Synclavier I (1977), with HOP box

The Synclavier System was an early digital synthesizer, polyphonic digital sampling system, and music workstation manufactured by New England Digital Corporation of Norwich, Vermont, USA.

The original design and development of the Synclavier prototype occurred at Dartmouth College with the collaboration of Professor Jon Appleton, Professor of Digital Electronics, Sydney A. Alonso, and Cameron Jones, a software programmer and student at Dartmouth's Thayer School of Engineering.


Synclavier II and floppy disc drive

Synclavier I

First released in 1977–78,[1][2][3] it proved to be highly influential among both electronic music composers and music producers, including Mike Thorne, an early adopter from the commercial world, due to its versatility, its cutting-edge technology, and distinctive sounds. Frank Zappa also made extensive use of the Synclavier.

The early Synclavier Digital Synthesizer used FM synthesis, and was sold mostly to universities. Some such systems had only a computer and synthesis modules, but no keyboard.

Synclavier II

The system evolved in its next generation of product, the Synclavier II, which was released in early 1980 with the strong influence of master synthesist and music producer Denny Jaeger of Oakland, California. It was originally Jaeger's suggestion that the FM synthesis concept be extended to allow four simultaneous channels or voices of synthesis to be triggered with one key depression to allow the final synthesized sound to have much more harmonic series activity. This change greatly improved the overall sound design of the system and was very noticeable.

Keyboard controller

Display and control wheel on VPK (1984)

Synclavier II models used an on/off type keyboard (called the "ORK") while later models, labeled simply "Synclavier", used a weighted velocity- and pressure-sensitive keyboard (called the "VPK") that was licensed from Sequential Circuits and used in their Prophet-T8 synthesizer.

Digital sampling

STD: Sample-To-Disk interface (c.1982)

The company evolved the system continuously through the early 1980s to integrate the first 16-bit digital sampling system to magnetic disk, and eventually a 16-bit polyphonic sampling system to memory, as well. The company's product was the only digital sampling system that allowed sample rates to go as high as 100 kHz.

Tapeless studio concept

Ultimately, the system was referred to as the Synclavier Digital Recording "Tapeless Studio" system among many professionals. It was a pioneer system in revolutionizing movie and television sound effects and Foley effects methods of design and production starting at Glen Glenn Sound. Although pricing made it inaccessible for most musicians, it found widespread use among producers and professional recording studios, competing at times in this market with high-end production systems such as the Fairlight CMI.

Technological achievements

When the company launched and evolved its technology, there were no off-the-shelf computing systems and integrated software and sound cards. Consequently, all of the hardware from the company's main real-time CPU, all input and output cards, analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog cards and all of its memory cards, and more, were all developed internally, as well as all of the software. This was certainly a monumental task at best in those times. In fact, the hardware and software of the company's real-time capability was used in other fields completely remote to music, such as the main Dartmouth College campus computing node computers for one of the USA's first campus-wide computing networks, and in medical data acquisition research projects.

End of manufacture

New England Digital ceased operations in 1993. The bulk of its assets were purchased by Fostex of Japan.

Models and options



Digital Synthesis cards

Black panel models

Synclavier I

On 1970slate 1980s:

Synclavier II
Synclavier PSMT rack (1984)

Ivory panel models

Terminal: Apple Macintosh II (1987)

On late 1980s1993; operated via Macintosh II as terminal.

Notable users

Pat Metheny playing guitar synthesizer; in the 1980s, he played Synclavier with this guitar controller (Roland G-303), in addition to an early Synclavier guitar controller.[10][11]

