Update August 17, 2023: we added an interesting video with JM Jarre performing Equinoxe 3 on piano …
Although Equinoxe was considered to be a state-of-the-art electronic album on its release, it was produced under conditions that any mid ’70s anti-establishment indie rocker would have approved of. The studio was simply the converted dining room of Jarre’s Paris flat. Much of the equipment was secondhand, which Jarre had re-conditioned or adapted himself, and included a none-too-fancy Scully eight-track recorder, though this gave way to a 16-track MCI for the making of Equinoxe.
This was pressed into service to record Jarre’s array of analogue electronic instruments, which ranged from a very basic Korg Minipops drum machine to the world’s first commercially available string synthesiser, the Eminent 310, kitted out with an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone phaser on its string pads. The main sound from ‘Equinoxe 1’ consists of the Eminent’s ‘SUST strings’ setting and an 8ft organ tab with chorus. Jarre employed liberal lashings of echo on the various sound effects generated by his VCS3 synthesiser while also present was Jarre’s ARP 2600 synthesiser.
Jarre and engineer Michel Geiss made a formidable team. ‘Part of my artistic collaboration was to use my training and knowledge in electronics to build new instruments or modify existing ones to adapt them to his musical concept,’ explained Geiss. ‘Jean-Michel expressed his wish to do sequences on a matrix. I started thinking and designed the Matrisequencer 250. This would play standard notes with the octave divided in usual semitones, within a range of four octaves.
‘Jean-Michel immediately accepted it as soon as I had finished it. And it became one of the main instruments in Equinoxe.’
This video features Albert Steenbergen – guest in the Top-2000 show on Dutch Television in 2021 – demonstrating the Eminent Equinoxe sound
The Eminent 310
Eminent 310 was built from the early seventies until the eighties, available in two different implementations: a Theatre version (left) and a Standard version (right). The Theatre version differs in the fact that it has a more classic look and feel and provided with a built-in rhythm box, the so-called Rhythmix (also available separately as an accessory on the Standard version). Both species have the same possibilities and sound equally.
Availability of the 310 is decreasing by the day and appears mainly in the Netherlands. Depending on the state, amounts between 50 and 1000 euros are paid. Some 310s are even offered for free, but usually in poor condition. The 310s were built using only analog parts and had an electronic schematic inside.
Eminent was founded in 1923 by mister Vreeken as a family-owned shop. Mainly organs and harmoniums were sold then. In 1969 the company was expanded by his sons Kees, Frits and Louis Vreeken and at that time they decided to build their own organs under the brandname Eminent. At first they built a model 300 but it lacked of the famous string section. But it did have a connection for a leslie speaker. Due to rights Eminent wanted to have an alternative leslie system. Eventually they invented an electronic way to simulate the effect which was called Orbitone. They also discovered that Orbitone could make very broad sounding strings. So model 300 was expanded with Orbitone and stringensemble and the 310 was born!
Economic recession and lack of demand for traditional home-organs (caused by new brands like Casio, Yamaha en Technics) meant the end of Eminent in 1984.
Visit this dedicated Eminent310 website for more historical information.
The characteristic sound of the Korg Minipops is well demonstrated in the following video:
Alba Ecstacy, creator of this video says: “I just bought a couple of days ago (fantastic bargain!) this piece of history: Korg (Keio) Minipops 7, for my friend Nord (since I already spent my gear money on Bass Station, Kurzweil K2500S and Roland Demora! – so the Minipops remain in familly!). It’s sounds amazing, deep, the sweet flavor of vintage gear and I almost feel that I’m in Jarre’s studio, back in the 70s! Audio is not compressed, it is the raw sound of the Minipops 7.”