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Electronic Music Studios (EMS) | Synthi AKS


The Synthi A and Synthi AKS models are virtually the same electronic instrument as the EMS VCS3, except that the Synthi models are housed in a thin plastic briefcase for easy portability. The Synthi A was also commonly known as the "Portabella". The AKS model adds a 256-step on-board monophonic digital sequencer and a 30-note touchplate keyboard (activated by the 50 Hz-hum in our fingers).

Like the VCS3, the Synthi A and AKS feature three oscillators and a unique patch system. Instead of patch wires, they use a patchbay grid wherein the synth components are laid out and signal routing is accomplished by placing small pins into the appropriate slots. The VCS3/Synthi was, in actuality, a modular type synthesizer reduced down to an extremely portable size.

They are famous for their ability to generate those familiar sci-fi sounds (Dr. Who) and other uniquely analog sounds. After ten minutes of warm-up the oscillators become pretty stable. There's a Noise Generator, two Input Amplifiers, one Ring Modulator, one Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter (VCF), one Trapezoid Envelope Generator, a Joy-Stick Controller, a Voltage Controlled Spring Reverb unit and two Stereo Output Amplifiers.

What is important about the portable line of EMS synths is that they were super miniaturized and fairly sophisticated for their time. The patching grid system made patching easier, and allowed the unit to take up a lot less space. The Synthi A was released in 1971, two years after the launch of the VCS3 (The AKS came out in 1972). It should be noted that the case mounting of the AKS can be very precarious. The mounting is prone to fail, and therefore any used units should be examined carefully to see if this common problem exists before buying.

BrandElectronic Music Studios (EMS)
ModelSynthi AKS
Engine TypeAnalog
Voices (max)1
LFO1 Triancle
Engine Detailed3 VCO, 1 Sine, Saw, 2, 3 Pulse and Saw
Filter (VCF)1 12dB Slope (2-pole), 18dB Slope, Resonance
Envelope (VCA)VCA: Trapezoid waveshape Envelope generator. 2 AD envelopes
FXSpring Reverb
Sequencer256-step mono sequencer
Key typeCapacitive touch keys
Legend: Obvious Y: Yes, N: No, N/A: Not Applicable
VCO Voltage Controlled Oscillator DCO Digital Controlled Oscillator
LFO Low Frequency Oscillator Sub Sub Oscillator
VCF Voltage Controlled Filter VCA Voltage Controlled Amplifier
Velocity As with a piano, the harder you hit a key, the louder the sound, unlike most organs which always produce the same loudness no matter how hard you hit a key. Aftertouch Pressing a key after you activated it. Channel Aftertouch, no matter which key, it will send a Channel message. Poly Aftertouch, sends the pressure per key instead of the whole channel.
Values for OSC, LFO, Filter, Envelope are per voice unless stated otherwise.

Manuals, patches etc.


If you like to discuss or talk about synths in all forms (including VST and modular), you are welcome to join the Facebook group "The Hard, The Soft and The Modular".

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