The EMS Synthi VCS3 Synthesizer

The Electronic Music Studios EMS Synthi VCS3, aka The Putney, is a portable synthesizer introduced in 1969. It was designed by David Cockerell.

Wendy Carlos had this to say about the Synthi VCS3:

The PUTNEY is a real toy. Its components are highly unstable/unpredictable and the selection made is highly gimmick orientated and does not by any stretch of the mind permit any subtle sounds & exp. to be constructed. It also has a so-called touch-sensitive keyboard which has to be tried to be believed, it’s that awful. No feel or physical feedback at all (as there is in a piano, for example); again, another great concept worked out in ignorance (and the one I tried worked backwards: softer touch = louder sounds!) But it is small & portable & groups might like it for special effects.

Notable users include: Brian Eno, The Who, Pink Floyd, TONTO’s Expanding Head Band, Jean Michel Jarre, The Chemical Brothers & Tangerine Dream.

The EMS Synthi VCS3 originally retailed for £330. Amazingly, it’s still in production (see discussion in comments).

Here’s another EMS Synthi VCS3 demo video:


A solid Aformosia cabinet housed the following modules, interconnected by means of a matrix patchboard:

  • 3 x Voltage Controlled Oscillators.
  • Noise Generator.
  • 2 x Input Amplifiers.
  • Ring Modulator.
  • Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter.
  • Trapezoid Envelope Generator.
  • Voltage Controlled Reverberation.
  • Meter.
  • 2 x Stereo Output Amplifiers.
  • Joystick.


15 thoughts on “The EMS Synthi VCS3 Synthesizer

  1. I don’t think they still make these. The last time EMS updated their website was in 1998. If they were to start making these again there would be a long line for one.

  2. The price of the VCS3 is not £1800; the website is out of date. When I emailed them to ask about new production, I got a reply weeks later with a price quote of £3200.

  3. i got a new one (VCS3) for 8000,- swiss francs at EMS Rehberg Germany. Its about 5000 Euros or something. Very expensive, but i think there is nothing which can really touch its unique outer-space-sound & its so much fun with the pins & the little stick. with a bit of time you can even get other sound than effects out of it, for example fat basses or lead sounds. i did not buy a sequencer keyboard, which is also available but its expensive too. they made a little modulation so i can use it with my sequencer to control pitch & cutoff. you would need a keyboard to "play on it".
    I love it because its such a fat & unclassic Alien 🙂 cheers

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