It was released in 1982, the year before MIDI
We’ve had a pre-release version of Elka-X in our studio for a couple of weeks, long enough to enjoy it a lot.
While this instrument is absolutely still relevant today, it’s also interesting from a historical angle, because it was at the early part of the digital revolution.
The ELKA Synthex’ analog oscillators were under digital control. That made the oscillators stable, but it’s also part of what led to MIDI becoming a standard in 1983 – instruments were increasingly gaining digital control, and the new standard allowed them to talk to one another.
There’s much more to recommend about Elka-X, and Cherry Audio has this nasty habit of setting extremely affordable prices ($39 street?!).
Hint: if you start playing the instrument (there’s a free trial) and are scratching your head to figure out why something is happening/not happening when you adjust a control… locate the Upper/Lower Panel Control button. (Does anyone have a Band-Aid?)
Here’s the release, cut and paste:
Cherry Audio is delighted to announce the release of Elka-X, a software synthesizer based upon the rare Italian masterpiece, the ELKA Synthex. Elka-X replicates the original’s exceptional character and luxury features without compromising sound or functionality and expands its features to deliver the authentic Synthex experience at a price anyone can afford. Cherry Audio’s Elka-X synthesizer is now available at cherryaudio.com and authorized resellers worldwide at the extraordinary price of only $39.
The legendary Synthex was designed by Mario Maggi and released by ELKA 40 years ago in the summer of 1982. It combined uncommon and forward-looking features that stood out from other contemporary synthesizers, including highly stable digitally-controlled analog oscillators and a flexible four-pole multimode filter. It was multitimbral and even included an innovative four-track sequencer. Notable users of the Synthex included Stevie Wonder, Geoff Downes of Asia, Keith Emerson, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, and Jean-Michel Jarre, who used it for his famed “Laser Harp” sound.
Cherry Audio precisely crafted each aspect of the Elka-X synthesizer to sound and behave exactly like a vintage hardware Synthex. Every effort was taken to emulate the prized tone of the original’s DCOs, dynamic filter, and stunning chorus. The innovative sound-sculpting and performance features such as layering and keyboard split have been preserved, and the original’s 128-step sequencer has been greatly improved.
“For 40 years, I have been searching for the alternative to lugging around the heavy beast that started my career. Cherry Audio have delivered big time,” raves Paul Wiffen, sound designer and synth programmer for Jean-Michel Jarre, and creator of the original Synthex presets, including the famous Laser Harp sound. “They’ve doubled the voices to 16, retained the Split/Double and Sequencer features that other clones forgot, and there’s no compromise I can detect in sound quality or features.”
“I had the opportunity to play with the Elka-X and a lot of memories came flooding back,” says Peter Howell, who used the Synthex as part of his groundbreaking work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop throughout the 1970s and 1980s. “Elka-X has been put together with a lot of love and attention to detail. The Synthex certainly was a versatile instrument and it’s great to be able to have access to those sounds again.”
As with its other vintage synthesizer and effects products, Cherry Audio has kept the soul of a classic alive while updating its feature set for modern studio environments. Elka-X expands the polyphony and filter modes and introduces mono and unison modes that were absent from the original design. The extended functionality of the LFOs and addition of velocity response expands modulation potential, and an arpeggiator delivers new performance possibilities.
Unique panel controls make it painless to exchange settings between layers, sequencer tracks, and even different presets. In addition to the original chorus effect, Elka-X adds studio-quality echo and reverb stereo effects, with independent settings for both layers. With additional touches such as chord memory, over 600 pro patches, and flexible MIDI mapping, Cherry Audio’s Elka-X brings the authentic and expanded Synthex experience roaring into the 21st century.
An original Synthex will set you back $12,000 or more these days, if you can find one, and maintenance can be an expensive ordeal. In a world of ever-escalating prices, Cherry Audio continues to beat expectations by offering the new Elka-X synthesizer at the remarkable inflation-busting price of only $39 (list $59)!
Elka-X synthesizer is now available at cherryaudio.com and authorized resellers worldwide, and a free 30-day demo is available. The software is provided as both a standalone application and in AU, VST, VST3, and AAX plugin formats for Windows and macOS, with native Apple silicon support for the highest performance on the latest Mac computers.
Visit cherryaudio.com for a full list of features, system requirements, image assets, brilliant demo tracks, preset examples, and testimonials. A Cherry Audio Elka-X launch video and an Introduction to Elka-X video hosted by Tim Shoebridge are available on YouTube.