Classic Synth Series: Steiner-Parker Synthacon
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Classic Synth Series: Steiner-Parker Synthacon

No doubt about it that synthesizers are what drives dance music this far. I mean, can you imagine if trance were to be produced on guitars and accoustic drums? And so Stoneyroads takes a look at some of our favorite vintage synths in the mini-article series that will be published per-week.

The beautifully made Steiner-Parker Synthacon is an analog synth produced in mid-late 70s. Designed by Nyle Steiner, it is most recognizable by its minimalist, modern look as well as the colorful switches that are present on the front panel. There are only few hundreds of these units ever produced on earth, making it one of the more sought after amongst synth enthusiast.

A later, duophonic version dubbed the Two Voice Synthacon (SV Synthesis)

The Synthacon features three oscillator modules, a white/pink noise generator module, a filter module, two envelope generators, and sample & hold that can be used to affect how the filter operates. A pretty typical of analog synthesizers, but what makes it special is the ability to route input and output signal from one module to another using the switches available on the front panel making the synths more versatile with respect to sonic capabilities.

Earlier, monophonic version of Synthacon (Wikipedia)

The synthesizers often drew comparison to the Minimoog, a commercially-successful product that were made a few years earlier. With the and modules features described above, the Synthacon roughly sports similar architecture to Minimoog, which also features 3 oscillators, noise generator and a filter.

People loved the Synthacon for its characteristic sound, sound that is said to be grittier, and more “raw” (well, as how electronic musicians typically describes it) compared to the Robert Moog’s brainchild. The filter sounded different than the Moog’s one, as the Synthacon’s one manages to still sound loud even when the resonance is turned up high. This is due to the way the filter circuit is constructed which inverts the phase of the waveform in order to avoid phase-cancellation that weakens the sound.

Another shot of the Two Voice Synthacon (SV Synthesis)

Several years after production Steiner-Parker was dissolved in 1979 and thus the production of this beautiful synthesizers as well as a few others to stop. During its short time, the synthesizers managed to reach the hand of a few acclaimed musicians, including Earth Wind Fire, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa and the likes.

Minicon, a smaller, simpler version of Synthacon (Vintage Synth)

So what’s going on with the original designer? After his years at the Steiner-Parker, apparently Nyle Steiner was and still active on the development of music technology. He was the designer behind AKAI‘s EWI series, a device that can be played like a flute but generates MIDI note to actually control a synthesizer which is still available on AKAI’s webshop.

Well, that’s about it for today’s mini-article. Moving from the realm of rare and obscure synthesizers, next week we’ll come up with something more down-to-earth, something that actually see some real usage by a wide range of musicians. And just to spoil it a bit: it’s not a synthesizer, but a drum machine. Nope, it’s not 808 or 909 even something from Roland. Even so it’s not less well known and just as iconic. In fact we’re sure some of your guesses have hit the spot already. So, until next week!


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