Some of you may not want to know about this, because with Vintage Synthesizers, only the originals are the real deal. But it is interesting to see that Cherry Audio is releasing some great software for uncredible low prices.
The Cherry Audio Elka-X synthesizer is based upon the legendary Synthex, a rare Italian analog synthesizer designed by Mario Maggi and manufactured by ELKA in the early eighties. Elka-X replicates the extraordinary character of the original synth without compromising sound or functionality, thoughtfully expanding its feature set and delivering the authentic Synthex experience at a price anyone can afford (€ 39 as it seems, admin).
“If it had been built by a more prestigious manufacturer, and released at a more sensible price, the ELKA Synthex could possibly have rivaled the DX7 and kept analogue from being so swamped by digital.” – Peter Forrest (1998), The A-Z of Analogue Synthesisers, Part One
The Synthex included a combination of uncommon and forward-looking features that stood out from other contemporary synthesizers, including highly stable digitally-controlled analog oscillators and a flexible four-pole multimode filter. Unlike most other popular synths utilizing CEM3320 filter chips in a lowpass-only configuration, the Synthex filter featured a 24 dB/oct lowpass mode, 6 and 12 dB/oct bandpass modes, and a 12 dB/oct highpass mode. Along with a powerful onboard analog chorus effect, this gave the Synthex a distinct and powerful tonality. It was multitimbral, with the ability to play two separate patches simultaneously, in either split or layer mode. It even included an innovative four-track sequencer with real-time recording and transposition.
As ELKA’s primary market was home organs, they never gained a strong foothold in the professional synthesizer market. Sadly, the whirlwind of excitement generated by the 1983 release of Yamaha’s DX digital synthesizers relegated this superb instrument to the sidelines, never to achieve the success it deserved.
By the mid-80s, ELKA made the last Synthex for Stevie Wonder, who used it for the distinctive bass tone on his single “Skeletons” from the 1987 album Characters. Other notable users of the Synthex included Geoff Downes of the supergroup Asia, Keith Emerson, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, Peter Howell of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and Jean-Michel Jarre, who used it extensively on Rendezvous and for his famed “laser harp” sound.
X-pertly Extended and Enhanced!
Each aspect of Elka-X has been precisely modeled upon Cherry Audio’s pristine vintage Synthex. Every effort was taken to emulate the prized tone of the original’s DCOs, dynamic filter, and stunning chorus. We’ve preserved the innovative sound-sculpting and performance features such as layering and keyboard split, and hugely improved the original’s clunky step sequencer.
Once again, Cherry Audio has kept the soul of a classic alive while updating its feature set for modern studio environments. We’ve increased the polyphony, included mono and unison modes, and added velocity response that was absent from the original design. We’ve expanded the functionality of the filter and the LFOs, greatly extending the modulation options. We not only simplified the operation of the four-track step sequencer but added a complete arpeggiator with independent assignments for both layers.
Unique panel controls make it painless to exchange settings between layers, sequencer tracks, and even different presets. In addition to the chorus effect found in the original, Elka-X adds studio-quality echo and reverb stereo effects, with independent settings for both layers. With additional touches such as chord memory, over 600 pro patches, and flexible MIDI mapping, Cherry Audio’s Elka-X brings the authentic and expanded Synthex experience roaring into the 21st century.