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Fairlight CMI | Qasar M8 CMI


The Fairlight CMI was based on the architecture of the Qasar M8 (Multimode 8), created by Tony Furse in 1975.

In the early 70's, Tony Furse created his first prototype of hybrid analog/digital synthesizer, the Qasar I.

In 1972-1973, Furse created his second prototype, the Qasar II, with the financial help of both the Federal Government of Australia and Don Banks, composer and director of the Canberra School of Electronic Music.

In 1975, Furse invented his first fully digital, bi-processor synthesizer : the Qasar M8 (Multimode 8).

Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie were also working on the conception of a fully digital synthesizer. When they met Tony Furse, they were impressed by the M8, and decided to buy a licence from Furse, in order to use the conception of his machine.

Although its features and functions were quite impressive for the time, the M8 was a bulky machine, with a poor sound quality, and a design made for research workers, and not musicians, which made it hard to handle.

The first task of Vogel and Ryrie was to reduce the size of the machine, and to improve the general concept while keeping the functions of the M8. The components were not cabled anymore ; they were soldered to printed circuit boards. The keyboard changed from 4 to 6 octaves, with a better quality of the touch. The operating system, called QDOS (Qasar DOS) was an adaptation of MDOS (Motorola DOS) with a full implementation of the lightpen for most of the functionalities (browsing, editing, drawing a waveform...). This prototype, which was produced by Fairlight in 1976, was simply named Qasar ; it would later serve as a basis for Fairlight series I and II. The sampling function was added in 1978.

M8 technical features

  • dual 8-bit 1 Mhz Motorola 6800 processors
  • 8  20 cm square channel cards : 8 voices of polyphony
  • wire-wrapped boards - no printed circuit board
  • 1 bit digital to analog converters (DAC)
  • 4 Kb shared RAM with the system and the 8 channel cards.
  • two 8" floppy disks
  • 4 octave keyboard
  • monochrome graphics monitor
  • lightpen
  • additive synthesis with FFT (Fast Fourier Transform)
  • sequencer
  • music notation software
  • dimensions (cm) W x H x D : 100,5 x 44,5 x 46,5
BrandFairlight CMI
ModelQasar M8 CMI
Engine TypeDigital
Voices (max)8
Engine DetailedNumeric additive synthesis with 128 harmonics, dynamic harmonic control, waveform editing
Memory32 kB, Hole paper tape reader
Key typeKeys
Extra infoMade by Fairlight, under the license from Creative Strategies
Produced:1975 - 1975
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.


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