In This Issue
Erica Synths Syntrx – The Synth and Software Review Is In The House (video)
Mark Jenkins looks at a reimagining of the classic EMS VCS 3 or Synthi A, two of the first portable synthesizers made
We’re looking at the Syntrx by Erica Synths of Latvia. This is a reimagining of a classic design of the old EMS VCS 3 or Synthi A with a lot of modern additions.
Like the EMS designs, the Syntrx has three analog oscillators. The first two span 1Hz to 10kHz, and the third one spans .05Hz to 500Hz. So that one’s best used if you need and LFO, the other wo for audio frequencies, but they can be modulated as well.
And the way of patching that in is to use this pin matrix, in fact it’s a virtual pin matrix with no actual pins – you simply use these up/down and left/right controls to select a connection and push a button to make that connection.
Now you can save away this entire pin patch, which completely reconfigures the synthesizer. (Of course you still have to have the knob positions where you want them to get the final sound.)
Below the three oscillators is a white noise source, which is quite conventional, and a sample and hold – which wasn’t found on the original EMS designs – that can give you random sounds. if you feed it from the white noise source, or it can give you stepped and arpeggiated sounds if you feed it from an oscillator waveform.
Above the pin bay is the filter. That’s marked Filter Oscillator, because if you turn up the resonance to full you will get an oscillator sound, which you can also play from a keyboard.
A ring modulator to further process sounds – you can feed any two sources to that and you get the sum and difference for metallic type sounds – and a spring reverb. That’s a mechanical spring line. If you use it while you have the internal speakers working you will get feedback that you can make that part of the sound, if you wish.
The envelope is known as Trapezoid. You can use it as normal ADSR or you can make it loop for repeated effects.
And lastly, the joystick, which is particularly useful for handling abstract sounds as we’ll see in a moment. there’s two speakers on the Syntrx. And a voltage meter, which can show the audio signal coming out or any other parameter.
Now for today’s demo, we’ve matched the Syntrx up with a little control keyboard by Arturia. And one of the main differences between the Syntrx and the old EMS designs is that this will stay in tune and span much more effectively. And so it’s much better for playing conventional melodies on
Let’s just turn up the output channel.
So as you can see, the Syntrx can be controlled by MIDI pitch, bend, and modulation, but like the old models it still excels at abstract noises. So we’ve set up a patch here using the sample and hold section. And some of the oscillators are modulating themselves as well as modulating other oscillators.
So that can become quite complex. Just call up a pin patch to do that.
Let’s just magically add a little echo.
So as in the days of the old BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the Syntrx is going to be ideal for making these abstract atmospheric sounds. There’s another patch made famous by musicians like Jean Michel Jarre, and Tim Blake, which sent to the output of a couple of oscillators via the joystick to the oscillating filter.
Okay, so turn that up and then just magically add a bit of external echo again.
On the back panel of the Syntrx, you find the power switch and the input to the small external 12 volt power supply, headphones out, and two audio outs. Most parameters can be panned between those two audio outs.
Then two audio inputs, which can be patched through the filter or the ring modulator – that’s useful for processing guitars and voices.. MIDI in and thru, two CVCs in, and a gate in.
So that’s the Syntrx by Erica Synths of Lavia. Not too many of these left now, so get your order in quick!