Aries Modular Synthesizer (1981)

Synthesist & developer Dan Goldstein shared this short example of a rare vintage Aries modular synthesizer in action.

Aries made a line of module designs available, both pre-built and DIY, in the 70’s and early 80’s. There’s a ‘lost’ website devoted to Aries systems available via the Wayback Machine, and has shared a copy (pdf) of the Aries 300 System manual.

Here’s what Goldstein has to say about the rare modular synth:

This is the first demo of my Aries Modular system.

This large modular synthesizer was factory-built in 1981, and consists of a 5-octave keyboard, a 14-module cabinet, and an 11-module cabinet (with 10 modules installed), for a total of 24 modules. In total there are 6 oscillators + 2 LFOs, 3 filters, 4 envelope generators, 4 VCAs, a dual 8-step sequencer, ring modulator, phaser/chorus, spring reverb, and a host of other utility modules, including a pitch follower and an envelope follower.

Cosmetically it’s in incredible condition, has tons of original patch cables, and even includes the original shipping crates. There are plenty of dirty jacks and the keyboard is going to require a complete overhaul, but the system is about 80% functional at this time, and I’ll do my best to restore it to as-new condition.

It’s a very rare synthesizer, and I’m proud to own it!

If you’ve used a Aries system, share your thought on it in the comments!

8 thoughts on “Aries Modular Synthesizer (1981)

  1. I built three Aries systems in the 1970s, about 30-40+ modules in each. As I recall, Aries was owned by a fellow named Bob Snowdale [?]. Much of the design seemed to me to be based upon the normal module circuits, and was closely related to the schematics published in ElectroNotes, Bernie Hutchins as I recall.

    I modified a number of the basic modules, for example the ADSR had a three position switch with a x5 and x20 function so that it was possible to get envelopes that lasted well over a minute. I modified the VCA with a switch for a x10 gain function to allow standard signals to be driven into clipping, producing spectral attack transients. With the Envelope Follower, I brought the function of each stage out onto the face plate to allow for extraction / insertion of signals, eg before the full wave rectifier, and then before the lowpass filter.

    I remember replacing the frequency control pots on oscillators with dual-concentric pots, wiring the inner pot as a fine-tuning function. A keyboard was bought for one of the systems, but the design an manufacture was not very good, and the voltage contacts between the keys and the keyboard buss became noisy after a couple of months.

    Over a period of close to 30 years, the system I put together for Concordia University slowly deteriorated, and about 10 years ago, the remaining 25-30 still functioning modules were traded in for a discount on a 94+ modules Doepfer system.

    1. Greetings Kevin, I also built a larger Aries system – 45 modules. Living in the Boston area gave me access to Bob’s headquarters in a converted mill building in Salem, MA. As a Berklee student at the time I barely had enough money for any of the modules. Bob very generously sold me the front panels, circuit boards and knobs at a great price. My job was to source the rest of the components, which I did at higher precision levels than those offered in the full kit. I had a work-study job “proctoring” the electronic music “lab” at Berklee. It consisted of a room full of Arp 2600’s and Odesseys, a few Revox A77 recorders, and a smaller room with their Arp 2500 and another Revox. As part of my job I rebuilt the Arp 2500 studio so that it would work as a functioning studio. Michael Rendish, who was running the program at the time was so pleased that he approved my construction of the Aries modules at my proctor’s desk while getting paid to basically sit there and do not too much. By the time the spring semester was over I had come close to completion. One of my classmates was Emil Viclicky. Check him out on Wikipedia – a heavyweight to be sure. We made numerous trips to Salem to visit Bob’s shop. I still retain all of the documentation of the system I built, and sadly sold in 1993 to help pay for a move to a new home.

  2. nostalgia!
    We had a good sized Aries system at the Boston School of Electronic Music, if memory serves Ken Perrin wrote a manual for them (fact check?) – favorite patch, V/C Flanger driven by the Envelope Follower … “whup whoop whoop BLELP! BLELP!” etc – ah the days

  3. Hello I recently acquired that synthesizer with the Aries 300 owners manual assembly guide and personal notes I’m going to sell it and all the paperwork, was wondering if you might be interested or know somebody who was or steer me in the right direction price wise hope to hear from you soon thank you

    1. wow!
      no offense I hope but given the age of that unit it has to be somewhere on the cusp between “furniture” and “history” – if you’re looking for best dollars on re-sale I’d suggest a LOT of oscilloscope displays showing functionality of the various components (audio samples are too easily faked IMHO) – wish I had the $$ to pursue it but I’m at the “buy a nice van a la Nomadlands” point of my near-retirement!
      Interesting all the same – best of luck!

  4. Jason,
    You should be able to fetch a ton of money for the right buyer – Ebay or Reverb are the likely places to put it. I agree with Dr. Sarkasian – put as much information up as you can – perhaps a dedicated temporary website to show images every module. You should also consider screen shots of an oscilloscope as well as a spectrum analyzer output of every module, if you can. The more proof of operability the more apt someone is to feel comfortable dropping some serious coin. If *everything* is working and can be brought up to factory spec you should consider somewhere between $8000 and $15000 as an initial asking price. See if you get any bites on the high end – you can always come down in price. Good luck!

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