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20 Design Synthesizer

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    What if the design of a synthesizer was not dominated by economic considerations or with regards to certain brand criteria? What, if I could run free, use any material and manufacturing process, that I think feels right, fits and looks the best to design a synthesizer? If I could just choose the right ergonomic concept, no matter what it finally costs?

    20 is this instrument. We dedicate this design to 20 years of designing synthesizers at Design Box.

    The outside is a 3-dimensionally shaped, full aluminium casing with an ultra-thin collapsable panel that opens up with the push of a button. All user interface elements are made of milled aluminium. Everything the user touches is real material, with pleasing haptics.

    Me and the team at Design Box invested almost 2000 hours in the aesthetical and mechanical design of the casing and all parts. We spent an infinitely long time to find a company, who can make the aluminium works, or who can laser edge the product graphics on such a wide panel. The body shell is milled out of a massive aluminum block, which alone weighs over 80 kilograms in its raw state.

    Like the collapsable panel, it is being produced in a rapid prototyping process on a CAD/CAM-controlled 5-axis milling machine. The milling itself is not trivial at all. We had to redesign the mechanical setup several times to avoid vibration during the process, as this would cause significant inaccuracy, which we absolutely not want. But the aesthetically results of this technology are simply stunning. The inside perfectly includes all PCBs and cabling. The entire surface and the sides of the casing are pillow shaped. The entire outside of the instrument is wearing a slightly structured anodized surface - which looks and feels fantastic.

    The synthesizer is handcrafted right in the heart of Europe. It is not a series product - only 20 silver and 20 black units will be built and sold.

    The Engine

    To make this project possible, we adapted already existing technology. The sound engine is designed by Waldorf, making this synthesizer an easy to use, yet enormously deep, powerful instrument. Oscillator 1 includes the classic PPG Wavetables for the creation of digital textures and soundscapes, as well as all kinds of bellish / metallic sounds, known from so many number 1 hits of the 80’s up to today. The included sample memory is filled with samples from the prestigious Neuron synthesizer, optimized by Kurt Ader and his team to fit perfectly into the structures of the soundengine.

    German high-end audio manufacturer SPL added a specially designed version of their SUPRA op-amps, that integrates right behind the synthesizer DSP. With 120V operating voltage, this technology provides exceptional performance throughout the whole signal processing path for the 20, adding balanced stereo and high-end headphones outputs.

    The User Interface

    We re-use the basic Frontpanel-PCB layout and setup of the Studiologic Sledge synthesizer. For a better feel, we use pots with a full metal stem, instead of the standard pots with plastic stems. Also, we redesigned the pushbuttons and invested into a taylor made plastic injection-mold. We also replace the standard TP 9 keybed with a high end TP 8 keybed, specially molded for this synthesizer in all black.

    The simplicity of the extensive user interface allows for an incomparable experience when working on sound, and makes this synthesizer much more a musical instrument than a technical device. The layout of the user interface mirrors the signal flow of the synthesizer. The interface reads from left to right, starting with the LFOs. The 3 Oscillators follow to the right, feeding the Mixer section, where each of the Oscillators, plus the Noise generator are equipped with an on/off switch.

    The Multimode Filter with its dedicated ADSR Envelope Generator to the very right is located on top of the Amplifier Envelope, and the two Effects.

    All parameters are accessed directly - there are no shift or secondary functions, that distract from sound design.

    The distance between each of the knobs and switches matches perfectly the golden rules of German Industrial Design (minimum clearance of 40mm’s)
    Type: Digital
    Synthesis: Frequency Modulation, ROM, Virtual Analog, Wave Table
    Oscillators: 3
    Waveforms: Pulse, Pulse Variable, ROM, Saw Up, Sine, Square, Triangle, Wave Table, White Noise
    ROM Size: 60 MB
    ROM Resolution: 16 bit, 44.1 kHz
    Osc Modulation: After Touch, Envelope, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Mod Wheel, Oscillator, Glide / Portamento, Sync Hard, Velocity
    Oscillator Notes:
    + 66 original PPG Wavetables
    Envelopes: 2
    Evelope Paramerters: Initional Level, Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release
    Filters: 1
    Types: 12dB Slope (2-pole), 24dB Slope (4-pole), Band Pass, High Pass, Low Pass, Resonance
    Filter Modulation: After Touch, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Mod Wheel, Velocity
    LFO: 2
    LFO Parameters: Sample & Hold, Saw Up, Saw Down, Square, Triangle, Phase
    Polyphony & Tuning
    Polyphony: 24
    Timbrality: 2
    Tuning: Standard
    Modes: Mono, Polyphonic, Split
    Patches RAM: 999
    Storage: Internal, USB
    Editing: USB
    + Latch mode
    + Syncable to MIDI clock
    + Direction up, down, alternate
    + Range up to 10 octaves
    + 2 simultaneous effects
    FX1: Chorus / Phaser / Flanger
    FX2: Reverb / Delay / Reverb + Delay
    Case: Keyboard
    Keyboard: 61 keys, Non-weighted, Plastic
    Controls: Aftertouch, Buttons, Pedal - Filter, Knobs, Mod - Wheel, Modulation 1/8" Jacks, Pitch -Wheel, Pedal - Sustain, Switches, Velocity
    Display Type: LCD, LED, Backlit
    Display Count H: 16
    Display Count V: 2
    Dimensions (WxDxH): 38,19" x 15,94" x 4,33" / 97 cm x 40,5 cm x 11 cm
    Weight: 26 Kg / 57.4 lbs
    Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, XLR, Stereo Main, Stereo Headphone
    Audio Output Count: 6
    Audio Output Notes: SPL Analogue audio outputs & headphone amplifier - Discrete high voltage SUPRA op-amps - Operating voltage: 120V Rail (+/-60V)
    MIDI Ports: IN, OUT, USB
    DAC Bits: 16
    DAC Frequency Rate: 44.1
    Power: 110-240V AC
    Year Released: 2016
    Units Made: 20 white, 20 black
    Design Notes:

    Designed by Alex Hartmann
    Manuals & Documents

    Product Links
    Company Product Sites:
    [+] www.20-music.de
    MSRP List Price: 20,000 Euro - convert
    YouTube Videos
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