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EMS VCS3 alternatives?
Old 1st May 2009
  #1
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bbow73's Avatar
 

EMS VCS3 alternatives?

I can't afford a VCS3.

There are some people making VCS3 clones: Hinton, Jürgen Hailbles, Steve Thomas.
Does anyone have any experience with any of these?

But I was wondering if it would be cheaper to get something with similar architecture and an EMS filter (like a Vostok with an Analogue Systems' RS500e)?
What do you guys think?
Old 1st May 2009
  #2
Riv
Gear Maniac
 

As a VCS3 owner and user, I'd say that if you want a VCS3 then your only option is to save up and buy one.

There's nothing out there, including the "clones" that come close to a Putney.

Riv
Old 1st May 2009
  #3
The Vostok doesn't sound anything like a VCS3 from my experience. The Analogue Systems EMS filter and envelopes get you a lot closer but you are still missing the pin matrix which is what makes that animal unique.
Old 1st May 2009
  #4
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Dave Peck's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbow73 View Post
I can't afford a VCS3.

There are some people making VCS3 clones: Hinton, Jürgen Hailbles, Steve Thomas.
Does anyone have any experience with any of these?

But I was wondering if it would be cheaper to get something with similar architecture and an EMS filter (like a Vostok with an Analogue Systems' RS500e)?
What do you guys think?

I don't have experience with these clones, so they may be great, but they are expensive and it would almost certainly be cheaper to get something with a similar architecture (or a modular which has no particular architecture) and add an EMS-type filter module. In fact for the same amount of cash you would probably be able to buy a much larger and more elaborate modular than an EMS and also get a few different kinds of EMS-inspired filters.
Old 1st May 2009
  #5
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I can not stress to you enough that a Vostok sounds NOTHING like an EMS. People tend to think so because of the patch pin matrix, but thats where it ends. The matrix is just a way to connect pins. It does not have 1 thing to do with the sound of the synth and it sounds nothing like an EMS. (I see that you also want the vostok for the architecture, but even the oscillators that you would be filtering wouldn't be at all EMS like.)

I have had a Vostok and have a VCS3 and a Synthi A so I do know from experience.

Sadly I agree that the only thing that really captures that essence you are looking for is an actual EMS.
Old 1st May 2009
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
I don't have experience with these clones, so they may be great, but they are expensive and it would almost certainly be cheaper to get something with a similar architecture (or a modular which has no particular architecture) and add an EMS-type filter module. In fact for the same amount of cash you would probably be able to buy a much larger and more elaborate modular than an EMS and also get a few different kinds of EMS-inspired filters.
I know that Analogue Systems is a good company, but have you heard any EMS filter clones? From what I understand the RS500e is licensed by EMS and the production was over seen by the original engineers of the VCS3, that's gotta be great filter right?
Old 1st May 2009
  #7
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The VCS filter is really only part of the deal. Just using the raw oscillators, it never ceases to amaze me how unique these sound...
Old 1st May 2009
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Number 6 View Post
The VCS filter is really only part of the deal. Just using the raw oscillators, it never ceases to amaze me how unique these sound...
yea... I kinda suspected that :(
I got to play one many years ago and recorded 45 minutes of tweaking. I've gone back to that cassette dozens of times to sample bits for a loop. It really does have a sound all it's own. There are many old sci-fi movies that I suspected were using a Putney.
Old 1st May 2009
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
these clones ... are expensive and it would almost certainly be cheaper to get something with a similar architecture
I've been hearing between $6k and $8k for a VCS3, the Vostok is $2400 plus the RS500e puts you around $2600. Would then a clone be priced in the $3-5k range?

I have to say that the Steve Thomas design is tempting. It's midi'fied with LFO mods that have a slower and higher range (audible) as well as a switch on the filter to switch from 1969 and 1974 specs.
Old 1st May 2009
  #10
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Number 6's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bbow73 View Post
It really does have a sound all it's own. There are many old sci-fi movies that I suspected were using a Putney.
Definitely loads of Sci Fi films - and of course the BBC Radiophonic Workshop were one of the most high-profile (collective) users of the VCS3, used on early Doctor Who TV scores for music and sound effects.

Check out the work of Tristram Cary if you haven't already. He was one of the designers of the VCS3 - and a great composer.
Old 1st May 2009
  #11
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The A_SYS EMS Filter and Trapezoid Gen are exactly the same as the VCS 3 modules but with the added options that would be Mods to original EMS gear.

These two modules will give you a good part of the character of the EMS sound. The Missing part is that fact the EMS VCOs are discrete and not only sound fab but also overload depending on the mix levels you set.

