Rare Synth Showcase Part 6: KB WAVEMAKER 4

This 44-note keyboard could have been iconic, but what happened?
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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.

KB WAVEMAKER 4

Fig. 6

Fig. 6

Some of the most talented synth designers who ever lived have been notoriously poor businessmen. The KB story provides just one example of brilliant inventors with great products falling flat because they never understood how to make a profit. During just over a decade that the one- or two-man company was in business, KB shipped fewer than 100 synths. Their biggest success was probably the Wavemaker 4, an integrated semi-modular instrument with default signal paths users could reroute with switch arrays and patch cords, rather like the ARP 2600 (see Fig. 6). Introduced in 1977 and quite reasonably priced at $1,750, the Wavemaker 4 combines a nice compliment of KB’s Moog-format modules, including four VCOs, four VCAs, and a voltage-controlled phase shifter, along with a 44-note keyboard.