Behringer Solina String-Ensemble Hands On Demo

Andertons shared this hands-on demo of the upcoming Behringer Solina String-Ensemble, an unofficial Euro-format copy of the classic Solina String-Ensemble keyboard.

The original was made by Eminent, and marketed as the Solina String Ensemble and the ARP String Ensemble. It uses divide-down technology, which allowed for full polyphony using 70’s technology. The classic string synth sound was a staple of 70’s disco, pop and synth music.

The Behringer Solina was originally teased with a target release date of 2018, but even at that time, the company said “We haven’t decided if and when we will build this recreation.” While they’ve previewed the Solina several times since then, it’s had no planned release date, because they they can’t get the parts to put it into production.

75 thoughts on “Behringer Solina String-Ensemble Hands On Demo

  1. I own a Model D and enjoy it for the price I paid. This thing looks really cheap in comparison, with cut-rate controls on a ridiculously sparse monochromatic panel.

    I understand that the original wasn’t much of a looker either, but this thing needs a bit of cosmetic surgery to bring it into 2022. A solid digital effects unit built in would help the sound, too. Otherwise, it’s going to sound like a dodgy cover band doing thin versions of Air Supply hits.

    1. I agree it looks awful. but the original looked just as bad to me. it’s the red plastic candy buttons and slider caps that does it to me – but that’s the iconic look of the OG.

      this one isn’t on my list. stringers sound cool, but it’s not the sound I prefer to play with; like Kronos string sample libraries; love those solo violins!

      looking for the XM’s and M15, and Toro’s… and some Mutable modules.. wow Blades is like > $700!

    2. “This thing looks really cheap in comparison”

      Not sure if I agree. It looks really cheap, and the front panel is just gross looking, but the Model D looks pretty crappy, too.

      With the D, they just shrank everything down and stuffed it on a Euro panel, instead of actually thinking through which knobs you might want to have be larger. Plus the way that they swapped the switch colors, is obviously just them trying to change enough of the design to avoid getting sued by Moog. And the way that they put the giant ugly ‘D’ on the front, in case you didn’t know which synth they were ripping off, is just heinous.

      I’ve been tempted to get the Heinekroon panel overlay, which just fixes the D’s sloppy front panel work.

      That all said – it sounds like they’ve copied the Solina circuits well enough that it sounds like a Solina, and I’d be tempted to get one just for the sound.

      1. I think what some folks are missing is that the Behringer Solina and the Model D are created to give users a reasonably authentic experience of using vintage synths, including being able to reproduce sounds as they would have sounded before, either by following patch sheets or front panel photos, or by experimenting. Significantly altering the layout or sound composition would render them as middle-of-the-pack modern synths, rather than authentic recreations of classics. I guess moving some things around the front panel wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it would make patch reproduction more difficult for a beginner.

        I’d expect a large segment of the target market is looking to recreate sounds they heard on records from the 1970’s, without too many modern bells and whistles getting in the way. It’s normal that the Solina will be divisive, because its sound didn’t endure in popular music the way the Minimoog did after the 1970’s. But for those who want a surefire way to dial in the Solina sound, getting an analog recreation of it will be the next best thing to a totally restored vintage unit.

        1. I fully agree with Ben. Vintage Solinas are going for thousands now and often need a lot of work (or will). The sparse panel – and its styling – are deliberate and in this case I am grateful for it. The patch sheet thing is an important note as well that I’d overlooked.

    3. While I would have preferred a recreation of the Univox Stringman (that had even fewer controls), this will definitely do the trick for me. In fact, I think I would be pretty satisfied with an authentic recreation of any of the better 70s string machines. I’m kind of surprised at the selection of the Small Stone for the phaser emulation, since I think a Phase-90 would be more niche specific. No other effects are needed. The whole point of emulating a classic analog instrument from the 70s, is to do just that. Personally, if I was going to add-on any effect, at all, it would be only an RE-201 Space Echo (and not a “cheesy” digital emulation, either). Back in the day, that’s about all you ever saw in the string synth signal path. The Air Supply comment is a little short sighted in that it would be a lot easier to list the artists in the 70s that didn’t use one at some point, than those that did. The Anderton’s video mentioned Jarre, but most (if not all) of the Berlin School acts used one. Then there were almost all of the 70s Prog bands (where a string synth, usually a Solina, was the actual instrument producing the string parts that were often mis-attributed to a Mellotron), some of whom did their best work before they could afford a Mellotron (e.g., Eloy). Personally, of all the classic analog synths I’ve sold or traded over the years, the only instrument I really ever wish I had again was my Stringman. I think I have every software “string machine” emulation that was ever out there, and I even owned a Waldorf Streifchfett until I realized it was a very poor emulation of even the better software programs. None of these, especially the Arturia Solina, comes anywhere close to the real hardware devices they attempt to emulate.

