Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Children's Treasury of Ugly Synths: Part 3

13. Sequential Circuits Max
Ordinarily, I'm a fan of the classic Sequential Circuits designs, but something went terribly wrong with this stripy nightmare. If Miami Vice was a synth, this is what it would look like. Although it never went on to attain the "classic" status that the Pro One and Prophet 5 have, it is notable for its 6 part multi-timbrality, which was almost unheard of at the time.

The DK-80 was a bi-timbral, digitally-controlled analog synth made by Siel in the mid-eighties. Soundwise, it sounded a bit like the Korg Poly-800 with some Juno-ish touches. Oh, and did I mention that it looks like it was built from Legos?

The Spectral Audio Neptune was a rackmounted analog monosynth with MIDI. Although it's not terribly well known, it's a highly capable and well-regarded synth among the synth geek crowd. I suppose it's supposed to look gold, but all it reminds me of when I look at it is a manilla folder. And is that the Paintbrush font?!

The ATC-1 was one of the first products developed by Studio Electronics. What made it especially notable was the ability to "plug in" different filter cartridges modeled on the Arp 2600, the Moog Minimoog, and the Roland TB-303. Forget for a second that it uses membrane keys, it looks like Rainbow Bright barfed all over the front panel.

The Syrinx is a rare analog synth built by Dutch synth manufacturers Synton in the period around 1984-1984. The standard issue Syrinx was black in color, but extremely rare versions in white, blue, and this obnoxious red. Can we just agree red isn't a good color for synths? (Nord fans queue to the left...) The Synton generally looks alright, but the red version looks like a piece of fire fighting equipment. Not a fan of the keys going out to the edge of the body either.

18. Technosaurus Microcon II
I get it, the name of the company is "Technosaurus", so it's supposed to look like reptile scales. But to me, it just looks like the pattern you'd see on the pants of a hair metal guitarist.

I hesitated to includes this because it barely qualifies as a synth, and it also has a cool "1950's jukebox" look to it at first glance. But after looking at it for awhile, I've decided it looks more like an accordian, and that can't be a good thing.

This is the synth that started my love affair with ugly synths. It's orange. I think that says it all.

And here are some suggestions sent into me by readers:

Woo, don't know how I missed this one. Not only is it splotched with gaudy colors, but it featured the overhanging key design that makes it look buck-toothed (and lead to more than a few snapped off keys, unfortunately).

No one would've expected a monster analog polysynth from Alesis of all companies. Previously, the company was known mainly for budget effects units and ROMpler style digital synths. But they made it a doozie. Unfortunately, it was married to an interface that looked like it was borrowed from Logic's ES-2 softsynth (an otherwise great synth that many abandon because of its interface).

I had considered adding this one, but the fact that it looks like the control panel on the Starship Enterprise makes it pretty cool looking in my book. But a few readers mentioned this one, and on second consideration, the mess of colors against the wood grain does indeed make it pretty ugly. But it's still cool.

This was a consumer-grade FM synth that was released in 1990, perhaps not the best business idea when most of the music world had moved on from FM synthesis. But the even bigger mistake was the design. Even if you'd never seen it before, you could tell it was made in the late 80
's/early 90's just from looking at it.


Jet said...

I want an ARP Quadra SOOOOO BAD!!!! Unfortunately if you do find one that works it is in the price range of the Jupiter 8

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with orange/yellow ... Microwave XTk and DSI Mopho look fine to me! My Tetra looks boring sitting next to my Mopho ...

I had a Sequential Max back in the day and I'm pretty sure it established the precedent of a synth that could ONLY be edited from a computer program. Not the most popular thing with synth enthusiasts, but musically practical if the computer editor is decent and you have a computer that will still run it. But the concept falls apart badly when you have a 20 year old synth, but no computer that will run its editor!

The worst thing about the SCI Max was not its ugliness or lack of front panel editing, but the fact that it was the most cheaply, crudely made electronic device I have ever owned. It broke and required repair several times before I finally threw it in a dumpster in frustration.

Sean said...

That Conbrio looks incredible.

rayzr said...

You might want to also check these out..

I actually thought this looked cool though many ppl disagree..

Almost bought this one too lol

Anonymous said...

not a vintage unit, but the Miko Timbaland looks horrible.