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Digital Keyboards Synergy

Starting in about 1982, you couldn’t pick up an issue of Keyboard magazine without seeing an ad on the back cover for the Digital Keyboards Synergy. Endorsed by such industry heavyweights as Donald Fagen (Steely Dan) and Wendy Carlos (“Switched On Bach”), the Synergy was unlike any synthesizer built up to that point. It had a 74-note velocity sensitive keyboard, 24 onboard factory presets, a 4-track 1,860-event sequencer, and a port for loading cartridges that contained additional programs. Selling for a wallet-busting $5,295, the Synergy combined a number of synthesis technologies to create quite accurate digital approximations (for the time) of real acoustic instruments. The synthesis was basically trickled down from pioneering work done by Bell Laboratories and researcher Hal Alles, and included additive, FM, subtractive, and even FFT (Fast Fourier Transfer) – at least according to the company’s marketing staff and their traveling demo specialist. Certain sounds were quite authentic, in particular the solo strings, which actually had the rasp of the bow programmed in. Winds and brass fared well, as did electric pianos. The Synergy’s biggest claim to fame was its ability to intelligently split the keyboard, so that the left and right hands could be playing different sounds up and down the keyboard, with the split point essentially “floating” between them. The high sticker price, lack of adequate tech support, and the release of the DX7 all contributed to the instrument’s early demise.

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