      1. Excellent points – I just think Behringer’s need to make these look like a ‘cheap minimoog’ or a ‘cheap solina’ leads to sloppy thinking about both design and usability.

        Like on the D, if they’re going to copy the look, why not get the typography right? And, from a usability standpoint, making everything smaller isn’t as good a solution as keeping things like filter controls and tuning full-size and shrinking things down which you’re less likely to use in performance or less likely to need fine motor control over.

        1. Having had a Model-D since their availability, I can attest to the fact that the size difference between that panel and a real MIni took some time to get used to. However, I can now navigate it accurately in an almost no-light situation as well as I could with my Minis. The Solina is a much different animal, though. Whereas, the Model-D has something like 23 knobs, six rotary switches, and 15 rocker switches. the Solina has 8 push buttons, two knobs and four (what appear to be) 50mm sliders in the same physical space. I really can’t imagine that the controls would be too cramped for anybody. Also, there is nothing that you can physically move (pot or slider) that requires the kind of precision that you might want in controlling and oscillator or an envelope segment on a “real” synth. If I had to guess, the only reason the spacing between controls on the actual Solina were the way they were was because the thing would have looked idiotic if they more ergonomically placed the controls (i.e., shrunk the overall size of the layout) on all of that panel space in front of the 61-key keybed.

    4. Yet, even with all if its cosmetic and cost reduction compromises I have yet to hear anything that sounds more like a vintage Mini, including the new Moog Model D. So, for the $275 I paid for it, I consider it the bargain of the century. I guess it matters, though, whether the intent is to play it or to show it off.

    1. There are some weird YouTube guidelines going round that say if you make a stupid face in your YouTube thumbnails then people are more likely to watch

      It’s like something out of the movie Idiocracy

      Alas, even channels I used to enjoy have started in on this moronic trend

      I don’t click on videos that have presenters making stupid faces – it’s pathetic

  2. I am actually thinking of getting one to add (cheaply, cheaply, Behringer cheaply) some polyphony to my mindless Eurorack doodling’s. I agree with the comments of the above posters though. Looks like crap, but sounds OK.

    1. From the original estimates it looks like it will be priced in the same range as the Waldorf Streichfett, probably about $100, or so, more. However, the entire Streichfett consists of one relatively large integrated circuit, power supply conditioning, and all of the surface-mounted controls to operate it on one approximately 6″ sq circuit board. Contrast that to all of the parts inside the Solina that need to be hand assembled (check out one of the first “Engineering videos” on YouTube), and that everything in it is composed of discrete analog circuitry. That the Solina sounds like an authentic 70s string synth and the Streichfett sounds like the crap it actually is, more than justifies the higher price of the Solina. I’m not a Waldorf hater by any stretch. However, I was amazed when I disassembled my Streichfett and found out what it really was (i.e., one IC and some circuit mounted support circuitry and controls on one pretty simple circuit board). Compared to any other Waldorf synth I’ve ever owned, it is pretty pathetic!

  3. To many spoiled people in the conversation 🙂

    If you feel like to be back in the 70’s, for sentimental reason perhaps, than this is fine.

    1. No, it really isn’t that, exactly. Just because we live in a more technologically advanced period in electronic music generating equipment, doesn’t mean that we can’t want access to those tools that we found so useful back in the 70s. Also, sometimes an approximation of those sounds just doesn’t cut it. Granted, I don’t think that this particular product is going to have the mass appeal that Behringer thinks it will, but to those of us senior citizens, this goes a lot further than nostalgia.

      1. agreed. I like vintage/vintage-like gear because the modern stuff isn’t interesting to me – except Prologue. I prefer a simple instrument with a reasonable range of expression that is immediate and responsive. too many recent synths are like operating a lab device or computer system. I’m pulling a set of intellijel modules because they have menus with too many options. if I *need* a manual just to run it, I’m not interested.

