The Story Of SSM & Curtis Electromusic Chips – The Sound Of The ’80s

In this video, Johnny Morgan takes a look at the history and importance of theĀ Solid State Micro Technology for Music (SSM) & Curtis Electromusic Specialties (CES), two companies that changed the way synthesizers were designed in the 80s.

SSM & Curtis made custom chips for audio and analog synthesis, which led the way to more cost-effective polyphonic synthesizers, including synths from Sequential, Oberheim and others.

9 thoughts on “The Story Of SSM & Curtis Electromusic Chips – The Sound Of The ’80s

      1. thank you for your reply frodo; point taken. however, the 3394 wasn’t a ‘full analog synth’, it was ‘some of a synth’, so you would need a few more chips/synth.

        1. CEM3394 is a full VCO-VCF-VCA on a chip. No modulators.

          The C64’s SID has 3 DCOs with independent amp ADSR envelopes, osc sync and ring mod, and a 1-pole VCF on a chip. As a 3-oscillator monosynth it sounds pretty awesome.

    1. CEM3394? Doepfer Dark Energy I / A-112 VCO, Sequential Circuits Six Trak / Mutli Trak / Split 8 / Pro 8, Oberheim Matrix 6/6r/1000, Akai AX60/73/90, Simmons SDS-9/SDS-800/400/200, to name a few.

  1. Interesting! Now I want more!

    Are there some more in depth videos on Youtube that delve into what makes iconic synths sound the way they do? People’s taking points tend to be the filter, but the VCO/DCO usually gets ignored from the sound equation. At least, that’s my experience from reading and seeing stuff online. Something a bit more thorough to wrap my head around what makes a range of synths sound like they do?

  2. I appreciate that Johnny Morgan takes the time to do these, they are always interesting and even for an old-timer he digs up new details and fills in some blanks in the history.

  3. Thanks Mr. Morgan for the interesting story, but I’m surprised at the omission of Sound Semiconductor that was founded in 2017. We’re most of the original SSM team including chip designers Dave Rossum and Derek Bowers. We develop high performance audio ICs that honor iconic SSM chips while supporting the current needs of manufacturers such as surface mount packaging and very high reliability. We’ve introduced updated SSM VCF chips by original designer Dave Rossum, as well as completely new designs such as the SSI2130/2131 VCOs with unprecedented features and performance, and are fortunate that many of the blue-chip and emerging brands have adopted our products. We have an ambitious roadmap, so we’re just getting started.

    It would have been fair to also mention chipmakers Cool Audio and Alfa who have supported modern analog synth development as well.

    Dan Parks, CEO
    Sound Semiconductor

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