Fairlight CMI-30A Prototype Introduced At NAMM

Fairlight CMI-30A

The 2011 NAMM Show saw the introduction of the Fairlight CMI 30th Anniversary Edition – a new digital keyboard workstation, inspired by the classic Fairlight CMI.

While maintaining the hallmark look and feel of the original Series II Fairlight, the CMI-30A harnesses the latest technology to deliver ‘that Fairlight sound’.

Unlike modern samplers which strive for precise reproduction and accordingly produce a sterile sound, the CMI of the eighties made no apologies for imposing its own character. The quirks of this pioneering digital audio technology have been faithfully modelled in the 30A.

Fairlight CMI 30A

In its initial form, the CMI-30A replicates the functionality of the original Series II and Series III CMIs. The user experience is quite different from that of a conventional PC and mouse and like the original is based on a light pen which interacts directly with a screen.

The character of this new instrument is continuously variable in real time. As you crank up the 30A’s unique ‘goodness control’, the quality morphs from pristine 36 bit floating point fidelity into the sound that made music history.

The New Fairlight CMI-30A Computer Music Instrument

Fairlight was displaying a working production prototype of the Fairlight CMI 30th Anniversary Edition at NAMM.

On first, glance, the new Fairlight looks like a nostalgia project. On further inspection, though, the Fairlight CMI-30A feels more like something from an alternate universe, where the 80’s technologies pioneered in the Fairlight kept developing.

We took a look at the new CMI with company founder Peter Vogel and he explained that, while the user interface on the new instrument is retro, the technology it runs on has been updated, making muti-tasking possible and a much more capable instrument.

Fairlight CMI-30A iPod Touch

The Fairlight CMI-30A is also the most expensive iPod dock that we’ve ever seen.

It leverages the iPod touch or iPhone as a relatively cheap multi-touch controller. Fairlight is developing their own application to act as a Fairlight multi-touch controller.

While incorporating an iPod touch is trendy, it’s also clever.

The iPod touch communicates with the Fairlight using MIDI. This means that you’ll should be able to use a variety of applications that run on iOS to control the Fairlight.

Orders are now being taken for the $20,000 production units. While this is out of our price range, it’s clear that an amazing amount of care and craft is going into the creation of the new Fairlight – and you can expect to see elements of it show up in other products. Vogel has already announced an iOS Fairlight, which will put much of the power of the original Fairlight onto an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad.

What do you think about the new Fairlight CMI-30A?

38 thoughts on “Fairlight CMI-30A Prototype Introduced At NAMM

  1. now THIS is a toy for rich kids/decrepit-adults-trying-to-be-kids

    dont the real fairlight fans still have theirs hangin around the studio? q. jones, h. hancock, p. gabriel, etc. etc. etc.

  2. After trying to hard to be faithful to the original to the point of sticking to the light pen which was certainly on the worst ideas in user interface design they add an iPod dock and ruin everything. That's the stray that surely breaks the poor camel's back. If it's a wildly expensive piece of hardware why would it have been so difficult to come up with a matching multitouch controller? Which brings me to the question: Why does this kind of product need multitouch control at all? But maybe it's a sort of subtle comment on the fate of multitouch? Clearly, there's got be a message there trying to convey be "combining" a lightpen with an iPod in the same device … Or is is just me trying to preserve what little of my sanity I might have left? I would not be surprised if this was a glimpse into what synth-hell looked like.

  3. New Model T's would be made in Brazil, except for the upper halves made in Mexico, and spark plugs and ignitions made in Cologne, and tires made…. Ah, the hell with it! I'll just keep my PT to drive my mini's around in.

    A light Pen! Damn!!!

  4. Remember this is a handbuilt limited edition instrument. There are maybe 100 people in the world who would want and could afford one. I can imagine people who rely on fairlights and have been very successful might want one, if only to transfer over their sample sets etc. Im thinking of very successful people who have a back catalogue of music built from fairlight sounds like peter gabriel, Yello, Jean Michel Jarre etc. People who might use the re-synthesis options etc.

    I think most people, what they would want is the Crystal Core card, and the interface software to go in their exisiting PC, gigasampler style. Im pretty sure that will be the non-limited edition option, and will of course be much cheaper.

  5. That's truely some kind of the Bugatti Veyron amongst the synths. Not in terms of power or design but in exclusivity. Quite obvious it's not for you and me and the usual "let's cook some electronic bullshit music in my pc" kinda guy (which i pretty am, too!). Must admit, it's sexy in its own way. Much sexier and appealing than 9 of 10 other products being showcased at Namm.

    Good luck, Peter.

  6. Their ONLY customers will be those that HAD one and want to walk down memory lane again…sorta like me wanting to buy an Akai AX-80 today, cos it was my first synth in 1986…
    but if they think they are going to make sales…LOL…o.k…..if you say so.

  7. I'm no expert on this, but my impression is that this company simply lacks the expertise to come up with a relatively modern, but most importantly: /user friendly/ interface.

    A light pen is simply stupid. And although I have nothing against iProducts (a little pun intended here) this cradle looks to me as if they're simply unable to come up with a touch screen themselves and as such need to "borrow" this technology.

    Nothing wrong there in itself of course; but when looking at the price tag I think it becomes a whole different ballgame. This looks like a cheap user interface with a premium pricetag attached. That's not gonna work I think.

  8. Blast from the past. Check out Emerson on The Today Show circa 1986 on YouTube . He gives a demo on the Fairlight for a film score w/ Jane Paully reporting. 🙂
    Make it an app I say,
    Is New England Digital still around making Synclaviers?
    FZ had one on Tour '88. Remember Stairway to Heaven . 🙂

  9. Quote: "The quirks of this pioneering digital audio technology have been faithfully modelled in the 30A."
    $20,000 for an emulation? The digital sound of that era was truly unique. Things like Publison Infernal Machine etc., are impossible to emulate.
    Modelling never sounds the same, I'd rather buy the real thing.

  10. I'm guessing that the limitedness of the edition will be dictated by the number of NOS green-screen light-pen monitors that they found at the back of the warehouse.

  11. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  12. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  13. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  14. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  15. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  16. KIds,

    Let's get things into perspective here. This is, and always has been, a project with two objectives. Firstly, to faithfully and accurately recreate the Fairlight CMI of old, a machine whose technical ability still exceeds many of todays machines and systems. If this comment induces derisory laughter from you, then you really need to educate yourself on the Fairlight's ability. Only when you fully understand what the Fairlight could actually do, what it actually empowered musicians to do, then you will be part the way towards "getting" the CMI 30A.

    The second objective was a proof of concept. Using the Fairlight CC-1 card and I/O hardware, what could be done in terms of sound and music creation that hasn't been done before? Peter has made many new and interesting discoveries on this journey and the sale of 100 (yup, the order book is full) of these CMI 30A's will be step towards bringing these discoveries to the general populace and at more affordable prices.

    Peter never set out to be competitive in any way. This thing only exists because there was a) a demand for it and b) because Peter felt there was something positive to be done here. Peter never claimed this to be a machine that would compete with the likes of what you or I use in our studios today, but I can promise you this. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, will sound the way this Fairlight sounds. And given that Peter's estimating that only about 2% of the entire potential of this system is currently being used, the new Fairlight could turn into something akin to the Kyma. Another machine that none of us mere mortals can afford, but one that is highly respected and at the heart of more music than you probably know.

    So, admire the quaint nostalgia, but don't be in any doubt about the fact that 30+ years after Peter shook up electronic music making, the impact of which we all see and use to this day, he is back with something that might just be equally massive and groundbreaking.

    If you want Fairlight sounds at more affordable prices, there will be the CMiPad & CMiPhone apps released by Fairlight in the next few weeks at a price of $49.99. IF you are a Reason user, there is a Refill created by Patrick Fridh, with Peter's blessing, which features much of the CMI IIx library as well as many new and interesting sounds, available here…
    http://bitley.laconicsounds.net/refills/supersoni

    To know where you're going, you must be aware of where you have been. The CMI 30A is the acknowledgement of the past. Now the future beckons.

  17. I think this is rather cool, and people only moan because they cannot afford the price, how many wanted the MS-20 controller from Korg that made no sounds, but only for the nostalgia feel and look.

    It is sad today that the kids have it so good, amazingly good. I laugh when they moan about gear, as if its some how hindering their talent ?? People should look back and remember the Fairlight to see what could be achieved on such limited resource compared to todays tech. If anything this is a valuable restoration project of synth technology from where we have been.

  18. First of all, this Fairlight CMI 30A (Computer Musical Instrument 30th Anniversary special edition model) is NOT a standard synth or keyboard! It's a new edition of the old Fairlight CMI designed and built in the late 70s and through the 80s in what is known as the series IIx and series III.

    It doesn't use the standard "Cubase" style sequencer, but uses a modernised re-make of the original and unique Fairlight sequencer, which includes a light pen for writing on the screen etc… I think it has been designed as a type of 'unofficial re-commission' by original Fairlight users who want a new NOSTALGIC version of the original. Nothing more and certainly nothing less!!!

    So, if you are looking for a 'Cubase / Apple Logic style sequencer', get one instead of the Fairlight – they are cheaper too. If you are looking for a "NORMAL" modern synth, then get one instead of this. There are some fantastic ones on the market. (If Fairlight give me permission I can recommend some later!)

    However, if you are looking for an incredibly modern and sophisticated machine with technology from TWO FAIRLIGHT COMPANIES – (look them up) – with a sound library produced by & shared by the company and other Famous Fairlight users, and a machine that simply does what it is supposed to do, (and you have AUSTRALIAN $20,000) then this might be for you…

    To be honest, even I was surprised that it was so "simple". Although it's not exactly cheap, it's not exactly complicated either. It has been designed to be used exactly as the old one did. If you have a problem in one page, you simply go back to the index.. You don't get into screens and get lost.

    I think nowadays most synths and keyboards are great – and some are really excellent too. Perhaps some do even much more than this machine and in some ways are even better in some aspects….

    But this machine is a classic re-make of a classic and the sound has to be incredible!!!!

    That's all folks.
    Phil

  19. Price tag notwithstanding, it seems a funny old world in which it can be suggested that people would rather fork out a – let's face it – huge sum of money on a nostalgic relic than on a bang-up-to-date, full colour, touch-screen, twenty-first-century version with a combination of original sounds and facilities and hugely updated and expandable ones, including, if desired, somwhere to plug in your iPhone. This could have been offered in the same limited numbers, at the same price, with a bigger profit margin, with benefits to both the company and the customer.

    Bizarre.

  20. Not at all bizarre when you consider that there are very few, if any, other bits of hardware or software that can do what the current Fairlight can do. The CC-1 card inside is a staggering piece of hardware and Peter is only using about 2% of it's potential at the moment. The iPod/iPhone dock is for far more interesting uses as a multi-touch controller for the Fairlight system. Quite a clever use, if you ask me. Don't forget this is a pre-production prototype.

    And this system is a "boutique" piece, not a mass produced item designed by bean counting men in suits. It's a nostalgic "objet d'art" and Fairlight Instruments are under no illusion that this will only appeal to die hard Fairlight-heads and those with a spare USD$19,000 kicking about. Trust me, if I had a spare $19K kicking about, I'd be having one of these without question. Why? Because I am big fan of the sounds, the processes and the history. Understand that the Fairlight wasn't just a sampler. It's primitive technology coloured and shaped sounds like nothing else. Samples of a Fairlight do not sound like a proper Fairlight. Only a Fairlight sounds like a Fairlight and that's what people are prepared to pay for. Peter considered a touch screen but for this piece, the light pen was an iconic part of the whole Fairlight experience so it was included instead. I am sure that when Peter designs a commercially viable product, it will dispense with such follies.

    It's the first step in Peter's venture back into making groundbreaking equipment and should be viewed as such. If successful, I am sure we will see more forays into the field that will yield more ingenuity at more affordable prices.

  21. Just a random observation, but I note that in one way Fairlight have now gone in the same direction as the other megalithic music machine of the 80s, the Synclavier – now they, too, are incorporating an Apple computer as an integral part of their UI. Just, you know, a smaller one… although interestingly it has far more computational power than the Mac II.

  22. I need to get my machines serviced BUT I have been a big Fairlight fan and user for years.
    I have yet to use a more integrated and user friendly system and the sound of the originals is awesome. If this matches them, then that is what counts.. If I could, I'd order one but not on my budget these days alas.This year, I'll get my Series III fixed instead!
    In any case, good luck to Peter Vogel etc.

  23. A musical instrument with character, unlike 90% of the faceless machines on the market today. Yes, its aimed at a niche market, so what, I only wish I had a niche wallet…

  24. ok I think it s looks cool might even sound good but the price is crazy. so if you can do this.
    then some one bring back the Waveframe 1000 it is a killer work station that blows most of this stuff away… even sounds better than Protools .. : )

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