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Analogue Systems

Analogue Systems is one of the biggest modular systems and controllers manufacturer from Britain. The major line made by the brand which gained popularity became RS Integrator series modules with a wide enough selection of modules. All the modules are in Eurorack format (Doepfer is another example).

Looking at the history of the company development the name of Bob Williams seems to have come all the way. When he was young he was highly into sound synthesis products. It was 1970 when he, listening to Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky tracks, got struck with those strange and wonderful synthesizer generated sounds. That’s how the future of Williams was predetermined. Bob watched Brian Eno performing Virginia Plain using EMS VCS3 and that became an impulse to make the first step towards musical instruments. Later Bob purchased VCS3, EMS DK2, WEM Copicat and HH amplifier with speakers. Soon joining his friends he sold out all his musical gear by various famous brands and moved to Cornwall. In 1978 he appeared in Coventry with the new bunch of instruments.

Later Bob Williams spent some time searching for analog rarities all over USA and got busy with their delivery to Britain. In 1993 Music Technology magazine called him “The Curator” of analog synthesizers. Together with Martin Newcomb he opened probably the most impressive at that time musical museum in Great Britain - Museum Of Synthesizer Technology. Anyway the constant need to maintain vintage instruments keeping them healthy and in convincingly working condition made him meet the person whose name would play a big role in their future company – Steve Gay, ex-engineer of EMS. That’s when the production of their own electronic musical instruments began and in 1996 Analogue Systems became one of the fastest growing and thriving companies.

The first product developed together with Steve was FB3 Filter Bank. FB3 was a 1U rackmount module. It included 3 voltage controlled filters and happened to be an example of a musical instrument of the highest quality nailing market commercial success. In good hands and chained with nice equipment FB3 can do a lot but you’ll need to have a synthesizer or a MIDI/CV converter sending sufficient control voltage to use FB3 CV input to the fullest.

TH48 sequencer (1995) was as successful as its predecessor. The unit should replicate the looks of the iconic ARP 2500 but appeared to be a more affordable version with a stripped-down interface. After a few modifications and some upgrading this model got the ability of polysequences creating by modulation functions, creating simultaneous sequences of various length as well as making sequences up to 48 steps. Back then there was no sequencer which would offer all these features in one unit.

RS Integrator series instruments came out in 1998 and presented a wide range of modular synthesizrs. Unlike its competitor – another authoritative company called Doepfer, A-100 system of which reminded this series a bit – Analogue Systems developed half as many modules but provided specs of higher quality. The modules of the company differ in circuit design and react in a different manner to control voltage sporting their unique character. All the RS models were to fit 19” rack (3U format). Each 3U had room for 6 or 7 modules and allowed putting products made by other brands which would meet Eurocard standard. The modules of RS line are still released.

For the series there were controllers designed,for example, Sorcerer in 2000 based on EMS circuitry. Sorcerer had a 49-note keyboard featuring MIDI and CV support and a control wheel. The upper part of the keyboard had a special wooden 168HP housing (which welcomes up to 28 possible modules). The set of modules can be configured in any way you like. Each module can be easily added or replaced and connected with the help of 16-output ribbon cable. Which modules to install - it’s up to you to decide: there are so many high quality modules produced by the brand. First of all Sorcerer comprises two modules - RS-330 Keyboard Controller and RS-220 X/Y Controller. There are MIDI and standard 1V/octave CV jacks for external control. Despite the MIDI/CV converting (since Sorcerer uses control voltage and that’s why MIDI reaction isn’t immediate) the CV operating keyboard is responsive and light. Sorcerer can be combined with A-100 Doepfer products. Thanks to the comprehensive selection a musician can achieve almost unlimited sound synthesis possibilities, create copies of classic Moog, EMS filters and Bode effects.

MIDI keyboard Demon as well as its predecessor Sorcerer offered MIDI In/Out and Thru portamento control. It is good for managing not only its own ones but also old modular systems by Moog, ARP, Roland. The main distinction of Sorcerer was polyphonic MIDI Out (Sorcerer - monophonic) as a crucial bonus of the instrument which was a definite plus for any composer.

French Connection keyboard of the 2002 based on functions of other MIDI controllers released by the company became the perfect instrument for a virtuoso comprising special contact points under each key which allowed sculpting amusing glisse and vibrato.
In 2002 another Sorcerer reminder came out though not featuring a keyboard – Apprentice which included MIDI implementation, control joystick and a wooden rack for modules made by Analogue Systems or other brands making Apprentice a great standalone device.

Spawn modular system was released in 2003. This is a high 2U rack. The front panel of the system features 23 knobs and 4 switches for sound settings. The system operates on the full functional VCO and VCA modulation allowing you to route LFO to VCO and VCF. Spawn generated much more various sound design unlike other vintage synthesizers with one VCO do thanks to its signal converting method (considering its surprisingly simple architecture). Since Spawn system has CV/Gate and MIDI functions it could be controlled by an analog synthesizer or analog sequencer, integrated with MIDI controllers. With Spawn panel you get what you see – no operating system, hidden menu or storing programs. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to create so many nuances of sound character – there are no ability to fix and store, you just need to create all the time from scratch. Although a lot depends on rich, saturated signal of the only VCO with continuously variable waveform generating: there’s an output for sub oscillator producing a square wave; main oscillator and sub have independent controls at the filter input so you can mix them as you like. A single oscillator can’t provide that result you get from popular detune possibility, anyway Spawn sounds gentle and gives that feel of undeniable presence.

Despite those ruling brands as Korg, Roland, Yamaha dominating on the market, Analogue Systems company maintains its devotion to Eurorack compact format year by year and isn’t interested in hunting clients. Professional musicians have already appreciated the brand’s equipment. Aerosmith, the Chemical Brothers, Hans Zimmer, Korn, Linkin Park, Muse, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the Scissor Sisters and many other musicians and bands used to like Analogue Systems products.