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A Guide to the EMS Product Range
1969 to 1979

by Graham Hinton

Last updated: 17 June 2001

"... There are a number of people in the field that I have a lot of respect for. There's people like Peter Zinovieff, one of the unsung heroes in the synthesis world who's behind EMS and all their things. Most people don't realise how heavy his equipment is, they don't know how to use it. .."
Malcolm Cecil, interviewed in "Synapse" 1976.

The Products

Most of the photos are black and white originals and have been scanned as a 256 colour greyscale. They are best viewed the same.
Click on the small images to view the full high resolution ones.

[Key to prices: (Price when introduced) 1979 Price]

London geography lesson: Peter Zinovieff lived in Putney, David Cockerell lived in Cricklewood, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was located in Delaware Road and Portabello Road was (and still is) a fashionable market.

bullet VCS3 (aka The Putney)
1969. (£330)
Designer: David Cockerell.
Very early VCS3 (pre-Putney), note Oscillator 1
The original portable synthesizer introduced in 1969. A solid Aformosia cabinet housed the following modules interconnected by means of a matrix patchboard.

bullet VCS4
1969. Not produced.
Designer: David Cockerell.
A "Live Performance Module" comprising two VCS3s side by side with a keyboard, mixer and signal processing in front all in a single wooden cabinet. There was only one prototype built, lost track of in 1983, but now known to be in the USA.

bullet DK1 (aka The Cricklewood)
1969. (£145)
Designer: David Cockerell.
Velocity sensitive "Dynamic" monophonic Keyboard for use with VCS3.
Included an extra VCO and VCA.

bullet Synthi KB1
1970. (£330) Not produced.
Designer: David Cockerell.
KB1KB1.GIF (353K)
The same circuit modules as the VCS3 housed in a different case with a 29 note miniature keyboard, Prototype sold to Yes.

bullet Synthi 100 (formerly Digitana, aka the Delaware)
1971. (£6,500) £35,000
Designer: David Cockerell.
Synthi 100SYNTHI100.GIF (224K)
Synth100 (heavily modified) with Computer Synthi (1977)

The same technology as the VCS3, but built into a very large console patched with two 60 x 60 matrix boards, one for the signals and one for control voltages.
Module complement:

<40 built. Sold mainly to Universities and radio stations, the most famous and overworked model belonged to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and was the main synthesizer used throughout the 70s. Listen to their special showcase program "The Space Between", the original Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy radio series or any John Pertwee vintage Dr. Who episodes.

Several of the devices were packaged separately as small wooden sleeved units:

bulletSequencer 128 (also 32 and 64 versions)
1971. (£135)

Sequencer 256 PrototypeDIGSEQ.GIF (187K)
Prototype of what became the Sequencer 256
Peter Zinovieff and Tristam Cary walked into the Moog Trumansberg factory with this and just plugged it in, to much surprise and annoyance - their sequencer could only do 8 steps.

bullet Synthi Sequencer 256 (formerly Synthi Moog Sequencer)
1971. (£1,100)
Designer: David Cockerell.
Sequencer 256SEQ256.GIF (346K)
Separate version of the Synthi 100 sequencer.

bullet The other VCS4
1971. Not produced.
Not a Synthi ANOTASA.GIF (240K)
A design study for a follow up to the VCS3 case containing the same boards.This was believed lost until it recently appeared in Sound on Sound Oct 97/p190. When this was being considered some engineers from the EMS factory arrived carrying a briefcase which turned out to be the prototype Synthi A. There was no contest.

bullet Synthi A (formerly Portabella)
1971. (£198)
Designer: David Cockerell.
Industrial Design: Gerry Rogers.
Same specification and pcbs as the VCS3, but fitted in an attache briefcase. (Yes, it actually is a Spartanite one.)
PortabellaPORTABEL.GIF (483K)
The prototype Synthi A. Note the name, the meter and the lid loudspeaker.

bullet Synthi AKS
1972. (£420) £1,452
Designer: David Cockerell.
Synthi A with a KS sequencer in the lid.
Synthi ASYNTHIA.GIF (204K)
Synthi A with original K and Sequencer32
The first 30 Synthi AKs featured a black and silver Touch pad, Spin-and-touch random note selector and an unplayable resistive touch sensitive keyboard. This was replaced by the familiar blue capacitive touch sensitive keyboard with integrated sequencer.

bullet DK2
1972. (£145) £472
Designer: David Cockerell.
"Duophonic" version of DK1.

bullet DKS
1972. Not produced.
Designer: David Cockerell.
A mechanical keyboard version of the KS sequencer.

bullet KS
1972. (£164)
Designer: David Cockerell.