The prices are crazy for Auction EMS gear I think completely out of wack for what you get. Being realistic about it, you'll need to use a VCS3 for melodic work then you're going to be needing it to have the Osc stabilization mods and others to get it to track then you're going to have the fun and games of getting it to sync up with your DAW .... MIDI is not going be easy if not impossible..... Unless you have the strange luck to have a MIDI_VCS3 ( not many of us around ! )

Beer
Old 1st May 2009
  #12
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bbow73's Avatar
 

uhg... that is very discouraging.
Why didn't Analogue Solutions just make a VCS3 clone instead of an MS-20 in a VCS3 body? Would creating a stable VCS3 oscillator to begin with be a monumental expense?

Maybe Future Retro will take on something like this in the way that they did with the 777 as a super mod'ed TB303.
Old 1st May 2009
  #13
Pip
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I saw Jarre at the Albert Hall, pre show all you could hear was VCS 3's twittering away, as they tuned up at a completely anlogue show, I've wanted one for years, I will proberbly never own one but I still lust, for me JMJ, Steve Hillage, Eno et al made me crave for the sound. That and joystick control.
Old 4th May 2009
  #14
Gear Nut
 

I don´t think the Vostok is any alternative, it just has a very cold sound.

You can get the RS500e and trapazoid generator as a module for Euroracks.
What about combining it with a Livewire AFG? Is there any modular or standart VCO alternative to the Putney OSC? Of course it would not sound like a VCS3, the whole behavior between OSC, Filter and VCA and the modulating possibilities would not be reached.

I had the chance to see and play a VCS3 in a university studio,
but unfortunately the thing was in a very bad shape. It powered up
and this thing played one frequency the whole time. It did not track any keyboard notes and no fuction except for the noise generator would work.
What a shame. One time I have the chance to play this great unit and it won´t work.
Old 4th May 2009
  #15
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carlheinz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Peck View Post
I don't have experience with these clones, so they may be great, but they are expensive and it would almost certainly be cheaper to get something with a similar architecture (or a modular which has no particular architecture) and add an EMS-type filter module. In fact for the same amount of cash you would probably be able to buy a much larger and more elaborate modular than an EMS and also get a few different kinds of EMS-inspired filters.
+1 and then some.Even if you buy a VCS3 chances are you would need to send it Robin Woods at EMS for Updates and service ...unless was already serviced.
Old 4th May 2009
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by forange View Post
I had the chance to see and play a VCS3 in a university studio,
but unfortunately the thing was in a very bad shape. It powered up
and this thing played one frequency the whole time. It did not track any keyboard notes and no fuction except for the noise generator would work.
What a shame. One time I have the chance to play this great unit and it won´t work.
Sounds like a normal VCS3 to me. heh I use to own a couple of Synthi's, I have played several others, none of them were all that great for normal keyboard stuff.
Old 4th May 2009
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LNerell View Post
Sounds like a normal VCS3 to me. heh I use to own a couple of Synthi's, I have played several others, none of them were all that great for normal keyboard stuff.
Honestly, you can play 'normal' keyboard stuff on them fine. It's all in how well you set the input channel on the incoming CV. I have both a VCS3 and Synthi A and they track quite well.
Old 5th May 2009
  #18
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bbow73's Avatar
 

I think the Synthi sounds like the synths that were used in all my old favorite anime shows from the 70's, like Starblazers.

Here's a cool bass sound...
Old 5th May 2009
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Heathfinnie View Post
Honestly, you can play 'normal' keyboard stuff on them fine. It's all in how well you set the input channel on the incoming CV. I have both a VCS3 and Synthi A and they track quite well.
From my experience I could get one VCO to track fine playing normal keyboard stuff, but two tracking together? They would drift far out of tune from each other after two octaves. I had my Synthi's input channels modified for fine tuning and that didn't help much. Also the VCO's tend to leak voltages, if I gave them a 2 volt signal they would leak down to zero volts after a minute or two which doesn't help with their stability. Having said that they sure were great for making weird sound effects.
Old 6th May 2009
  #20
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6,000 to 8,000, eep!
Old 6th May 2009
  #21
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My VCS3 isn't modified and I can use it for melodic stuff no problem. I run it from my ARP's sequencer and it's fine. It does need retuning now and again, but it's totally useable in a melodic way if you want to. Then again, that isn't its strength.
They have become pricey but I really can't think of an economical way of replicating one They require an investment, but if you get one at a fair price, I doubt it will lose any value. A modern system that is kind of VCS3-ish will cost a touch less but will lose value the moment you buy it.
Old 6th May 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
My VCS3 isn't modified and I can use it for melodic stuff no problem.
Can you get two (or three) of the oscillators to track in tune with each other? On the synthi I had a go on I was able to get each oscillator to track fine via keyboard (going through a midi to CV converter), but when trying to track two or more in sync they'd scale off up or down the keyboard.

