Behringer Clones Curtis CEM3396 ‘Analog Synth On A Chip’

Behringer has announced that its Coolaudio sister company has cloned the Curtis CEM3396 Dual Wave Processor, an integrated circuit from the 1980’s that they describe as an ‘analog synth on a chip’.

The V3397 Analog Synthesizer-On-A-Chip, like the original, is designed to create a synth voice, with a minimum of external components, and to make it less expensive to create full-featured analog synthesizers.

The original CEM3396 was used in the Oberheim Matrix 6, 6R, Matrix 1000, Cheetah MS6 and Elka EK-22.

Here’s what Behringer has to say about it:

“Our sister company Coolaudio,who designs highly sophisticated semiconductors, has just released a complete voice (2 multi-waveform Oscillators, a VCF plus 4 VCAs) on a single chip.

The chip is an improved version of the Curtis CM3396 and will allow us to create high-performance analog poly synths in a very compact manner.”

Behringer has not officially announced any new synths based on the V3397 Analog Synthesizer-On-A-Chip, at this point, and details on the chip are still to come at the Coolaudio site.

73 thoughts on “Behringer Clones Curtis CEM3396 ‘Analog Synth On A Chip’

    1. Meaningless throw away wisdom. We shouldn’t argue with fools. Fools often occupy roles of considerable importance and should always be kept in check. The current US president is a fool. I suppose he should not be argued with?

      1. No, he should be removed from office. Arguing is something you do when someone is operating in good faith, to try to convince them of the value of your viewpoint.

        1. Undoubtedly he should be removed from office. I don’t think that’s in question. Argument is a keystone of any decent form of discussion or debate. To say that only fools argue is as good as saying that “I’m so ignorant, that I can’t accept any other point of view except my own”.

      2. There’s a difference between arguing and rejecting. I reject the orange menace. If I had the chance I wouldn’t argue with him, I’d probably just yell the most harsh things I could think of at the time.

        “Do not answer a fool according to his folly,
        Or you will also be like him.
        Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
        That he not be wise in his own eyes.”
        –Proverbs 26:4-5

      1. Upon reflection this is a bit of a dickish comment, ironically doing exactly what I was criticizing at the same time. I hereby retract it.

  1. Our little industry seems stuck in the past, which is worrying. Behringer’s market advantage is that they can make extremely cheap copies of stuff from the 70s and 80s, but that doesn’t get us into new sonic territory, it just fulfills the desires of home studio gear collectors who want to relive their youth.

    1. Not true sorry… it puts access into hands of young people exploring synths in a way that was not affordable to them orherwise. Those young people have new ideas and are pushing the sounds forward with new processing and placing them in a new context (with different gear and sampling etc..) . There is no right answer to this but I think behringer is answering the demand and that in itself is proof enough this is needed.

      1. it’s sound nice but in realty it doesn’t really happen.
        There is nothing new about how people use this clones.

        Uli try to present himself like the “good guy” but i really pity who ever buy to this.
        He was always copying other people product to simply make money,
        Like the cable tester, Monitors that looks exactly like Genelec, (Or simply monitors with yellow woofer)
        He was just copy what ever sold last year. Making money was always is only agenda.
        Drug dealers and pimps also answer demand, Is that a proof it’s needed?

        1. Who cares? All cars and TVs look the same. Who’s copying who? Nobody cares. If it means you can buy cool stuff at a cheap price then guys like Uli will never be out of business.

    2. Fender and Yamaha are on the phone… they want a word about their guitars and pianos… and saxophones… and violins… and literally every instrument that’s been existence for centuries but literally hasn’t changed form in any significant way ever

    3. @zaphod: Who says that everyone has to “want” new sonic territory? On the contrary, some of the stuff I am hearing these days causes ear pain. It is also not astonishing, that Synthwave is a growing genre these days.
      Now on to reliving my youth again 🙂 which is big fun btw.

    4. What’s wrong with wanting to relive my youth and play with some cool analog circuitry in the few remaining years of retirement before I die?