      2. Agree, but I did buy the Behringer CAT partially because it was the first synth I ever owned so TBF, this senior is a bit guilty of some nostalgia purchase syndrome lol. But good points.

  4. I acknowledge the synth’s place in history, no question. I simply wonder why it would draw people as a separate unit now, when that sound is oozing from modern gear. Every ROMpler has two or three Solina-flavored stringers. It gets name-dropped almost as much as the CS-80.

      1. Actually, this year in the most recent Korg Nautilus update, and last year in the K2700. Sure, you can tweak the sounds (well, with the K2700 you can do a hell of a lot more than tweak), but the heart of just about any “new” workstation is just a glorified ROMpler.

    1. “Ooze” is actually a pretty good descriptor for any current digital emulation, kind of like the way puss oozes from an skin abrasion. As I stated above, I haven’t found anything that, for my ears, provides a close-enough approximation of a real 70s string synth. I’ve come close by mixing and matching pairs on the Gforce emulation, and a few of the early 32-bit VST emulations (that I don’t think are available anymore, or run in a 64-bit environment without a wrapper) were probably usable. But, by and large, none of them has satisfied my desire to get those ensemble string sounds that made up so much of my keyboard content when gigging in the 70s.

        1. My response was specifically about Behringer wasting their time doing a Quadra, which is a totally different beast than the Omni/Omni 2. Even Pearlman, himself, acknowledged that releasing the Quadra was probably a mistake. Also, there is no lineage progression from the Odyssey to the Quadra (the Quadra was a half-assed attempt at a polysynth). Being that the Odyssey was a mini-version of the 2600, Behringer already did it (clone the next step in the real lineage, I mean). Now, cloning the 2500 would be another thing, entirely.

          1. John they did the major 2500 modules already, and they sound very good too. especially the 1047 w/Amsynths addon for resonant pings. agreed wrt quadra; a deadender if ever there was one.

            1. Thank you! I assume these are part of their Eurorack series. Since I have never adopted the format, I really don’t pay much attention to what the available modules are or what they emulate/clone. Good to see that they did it. Now anybody who wants to can play the Close Encounters sequence 🙂

    1. I used to count the number of times someone said “basically” and “actually” during a sales presentation. I had one guy that said them so much, it was hard to believe he knew what he was talking about. and a another guy that said them 84 times in an hour long talk. *yikes*

    2. That, and I wish he would stop staying “FULLY ANALOG!” I realize this gets a little pedantic, but the tone generation of a divide-down instrument consists of a master high-freq square wave oscillator that flip flops between on and off states super fast to create the square wave, (i.e., digital) then uses divider chips to divide/slow down the rate of flip flop to create different pitches (more digital). In other words “digital” doesn’t necessarily equate to “coming out of a computer.”

  5. I like it. Simple, uncluttered look reminiscent of the original. It’s also not a clone of a current product from another manufacturer. I could see me getting this. It’s a bit of a one trick pony, but it’s a nice trick if you need that colour. Being able to run an external signal through the FX is a nice bonus.

  6. I want one ! All ways have ! I love old organs and string machines , and my eurorack, its all the same , arturia in hardware thankyou!

  7. Playing a Solina many years ago stuck in my head as one of the most enjoyable synth experiences I’ve ever had. Interested to see if they can nail it and also release it, some of the parts in that synth have always been a pain to get.

    1. in this case, the constraints of the manufacturers low-cost the business model more than fully explains the delay in production. vaporware generally isn’t past concept or early prototype stage when publicized; many of these are either in beta, or lacking only pre-production volume. once parts are back to ‘normal’ – if they ever will be – you’ll see products again. they’ve pulled off enough of these re-engineered synths already to justify some trust in their process. the poly’s will be interesting! waiting for Wave/PPG

  8. As to the term “ROMpler,” yeah, its a semi-dated, catch-all, but even part of the Wavestate is purely ROM, like the great string section samples. Korg calls it “gigabytes of samples,” but its still in ROM.

    Then the line gets blurred. Some wavetable synths have a fixed set of waves to choose from, but Serum and the MoDWave can swap them with 100% compatibility. The new 3rd Wave will resynthesize your WAVs and hand you a patch of the results.

    The most classic Solina is still just sawtooth waves and a triple bucket-brigade delay. Presto, classic lush goodness.

