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EMS Synthi 100 - The Delaware

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The EMS Synthi 100 was a large analogue/digital hybrid synthesizer made by Electronic Music Studios (London) Ltd, originally as a custom order from Radio Belgrade for what was to be the Radio Belgrade Electronic Studio, largely thanks to contact between composer Paul Pignon, then living in Belgrade, and Peter Zinovieff. The ground-breaking analogue and digital engineering was designed by David Cockerell and documented in detail in 1971. The cost at that time was £6,500 (about £92,500 in 2020 Pounds). The last unit built by EMS was number 30. Afterwards, one final unit was built by Datanomics, who bought assets from EMS when the company folded in 1979. The redesigned unit was sold to Gabinete de Música Electroacústica, Cuenca, Spain.

Formerly known as the Digitana and aka The Delaware, the EMS Synthi 100 was developed from an initial concept of three VCS3 systems. The analogue modules alone look more like six VCS3s. Add the 256 digital sequencer circuit cards and the card count is 85 (28 times larger than a VCS3 by circuit board count), with 12 voltage-controlled oscillators and eight voltage-controlled filters Two monophonic keyboards (both keyboards together produce four control voltages and two key triggers simultaneously). The digital sequencer has three (duophonic) layers, 10,000 clock events and 256 duophonic note events. Two 60 × 60 matrixes were used to connect the different modules by using patch pins. The keyboard spread could be adjusted, making it easy to play a tuned equal temperament scale as well as alternative microtonal tunings up to 61 divisions of each semitone.

The Synthi-100 was developed a few years after the first VCS3s. Both filters and oscillators were much more stable in the Synthi-100. There is an oscillator sync function that can sync the 12 main oscillators to each another or from an external source.

The Synthi 100 also had an add-on computer interface known as "Computer Synthi" which contained a PDP-8 minicomputer and 4Kb of random access memory. It featured an LED display, twin digital cassettes, Two 24 × 60 matrix patchboards, and a switch button control panel. Only three were sold.

Several of the devices were packaged separately as small wooden sleeved units listed below:

Pitch to Voltage Converter
Triple Slew Limiter
Eight Octave Filter Bank
Two-Voltage Random Generator

Designer Peter Eastty designed a computer as an add-on to the Synthi 100 interfaced to the control matrix board via two 24 x 60 matrix boards.

It included:

PDP8/M with 4K RAM
Twin digital cassettes
24 Input ADCs
24 Output DACs
16 Slider CV Inputs
Switch button Panel
LED Display

Technical Specifications
Type: Analog
Synthesis: Oscillator(s), Subtractive
Oscillators: 12
Waveforms: Pink Noise, Pulse, Pulse Variable, Square, Triangle, White Noise
Osc Modulation: Envelope, Glide / Portamento, Input, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Oscillator, Ring Modulation, Sequencer
Envelopes: 8
Envelope Notes::
3 Trapezoid Envelope Generators
Filters: 8
Types: High Pass, Low Pass, Resonance
LFO: 2
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 4
Timbrality: 1
Tuning: Standard
Modes: Duophonic, Mono
Patches RAM: 1
2 Voltage Controlled Reverbs
256 step digital sequencer.
Case: Desktop, Keyboard, Module
Case Details: 2 5 octave Dynamic Keyboards
Keyboard: 61 keys
Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Switches, Modulation Pin Matrix, Sequencer
Display Type: LED, VU Meter
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, Mono Out
Audio Output Count: 8
Inputs: 8
CV Ports: CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out
Year Released: 1971
Year Discontinued: 1977
Units Made: 31
Used By
Meat Beat Manifesto, Jack Dangers, BBC Radiophonic Workshop ie. Dr Who, Original Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy productions, Soulwax
MSRP List Price: £6,500 - convert
Retail Street Price: $9,000 - convert
Used Price: $110,000 (2015) - convert
References & Sources

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