  2. It’s been said elsewhere, but it’s a real shame that Behringer didn’t update the design to include wavefolders and/or a more versatile filter. I’m sure this will lead to a slew of inexpensive instruments, but the DSI Prophet Rev2 already reached the limits of what a CEM3396-based/inspired synthesizer can do.

  3. I want to be the first to make a haughty but misinformed comment:

    Any synthesist who chooses integrated circuits over discrete components doesn’t understand what it means to be an analog purist.

    1. You know, I see about 500 comments mocking an attitude like this for every one I see actually espousing something like this. Sarcasm (or “satire”) like this just makes one look defensive and insecure.

      1. Arghhh….its absurd!!! It’s like a bunch of old farts arguing about car manufacturers! Or a certain few looking down their powdered noises at ppl driving Kias or Honda. “…they just don’t drive like my Jaguar or my Tesla!”

    2. Ha ha! … I like it.

      Ok – let me play….

      I want to be the first to remind everyone to look at the big picture (or listen to the big picture, as the case may be…).

      Does what you play/create SOUND good to your ears and sit well in the mix… most importantly, does your audience find it pleasing to listen to? If yes to any or all of those, then who gives a rats how the music is generated? When it’s blasting out of the speakers at a club or gig, I doubt you’ll clear the floor because the audience suddenly revolts at the realisation that what they’re experiencing is the result of some freakish digital monstrosity… and worse, a CLONE of a digital monstrosity 8-0

      If playing a kazoo on your track is the secret sauce then go for it… who really cares as long as it sounds good. Is there a Moog modular, an OBXa, a Prophet XYZ or a Behringer XYZ on the track? … Who really cares as long as it sounds good?

      Make music guys and gals… that’s what we’re here for.

      Peace 🙂

  4. It’s been said elsewhere, but it’s a real shame Behringer didn’t update the design with a wavefolder for each of the oscillators, and/or implement a more versatile filter design. I’m sure this will lead to a slew of inexpensive instruments, but the DSI Prophet Rev2 already reached the limits of what a CEM3396-based/inspired synthesizer can do.

      1. Sadly, AFAIK the data for the good ol’ SID dies is incomplete, making any future clones unlikely, while the cost of a used SID continues to skyrocket.

        About 10 years ago I built the “MB-6582” MIDIbox SID synth. it is incredible, and very unique. It contains 8 SID chips (6582, which is basically equivalent to the 8580), in 4 stereo pairs. I can’t say enough about its versatility and unique character as a synth, i.e. not just as a chiptune/nostalgia machine. Back then I bought the SIDs for about 20 bucks each.

        Commodore had visions of SID being used in products other than their own computers, but sadly it never happened. The SID offers three oscillators with three waveforms + noise, sync and ring modulation, through a strange and dirty analog multi-mode filter. Maybe it was a bit rough sounding for mainstream musical applications but it is amazing for electronic and experimental stuff.

      1. what do you mean by cloned??
        if you clone a sheep does it grow 6 legs?
        i can’t plug the new 3394 into an old 3394 socket because it has 4 extra pins

  5. The interesting bit is what the article doesn’t say. Coolaudio has improved the chip it says. How, and what is improved?! It also means it’s not a clone.

    1. I must completely disagree. The CEM3396 may not sound thick like a Prophet-5, but it has its own character – I go to my Matrix-1000 for what I would call “sugary” or “fluffy” sounds.

      It wouldn’t be my only synth. Far from it. But for a person who has multiple synths, the Matrix-1000 with its CEM3396 voices is a great way to expand your sound palette.

    2. I’ve played a Matrix 1000 for over 25 years now and still dig it .. more so than my DS Prophet Rev2 for sure. Nothing wrong with a Matrix 1000 at all for certain sounds and playing styles, I played an Oberheim OBXa then a Jupiter 8 before that .. both those were replaced by 90’s rompers believe it or not, but the Matrix only being one rack unit stayed .. and I’m glad it did. To each his own I guess.

    3. Totally wrong! Either you can’t program, or you have wimpy speakers. I have a Matrix 6 that sounds fat and juicy, and easily hangs with my (original 2803) Odyssey, my Prodigy, or any of the many other analogues that i own or have owned.It doesn’t sound like an OB-X, but nothing else does either. And that incudes the Xpander, which I’ve owned. The chip was also used in the Prophet ’08, which I don’t see anybody sniffing at.

