Rare Synth Showcase Part 2: EMS SYNTHI E

Remembering the patchable, educational 70s synth
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Housed within an unassuming 30,000-square-foot building just outside Philadelphia is a massive collection of historically significant music gear. Under 25-foot ceilings, an extraordinary stockpile of vintage synthesizers sits alongside other keyboards, amplifiers, stompboxes, and recording equipment from years gone by. The climate-controlled building and all its contents belong to the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project. EMEAPP is a non-profit organization devoted to collecting and preserving outstanding parcels of rock ’n’ roll and electronic music history for future generations.

EMS SYNTHI E

Fig 2

Fig 2

From the British company that manufactured the first portable synthesizer, the VCS3 — more than a year before the Minimoog — the Synthi E was sold to schools for educational purposes in the late 1970s. This synth-in-a-suitcase looks more like a piece of laboratory equipment than a synthesizer and may be better suited to making comical noises than serious music (see Fig. 2). Unlike better-known instruments from Electronic Music Studios, the Synthi E lets users connect its circuits using patch cords instead of pins in a matrix. Owners could forego the optional 37-note keyboard by using the unique Slider Keyboard, which is essentially a ribbon controller. The Synthi E has external audio inputs, a voltage-controlled oscillator generating three waveforms simultaneously, a trapezoid generator for envelopes, a ring modulator, and a single filter with outputs for simultaneous lowpass, bandpass, and highpass responses.