    1. it’s a top octave divider design, all notes are generated within the range of the device, you just pick the ones you want to sound concurrently.

  9. I’ve had a Waldorf Streichfett for a number of years and I love its sound. I had a Solina but the components wore out. Sold it to a guy who fixed it. The string thing found a good home! I’ll probably buy the Behringer Solina. It sounds good to me.

    Andertons YouTube videos crack me up…but also are relaxed and informative.

    1. Note: I never said that I didn’t like the sound of the “Streichfett”. In fact, I did. My point was that it really isn’t close to the 70s string machines, even the less capable ones, at delivering the organic string ensemble ambience that was my main interest when I purchased it. Other than finding that it was composed of, maybe, $50 in parts and was selling for close to $500 when I purchased it, I found myself using the Streichfett, more like a poly synth than a string synth. At the time I had a PC3K8, a Kronos 2, an M3, a D-05, and both a K2661 and K2500RS, so keeping the Streichfett made absolutely no sense to me, since the one thing I purchased it for it was incapable of doing well.

      1. Do you think the Behinger Solina’s parts are somehow more expensive? Or that this matters to how an instrument sounds?

        When you buy an instrument, you’re paying for the design, the case, marketing & shipping ore than you’re paying for electronic parts. Do some synth DIY an you’ll realize that the most expensive parts are always the case and the faceplate, and neither have anything to do with how it sounds.

        1. Yes, there is no doubt that the Solina’s parts (not the accumulative total of the parts themselves, but the number of them that need to be dealt with) would be a hell of a lot more expensive to assemble than those of the Streichfett, even when you take the slave Chinese labor vs. German salaries into consideration. There isn’t really a cost savings in labor if there is no human required for assembly (as in the case of a one-chip design!). No, the cost of the assembly doesn’t necessarily make a difference in how the instrument sounds. However, when you are building a synth that is a true electronic clone of a device that had no integrated circuits in its design, using those discrete parts is what must account for the sound differences between the Solina and the Streichfett, which sounds awful in comparison as a 70s-style string synth. Then again, this is all a matter of taste, I guess. If you like the way a Streichfett sounds doing string ensembles, or any software emulation than that’s fine. The 70s string synths (well, at leas most of them) had a distinctive tonal character that just isn’t authentically replicated by either a Streichfett or and software emulation that I am aware of.

          In your second paragraph, you appear to again miss my point, entirely. Yes, the Streichfett may have $50 in parts, but there really is only one of them (that synth on a chip) that accounts for its sound. However, for me, that was only discovered when I decided to open it. If it sounded anywhere near “good” in its intended role (i.e., hardware string synthesizer that sounds like a 70s string synth), I wouldn’t have even mentioned the cost of its guts since I would have gladly paid it no matter how it was accomplished. The fact that is nowhere close to what it professes to be is the problem, and why I got rid of it.

          Finally, if it was the costs of the things you list that determine the selling price of an item (not including the name of the manufacturer, of course,which with some of the stuff bearing the name Moog and Oberheim is really the most expensive thing about the device), then manufacturers wouldn’t be doing all of the assembly of the devices in China. What else would account for assembling stuff in China if that wasn’t the biggest cost to the manufacturer? Obviously, the parts, the case and the marketing would be the same no matter where you manufacture something, which is why Waldorf decided to assemble the Streichfett in Germany.

          1. If you don’t realize it already, the Solina uses 50 year-old tech, the parts cost next to nothing and the circuit boards are assembled by machines.

            Companies have moved their manufacturing to China because most of the source materials are made there, and it’s the cheapest place to manufacturer panels, cases, etc. Doing the manufacturing it in China also means that most of the shipping costs for materials are local.

            PCBs are cheaper to make in China, too, but the panels and cases of these synths cost WAY more than the electronics that generate the sound. You’re looking at $10-15 for the guts of something like the Solina. The cost to ship the instrument from China to a distributor in the US, and from the distributor to you, is much more than the cost of the circuit board.

            tldr version: With most synths these days, you’re paying more for the panel, case & shipping than you are for anything that actually makes a sound.

            1. Most synths today are digital, and use circuit boards that utilize surface mount technology. Getting back to my original comment comparing the cost of a Streichfett to the Behringer Solina, none of what you say has any bearing on the comparison. The Streichfett (at least the one I purchased) was assembled in Germany, most, if not all, of Waldorf’s other “budget” synths are assembled in China. Other than as a branding inducement (i.e., “made in Germany”), why else would they do this if it weren’t for the cost of labor? No other variable (at least among those you mention) could possibly account for that decision.

