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New England Digital Synclavier II

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The system evolved in its next generation of product, the Synclavier II, which was released in early 1980 with the strong influence of master synthesist and music producer Denny Jaeger of Oakland, California. It was originally Jaeger's suggestion that the FM synthesis concept be extended to allow four simultaneous channels or voices of synthesis to be triggered with one key depression to allow the final synthesized sound to have much more harmonic series activity. This change greatly improved the overall sound design of the system and was very noticeable.

Keyboard controller

Display and control wheel on VPK (1984)

Synclavier II models used an on/off type keyboard (called the "ORK") while later models, labeled simply "Synclavier", used a weighted velocity- and pressure-sensitive keyboard (called the "VPK") that was licensed from Sequential Circuits and used in their Prophet-T8 synthesizer.

Digital sampling

STD: Sample-To-Disk interface (c.1982)

The company evolved the system continuously through the early 1980s to integrate the first 16-bit digital sampling system to magnetic disk, and eventually a 16-bit polyphonic sampling system to memory, as well. The company's product was the only digital sampling system that allowed sample rates to go as high as 100 kHz.

Tapeless studio concept

Ultimately, the system was referred to as the Synclavier Digital Recording "Tapeless Studio" system among many professionals. It was a pioneer system in revolutionizing movie and television sound effects and Foley effects methods of design and production starting at Glen Glenn Sound. Although pricing made it inaccessible for most musicians, it found widespread use among producers and professional recording studios, competing at times in this market with high-end production systems such as the Fairlight CMI.

Technological achievements

When the company launched and evolved its technology, there were no off-the-shelf computing systems and integrated software and sound cards. Consequently, all of the hardware from the company's main real-time CPU, all input and output cards, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog cards and all of its memory cards, and more, were all developed internally, as well as all of the software. This was certainly a monumental task at best in those times. In fact, the hardware and software of the company's real-time capability was used in other fields completely remote to music, such as the main Dartmouth College campus computing node computers for one of the USA's first campus-wide computing networks, and in medical data acquisition research projects.

Technical Specifications
Type: Digital
Synthesis: Additive, Frequency Modulation, Resynthesis, Sampling, Virtual Analog
Oscillators: *
Waveforms: Additive, Sine
Osc Modulation: Envelope, Glide / Portamento, Keyboard, Knob, LFO, Oscillator, Ribbon, Velocity
Oscillator Notes:
8 bit Synthesis Engine
Sampling: 16 bit, Gated, Loop, One Shot (Phrase), Multi-Sample
Sampling Notes:
Direct to Disc Sampling
Variable 1 kHz - 50 kHz sample rates
Envelopes: *
Evelope Paramerters: Delay, Attack, Decay, Decay 2, Sustain Level, Release, Polyphonic, Triggered
Filters: 1
Types: Band Pass, High Pass, Low Pass
LFO: 4
LFO Parameters: Envelope, Saw Up, Saw Down, Sine, Square
Polyphony & Tuning
Polyphony: 64
Timbrality: 32
Tuning: Atonal, Micro, Standard
Modes: Polyphonic, Split, Unison
Patches RAM: 1
Storage: Tape, Hard Drive, Internal
Editing: CV, SERIAL
Chord note sequencing
Chorus / Detuning
32 Track Sequencer
Chips and Operating System
New England Digital's 16 bit ABLE computer
Case: Keyboard
Case Details: Hand-rubbed African mahogny
Keyboard: 61 keys, Weighted, Wood
Rack Size: 19", Full
Controls: Buttons, Knobs, Switches, Modulation - Audio Input, Pedal - Sustain, Pedal - Volume, Sequencer
Display Type: LED, Numeric
Dimensions (WxDxH): 32.5 x 12 x 6.75 inches
Weight: 25 lbs
Audio Output Connections: 1/4" Phone Jack, XLR, Stereo Main
Audio Output Count: 2
CV Ports: CV IN, CV OUT, Gate In, Gate Out
DAC Bits: 16
Year Released: 1980
Year Discontinued: 1983
Used By
Tony Banks, Joel Chadabe Suzanne Ciani, Chick Corea, Depeche Mode, Vince DiCola, Paul Hardcastle, Michael Hoenig, Trevor Horn, Mannheim Steamroller, Michael Jackson, Eddie Jobson, Mark Knopfler, Men Without Hats, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Paul Simon, Mark Snow, Sting, Pete Townshend, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, , Frank Zappa
Design Notes:

The original design and development of the Synclavier prototype occurred at Dartmouth College with the collaboration of Professor Jon Appleton, Professor of Digital Electronics, Sydney A. Alonso, and Cameron Jones, a software programmer and student at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering.

Product Links
Company Product Sites:
[+] www.500sound.com
MSRP List Price: $300,000 - convert
Used Price: $4000 - convert

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