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At one time, the New England Digital Corporation’s Synclavier was considered to be the most advanced synthesizer and sampler in the world. It was first introduced to astounded audiences (and drooling keyboard players) around the world in 1975, and proved to be hugely influential among both music producers and electronic musicians at that time, predominantly because of its cutting-edge technology. However, the origins of the instrument lie in Dartmouth College, where the Synclavier was quite possibly the first synthesizer developed to completely operate within the digital domain. It combined elements of FM synthesis and rudimentary sampling in order to create its signature sounds, which at the time were stored on large magnetic disks. Advertised as the world’s first “tapeless studio,” the instrument had a mindbending price that varied from $200,000 all the way up to an astronomical $500,000. For that much money, users got a system that was built from the ground up of custom parts by hand, all to the highest specifications available at that time. Early high-profile adopters included Frank Zappa, Depeche Mode, Hall & Oates, Genesis, Sting, and producer Trevor Horn, to name but a few. New England Digital went out of business in 1991, and the Synclavier is no longer produced, though there are still Synclaviers installed in a number of studios around the globe. Bonus factoid: Sweetwater had a Synclavier system installed at one point, but eventually opted instead to stick with the Kurzweil 250, a decision that has proven to be the right call over the long haul.

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