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Collectable Keyboards

Reproduced from Article in Mixdown Magazine March 1999 by Brad Coates (www.melmusic.com.au)

Fig.1) Baldwin Synthasound

plz click hereThis rather interesting timepiece arrived on my doorstep recently, special delivery from the House of Bean - procurers of all things analog. Made in the early Seventies by U.S manufacturer Baldwin, the same people who took over Wurlitzer. Small but chunky with heaps of tree…..even the two large planks above the keyboard that control oscillator trigger and modulation on/off are made from solid wood. Baldwin seem to have found their very own dictionary and phrasebook of terminology…."Spectrum Shaper"??? Most functions are variable presets with limited access to overriding parameters - this makes it very easy to pull a good sound quickly. Really interesting sounds at that….this one really is out on it’s own. Baldwin saw fit to employ an internal monitor amp and speakers, and even thought long and hard enough to include an "external in" for processing an outboard instrument or voice. I cannot think of any other synth that is anything like it-a definite collectable.

Fig.2) Sequential Circuits Prelude

click hereLooking suspiciously like an Arp Quartet with extra features, the Prelude came much later than the Prophet 5 - around 83-84. It looks like SCI were in some difficulty at this point in time, as the Prelude is really a trainee forerunner of Siel’s Orchestra 2. The Italians, especially those on the Adriatic Coast, seem to be the former masters of the practice of re-badging, a process refined to an art form by everybody from the car manufacturers to vacuum cleaner makers. Siel also just happened to be the behind the scenes manufacturer of the Quartet for Arp. The Prelude is basically a highly optioned string synthesizer, but with some pretty neat features……..cutoff frequency, attack and resonance sliders for the Brass section, attack and release for the Strings-even a decay slider for the Piano section. Like the Baldwin, the Prelude sports an external input . This is really quite handy for processing, as there is a reasonably comprehensive modulation section, plus onboard effects such as flanging/chorus/graphic eq-even delay vibrato. Even it’s appearance is relatively restrained for an Italian keyboard - simple red sliders on a black face. Probably one of the better examples of the genre started by Freeman and Elka.

Fig.3) Steiner Parker Synthacon

click hereAn extremely interesting analog monosynth - right up there with the Minimoog and Odyssey. Very, very cool-both in appearance and sonic facilities. The Synthacon was available in two front panel finishes-silver face and blackface.(apologies, Sam Newman) Everything the Minimoog had and more - fantastic modulation features, three big fat oscillators with awesomely wide ranging frequencies……0.1Hz thru to 20KHz - over 17 octaves!!! Some peculiarities in panel layout and terminology, with a right to left signal flow path and some interesting names…..Com/Dur/Damp/KBV…almost sounds cold war-ish! Like EMS’ VCS3, the SPS is extremely useful for creating knubbly sound effects - Farts, Spits, Schloings, Snorriks and Hoicks are simple and easy to create.(assuming that you actually want to create these sounds!!! An analog monosynth for the truly serious synthesist, the Synthacon really is one of the heavyweights-move outta the way, Minimoog!!

Fig.4)Ekosonic Combo Organ

click hereMy all time favourite in the realms of cheesemakers - released in the 1960s with one of the best looking cabinet designs ever seen.(along with the Vox Continental) Nothing out of place and everything in it’s place. Not too many features…well, sweet F.A. really!…..10 Voicing Rocker Tabs-Sax, Horn, Viola, Diapason, Trombone, Reed, Flute, Oboe, Cornet and Violin, all centralized above the keyboard. The remaining two tabs control Vibrato - Off/On and Full. As in pipe organ terminology there is a pull-out stop marked Pieno. This brings in (or couples) the 3 footages (octave splits) 16’, 8’, 4’.Very clever inclusion of separate volume balance pots for the first three octaves and one for the 4th and 5th together. One of the biggest problems with single manual combo organs is that when playing with both hands, the left hand lower frequencies tend to override the right hand’s upper end frequencies. These individual octave controls help alleviate that problem somewhat. The Ekosonic is firmly ensconced in my personal collection-partly for it’s looks, partly for it’s sound, but most of all because it was my very first electronic keyboard all those years ago.

*Webmasters please note*- Feel free to copy/quote any information or pictures from these articles for your own use .... please credit Brad Coates/Melmusic for the information and include a link to melmusic wherever possible.