Thanks to Dave Spiers GForce Software for the pics
Though I'm lucky enough to be in a job where I get to play with more than my fair share of synths, there are some that remain a complete mystery. The EMS Synthi AKS is one of those synths.
It's kind of embarrassing as in the past, I've been hired as a bona-fide synth programmer - we'll skip over my first gig, when I was placed in front of a Yamaha TX802 and barely managed to change programs, but generally, given a bit of time, I can figure it out. Not in this case...
But back to my current object of desire - the EMS Synthi AKS. In architecture, it's pretty much the same as the EMS VCS 3, but somehow, the inclusion of the suitcase just does it for me. Plus, it's got something of the wartime secret radio transmitter about it that really appeals to my infantile nature.
I can't figure out whether it's just the fact that it combines two of my favourite things - synthesizers AND luggage, or that it implies that I could just snap it shut, hop on a bus and be ready to perform scientific yet musical synthesis functions at my destination - assuming I could ever actually figure out how it works. Heck I can even use the built in Wasp style touch keyboard and sequencer hidden in the lid to get really clever.
I'm not sure if it's wise to admit this, but for some reason I also feel a strong compulsion to wear a laboratory coat and hold a clipboard whilst tinkering with my imaginary new synth.
But in my defence, I do remember interviewing Will Gregory of Goldfrapp - and remember his line about anything played on or played through an EMS has a sort of 1950's sepia tone to it.
But lets examine the synth. We have three oscillators - they have cool, scientific, vernier frequency dials, Oscillator three can also function as an LFO. Many people have further modifications to allow more than once Osc to do this. Osc 1 has Since and Saw wave, OSC 2 and 3 Square and Saw. Then we have a low pass filter with Response - which I can only assume is something akin to resonance - but not quite. Then of course we have the fabulous spring reverb and wonderfully obscure Trapezoid Envelope Generator.
But the real core of the AKS is the patch matrix, a 16x16 pin board routing system with pins of different colours that are rumoured to have different characteristics - this is where I completely lose my way - basically you can't get a sound out of it without cracking the code, and this is where I continually fail. But I like a challenge. And the Joystick, lets not forget that.
Peter talks us through the design of his latest synth