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Audiofanzine put the Waldorf Streichfett digital synthesizer to the test. Released earlier this year, the small box is designed to replicate the sound of vintage string machines.
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History of Synthesizers: 1950 to 1970

Submitted by on June 11, 2013 – 7:42 am No Comment

Previously we discussed how the synthesizer started to come to be from its earliest days as the 200 ton teleharmonium up until the creation of the trautonium (and mixtur-trautonium) in the 1930s and 40s, but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that the term synthesizer was used in any type of mainstream capacity.  In 1956 Herbert Belar and Harry Olson, two American engineers, were working for RCA—one of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers during that time—created what they called the RCA Mark I Synthesizer.

What separated the Mark I Synthesizer from other instruments like the Theremin is that the Mark I contained 12 separate oscillators, one for each tone of a musical scale. With these oscillators, the Mark I could transform tones by sending them through a circuit board and became the first programmable synthesizer ever created. To program the Mark I, the operator would feed the machine a long roll of paper that had specific notes punched out giving instructions to the device (if you’ve seen a self-playing piano you will have seen a similar process).

By 1957 the device had become so popular that RCA created the Mark II Synthesizer; while very similar to its predecessor, the Mark II featured twice as many oscillators (two for each note in the musical scale) which allowed the person operating the machine greater flexibility and control over the instrument.

While the Mark series did provide a wide range of uses and could mimic multiple real instruments, it was a large, bulky, fickle device mostly because, like the other synthesizers of the time period, it relied on tube circuits.

It wasn’t until 1963—15 years after the transistor had been invented—that a voltage-controlled synthesizer would become available. R. A. Moog, one of the biggest names in the synth world, would meet up with Herbert Deutsch and work on a keyboard that included an amplifier and oscillator that was controlled by a voltage-operator. Four years later in 1967, after combining a wide variety of different inventions, Moog created a complete system that he deemed to be his first true synthesizer.

It wasn’t until 1968 that Moog’s line on synthesizers would really break through and take control over the electronic music market, however. It was actually due to the hit LP Switched-On Bach by Wendy Carlos that widespread focus started to be placed on Moog’s line of instruments. The album brought synth music to the mainstream audience and, in an attempt to cash in on its popularity, many music producers began to work with Moog synthesizers.  By the end of the 1960s, thousands of Moog Synthesizers had been produced and shipped every year.

You can hear the synth version of Bach’s Sinfonia to Cantata BWV 29 that helped launch Moog synthesizers in the video below:

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