Note: the Böhm Soundlab manual is included in this article – you’ll find it at the bottom of this post.
The Böhm Soundlab analog modular synthesizer was an odd beast. It was offered as a kit or fully assembled in 1983, at a time when musicians were head over heals in love with microprocessors, FM synthesis and digital sampling.
The Soundlab didn’t include MIDI, couldn’t play samples and was only monophonic. The base unit — with case, 4 octave keyboard, rear panel connectors and modular plug panel — cost 648 Deutschmarks. An amplifier & speaker module cost 48 DM, and separate VCO (oscillator), VCF (filter), VCA (amplifier) and VCA/ADSR envelope and LFO modules sold for 149 DM each — roughly $750 for a reasonably equipped system.
This quirky portable sound machine didn’t sell very well. However, it’s still a brilliant platform to learn the essence of analog synthesis and was probably quite popular in schools and university labs. The sound circuitry is based on the same Curtis chips incorporated in some of the best analog synths of the 1980s (Dave Smith still uses Curtis ICs in his modern instruments). Besides, the Boehm Soundlab evokes a Doctor Whovian charm that makes it eminently collectible.
Below is a pdf with the operation manual of this synth. It is curious, and funny as well, to read a thoroughly written manual that is printed with a matrix printer.