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Steiner-Parker | SynthaSystem


The SynthaSystem was produced by Steiner-Parker in the 1970's. It is a compact, expandable modular analog synthesizer system that didn't quite compete on the same level as the EML, Moog, ARP and EMS systems of the same time. But it deserves some attention. It's great for creating sound effects including thunder, wind, surf, race cars, sirens, horns, explosions, jet airplanes, "tunnel" sound processing, and many, many more. But when it comes to reproducing natural acoustic sounds...well, good luck. It claims to simulate piano, organ, trumpet, accordion, violin, oboe, drums, guitar and many more but most are pretty questionable.

But as an analog processor and sound design machine, the SynthaSystem shines. With 3 VCO's including white and pink noise, up to 74 knobs and switches (or more) and its expandable modular design you can create some wacky noises! It can also be used to process existing sounds via an external audio input! Very cool for filtering stuff! The SynthaSystem may be uncommon but it can be an affordable alternative to similar synths.

There was also an optional 49 key controller keyboard available as well as an 8 step sequencer. Additionally there was also an extension cabinet as an add on for the SynthaSystem that could be customized with additional oscillators, filters, LFO's.

# Name Size
a Sequencer 7 This module is a 3 X 8 step analog sequencer with knobs for each step.
b Frequency Divider 4 This Frequency Divider module feature two 4-octave switches and one 6-position divider switch dividing the frequency by 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 or 15. There are three octave mix controls as well as an overall mix and output controls.
c Voltage
1 This Voltage Controlled Phaser module has one signal input, one control voltage input (controlling the frequency), and one output. There appears to be knobs for frequency and output level.
d VCO 1 4

This module is a Voltage Controlled Oscillator, with knobs for frequency (large knob), fine tune (small knob) and pulse width. There is also 4 knobs to attenuate/mix the output levels of each of the four waveforms (triangle, sine, sawtooth, and pulse. Each waveform has two output jacks each. To control the frequency, there are 3 voltage control inputs and one other variable voltage control input. The variable input has a small screw for adjusting the volts per octave. There are also control inputs for phase reset and for pulse width.

e VCO2 2

This Voltage Controlled Oscillator is a simpler in design with knobs for frequency, fine tune, output level of sine waveform and output level of the sawtooth waveform. Sine and sawtooth are the only waveforms available with this module. 3 voltage control inputs control the frequency, one of them being variable with a small screw adjusting the volts per octave. There is an additional control input for phase reset.

f VCO3 1

Simple Voltage Controlled Oscillator with knobs for frequency and level only. There are 2 fixed control inputs and one variable, as well as a phase reset input. This oscillator was probably designed to be used as a control voltage (LFO).

g VCF 2

This is a multimode Voltage Controlled Filter which can be switched via a knob to low-pass, high-pass, or band-pass. There are also knobs for Frequency and for Resonance (Q). There are three signal inputs and two signal outputs. For control voltages, there are two inputs, one of them variable.

h Noise 1

This is a simple Noise Generator with a knob for level, a switch which chooses either white or pink noise, and two signal outputs.

i Balanced

This is also known as a Ring modulator with an input for the signal, an input for the carier, and an output for the resulting waveform. There is a knob to adjust the amounts of the signal and the carrier and an adjustment screw (CAR. NULL) for finding the null point. There is also a switch between MULT. and SQUARE.

j Input Amp 1 This is an Input Amplifier with three inputs, including one 1/4-inch jack. There is a knob for level 2 switches for selecting low/high gain, and flat/RIAA equalization.
k V.C. Trigger Generator 2 This is a Voltage Control Trigger Generator module with a knob for both duration and rate. There are buttons for Gate and Manual, as well as a RUN switch. There are voltage control inputs for rate, duration, and triger gate. There are 4 trigger outputs.
l Sample

This module seems to be two Sample & Hold modules in one. It has two knobs for level, two signal inputs, two trigger inputs as well as two signal outs. There is also switch labeled COM.

m Triple

"Steiner Parker Envelopes are quite unique. Envelopes 1 & 2 are ADS/ADSR. ADS or ADSR determined by the DAMP switch. Envelope 3 is more complex. It can be either ASD/ASDR or ATD/ATDR (T=Time). Time or Sustain is determined by the EXT switch. Also note that time/sustain segment is before decay.

"The "TRIPLE ENVELOPE GEN." module has 3 trigger inputs, and 3 CV outputs labelled:

TRIGGER INPUTS            Com. 1      2      3      
(switches) QTN DAMP

(switches) CON. QTN DAMP

(switches) CON. EXT DAMP

"DURATION = Sustain (I will use S=Sustain and D=Decay in notes below)

"The DAMP feature on Env 1 & 2 dampens the release time. With Damp off, the decay time is also the release time. With Damp on the release time is supposed to be turned off. This is similar to the minimoog's release on/off (in reverse), but the damp doesn't work perfectly, so with full decay (about 8 seconds) you get about 1/3 second release time.

"The QTN feature on Env 1 & 2 effects how the envelope responds to a short gate time. With QTN on the Env switches from the attack segment to the decay segment upon release of a note, the decay segment runs from that level. With QTN off the attack segment always completes its full cycle time before the decay then runs its full cycle.

"The EXT feature of ENV 3 determines whether the Duration Time is a fixed duration set by the knob (up to about 3 seconds on mine) or if the Duration Time matches the incoming gate signal.

"The COM. feature on the right side of Env 2 & 3 determines whether the envelope trigger input comes from the respective trigger inputs 2 & 3 or from the Com. 1 trigger input.

"The COM. feature on the left side of Env 2 & 3 determines whether the envelope output goes to the respective output 2 & 3 or to the Com. 1 output. This allows you to layer envelopes to the same destination without an external CV mixer."

[by Mike Kent]

n Tuner Monitor 2 This module has an input, an output and a mono headphone out 1/4-inch jack. There is a 4 position knob selecting between OUT, MON., TUNE, and T. OUT and a small screw marked REF. TUNE.
o VCA/mixer 2 This Voltage Controlled Amplifier module has three inputs, each with its own Gain knob. There are two voltage control inputs, a knob for overall gain, and one signal out.
p . 2 This module has no name. It contains 4 sets of 4 points multiples, two labled for keyboard voltage. The on/off switch is here, as well as connection for power (+12V, -12V, Ground)
Also available: Peak Selector - a level controlled trigger generator. Voltage Processor Three-Octave Keyboard Four-Octave Keyboard
Engine TypeModular
Voices (max)1/2
Engine Detailed3 VCOS plus a White and Pink Noise generator
Filter (VCF)One 2-pole resonant low/band/highpass VCF
Envelope (VCA)One VCA with Two envelope generators with attack, sustain, decay plus a third one with Attack, on-time and decay.
FXDual Sample and Hold, Portemento, VC Phasor, Ring Modulator, Frequency Divider
Sequencer3 bank, 8-step sequencer
Controllers CV / Gate / VC Filter-In; 6 pin plug on back panel ( 6=unused, 5=trigger from key, 4=keyboard control voltage, 3=10-volt-dc, 2=ground, 1=+12voltdc)
Key typeKeys
Produced:1975 - 1979
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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