See also


  1. 1 2 "History of Masters Program in Digital Musics". Dartmouth College. Archived from the original on 2009-10-12.
  2. 1 2 3 Joel Chadabe (May 1, 2001). "The Electronic Century Part IV: The Seeds of the Future". Electronic Musician. In September 1977, I bought the first Synclavier, although mine came without the special keyboard and control panel ...
  3. "1978 New England Digital Synclavier". Mix. Penton Media. September 1, 2006.
  4. ABLE Series Hardware Reference Manual. New England Digital Corporation, 110pp.
  5. Creating Programs for ABLE Series Computers. New England Digital Corporation, 1978, 39pp.
  6. Scientific XPL for New England Digital Corporation's ABLE Series Computers. New England Digital Corporation, 1978, 74pp.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Synclavier Early History". Synclavier European Services.
  8. "Synclavier Hardware". Synhouse Multimedia.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Synclavier Manual III Reference Guide (PDF). III. Synclavier Digital. February 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-18.
  10. 1 2 Nicholas Webb, "Interview with Roland GR User Pat Metheny", Roland GR-300 Modification and More, Wayne Scott Joness (Composer)
  11. 1 2 "Roland G-303 Guitar Synthesizer Controller", Roland GR-300 Modification and More, Wayne Scott Joness (Composer)
  12. "Keyboard". Tony Banks unofficial website.
  13. Blair Jackson (Jan 1, 2010). "Avator  Jame Cameron and Audio Team Create a New World of Futuristic Sounds". Mix. Penton Media.
  14. "Omni-Suzanne Ciani".
  15. Darter, Tom; Doerschuk, Bob (2008). "The state of the artist". In Ernie Rideout. Keyboard Presents the Best of the '80s: The Artists, Instruments, and Techniques of an Era. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 1519. ISBN 0-87930-930-X.
  16. "yahoo groups interview with Paul Davis". 2007.
  17. Droney, Maureen (September 1, 2001). "Dave Hard Drive Pensado". Mix. Los Angeles: Penton Media. Retrieved September 8, 2010.
  18. Interview with Glen Hammarstrom
  19. Keyboard Magazine, May 1985, p. 40
  20. "Synth Pioneers: Patrick Gleeson". 2008.
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  22. 1 2 Amato, Mia (July 12, 1986). "NED Synclavier Seminar Offers Sound Solutions". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 98 (28): 40. ISSN 0006-2510.
  23. Warner, Timothy (2003). Pop music: technology and creativity : Trevor Horn and the digital revolution. Ashgate popular and folk music. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 130131. ISBN 0-7546-3132-X.
  24. Keyboard Magazine, Sept 1995, p. 32
  25. Milner, Greg (2009). Perfecting Sound Forever: An Aural History of Recorded Music. Macmillan. p. 323. ISBN 0-571-21165-8.
  26. "The Third Dimension". SPIN. SPIN Media LLC. 7 (4): 26. July 1991. ISSN 0886-3032. Christopher Currell, the Los Angeles- based Synclavier performer and engineer on Michael Jackson's Bad album
  27. Christopher Currell. "The Event Horizon – "Synclavier, Music and Michael Jackson"" Check |url= value (help).
  28. "Gearslutz - "Post here if you worked on Michael Jackson's DANGEROUS album"".
  29. "unknown". Keyboard. GPI Publications. 12: 24. 1986. ISSN 0730-0158. Eddie Jobson / Theme of Secrets / Jobson is one of those highly talented keyboard players ... this time it's strictly Jobson and a Synclavier-a boy and his synthesizer.
  30. "unknown". Schwann Spectrum. ABC Consumer Magazines. 2 (3~4): 338. 1991. Jobson, Eddie Jobson, Eddie -Theme Of Secrets (music for Synclavier) Pnvale Music
  31. "United States". Keyboard. GPI Publications. 13 (7~12): 30. 1987. ISSN 0730-0158. Nashville synthesist Shane Keister, using a Fairlight and Synclavier, scored Ernest Goes To Camp, the just-released ...
  32. The ending titles of the movie
  33. Musician. Amordian Press (153158): 34. 1991. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. Stump, Paul (2000). Go ahead John: the music of John McLaughlin. SAF Publishing Ltd. pp. 173174. ISBN 0-946719-24-1.
  36. Keyboard Magazine, Dec 1987, p. 31
  37. "Review: The Dream of the Blue Turtles". Stereo Review. CBS Magazines. 50 (1): 154. 1985.
  38. Harry, Weinger (20 Oct 1984). "Kashif Juggles Multi-Layered". Billboard. 96: 42.
  39. [Q&A: Kashif – Music History in the Making] (January 23, 2012). Soul Train. Retrieved 2014-04-24.
  40. Kashif | Biography | Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2014-04-24
  41. "(cover page)" (PDF), Berklee Today, 9 (2), Berklee college of music, Fall 1997, p. 1
  42. Hagen, Earle (1990). Advanced techniques for film scoring: a complete text. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 61. ISBN 0-88284-447-4.
  43. "Wells Christie's biography".
  44. Trynka, Paul (1996). Rock Hardware. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 1983. ISBN 978-0-87930-428-7.
  45. Keyboard Magazine, Aug 1983, p. 32
  46. Milner 2009, p. 345.
  47. Keyboard Magazine, Aug 1981, p. 28
  48. Keyboard Magazine, July 1986, p.42
  49. Keyboard Magazine, Nov 1986, p. 42
  50. "the cosby show_stevie wonder's recording session".
  51. Trans
  52. Lowe, Kelly Fisher (2007). The Words and Music of Frank Zappa. Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press. pp. 195197. ISBN 0-8032-6005-9.

External links

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