Elka Synthex Reissue Campaign Fails To Meet Goal


The IndieGoGo campaign to produce a reissue of the classic Elka Synthex synthesizer has failed to meet is $414,000 goal, despite the high-profile backing of Jean-Michel Jarre.

Organizers note that “We’re saddened that we did not reach the funding target. This unfortunately means that Elka Synthex will not be coming back.”

They add that all contributions towards the project will be refunded.

The campaign ended on June 14th. Backers should get 100% of their money back, since the campaign did not reach its funding goal.

Note: The Elka Synthex reissue was a project of Generalmusic. Original Synthex creator Mario Maggi has independently discussed plans for a new synth design, the Synthex 2.

42 thoughts on “Elka Synthex Reissue Campaign Fails To Meet Goal

  1. Now that this is over I’ll say what I was really thinking.

    Not all of these crowdfunding things get financing. Many of the ones that do don’t deliver on their promises. This issue isn’t getting enough coverage. Products might never be delivered, or they might be delivered 3 years late, or turn out to be not to spec.

    This phenomenon needs to be studied in more detail because so many Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects do not meet their promises on time, and a minority never meet any of their promises.

    It’s probably for the best this project was not funded, as it was based on a desire to refurbish and flip some dilapidated 20+ yr old stock found in a warehouse. Not being funded means both less disappointment for the fleeced, and less legal issues for the company unloading this stuff should they eventually be able to miraculously create clones of ancient instruments using circuit boards that have not been touched or tested in decades.

    1. True, but in this case GeneralMusic already has a pretty decent track record of manufacturing keyboards and would have got far more value out of the ~$400k than some dreamer who had never brought a consumer product to market before.

      1. Generalmusic was a great company and made a lot of neat instruments, particularly their oriental series with the microtonal stuff. They went bankrupt in 2011 and all of their engineers, designers and all other staff were dismissed.

        Their assets were bought by the current investment group/venture capitalist owners who are totally new to the music field and have not hired any of the original staff.

        This company has the patents, the name and moved a warehouse full of old parts, but it’s not Generalmusic. In name only.

  2. There’s been a lot of Elka Synthex on ebay lately. Maybe selling in fear of the new thingy coming… ?

    And now this?!

  3. These are indeed interesting news. Apart from the questionmarks behind that particular project it could also mean that the tide of analog is over. Maybe the market is saturated. Another hint in that direction could be the recent price drop Korg initiated on the Ms-20 Minis. The MS-20 reissue was frequently described as a no brainer because it was so “cheap”, but apparently that hype didn`t convince sufficient consumers to buy one. If the market is turning, that would be bad news for the Sequential boards and other recreations of antique technology.

    1. In fact, I think it means that people won’t buy a $3315 esoteric synth when no one they know used it. I’m a fan of Jarre, but he is not exactly mainstream anymore. People want cheap synths or not expensive synths, at least. And if it has some modern back up, or dance/pop music history, at least, it will be easier to market. Also, lots of kickstarters has t-shirts and stickers for those people who can’t afford the synth so they could buy it later when it is in stores. That didn’t happen here. So less backers, only those who could afford the synth on that specific period of time.

      1. if i had tried it in a store, i probably would have brought it. but to fork out over 3K for something that *might* or not eventuate, synth unheard, is a whole other story…

        its not a problem with analog popularity. its got to do with the less than ideal fundstarter deal with this one unfortuantely

      2. Good comment. Think this is part of the story and think Darren’s comment is most of the rest.

        There’s also the sort of practical reality that falls somewhere between the two: instruments like the Prophet 12 are in the same price range. They’re known quantities, actively supported, guaranteed to deliver when you pay for it *and* have most of the action folks look for in an instrument like this (plus all the modern bits). It’s really hard to imagine paying $3k+ for a reissue, or rather $3k+ *gambling* on a reissue making it to your door when the payoff just isn’t that much better than lower risk alternatives.

        Not at all trying to dis their effort. Glad they went for it and sorry for them and their backers that it didn’t happen.

          1. if this is a reference to the Tempest, i wish folks would stop complaining. DSI has the best support of any brand out there. Try getting help from a Korg more than a model ago.

    2. Curious about your MS20MINI comments, are you suggesting it hasn’t sold well. if so I would be interested in the numbers you have or what you determine as successful. A price drop is not a signal of failure. Price ultimately is determined by the market, the recent price drop is not unusual.

