Inside The Classic Synclavier Synthesizer

In his latest video, composer, synthesist and sound designer Anthony Marinelli meets with Synclavier guru Kevin Maloney, and takes a look at the hardware inside a classic Synclavier.

Video Details:

We discuss the basic hardware and software components, how to boot up the system with a 5.25″ floppy disk and some special features that were later added. Remember this is an early computer and it’s physically a lot bigger than what you would expect to see today. You’ll see how it’s built and connected together by ribbon cables with big connectors. Also the available memory was a lot less than what we have come to expect today. The early floppy disks held no more 128 kilobytes of data and the early internal 5 megabyte hard drive sold for $20,000.

Here is a list of the features in this system:

-additive synthesis
-FM synthesis with 32 voices
-5 MB Hard Drives
-monophonic sampling
-8 channels of MIDI
-filter switches
-SMPTE sync code
-2 floppy disk drives

This is the latest in series of videos that Marinelli has shared that discuss sound design with the Synclavier. Here’s a deep dive by Marinelli & Maloney into the creation of the iconic Beat It intro sound:

Here’s a vintage demo, featuring Kevin Maloney demonstrating the then-new Synclavier:

7 thoughts on “Inside The Classic Synclavier Synthesizer

  1. i like the VT100. a super really key mashing terminal if ever there was one. the VT180 was a lot of fun too, as well as the mono chrome GIGI terminal to run SUDS. i have Synclavier Go and the Knob for fun.

  2. Its a bit hard to believe that it was “only” doing additive and FM in its early, non-sampling state. I have the blue vinyl demo LP and its impressive. I’m also amused that you can have it in several FAR cheaper versions now. Frank Zappa took to it readily, but noted the insane expense of “the Michael Jackson-sized model.” They covered using it on “Blue Thunder,” but that’s one of the best examples of it appearing in films.

  3. Very interesting stuff! Of all the current iterations of the Synclav, hard- & software, which do the experienced users think is the most versatile and/or the most fully realised version of the original vision? My own experience with the Synclav is limited, I used the big/full system as a guest at Atlantic Records 30 years ago and the Arturia software thing on a couple of scores more recently, but there’s nowhere in my region to try a Regen. I’ve got UVI’s ‘The Beast’ for cheap thrills, but a Synclav it ain’t:) Now I want to watch Blue Thunder again…

  4. I worked for a place that was thinking about buying Steve Miller’s Sync in like 1988. Had all these guitar licks still on the drive. We didn’t buy it – they wanted like 25k in 1988 dollars – but it was was hella fun to have unlimited sampling time and bits of fly like an eagle to mess around with.

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