I agree though that while it'd be nice to have the three of them in sync, it isn't really a problem considering the vast array of other noises you can get out of it.
Old 6th May 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splitradix View Post
Can you get two (or three) of the oscillators to track in tune with each other? On the synthi I had a go on I was able to get each oscillator to track fine via keyboard (going through a midi to CV converter), but when trying to track two or more in sync they'd scale off up or down the keyboard.

I agree though that while it'd be nice to have the three of them in sync, it isn't really a problem considering the vast array of other noises you can get out of it.
I must admit to using an analog sequencer and I can run a different sequence on each VCO which means I can have them playing unison as I just adjust each sequence to match.
What I find interesting is having the VCO's controlled separately so you can create intervals.
On a keyboard it would probably be more difficult, but as I can't actually play, this method is not an option

I will however try it with my DK1 keyboard and see what happens.

It certainly isn't like most CV-Gate synths but I still find I use mine for melodic stuff occasionally.
Old 6th May 2009
  #24
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by dlmorley View Post
I must admit to using an analog sequencer and I can run a different sequence on each VCO which means I can have them playing unison as I just adjust each sequence to match.
You mean by putting two different CV sources into the inputs 1 and 2? Can you trigger both oscillators separately also? (please excuse the multitude of questions!)
Old 6th May 2009
  #25
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dlmorley's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by splitradix View Post
You mean by putting two different CV sources into the inputs 1 and 2? Can you trigger both oscillators separately also? (please excuse the multitude of questions!)
Each VCO can receive a separate voltage but share the same VCF/VCA etc but it means you can fine tune each VCO with 2 rows of an analog sequencer (which means you can get them to play in unison easily) but only one gate rhythm is possible if you see what I mean.

God, I hope I am remembering this correctly!
Old 6th May 2009
  #26
Gear Nut
 

I just got my AKS synthi modded. I have CV/Gate input now and the osc 1+2 are tracking nicely over couple of octaves. My tech had to use an op-amp to get that done.
A big part of the sound of the EMS is also that it uses Germanium-transitors at certain stages and as we all know, Germanium stuff sounds fantastic when it comes to distortion.
Old 6th May 2009
  #27
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bbow73's Avatar
 

after speaking with Jürgen Hailbles via email I decided to attempt to build a Synthi clone.
It will take me one year of not buying any new gear to save up for the Synthi that I want. In that time I will be trying to make my own Synthi, we'll see what happens first, the money or the machine.

It will be a father/son project (I'm a novice with a soldering iron but my dad is was an electrical engineer). As many of you may know the JH Synthi has many modifications. I'm not really interested in the phaser mod, but something else might be cool.
I would appreciate any serious suggestions while I'm fulfilling my grocery list of parts.

I've been thinking about an analog delay... I'm not sure.
Old 7th May 2009
  #28
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so here's my plan.

I'll build the JH EMS style VCO's
Buy the filter and trapezoid env from Analogue Systems
and then some the utility modules from MOTM or Doepfer.

The pin matrix will be a pain in the ass, I'll get my dad to do that.
I might have to scrap the joystick.

I'd like to go for the Solina chorus and some kind of analog delay, Arp reverb tank, maybe even a TS-808 overdrive.

I have some friends that can bend a piece of metal for me, I'll jig my own wood ends, paint it and give it a matte clear coat.

I'm thinking Moog Source blue, rounded red blocks for each section with orange labels written in Katakana (japanese text).
It will probably end up looking like a giant Electro-Harmonix box.
Old 16th May 2009
  #29
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I think the STG Sea Devils filter would be a great start to such a system:
stg/soundlabs - Sea Devils Filter (MU format)

Make sure to listen to the 6 minute demo!
Old 21st June 2009
  #30
Here for the gear
 

Thought I might just tack on to this thread, save starting a new one.

I am working in a studio that has a VCS3.

I can get it to receive gate triggers fine through a MIDI/CV-GATE converter but I can not for the life of me work out hoe to get it to track notes.
I think I have it sending 5volts an octave (maybe, cant remember off the top of my head)

Can any VCS3 users tell me a simple patch that will get this sucker to pick up the CV for pitch?

Cheers
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