My Synths and Studio History

The Productive Studio I originally started a home studio in 1987 with an Atari 520 running Mastertracks Pro and a small collection of analog synths (ARP Odyssey, Oberheim 6R), Akai MX73 and a Roland D110. The studio expanded over the next few years with an Emax sampler, SCI Pro One and a Roland JX8P replacing a SCI Prophet 5 (which I thought was rubbish). This was the great days of cheap second hand analog synths! I recorded a number of very good songs mainly using MIDI and onto an Aiwa DAT recorder, up until the early 1990’s and its was a very productive time.

By 1991 the studio had grown as secondhand analog synths were cheap:

  • Peavey SP/SX Sampler
  • Emax SE Sampler
  • Wavestation keyboard
  • Roland MKS70
  • Roland D110
  • Oberheim M6R
  • Roland Jupiter 6
  • Roland JX8P
  • ARP Odyssey Mk 3
  • SCI Pro One
  • Moog Prodigy

The Collectors Studio I moved house in 1992 and was lucky to have a larger space for the home studio. I began collecting E-mu Systems samplers and expanding the analog synth collection. I had a really nice selection of digital and analog; including Emulator I with AVI, Emulator II+HD, Emulator III and IIIĀ  racks, Emax SE HD, Emax II, SP-12, Roland Jupiter 6, Jupiter 8, MKS70 and MKS80, various Waldorf synths and a Roland JD8000. I switched to a Windows PC with Cubase VST and recorded longer ambient pieces in 2000. The studio was featured in Future Music in 2002 and I recorded songs during the June 10th 2002 solar eclipse.

My love of everything Emu resulted in creating the Emulator Archive web site in 1996 and running it until 2006, as well as licensing some Emu Systems firmware via Creative. I met up with Dave Rossum, Scott Wedge and Ed Rudnick in January 2002 and wrote an Emu Systems history, which was published in electronic music magazines in the UK (Sound on Sound) and Germany. Later in 2002 I hit hard times and unfortunately the studio was completely sold off in 2003, with just an Extreme Lead left and even this went in 2009.

The Downsized Studio From 2003 onward I got back into electronic engineering, and designed and built a set of analog modular synths, starting with an Emu Systems Modular clone, two Roland 100M’s and a modular ARP 2600 – years before the TTSH. In 2009 I began recording again using a Windows PC with a Focusrite audio interface, mainly for module demos. The studio remained small and functional, mainly supporting AMSynths and a growing range of Euro rack modules.

The Garden Studio In 2017 I built a garden studio in a professional office and equipped it with Cubase Pro, a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 interface and analog tape recording (multi-track cassette and 1/4″ tape), along with outboard effects from Lexicon (PCM70 and PCM80), Roland (SDE2500, SDE1000) and Yamaha (REV7).

I also re-introduced sampling with a much loved Emax keyboard (my 4th) along with both a Roland S-760 and S-750 sampler that are used to sample my Ovation acoustic guitars. The space is quite small so Roland Boutique synths have proved very handy, and I supplement these with my Juno-60, MKS80 and MPG80, Waldorf XTk and Roland MC-300 hardware sequencers. This is a very creative space and I am recording more songs again.

Emu Systems Modular This was the first modular system I built in 2003, inspired by playing the real thing at Scott Wedges home in Santa Cruz. It was sold to a friend as it was taking up too much space! It contains mainly Emu- Systems modules but also some Oakley Sound and Blacet Research.

The Filter Bank This set of modules came out of a project to build ARP and SCI modules, into a sort of super Pro-1. But getting CEM chips was tricky, so in the end it became a set of 10 filters, including the prototype 8109’s. It contains many of my PCB designs from 2003 – 2008 and has new aluminium panels fitted to replace the PCB and printed paper ones.

ARP 2600 Rack This was the third synthesizer I built as a straight out replica of the 2600 but in FracRac. I learnt a lot about circuits doing this one, but it seems a bit limited in function.

Roland 100M I built a set of 100M replica modules in 2009, once again in FracRac. These were the most successful modules with accurate VCO’s that were the core of the AMSynths test lab for many years. They are housed in black Tolex cabinets.

ARP 2500 Rack This was a long term project, with the ideas formed in 2004 and 15 years later….it was completed in 2020 with oak cabinets. It is my main synthesizer for understandable reasons!

2020 Studio Update The garden studio (detailed overview here) is now home to four poly synths; Roland MKS80 and MPG80, Roland Juno 60, Oberheim OB-6 and a Waldorf XTk, and four digital samplers: Emax SE keyboard, Roland S-50, W-30, S-220 and S-760 samplers. Analog mono synths are a Behringer Poly D, a Korg Odyssey Mk 1 and a TTSH 2600 V2 with a cloned ARP 1601 sequencer. A range of 6 boutique synths are also available; D05, SH01A, JU06, JP08, VP03 and TR08.

A restored and upgraded Allen & Heath Spectrum 16:8:8 analog mixer is the center piece, with all the synths going into the desk and 8 channels recorded via a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 and OctPre Dynamics into Cubase. More details are here:

The workshop studio contains my modular synthesizers; 2x Roland 100M clones with Roland 181 keyboard, ARP2600 clone, AMSynths Filter Bank, Waldorf KB37 with AMsynths SH05, AMSynths Jupiter 1 in Moog case, AMSynths JP04 in Roland case. A Roland MPU101 drives my large AM2500 Modular.



Copyright AMSynths 2019