Synth DB

The Ultimate Synthesizer Database


Total list currently 2405 items in 330 Brands

Hammond | Novachord


The Novachord is often considered to be the world's first commercial polyphonic synthesizer. All-electronic, incorporating many circuit and control elements found in modern synthesizers, and using subtractive synthesis to generate tones. Containing 163 vacuum tubes and over 1,000 custom capacitors, the Novachord weighed nearly 500 pounds and was roughly the size of two spinet pianos. The divide-down oscillator architecture, based on vacuum-tube mono-stable circuits, permitted all 72 notes to be played polyphonic by deriving several octaves of notes from twelve top-octave oscillators. A similar design was adopted in polyphonic synthesizers released more than 30 years later by Robert Moog and A.R.P. The Novachord featured an early implementation of ADSR with seven attack/decay/sustain envelopes selected by rotary switch and sustain-pedal controlled release. It also utilized a three-stage resonant band-pass filter network with variable damping and an electro-mechanical 6-channel vibrato unit operating on pairs of adjacent oscillators. The resulting sonic palette ranged from dense sustained string-like and vocal-like timbres to the sharp attack transients of a harpsichord or piano. The Novachord was not well-suited to the technique of organists or pianists and required frequent adjustments to controls on the front panel to create new sounds. Like many analog synthesizers, it was much better-suited to producing "otherworldly" timbres. The instrument found its niche some years after production, shaping the sound of many science fiction film and television scores.
Engine TypeAnalog
Voices (max)72
LFO1 for 6-channel electromechanical vibrato
Engine Detailed12 OSC Square Divide Down
Filter (VCF)Band Pass, Resonance 3 stage
Key typeKeys
Extra infoAbout 1070 made
Produced:1939 - 1942
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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