In the mid 1980s, Sequential Circuits was America’s biggest synth manufacturer, seeing off the likes of Moog, ARP and Oberheim along the way. Unfortunately for SCI, the timing of their product releases often left much to be desired. The Six-Trak is the perfect example. At the time of the synth’s release in 1984, Sequential gambled on a number of emerging markets, attempting to sell budget synths through department stores and cash in on the home computer trend. Unfortunately for Sequential, the home computer market hit a brief slump and the cheaper Casio CZ-101, launched later the same year, proved much more popular in the casual department store market.
All of which means that the budget SCI synths of that era are slightly overlooked. The one to go for, in our opinion, is the Six-Trak, a synth that Gui Boratto recently praised in our studio tour feature. The Six-Trak, like its sister synths the Max and the MultiTrak, uses the Curtis CEM3394 ‘voice-on-a-chip’. That means its sound isn’t the same as other SCI polysynths such the Prophet-5 or Prophet-600, but it’ll cost you less than half the price of a Prophet-600. The Six-Trak also has interesting multitimbral features, allowing each of the six voices to be programmed and sequenced independently, or an interesting unison mode with the ability to layer different sounds from each of the voices. It’s an impressive analogue polysynth for a relatively low price.
Like the Korg Poly800 earlier in our list, the Six-Trak is hampered somewhat by the mid-80s cost-cutting measure of a button-and-slider editing system, but it’s got a pretty good MIDI spec for its era (perhaps unsurprisingly, since its designer Dave Smith was one of the inventors of the MIDI protocol) and most of the parameters can be edited remotely using CC messages. If the Six-Trak had a knob-laden programming interface it would be a lot more convenient, but it would also be a lot more expensive. Invest in a controller, hook it up to the Six-Trak for hands-on control as shown in the video below, and reap the benefits.