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Synths you've been gone: Vintage tech rules at Musikmesse 2015
Crowdfunded classic reissues and more
It seems that this year the Scandinavians really have our backs when it comes to preserving and revitalising classic keyboards. Finnish company Soundion was at Frankfurt to relaunch the Elka Synthex. The company purchased the rights to make it after Generalmusic, the Italian giant which had swallowed up Elka, went into receivership.
The Elka Synthex was the instrument that started my career as a synthesist and sound designer back in the early eighties. Knowing of my relationship with this machine – which I voiced and demo'd at Frankfurt back in 1982 – Jukka Kulmala, head of Soundion, had invited me to put the original Synthex through its paces as part of his ongoing Indiegogo campaign to bring it back. Yes, I'm on the campaign page folks, but my interest is in reviving a great instrument. I've no commercial ties here.
Crowdfunding a classic: the return of the Elka Synthex may soon become a reality
At the event, there were plenty of references made to the Elka Synthex’s significance. One example was when Keith Emerson replaced his failing Yamaha GX-1 with a Synthex on the Emerson, Lake and Powell tour to be able to play 'Fanfare for the Common Man' and the way this distinctive patch was built up was shown in detail at the presentation.
'Skeletons', Stevie Wonder's contribution to the Die Hard and GTA V soundtracks was played alongside numerous other Synthex soundclips. The Elka Synthex Facebook page has plenty more examples and videos showing its well-earned place in music history.
Yet the major announcement at the event was that the new Synthex will be slavishly recreated from the same Curtis chips and circuit boards as the original, to the point where the new voice cards will be able to be used to keep original Synthex instruments going.
The event in Frankfurt, attended by Robert Moog's daughter Michelle and many other industry luminaries – including Modal's Paul Maddox who acknowledged the Synthex as one of his key inspirations – marked the start of the Indiegogo campaign. The initiative is to raise funds to put this classic back into production and establish that the demand is at least equal to the minimum run.
This may well be the way that old classic synths make their comeback in the future, with those who wish to own one signing up for pre-sale units until the critical mass has been reached, Kickstarter-style, to allow the re-manufacturing to commence (and everyone to gets their money back if the minimum number isn't reached).
Paul Wiffen and his first love – no, not Robert Moog's daughter Michelle – the Elka Synthex
The first twenty-five machines were made available at an early bird price of $3,181 and the remaining hundred needed to trigger the relaunch at the slightly higher price of $3,315. With prices on eBay for secondhand machines two or three times the price, signing up for a new Elka seems like a good deal for synth enthusiasts.
Dominating the talk at all the evening parties during the fair was: could this crowdfunding model be successfully used to relaunch a classic product as well as fund the development of a new one? After 48 hrs, as everyone was leaving Frankfurt, over a quarter of the machines needed to trigger the remanufacturing had already been pre-sold online, with 36 days still to go at time of writing. More information from Elka Synthex at Indiegogo.