      1. I don’t have better insight than anybody else. I’m merely wondering why Korg would drop the price if the MS-20 Mini in fact had a highly competitive pricing and consequently outsells the competition. If you look at the top sellers of one major German retailer, you will find that none of the reissue synths are among them: http://www.thomann.de/gb/topseller_tasy.html

        1. Looked @ sales There’s not really a decent pro quality synth keyboard in their “top sellers”
          Mostly inexpensive entry level stuff with the exception of the Moog Sub37. more of comment on the German market perhaps.

    3. as some other have pointed out this is not a general indicator of the high end analog synth market.

      this is a total white elephant synth. I have played an Elka Synthex before when I worked in a vintage synthesizer store in New York. It’s okay, I dunno, I wouldn’t drop 3K on it. Some people like it I guess, I would prefer a Juno 60 which is considerably cheaper.

  4. Rationalist, you bring up interesting issues about analog vs digital. I don’t agree myself, but it’s worth considering.

    In this case Elka’s intellectual property has been tossed about over the years and is now owned by some investors that haven’t cited any experience in instrument design, familiarity with the market, or known engineers on board. Even with the best of intentions it’s exceptionally unlikely they could have delivered this project, and the zero funders they attracted is a testament to awareness of this.

    Mario Maggi was the original developer of the Synthex and he, and not this investor owned holding company, owns the rights to the instrument. He’s the only person capable of issuing a new instrument, something he is working on. Yes, it’s digital, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is that he is a talented instrument designer.

    Musical instruments are not cheap soda knock offs sold at WalMart. Making a viable and expressive instrument requires a talented maker. There’s maybe a dozen at most of these individuals alive in any era. Among them is not a single venture capitalist.

    Companies lucky enough to find a real artist should respect their talent. Korg currently has one person there who is a visionary designer, Tatsuya Takahashi, and he is happy where he is right now. They should keep him happy if they are smart. If they manage that they will be a very rare company. Yamaha and Roland didn’t value their instrument designers who “got” it and as a result they went from leading edge to producing mediocre stuff for decades.

    1. They did have over $100,000 in backing committed. They sent out a message to backers saying everyone would get all their contributions back.

      Anybody who thinks there’s not a market for high-end synths, though, isn’t paying attention. Dave Smith, Moog, Modulus and others have hits at $3k, 10k, even 35k, and vintage synths sell for high dollars.

      The problems these guys ran into were twofold: the Synthex isn’t a well-known synth; and nobody wants to commit 3k to an unknown quantity.

  5. I find it quite weird that with JMJ backing it, they still didn’t get one friggin order? Guess they didn’t do as much research and PR as they should have. I am learning from a friend who has other friends that have had BIG KS Campaigns that it really takes a LOT of planning to get these things going great. Also helps to be ahead of a trend, ALA “smart watches”.

  6. I think that the intended price of the Elka as being comical. It is hardly worth any serious analysis about trends etc. It would have been a lot of money and doesn’t have the support.
    When the Juno 106 gets remade that will be a great day.
    I think its great that this has failed , as it shows there isn’t enough people with thousands to spend on one keyboard.
    The bottom end of the market is where it’s at ? Ask Moog? Roland? Korg? Dave Smith etc

    1. According to the fundraising page, they raised $0 from 0 investors.

      This is likely because the bottom level of donation was $3,315. $3315 for a product of no working prototype, and unknown quality that may or may not ever be delivered is a difficult proposition.

      They did not have a $10 “special thanks on our website” and/or sticker level. Even if they had a $10 sticker level though, they wouldn’t have sold enough stickers to fund this project without having the original inventors or similarly competent engineers on board the project to provide credibility.

      Their requested $414,000 is not an unreasonable sum to refurbish old warehouse stock of mother boards and bring up to modern standards. Of course that is assuming one has people capable of taking on such a project, and no evidence of this was provided, and potential backers were aware of this.

      $3315 is a steep price for a state of the art Dave Smith instrument, but at least in that case you know the company is capable of delivering and will do so in a timely manner.

      1. They had raised about $100,000 (that’s 30 orders), but when the time ran out all the statistics on their IndieGoGo page reverted to zero because the monies are being refunded, due to the target being set for a little more than $400,000.

  7. This is actually a positive development, and I certainly do not mean this out of spite. I think the recent rash of reissues is a step in the wrong direction. I certainly do not want car makers or any other manufacturer re-issue old technology. Whilst I am earnestly interested in analog synths such as Parva and even Maggi himself whom is working on a new ybrid synth, these reissues seem nothing more than an exercise of living in the past, presently.

