Frank Zappa Composing on The Synclavier

The Synclavier System was an early digital synthesizer and sampler, manufactured by New England Digital. First released in 1975, it proved to be highly influential among both music producers and electronic musicians, due to its versatility, its cutting-edge technology and distinctive sound.

First developed at Dartmouth College, the Synclavier was one of the first synthesizers to completely integrate digital technology. It used FM synthesis as well as sampling in order to create sounds, which were stored on large, magnetic disks. It was often referred to, by New England Digital and others, as the "tapeless studio," due to one's ability to compose and produce an entire song, solely on the Synclavier. Synclavier Systems were expensive - the highest price ever paid for one was about $500,000, although average systems were closer to about $200,000 - $300,000. Although this made it inaccessible for most musicians, it found widespread use among producers and professional recording studios, and it competed in this market with other high-end production systems, such as the Fairlight CMI.

For the price, users got a system with custom parts, built by hand, all to the highest specifications available. Users enjoyed most of the abilities of modern PC "virtual" sound studios - recording, sequencing, playback, and disk storage. All were integrated seamlessly with the hardware, with a high degree of parallelism built into the electronics (for example, two digital to analog converters for each stereo channel of sampled sound, with analog volume control) to avoid the issues of digital mixing artifacts, latency, and heavy CPU usage that are concerns of modern PC-based studios. In these respects, the Synclavier system still surpasses modern methods.

Two generations of the Synclavier System, the Synclavier I and the Synclavier II, were produced. Synclavier II boasted upgraded sampling capacity and memory, as well as a velocity- and pressure-sensitive keyboard. This tends to be the more commonly found, as most Synclavier I owners upgraded after the release of the Synclavier II.

New England Digital went out of business in 1991, and the Synclavier is no longer manufactured. It is, however, still in use in the recording industry, particularly among soundtrack composers and sound designers.
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By: smartt (6447.98)

Tags: Frank, Zappa, Composing, on, The, Synclavier

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