Review posted on December 24th 2012 on Failed Muso blog
By Rob Puricelli
The reason I have chosen this as the second instrument to review is that it closely follows the same paradigm as the CS-M, in that it only has one program but has a large selection of waveforms from which to choose to faithfully recreate the magic of this Italian beauty.
Elka were a highly respected Italian organ manufacturer and in the late 70s, started to manufacture string synths to complement their organ range, much like many organ manufacturers of the day. I, myself, used to own an Elka X-605 Combo Organ. But in 1981 they released the Synthex, a fully analog synth that had been designed by Mario Maggi who received financial backing from Elka, keen to cash in on the burgeoning analog synth market. It featured digitally controlled oscillators (2 per note and fairly advanced for the day) as well as a wealth of hands on controls, including a pretty unique joystick. It also featured an onboard sequencer with plenty of real time controls that could also output over MIDI. This really was one of those unique gems that came squarely from the left field and left an indelible mark on the synth landscape. Sadly, Elka folded some years later, and the brand was snapped up by another Italian keyboard manufacturer, GEM (now known as GeneralMusic and based in the USA), who themselves filed for bankruptcy in 2011. Most of you will probably know the Synthex for one sound, and one sound alone. The sound behind Jean Michel Jarre‘s Laser Harp.
But to simply think that this was all the Synthex was good for is a serious underestimation of what this baby could do. And by using the same methodology used in the CS-M described above, UVI have brought us a closer essence of what the Synthex could do than ever before.
As I mentioned above, Synthox uses the same method of sampled waveforms and the ability to shape and layer them that the CS-M instrument employs. And, similarly, it has a good complement of presets for you to start using or as useful starting points for your own creations, which of course can be saved and recalled with consummate ease. The UI, in typical UVI fashion, is a faithful imitation of the original of which it apes and certainly looks the part. Using the same sound shaping tools as ever, the layout is clean and simple and another example of exactly how to make an engaging yet thoroughly useful interface.
Digging through the presets, you will find some incredibly evocative and useful sounds, as you’d expect, and yes, the Laser Harp sound is in there, albeit under the name of ‘PL-B46 Ring Mod Harp’! Interestingly, all the Synthex presets have been recreated and their patch names, as shown with this sound, have been replicated too and prefixed with the letter B, followed by the original preset number. This synth soon reveals that there was a lot more to it than one iconic sound and you will end up using this in whatever style of music you make.
There are 9 categories of waveform to choose from, with plenty of variation and, just like the CS-M, it becomes incredibly addictive messing around with the myriad combinations on offer. There are two arpeggiators to use, which means you can arpeggiate both layers independently or both together. There is also a step modulation sequencer as well as the regular smattering of FX, filter and amplitude controls.
Just like the CS-M, this really is a synth pleading to be tweaked, so if that is your bag, you won’t be disappointed with this.
(featuring UVI Synthox and five other instruments)