  8. What to expect? Overpriced limited synths are so passé. Today, people prefer to invest few bucks in plugins and some cheap dedicated analog device here and there. And honestly, the more it goes, the more we get good quality software, the cheaper new musiciens will become… It’s gonna be easier for a company to raise $400,000 by selling $4.99 tablet apps, than by trying to sell $3,000+ hardware synth. I know I might surely get a down-vote by all analog fans out there, but guys, don’t kill the messengers. We all know it, this is just about listing the current facts and consequences of the dying Music Industry. That’s why we have sub-$500 analog synth those days.

    1. I love an analogue synth as much as the next synthtopia reader, but to say the music industry (in terms of instruments) is dying is not true. With modern tech, both computer and small batch manufacturing, what a small company of a few people can do with an idea is amazing. Just look at the success of small euroraxk manufacturers like mutable instruments (1 guy) or the small vst makers. They’re doing things that were previously reserved for massive companies with huge r&d budgets.

    2. From my understanding of it, the musical instrument business is doing quite well actually. I think there has generally been continued growth year after year lately. This hasn’t translated to artists, but there are so many more artists and hobbyists nowadays that everyone’s buying gear. It’s the age of the home studio.

  9. Maybe this was just too grand a project for a ‘kick-starter’ campaign? It seems a long road to re-inventing a vintage synthesiser & selling it for several thousand dollars. JMJ’s backing is irrelevant when the end product would have such a large price tag attached to it.

  10. plus…the synth is big…and i mean..really.large in size. have you seen one in real life? its huge. most project studios simply would not have the room. plus there is a plugin version. just 2 more reasons.

    but i must say im really surprised they didnt get even a FEW contributions. not even one? so when it says “contributors will be refunded in full” what does that mean if there were no contributors? huh? i mean i came close to giving it a go. but i was worried that my money would disappear

    1. There were about 30 orders, but because the campaign fell short of its funding target (by about two thirds) the statistics on their IndieGoGo page reverted to zero, and the monies are being refunded.

  11. I, for a change, I wish they have succeeded and get one (just love that Elka sound), but now since that’s no longer an option, I can pull the trigger on that brand spanking new Prophet 6…oh yeah 🙂

    1. Not exactly comparable synths but it’s great that it does the job for you!
      I won’t be happy until I’ve got ALL the synths!

  12. I thought it was doomed to fail.

    Name 5 Synthex users without using a Google search. True be told, time has a way of warping perception, creating nostalgia for things that weren’t even very popular when they were fresh.

    The synthex was a fun synth, but by no means was it ever the “it” synth or a huge marketing success. The synthex isn’t something you can even find clones of or “inspired by” plugins.

    That, and rereleasing something old had kind of been done to death. The MS20, Odyssey, Roland modular, Taurus, Sh-101 (Intellijel), 303s, 2600s, etc have been successful cloned and copied and reissued and I think we are running out of classics to revive or honor. People want new tech, new features, new classics. The Moog Voyager craps all over the model D. The Pro 12 destroys the prophet 6. A future retro revolution embarrasses a real 303. The Access virus is probably the most feature packed synth and credited synth of the last ten years. Start looking forward.

    Meanwhile, mutable instruments, makenoise, the harvestman, access music, electron, cycling74, ableton, etc are pushing the envelope and spinning the classics on their heads. The future is not 100% analog. The future is digital done without compromise.

    1. I think hybrid instruments are the future. Complex Digital Oscillators with wavetables, FM, PD, AM, Additive bring them on. Then run them through analog filters and overdrivable VCA. That would be brilliant. Digital where it can add the most capability and analog where it matters soundwise. The Pro2 and Prophet 12 come close but they still alias and The Modal 002 (no aliasing) is really pricey. It’ll happen soon though, DSP tech gets faster and cheaper every year, it’ll just make sense to start shipping 96khz 32bit Oscillators soon enough.

      1. Agree 100%.

        I think hybrid is the best solution we have as well…. for now.

        DSP tech will only get better in time. Eventually, there will be digital synths that will are indistinguishable from analog, and the same goes for signal processing. Truth be told, the tech exists right now, but the cost and implementation are still prohibitive. I wonder if the consumers are so devoted to analog… would they buy a super high-res dedicated hardware synth for $4000? But won’t blink about buying a prophet 6? Strange world we live in.

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