    4. Revok, you accidentally inserted the word “not” into your sentence! My MS-6 sounds gorgeous… or it did when it was working… :'( just some bust capacitors, I need to take it to the synth doctor!

  6. The Oberheim Matrix-1000 is now selling for more used than it did when new.

    “I pulled the trigger and got a m1000 in excellent physical condition for $825 (which feels like a good price right now).” Gearslutz June 2020

    1. yeah, i got one of those fader banks cuz i needed faders, now they’re tossing children in cages. the connection is all too clear /s

      1. Admin: Personal attack deleted. Keep comments on topic and constructive.

        Also, using multiple names to comment with results in your comments getting held for moderation.

  7. Hope this’ll be fully compatible with old synths using these original chips. I’d be hopeful that my Matrix 1000 could still go on for decades to come!

    1. Handfuls of discrete stuff in a circuit, each component with its own specified range of tolerances (often +/-10%), add up to a somewhat randomized output from unit to unit that still falls within the manufacturer’s QC specifications. This causes subtle (arguably detectable) variances that ICs virtually eliminate (because they are manufactured to the far tighter tolerances required for microscopic circuitry).

      Some call this a “benefit” because it can be claimed that each instrument is equivalent to handmade in that it has qualities that differ from others of the same kind, and that the components change subtly as they age and drift. It is evidently this equivalency to “organic” instruments that is missing in chip-based instruments built to far tighter tolerances.

    2. There are non, IC is just more advance technology.
      some think discrete sounds “better” but they will not pass a blind A/B test.
      Bottom line is, whatever makes you happy is better, even if there is no logic in it 🙂

  8. i dont care, mehringer are proving every day they are not capable of delivering quality clones, their new moog and roland modules are complete joke, but some poor folks here are happy they can ‘have’ all these classic synths at the price of a couple of diners out.

    1. “some poor folks here are happy they can ‘have’ all these classic synths at the price of a couple of diners out.”

      lol, finally found the guy who bought that Emerson Moog Modular reissue. keep working the dayjob!

  9. I’m glad this is Uli’s passion, as the passion seems to be gone at Roland and other companies. Should I bash Behringer’s imperfect clones rather than NONE?? I don’t think so.

  10. “Synth giant Behringer accidentally created a rift in the space time continuum when they accidentally cloned a synth giant company named Behringer. Reality could not hold, and an alternate universe was created. Fortunately, Donnie Darko appeared in time to save us all.”

  11. Rhetorical question: If this chip announcement had been made by a manufacturer other than Behringer, would we be seeing this flame war?

    1. Rhetorical question: Has any company other than Behringer made a habit of suing and harassing bloggers, forum users and journalists in order to stifle free speech about their products?

    2. How many of the original British team that worked on the first wave of Behringer synth designs are still with the company? Why or why not?

      That will tell you the truth about the man behind the curtain.

    1. Exactly. Love cheap synths, but hate the harassment and gear that fails spectacularly.

      If Behringer started acting professionally and just upped their build quality a little bit, they’d have twice the customers.

      There are a lot of ‘never Behringer’ people now, though, just because they’ve been burned in the past by Behringer that fails terribly or because they’re turned off by Behringer’s hate towards anybody that challenges them to up their game.

  12. I wonder a bit about the flood of Oberheim OB-x-era clones & emulations, even Behringer’s. Tom’s filter has a sweet sound of its own, but otherwise, its one of the simpler polys ever made. You don’t deserve a synth license unless you can build the “Jump” patch from scratch on pretty much anything. Synapse Audio’s Obsession looks like the best of the software pack so far. If it has to be hardware, okay, but I like the added effects & mod matrixes of softsynths. They often ‘fix’ the early limitations.

  13. I could use some cheap narrow CEM3396s to keep my Oberheim Matrox 1000 alive, or at least confirmation that if I fabricate some little wide-to-narrow DIP adapters, that the chips will be compatible. Where do you actually buy the newer CEM3396 clones anyway? I’d like to try them out.

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