The Novachord + Solovox collection emulates two early electronic instruments that were precursors of modern synthesizers. Novachord is based on the revolutionary polyphonic instrument from 1939, while Solovox replicates a related monophonic keyboard instrument intended to provide organ-style leads. These exceedingly rare instruments set standards for tone generation and synthesis techniques that continue to influence today’s electronic music instruments.
Manufactured by the Hammond company from 1939 to 1942 and debuting at the World’s Fair, the Novachord contained 163 vacuum tubes and over 1,000 custom capacitors. Its divide-down oscillator architecture combined full 72-key polyphony with an early version of analog subtractive synthesis. The Novachord’s architecture predicted the ADSR envelope, utilized a resonant band-pass filter, and included a vibrato unit. These now-familiar methods resemble designs adopted decades later in Moog and ARP polyphonic synthesizers.
Despite its historical importance, the Novachord did not enjoy commercial success. Although it resembled a standard organ at a glance, the front panel controls were not well-suited to the performance techniques of organists or pianists of the period. In addition, the numerous vacuum tubes were unstable, making the 500-pound instrument challenging to maintain. Production stopped in 1942 because of poor sales and parts shortages during the Second World War, with Hammond only manufacturing around 1,000 Novachords.
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