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"Son of Synthex"
Cheap and obscure the ELKA EK22 was released in 1986 as one of the last
synthesizer models from the ELKA synthesizer factory, and for
one of the last Italian analogs, ending a great legacy that included
the mighty Elka Synthex. What we have here is the usual 6 voice
analog 2 oscillator synth with
some exotic modulation, sync routings and multi stage envelope
generators. Not quite an Oberheim Matrix 6 in its synth modulation
capabilities but coming close and on some fronts even superior. A
broad range of sounds is possible and its all there; haunting strings,
eerie pads, deep monophonic portamento moog basses and leads, fine
harps, metallic stuff, low-end brass etc. All with a very good
character, tight and compact...a good punch but also enough
warmth..Actually this synth sounds pretty darn excellent! I am pretty
sure its got faster envelopes then a Matrix 6 and also sounds less
gritty/grainy/plasticy. Its an often overlooked synthesizer, proberly
not many were built and
programming goes with the typical 80ies numerical interface, sluggish
like on the matrix 6.
Programming is not the only thing that is sluggish on an EK22, it can't
cope with MIDI very well when it is playing. Try changing some
parameters when it is being sequenced by MIDI and it will slow down,
missing notes and say take it easy
please! There is a knob on the ELKA that sais MIDI on/off and
that might not be a luxury.
At times the programming interface is quite cryptic (as is the manual,
some things are never fully explained) and feels a bit shabby, not
entirely finished and too "technological", i.e. there has been no
regard to any friendly interaction design, but after a while you get
the idea and it ain't too complicated.
The one here in the studio is pretty ghetto, its
held together with duck tape and the wood on the front is just stick-on
paper with wood structure on it to cover up some plastic damage, but it
still works perfectly.
This synthesizer has been used on the Squadra Blanco - Night of the
Illuminati album and also on the 2008 Dune
Some more interesting pro's:
Exotic analog sounds, Juicy vintage
sounding portamento, creamy
chorus, extremely good aftertouch response on the keyboard (plays like
butter!!!), weird but awesome wireframe TRON
3D graphics on the casing, bi-trimbal, you can play 2 different sounds
Bad sides: Sluggish slow
brain...errr...there is probably one chip
Some mp3 snippets I made from the Elka
(recorded withouth any effects):
Haunting Brass &
Strings Sloppy slow
attack bass sequence reminding us of an other Italian synthesizer
called the BIT, with some strings/pads layered behind it
Panoramic analog strings
The sizzling wonderfull built
in chorus poors a broad sauce over everything, almost an Elka Synthex!
Moogish solos leadbass
The lower part of the keyboard
is sequenced with a baseline while I play a moogish lead over it with
the other side.
Synced Krimi soundtrack
sounds Harsh synced late
80s tatort schimanski atmosphere!
effects flow into dark pads and synth noodling Some random stuff going through
some presets. distorts a little now and then because the recording went
into the red.
Portemento PWM synth Nasty PWM modulated sounds
Futuristic wireframe TRON graphics!
There is also a tabletop module version of the EK22, the EM22, it looks
something like this, I don't have it:
Its snack time! oh no - we're going to talk about the
soundchips inside the EK22: The Curtis
CEM3396 uP Controllable Dual Waveform Converter / Processor.
Synthesizers that also use this chip are the Oberheim Matrix 6/6R/1000,
The Cheetah MS6.
There are similarities in the sound between all these synths because
they use this chip, but they definitely do not sound the same, there is
a lot more going on to give each its own character.
You can download the English manual here
Also the exotic and obscure EK44 and EM44 exist, but these are
completely different synthesizers, they are digital FM synthesizers
that use 8 (!) operator (most FM synths use 6 operator FM) just
like the extremely rare Yamaha FVX and the 90s FSR1 module. I never
played one but I am very curious about how it sounds, though I can
imagine that editting 8 operator FM with the same interface as on the
EK22 must be quite a hard job.
The EK44/EM44 is also related to another even more obscure ELKA FM
expander synth, the ER33.
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