Rare Synth Showcase Part 4: GLEEMAN PENTAPHONIC CLEAR - EMusician


Lost in the sands of sonic time
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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.


Fig. 4

Fig. 4

Thanks to a pair of full-page ads in the early 1980s, many Keyboard readers knew about the Gleeman Pentaphonic synthesizer (see Fig. 4). Between 1981 and 1983, however, it appears that only 50 or so were ever built. Designed by brothers Al and Bob Gleeman, the Pentaphonic is best remembered for its transparent plexiglass housing, though the black edition sold in greater numbers. The Pentaphonic is a 5-voice instrument (hence, the name) with a 37-note keyboard and an extraordinarily clear (no pun intended), warm sound. It weighs only 18 pounds, making it light enough to hang from a guitar strap. Its three identical digital oscillators generate eight fixed waveforms. It also has a lowpass filter, two ADSR generators, an LFO, chorusing, and a rudimentary sequencer, but no sustain-pedal input. Later models like this one feature patch memory with 100 locations and a joystick that handles modulation and pitch bend.