The Defacto polysynth... There can be only one

Total lust object, but rather prone to overheat I’m told.

Agree. Absolute dream of a synthesiser. It neither enters the Defacto Polysynth category, since owning it practically borders on the impossible. I guess that one has to have a very loyal electronics serviceman of a friend, to maintain in playable shape this monster of analog circuitry.

To be honest I’m not sure what this discussion is about… but here are my two cents anyway

The first instrument I ever learned to play was a Yamaha Electone - the kind of 1970s home organ you now see discarded in verge rubbish collections. There was a time I used to rescue these things, and once had three of them in various states of disrepair on my back porch. They are bulky and heavy and sound pretty twee today. But they have a couple of superpowers:

Firstly, they are multi-timbral. Usually there are two keyboards and one pedalboard, so you can play up to three different sounds at the same time, which is great for expressive pieces.

Secondly, you can effortlessly edit the timbre even while you are playing. Want more “brass”? Slide one of the red knobs. Or “strings”, the yellow ones, etc. The entire sound model is on the control panel. Every parameter can be adjusted and nothing is hidden.

Most synths fail one of these two tests. So I was pretty excited to discover that the Prophet 10 exists. As you say, it would be difficult and impractical to own one, but in terms of an ideal form and design I think it is on the right track.

Check out this video by Alison Stout who restored and stacked two Prophet 10 synths. The first half shows all the components she had to replace :sob:, and then from 6:40 some nice :face_with_monocle: sound demos.


IMHO your post was eggzactly what this discussion ‘is’ about. Thank you!

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That is a common reaction to stuff that our friend @wyleu posts. It is being considered as a test for sanity: If you understand what comes from the scribblings of wyley towers then you probably fail that test! Results are rated on a bell scale ::bell::bell::no_bell::no_bell::no_bell:.


I note that the wyleu :bell: scale has 2 ends!

Thank you @stewart. I actually came across this video some time ago, and thought it was inspiring to see the toilsome maintenance process.

It is right that, besides its impressive sonic thickness, the P10 was also a physically imposing bitimbral instrument with two manuals, like the sort of futuristic organ to which early polyphonic synthesizers were still related.

Proposing today this kind of technical convenience in a single synth, with such a sturdy and luxury cabinet, would be probably unfeasible, as far as the market goes, not least because fewer and fewer people - except classical and jazz musicians drawn to electronic devices - actually play keyboards.

A Digital side apocalyptic event…

Im surprised the analogue boards wern’t mounted component sides facing each other and it then force ventilated… But it’s easy to be wise after the event.

An electone organ…

You really have to respect the effort Yamaha put into all this…

Alright :blush:, since the subject of this thread seems to have shifted to "The Many a Polysynth Cult, there can be only several ones*, I am throwing in the cards one of my early teenager’s dreams, the other one being the slightly more mainstream WAS (White Australian Sibling).

While other early digital audio workstations tend to look and sound outdated nowadays, this trailblazer of a digital polysynth was sonically years ahead of its time, a gigantic technological leap forward, and an uncompromisingly professional machine, with arrays of sci-fi looking aeronautics-grade buttons, a stellar level of manufacturing and a coupled computer unit, that complemented the striking retro-futuristic console design, sort of Dune’s Paul Atreides’ keyboard for some Caladan pastime.

Plenty of voices (32 upwards), easy manageable FM and additive synthesis (that elusive Sphinx of a technique…), the first commercial implementation of wave sequencing, wonderful analog filters at the end of the signal chain and sampling frequencies up to 100 Khz: what wasn’t to be loved in 1982?..

(Later versions practically pioneered the contemporary DAW setup, and appear a lot less fascinating today, having clearly lost their 1990s technological magic).


I worked at the Magnificent Tape Gallery Ltd on Lexington Street in Soho, under the auspices of the very fine gentleman Lloyd Billing, all praise to him.

The studio had, I think it was, seven ( yes seven!!) Synclaviers . . . .

It was a truly wonderful place in all kinds of ways, and as it did many, many commercial voice overs you met the most amazing people there.

Brian Blessed, who was surprisingly small in stature, explained to us, on the staircase, for some minutes, how he was going to be the first person on Mars, after he had climbed Everest.
It was done in precisely the fashion you would expect from Prince Vultan, and we believed him…

I also spent a lot of time resampling 50khz Synclaviar sound effect samples to 48khz, cos, progress.


A true digital synthesiser Dilmun!

I am curious: did they use the (unheard of) seven Synclaviers just for specific purposes (sound design, movie FX, soundscapes, etc.) or were they driving them in sync, for early attempts at virtual orchestration and film scoring?

I have read that complex synthesis patches reduced heavily the actual amount of available voices, especially in versions 1 and 2, due to obvious sound processing limitations of the early to mid-eighties computer components.

The Synclavier were spread between the studios and spent most of their working lives processing Commercials. The Chief Engineer was Pete Johnston, who was both a lovely affable chap and a truly superb coder. He performed all kinds of magic in response to clients requests. He wrote a lot of Audio Morphing for BT commercials which had telephe tones turning into birdsong and such like…
He tended to do his creations on the Kyma Capabara and latterly his office Mac, leaving the synclaviers as studio DAW’s.

No longer there sadly, It’s difficult to compete with a Mac in a starbucks, and the audio infrastructure rates didn’t require the support that the huge hardware machines required.

I don’t know what happened to them, but I fear the worst.

It feels unbelievable that some recording studio management may have even conceived the notion of getting rid hastily (for almost nothing?) of an entire host of electronic masterpieces, each of which was easily worth in its heyday a respectable suburb apartment.

I think that this clip shows the sonic marvels that a well maintained Synclavier could still deliver today, when used by someone not scared by the occasionally inconvenient workflow, and the possible abrupt termination of the instrument for lack of spare parts:

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Are you taking about Zynthian? :smile:


:laughing: Of course!

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I believe that synthesized sounds are linked to the genres we prefer … I have thousands of virtual synthesizers in my Mac … But I hear very poor sounds in modern songs … although there are billions of possibilities … More than synthesizers, the musicians who used them have become historic and iconic… and who used a great brain to make the most of the little they had… Jump’s wonderful sound is wonderful in that song, because it was used very well by a very good musician who has great taste…
The MiniMoog remains my favorite because it is small and “simple”… everything started from that “small and simple”… basically the “primordial broth” of modern musical history.


The usual damned electrolytic capacitors… Those always do damage

I contacted Pete and he was remarkably sanguine about the synclaviers. Of their time and there is nothing you can’t do far more easily today. They had their time was the summary.

He didn’t know where they went either.

Of course Pete expresses a reasonable view, from a purely practical standpoint, but a certain kind of electronic music wizardry used to require - and still commands in my opinion - the embedded mystery of a gorgeously professional machine, blinking with lights like the Star Trek’s Enterprise dashboard.

Really he doesn’t know where the Syncs have disappeared… I would gladly advance my candidature for relieving the owner of a dusty hangar full of old synthesisers, of the unbearable inconvenience of having to keep an antique and heavy NED behemoth from the 80s in a crowded warehouse :wink: