ElectroComp EML-101 Synthesizer Hands On Demo

This video, via Synthesizer Keith, offers a hands-on demo of the rare ElectroComp EML-101 synthesizer.

The EML-101 is a vintage duophonic suitcase synth (introduced in 1972), offering 4 VCO’s, a 12db/Oct filter, ring-modulator & sample and hold.

The second video, below, explores creating a sequenced bassline, without a sequencer, using the EML-101 synth:

If you’ve used the EML-101, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!

11 thoughts on “ElectroComp EML-101 Synthesizer Hands On Demo

  1. Amazing to see how far synth technology has(not) come in the last 40 years.

    to think most modern synths aren’t this well equipped is ridiculous. We are moving backward

    1. I know man, we should be up to at least seven oscillator analog synths by now!
      Now I want a semimodular 70’s suitcase synth for Xmas..

  2. Dear Keith,

    Please clone all the boards and make a BOM of all parts needed, for I love the EML-101 and you can’t seem to get them in England.

    That is all.

      1. Thanks for the info/link. But after seeing the original schematics, $1800 or so seems a bit on the pricey side. :-/

  3. Terrific overview! I love my 101 &, as said above , I’m amazed at how much it can do regardless of the fact that mine is 40 years old! Amazing group of folks that designed & built these!

  4. Hi Keith,
    Very good intro to the EML 101 ! You even took the panel off. I laughed when you warned about the selector switch breaking on the left side… as that’s what happened to me when I got too curious. Don’t ask how I got it fixed. Ha.

    How I got to own an EML is that one of my bros showed me an EML 101 brochure in 1974 and I liked what I saw so I got my first EML 101 in 74. As I started to make music with another bro, I bought more EML synths. By 1977, I had 4 EMLs.
    EML 200 studio synth
    2 EML 101s (serial no 781 and 1181)
    EML 400/401 32-stage sequencer

    I did quite a bit of recordIng on a 4-track tape machine with that other music bro and also did an album in a studio with him and several other musician friends. The album came out at the end of 1979. I also used the 101 in a band for a bit so it got a workout. Even though I did quite a bit of experimentation with the EMLs, I used the EML 101 as mostly a performance synth, ie soloing, backup instruments as in strings or horns, etc.

    When using the 101 in the studio, I modified it by first taking the knob off the ‘keys/oct fine’ control as bumping it put the whole fricking thing out of tune. I also replaced that 5-pin? male and female plug connecting the keyboard with a Switchcraft slimline 5-pin male and female connector where the male connector is connected to cable from the keyboard and is then screwed into the female connector mounted on the panel. I found that touching the cable, also throws the pitch of the oscs out slightly.

    To get the octave tuning, I would first have two oscs tuned in unison and in duophonic mode, I would play the low C, hold it and play the highest C and fine tune the octave that way. Hope this makes sense. In the studio, I ended up using a Conn strobe tuner. The oscillators were very stable and I never recall the 101 getting out of tune.

    When soloing, I used kbd 1, which triggers the lowest key that’s pressed on the keyboard. This worked out really well. And I used just one oscillator: osc 2. I wanted to get expressive with vibrato and bending (Chick Corea style) but I hated their wheel that came as an option. What I ended up using was the ‘osc 1’ ‘env 1’ knob in ‘oscillator control’ section. I could set up vibrato on the ‘osc 1’ left side and set up bending on the ‘env 1’ side. I set the envelope 1 to give me just a sustain voltage (set to 10) with decay and attack set to zero (I think). It gave me a precise dc voltage for bending. I would use envelope 2 to control the amplitude shaper (VCO). And because the knobs have a raised notch and zero modulation at the knob’s 12 o’clock position, one could precisely add vibrato or bend to a semitone or whole tone in a split second by feel. Once you got good at it, it was just the bees knees! Try doing that with those clumsy Moog wheels. As a variation, by triggering envelope 1 using osc 1 (set to about 7 hz) and turning on attack and decay with sustain off, one can create positive voltage vibrato instead of positive and negative vibrato using osc 1’s triangle wave. Guitars produce vibrato like this.

    Deciding on a 44-note keyboard was great as I wouldn’t have to adjust octaves up or down. The ‘pitch range’ of the 101 was great for soloing. 3-octave keyboards weren’t enough imho. I think the EML boys didn’t realize what a great solo perf synth they had.

    The case design was fab. Tough arborite on plywood. It folded up into a nice case and snapped together when open. Storage space for patch cords in the keyboard case part and the case never interfered when playing the keys. The layout and design of the panel, with the ability to patch into the modules and the location of the patchcord panel at top was a good design decision.

    Keyboard was relatively easy to clean where the springs make contact with the resistor bar.

    If you want more Q on the filter, you can patch the output back into the filter’s input. Be careful about feedback.

    There is a way of reversing a voltage by using the output mixer and ‘ext’ input. I used this for controlling a Yamaha breath controller, When one blew on it, the voltage output was negative so putting it through the ext input reversed it and then you had a voltage controlled breath controller.

    Because I live in the boonies up in Canada, I got the company to send me full schematics for all the synths if something went wrong. Had a slight problem with the EML 200 but got it fixed.

    Eventually, I got someone to sell all my synths, schematics, manuals and patchcords on eBay. ; ( Got some good coin for them and I think they went good homes. Ha

    Rock on,

    Keith (my name actually)

  5. ps I read a comment on some website that the EML 101 looked flimsy and used cheap parts. All the knobs were Allen-Bradley and never needed cleaning. All the jacks worked. Even the wires had robust connectors that attached to the circuit boards. They’re pretty solid synths.

  6. Hi Keith,
    Very good intro to the EML 101 ! You even took the panel off. I laughed when you warned about the selector switch breaking on the left side… as that’s what happened to me when I got too curious. Don’t ask how I got it fixed. Ha.

    How I got to own an EML is that one of my bros showed me an EML 101 brochure in 1974 and I liked what I saw so I got my first EML 101 in 74. As I started to make music with another bro, I bought more EML synths. By 1977, I had 4 EMLs.
    EML 200 studio synth
    2 EML 101s (serial no 781 and 1181)
    EML 400/401 32-stage sequencer

    I did quite a bit of recordIng on a 4-track tape machine with that other music bro and also did an album in a studio with him and several other musician friends. The album came out at the end of 1979. I also used the 101 in a band for a bit so it got a workout. Even though I did quite a bit of experimentation with the EMLs, I used the EML 101 as mostly a performance synth, ie soloing, backup instruments as in strings or horns, etc.

    When using the 101 in the studio, I modified it by first taking the knob off the ‘keys/oct fine’ control as bumping it put the whole fricking thing out of tune. I also replaced that 5-pin? male and female plug connecting the keyboard with a Switchcraft slimline 5-pin male and female connector where the male connector is connected to cable from the keyboard and is then screwed into the female connector mounted on the panel. I found that touching the cable, also throws the pitch of the oscs out slightly.

    To get the octave tuning, I would first have two oscs tuned in unison and in duophonic mode, I would play the low C, hold it and play the highest C and fine tune the octave that way. Hope this makes sense. In the studio, I ended up using a Conn strobe tuner. The oscillators were very stable and I never recall the 101 getting out of tune.

    When soloing, I used kbd 1, which triggers the lowest key that’s pressed on the keyboard. This worked out really well. And I used just one oscillator: osc 2. I wanted to get expressive with vibrato and bending (Chick Corea style) but I hated their wheel that came as an option. What I ended up using was the ‘osc 1’ ‘env 1’ knob in ‘oscillator control’ section. I could set up vibrato on the ‘osc 1’ left side and set up bending on the ‘env 1’ side. I set the envelope 1 to give me just a sustain voltage (set to 10) with decay and attack set to zero (I think). It gave me a precise dc voltage for bending. I would use envelope 2 to control the amplitude shaper (VCA). And because the knobs have a raised notch and zero modulation at the knob’s 12 o’clock position, one could precisely add vibrato or bend to a semitone or whole tone in a split second by feel. Once you got good at it, it was just the bees knees! Try doing that with those clumsy Moog wheels. As a variation, by triggering envelope 1 using osc 1 (set to about 7 hz) and turning on attack and decay with sustain off, one can create positive voltage vibrato instead of positive and negative vibrato using osc 1’s triangle wave. Guitars produce vibrato like this.

    Deciding on a 44-note keyboard was great as I wouldn’t have to adjust octaves up or down. The ‘pitch range’ of the 101 was great for soloing. 3-octave keyboards weren’t enough imho. I think the EML boys didn’t realize what a great solo perf synth they had.

    The case design was fab. Tough arborite on plywood. It folded up into a nice case and snapped together when open. Storage space for patch cords in the keyboard case part and the case never interfered when playing the keys. The layout and design of the panel, with the ability to patch into the modules and the location of the patchcord panel at top was a good design decision.

    Keyboard was relatively easy to clean where the springs make contact with the resistor bar.

    If you want more Q on the filter, you can patch the output back into the filter’s input. Be careful about feedback.

    There is a way of reversing a voltage by using the output mixer and ‘ext’ input. I used this for controlling a Yamaha breath controller, When one blew on it, the voltage output was negative so putting it through the ext input reversed it and then you had a voltage controlled breath controller.

    Because I live in the boonies up in Canada, I got the company to send me full schematics for all the synths if something went wrong. Had a slight problem with the EML 200 but got it fixed.

    Eventually, I got someone to sell all my synths, schematics, manuals and patchcords on eBay. ; ( Got some good coin for them and I think they went to good homes. Ha

    Rock on,

    Keith (my name actually)

    ps I read a comment on some website that the EML 101 looked flimsy and used cheap parts. All the knobs were Allen-Bradley and never needed cleaning. All the jacks worked. Even the wires had robust connectors that attached to the circuit boards. They’re pretty solid synths.

  7. I was in the band Pentwater and the EML 101 was used on almost all of our studio recordings. We still have it today. We used to patch an Elka Rhapsody through the EML for really different sounding string pads too as I recall. Ths can be heard on the middle bit of the Pentwater song “Living Room Displays”

    Thanks for this cool page!

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