The spirit of Synthi is back, in the new Erica SYNTRX

It’s the Latvian Synthi that never was – an all-new instrument, not a clone, built around the signature analog matrix.

England’s EMS Synthi AKS is simply one of the greatest-ever standalone designs for experimentation. The 1972 instrument inspired Jean Michel Jarre and Pink Floyd. But it’s not a modular – all that sonic possibility is designed into a single unit – and it doesn’t use patch cords. The patch matrix, that grid you see in the center, is where you create different sound routings.

The SYNTRX (“sintrex“) is a from-scratch creation from the Riga-based builder that uses this interface scheme. Shipping end of 2019, EUR2500 + VAT where applicable.

Now, for all the recreations and clones, it’s important to note that Erica Synths aren’t cloning anything. They even advertise the fact that the SYNTRX has absolutely no part of its schematics cloned from the original – there’s a twist, in a day when supposed “authenticity” usually trumps originality. (And yes, that could be read as a shot across the bow of clone-happy Behringer.)

But there’s some precedent for this. After all, think of how many instruments have a piano/organ-style keyboard manual, and how differently those instruments can sound and behave.

So think instead of the SYNTRX as the Latvian cousin the EMS box never had. The DNA of this instrument is all from Riga. Engineers from the Riga Technical University collaborated with Erica on the all-new design. The matrix is built around a digitally-controlled set of analog switches (32 8-channel switches), not mechanical connections like most matrices. That’s thanks to the Latvian-made chips from ex-Soviet maker Alfa – the AS16M1 IC, to be exact. (I took a tour of the Alfa facility in June, accompanied by FACT executive editor John, and again lamented my inability to speak Russian.) Each patch point is attenuated at three different levels, too.

More specs:

256 patch memory points

Automatic patch switching in performance mode, or via MIDI triggers

3 VCOs

Noise generator with color

Resonant analog filter

Ring mod

Spring reverb

Looping envelope generator

Of course a joystick – you need that

Input amp with adjustable gain so you can connect a mic to line levels (oddly enough, I spent yesterday afternoon singing the praises of using mics in modular settings for a workshop here in Ljubljana, Slovenia)

3 (!) voltage controlled amplifiers

Analog CV/audio signal level indicator plus output signal filter

Built-in speakers

Sample & hold circuit with individual clock

VCO 1 has an octave switch; VCO2 has sync

Attack/Decay mode on the envelope generator

MIDI input of CV, gate, modulation, (and for the matrix) program change

Aluminum enclosure, ash tree side panels

Those envelope and extra oscillator features, plus of course MIDI control and extra performance functionality, is all new to this take on the Synthi, as is the Erica circuitry. So it is unmistakably retro, but it is still a fresh remake, not a slavish reproduction.

https://www.ericasynths.lv/news/syntrx/

That said, is this an excuse to re-run the “every picnic…” and “every nun needs a synthi?” Come on. Does the pope take communion? What do you think?

Now please stop coming out with all this cool stuff I feel obligated to write about, Erica; it’s starting to make me seem biased.

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