Electronic Music Studios’ Synthi AKS was first released in 1971. As the portable version of 1969’s VCS 3, it helped bring analogue synthesis out of the labs, and was used by a veritable who’s who of 1970s musicians, most notably Pink Floyd, who featured it extensively on their Dark Side Of The Moon album. Fast forward to 2019 and Arturia release Synthi V, a software emulation of the machine.
The EMS Synthi AKS is an inspired choice for emulation, both for its history and its unusual synthesis architecture. Created at a time when analogue synthesis had yet to be settled, it features baffling features like “trapezoid,” on and off knobs in its envelope, and a pin matrix that is more than a little intimidating on first glance. As with the original though, putting in the time to get to know it can bring forth inspiring results.
Unlike most of the other instruments on this list, the Synthi V is best used for experimentation. At its heart, it’s a modular synth, and so is quite suited to effects, soundscapes, and wild noises. (Remember that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used the Synthi’s big brother, the VCS 3, extensively for sound effects for shows like Doctor Who.) It’s quite capable of bread and butter sounds, such as bass, keys and pads (as a perusal of the preset list will attest) but really, think of the Synthi V as a gateway to sonic experimentation. And, as one would expect from Arturia, the sound is killer: deep, grungy when it needs to be (that filter!), and bursting with life.
Arturia helped pioneer analogue synthesizer emulation, and their V Collection (now up to volume 7) continues to be a treasure trove for musicians. Synthi V is a welcome addition to the package and should be high on anyone’s wish list.