dB Low Pass filter before switching to a 12dB Multimode filter.

This sound file has The Aviator synthesizer doing the lead synth solo that Keith Emerson did in Lucky Man. It starts with a 24 dB Low Pass filter before adding a VCF2 in Multi-Mode as an additional output to change the sound.

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.

An insight in to quality and how to order a Pioneer “Tribute” system

April 1, 2012 in The Pioneer

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the first Pioneer “Tribute” system will be on it’s way to Switzerland. This now means there are only 7 more systems left for sale. If you are interested in purchasing one the necessary details are at the bottom of this post.

Ensuring quality

From the outset of the Pioneer “Tribute” project I was keen to ensure that it was a high quality product. All the components used are to equal or better specification than those used by Emu back in the 70s. In some areas there have been improvements beyond the original. One example of this is in the oak cabinet and the mounting of the individual modules. The panels are made to very exact dimensions and I have just received the mounting metalwork which has been made to the same exact standards. This means that there are no unsightly gaps between the modules and they almost blend into one!

The panels themselves are not paint on top of the aluminium but instead the ink is impregnated into the metal. The result is a much sharper finish that is resistant to scratching unlike the original panels. The oak cabinet has been made by a professional cabinet maker and is the finishing touch. I could have used Walnut, which was the wood used in most of the originals, but decided to add a British touch and I think the finish on the oak works well to highlight the modules. The rear panel, which has the power supply mounted on it, has the “Tribute Limited Edition” text and each of the 10 panels are individually engraved “Number * of 10”. I’ll have the first complete system built up in the new cabinet on Tuesday and I will post some pictures once it is done.

I have now finalised what will be in the Tribute system and added some useful modules which I’m sure people will like. The first additional module is the Lag Processor (useful for glide effects and much more). The second is the Ring Modulator which can be used to create a number of interesting effects including ‘bell type’ sounds. Lastly I have decided to include the new MultiMode filter since this adds so much to the system and complements the 24dB Low Pass filter. The MultiMode filter provides 12dB Low Pass, High Pass, Bandpass, and Notch outputs so great for the ‘buzzier’ sounds and reverse envelope sweeps. Although the MulitiMode filter is not an Emu original, they produced the Universal Active Filter, it is made to fit into the system so it doesn’t look out of place.

I’ve also decided to do a small run of the Universal Active Filters to either be added to the Tribute system (at an additional cost) or existing Emu modular systems. I will only make about 10 of these UAFs to the original 1122 specification before looking at doing a redesign to replace the obsolete components.

Ordering a Pioneer “Tribute” system

The 7 remaining Pioneer ‘Tribute’ systems are now available to be purchased for a total cost of £4000 per system (plus shipping). Each system is individually built and can be customised slightly to the buyers requirement. A £500 deposit is required to secure a system with the remaining balance (plus shipping) being payable before delivery. If you are interested please use the “Contact Us” section of this website to get in touch.

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.