Digital Keyboards Synergy Preservation Page

I'd like to light a fire under the entire industry right now... I don't want people to be so complacent about this. We're really lying back and being satisfied with trivial crap like sampling machines. Not that they're bad... But it's musique concrete done in a new way. It's back to the '40s and '50s. That's all it is. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not a breakthrough. It's a refinement.
- Wendy Carlos, Keyboard Magazine, November 1986



This page is devoted to information and projects about one of the most sophisticated synthesizers ever made, the Digital Keyboards Synergy, and its offspring, such as the rare Mulogix Slave 32, and its predecessors, such as the extremely rare Crumar GDS.

If you have a Synergy, it's worth preserving. One tech I talked to estimated that probably less than 100 (of the 700-800 originally made) are still in operation. Slave 32s (essentially a rack-mounted synergy) are much rarer still; only 25-30 were made.

The Synergy has 32 digital oscillators that are allocated to notes as they are played; voices which use more oscillators per note have less polyphony. Each oscillator can play a sine or a triangle wave. The Synergy is primarily known as an additive synthesizer, but you can also do FM on it (although to avoid ticking off Yamaha, Digital Keyboards didn't make a big deal about that feature at the time.) It seems underpowered compared to later additive synths, such as the brilliant Kurzweil K150, which has a bank of 240 oscillators. Yet, the Synergy often sounds just as impressive, if not more. I think that's primarily for four reasons:

Photos of the Inside of a Synergy, and Debugging Tips

I believe this is the only place on a web where you can find such photos. I also include some repair tips (it took a while to get my Synergy fully working, and I learned a lot in the process.)

Synergy/Slave 32 Software

Synergy Schematics

Synergy Mailing List

Yahoo Synergy-Synth: "This group is for discussion of this instrument in all its facets: design, repair, modifications, wants, tech tips, upgrading from the basic unit to the II+ Kaypro version, voicing, sequencing, basic operation and so on. This will be a moderated list for smooth operations."

Synergy Family Owners List

If you have a Synergy, Slave 32, or (gasp!) a GDS, please drop my a line with whatever info you'd like to include here. Let me know how long you've had it, what goodies you have, how you use it, etc. It would be nice to get a feel for how many Synergies are out there.

The Sounds

What does it sound like? The various metallic percussion instruments - vibes, xylophones, etc. - are the most impressive on this beast. They have a complex overtone structure that you just won't get by filtering a sawtooth. There's a drumkit that's mindblowing considering how it's being generated. The organs and brasses are fantastic too. The strings are a mixed bag; they sound a lot better on Wendy Carlos' recordings than they do right out of the Synergy. The bow scrapes are impressive, but the strings overall sound bit cheezy, coming out solo straight from the Synergy; I suspect that on the recordings, Carlos is making very careful choices of reverb and EQ, as well as carefully layering them with other instruments. (Definitely, owning a Synergy isn't going to make you sound like Wendy Carlos any more than owning a Stratocaster will make you sound like Eric Clapton.) The pianos won't fool anyone; it's clear that you need a lot more partials to pull off a piano (as the Kurzweil K150 does quite well.)

Documentation

These are scans of the documents Mark Glinsky (check out his Manual Manor - if a manual exists, he probably has it!) sent me along the the Synergy II+ he sold me. If you have other Synergy/MuLogix/GDS documents, and can send me either PDF scans or a hardcopy, please get in touch with me. I'd like to make this section as complete as possible. The next two documents are different printings of the same document; I include them both for historical interest.

Documentation from other sources:

Magazine appearances: (thanks to Ramiro Turin for sending these scans):

Circuit Layouts:

The Synergy is based on a digital synthesizer designed by Hal Alles when he was at Bell Labs. This design is extensively documented in two journal papers:

Essential Listening

Synergy Links

Price Info

How much did you pay for your Synergy? They're very hard to price. I paid $850 for mine (II+, along with Kaypro and editing software). To someone who knows what they are and how important they are in the history of synthesis, they're worth a lot; but such people are probably rare. I heard of a II+/Kaypro setup going for $1500+shipping in the summer of 2005.

Projects

Projects that might be fun for someone to try:

The technical documentation for the Synergy is quite detailed, so I think all of the above projects are feasible.

If someone is interested in contributing to such projects, please pop me an e-mail!

Repair

Before you try finding a repair shop for your Synergy, check out my debugging tips on the photos page. If you're still stuck, you might try the following: If anyone else knows of folks who can fix a Synergy, please let me know and I'll add that info here.
Last modified 1/31/2010
Maintained by Aaron Lanterman
lanterma@ece.gatech.edu