    1. Apparently it is. Not so much the sound of a Solina, per se, but the sound that is characteristic of most of the 70s string synths that were assembled from discrete analog components. Given, that I’ve yet to hear a Hydrasynth patch that comes close (and I haven’t really attempted to do one myself because everything that tried with every synth that I’ve owned since the early 90s failed miserably, except for one patch I did for my Kyra that didn’t sound as good as I thought it did when I listened to it when I was sober), I’d say that it most likely can’t. I love my Hydras to death, but the one thing they appear to be incapable of doing is convincing simulations of analog synths of any kind. The Kyra was a possibility, and it may be able to do it. However, I believe that Behringer will eventually release the Solina, and since I’ve waited over 30 years (I sold my Stringman in 1992 to offset the costs of my first K2000S) to regain the sound, I guess I can wait a couple more.

            1. Thank you… what I meant was… After reading what I wrote, I had trouble following it because I wrote it so poorly. If you were able to get through that, your English comprehension is fine. My English prose, on the other hand, I’m beginning to worry about. 🙂

    1. Solina in it’s original design is too big to fit the smaller mini/micro packaging, and the eurorack format is demonstrably popular. mini/micro is an unknown so far.

      1. Unless they deviated from the “clone it as exactly as possible” strategy, the capacitors, alone, in the design would take up much more physical space than would be available in any mini/micro packaging. Look at the video I referenced in my reply (above). There are an enormous number of discrete component on the two circuit boards that are each about the size of the length and width of the Solina. Of course, if they were to go the “digital” route, it would defeat the purpose of cloning the original, and you would have another “not very close” approximation of the original Solina.

    1. Unlike ANY digital approximation (including Electrorchestra), the Solina clone sounds like an actual 70s string synth (because it actually is). I’ve looked for decades now, and there isn’t anything else that is currently available that does. If Uli comes through with this, I’ll be among the first to purchase it.

      Note: I just took the time to hear a demo of the Electrorchestra. After hearing it, but without actually playing it, I’s say that it is one of the better tries at this. Actually, for some of the things that the demo makes clear, it is pretty good at those strings/pipe organ type sounds you could get out of a real string machine. That they really don’t give an example of what the “string machine emulation” sounds like, it’s probably because it sucks as much as just about any other try at a recreation.

      1. I went ahead and bought the app. For $12, it gets me what I currently need (something close to the Crumar Performer Nick Rhodes used in Hungry Like The Wolf). GSi seems to release nothing but high-quality instrument apps for the iPad. This virtual string machine is only 8.3MB. Their Hammond organ (VB3m) is terrific too. They just released a solo trumpet app that I will want to compare to the SWAM app.

        1. The Crumar Performer used the exact same “string synth” circuitry as did the Crumar/Univox Stringman. I had a Stringman for over 20 years, and this iOS app sounds nothing like one. I had a little experience with a Performer back in the day (one of my band mates had one), and it did have the kinds of add-ons to a Stringman that made it more competitive with a Solina (i.e., things like synthetic horns, brass, and human vocal emulations). I also remember it being a lot more capable of sounding like a polyphonic synth than did the strings-only models. My comments about string synths are all in reference to those synths sold in the 70s that did “strings”, especially “ensemble strings”, and which the early models did almost exclusively. My personal favorite of those is the Univox/Crumar Stringman, with the Elka coming in a close second. Although it appears to have become the prototype for that sound, the Solina was never even close to my favorite back then. However, this isn’t 1977, and hands down, the closest thing you are going to get to that “string ensemble” sound of the 70s is the Behringer Solina, PERIOD!

          Note: I’m a big fan of modeling, as well. The problem with the Electrorchestra, is that they, apparently, have not modeled the sound in question. If Genuine Soundware took the time to do so, it is possible that they would have a winner for this class of synth. However, as I said in my previous comment, they did a very good job in modeling what they did model, and next time I power up my iPad, I’ll purchase it.

        2. I just purchased it, as well. I also picked up the VB3 and the iOS version of the GS-201 Space Echo. I played around a bit with the GS-201, and they nailed it pretty convincingly (tape hiss, reverb noise, and all)!

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