The sequencer from the Synthi AKS available separately.

bullet Synthi Hi-Fli (formerly Sound Freak)
1973. (£180) £308
Designer: David Cockerell.
Industrial Design: Martin Holbrook.
Hi FliHIFLI.GIF (128K)
A guitar treatment unit built as a console on a stand with two pedal controllers which could be routed as control voltages to any of the slider functions.

Main Controls and Effects (Left to right on control panel)

Mains powered: 100-135 or 200-260 Vac
Input Signal: 10mV (min) to 3V (max), 100kohm impedance.
Output Signal: -20dbm (min) to 0dbm (max).

bullet Synthi VCS3 II
1973. (£374) £1,268
Designer: David Cockerell.
Prestopatch added, matrix layout and some circuitry changed, otherwise same as VCS3 Mk I.

bullet 32 x 32 Matrix
1974. (£450)
Designer: David Cockerell.
32x3232X32.GIF (197K)
Patchboard for interconnecting two VCS3s or Synthi As by plugging into the Prestopatch sockets.

bullet 49 x 49 Matrix
1974. (£583)
Designer: David Cockerell.
Larger version of above with keyboard sockets.

bullet Synthi P
1974. Not produced.
Designer: David Cockerell.
Synthi PSYNTHIP.GIF (349K)
A MkIII "Professional" version with improved Oscillators, Filter and Envelope.
Only 3 prototypes made, 2 in this form with bronze finish, the other in standard Synthi A case and styling.

bullet Speech Synthesizer
1974. Not produced.
Designer: David Cockerell.
Synthi SSYNTHIS.GIF (127K)
Prototype with graphic Formant entry (drawn with a ballpoint pen!).

bullet Spectron (formerly Spectre)
1974/5. (£4,000)
Designer: Richard Monkhouse.

SpectronSPECTRE.GIF (198K)
Innovative Video Synthesiser using analogue and digital techniques.

The prototype was used to provide a projected lightshow for an early Tangerine Dream concert at the London Rainbow.
15 Built.

bullet Computer Synthi
1975/6. (£15,000, software extra)
Designer: Peter Eastty.
An add-on to the Synthi 100 interfaced to the control matrix board via two 24 x 60 matrix boards. Complement:

3 Built.

bullet Synthi E
1975. (£200) £558
Designer: Tim Orr
A low cost "Educational" synthesizer in briefcase format.

bullet Synthi DKE
1975. £200
Designer: Tim Orr
A 3 octave mechanical keyboard for Synthi E.

bullet QUEG - Quadrophonic Effects Generator
1975. (£1400)
Designer: Tim Orr.
Four channel quad surround sound mixer with joystick and quadrature VCO control. A two channel version was also made fitted into a custom Electrosonic EMS Mixing Console.

bullet Phase Frequency Shifter
1975. (£400).
Designer: Tim Orr.
Separate version of the one in the Vocoder 5000.

bullet Vocoder 5000 (aka Studio Vocoder)
1976 (£5,000) £7,165
Designer: Tim Orr.
VocoderVOCODER.GIF (367K)
Custom version built into Synthi 100 for WDR Germany (Stockhausen)

bullet Universal Sequencer
1977. (£700)
Designer: Tim Orr.
Universal SequencerUNISEQ.GIF (250K)
Upgraded KS with Control Voltage and Gate interface.
Few built.

bullet Vocoder 2000
1977. £813
Designer: Tim Orr.

bullet VCS3/Synthi A Upgrade Cards
1978. Not produced.
Designer: Graham Hinton.
Replacement circuit boards featuring improved VCOs with temperature compensation and synchronisation, improved VCAs, RM and Reverb.

bullet PolySynthi
1978. (£700) £1,200
Designers: Peter and Rose Zinovieff, (Delay by David Cockerell)

<30 built.

bullet PolySequencer
1978. Not produced.
Designers: Peter Zinovieff and Graham Hinton.
Microprocessor based polyphonic sequencer with up to 10 minutes recording capacity.
Real time editing and effects.
2 prototypes built.

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All material on these pages Copyright ©1995 - 1998 Graham Hinton & Robin Wood.
Most photos are from the EMS Archive and have never been used before.

Synthi is a trademark of Electronic Music Studios.
All manufacturers' trademarks are acknowledged.