Synclavier Digital 'Regen': The Timeless Desktop Synthesizer Regenerating Legendary Synclavier® II with Present-Day DSP Developments
The timeless synthesis product manufacturer Synclavier Digital has recently released 'Regen' — released as a desktop synthesizer that is, in short, a real regeneration of New England Digital’s seminal Synclavier® II digital synthesizer that took the pro audio industry by storm when introduced in its initial incarnation in 1980, extended and enhanced to take advantage of the increased computing power available today to make it as compelling in a modern setting as the prohibitively pricey original did during its time, while the considerable cost and size reductions associated with Regen's present-day design criteria conversely position it well within reach of anyone.
After a two-year development period leading to its soft launch late last year, Synclavier Digital's Regen readies and steadies itself for use in a modern setting as a timeless desktop synthesizer distinctively designed around a rugged, backpack-friendly — 310mm (W) x 260mm (D) x 42mm (H) — aluminium housing weighing in at 1.8kg and finished in a sand-textured black coloration complimented by a 'Synclavier-red' surround securely set upon non-slip rubber plinths, and also embracing ergonomic features such as VESA mount compliance. Connectivity clearly abounds in that eye-catching surround, with MIDI IN and THRU ports provided on 1/8" TRS connectors alongside a Phones TRS jack (for 32Ω - 300Ω headphones to monitor master audio with independent volume control); DC-coupled stereo (L and R) Balanced Outputs on XLR connections (for studio use at pro-level 4dBu, with associated GND — ground — lift); DC-coupled stereo (L and R) Single-Ended Outputs on TS connections; HOST USB port (for connecting to a computer for MIDI input from a DAW); four Accessories USB ports (for connecting MIDI keyboard controllers, sequencers, and audio interfaces — or even a standalone Synclavier® KNOB, should someone be lucky enough to own one of these rare re-engineered recreations of the original knob central to the seminal Synclavier® II digital synthesizer's speedy control surface, specially commissioned by co-inventor Cameron Warner Jones as a USB device); and a SD CARD reader (for unlimited user timbre and sample libraries above and beyond Regen's 1GB of onboard factory content). It is, however, Regen's unique user interface that sets it apart from today's production pack, dominated as it is by two glorious full-color sunken OLED displays with advanced animated graphics, contemporarily comprising a so-called VK display — duly named on account of its mimicking the display from the top-tier Synclavier® II VPK (Velocity Pressure Keyboard) edition emerging back in 1985 — that shows the most pertinent information, as well as a main modal display dominating the NAVIGATION panel that shows current parameters, user settings, timbre library, and more. Meanwhile, responsive silicon back-lit parameter buttons are grouped accordingly, complimented by 12 touch-sensitive selector buttons that can handle gestures to swiftly select multiple PARTIALS or TRACKS, while the vertical-value SWIPER is touch accurate to 128 levels of resolution for precise control of every parameter as a virtual knob capacitive slider with epoxy coating.
Cutting to the technological chase, then, Regen's rich sound-design capabilities are anchored around an advanced DSP synth engine that powered the seminal Synclavier® II digital synthesizer. It is, in fact, the self-same DSP engine modeled in software with all the quirks and nuances of the original hardware that lend Regen a musicality seldom found in modern synthesizers. Saying that, though, this has been extended and enhanced to take advantage of the increased computing power available today to deliver 12 separate tracks of multi-timbrality, assignable to MIDI tracks and keyboard ranges; up to 98 simultaneous voices; 12 partials per timbre with each partial — always essential to Synclavier sound design, as reflected by its inventors filing a patent on the Partial Timbre Sound Synthesis Method and Instrument back in 1984 — operating in one of the available — Additive (supports coefficient and phase control of 24 harmonics), Sample (up to 24 samples can be placed on the partial's patchlist), Subtractive (can have a noise generator or up to nine de-tuneable continuous sawtooth waveforms), and Hybrid (resynthesized samples, resynthesis being a technique developed by New England Digital in the Eighties to create sounds with precisely-controlled harmonics that vary over time) — oscillator modes; timbre-level effects, including a stereo reverb algorithm (with pre-delay and presets library), highly-optimized multi-mode filter (with sophisticated filter envelope), and bit-crusher (for use with Additive, Sample, and Hybrid modes); FM (Frequency Modulation) controllable per partial (all modes) with envelope; and a sophisticated modulation system that allows many parameters to be controlled via MIDI, LFOs — 24 per timbre, or driven by envelopes — 24 per timbre. The high-resolution 24-bit stereo DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) circuit involved in allowing those rich sound-design capabilities to shine forth for all to hear is designed for ultra-low noise floor with 11dB of headroom over nominal level, delivering a measured 130dB of dynamic range and a 50kHz sample playback rate — to take full advantage of the Synclavier II DSP synth engine, which was optimized around the 50kHz sampling rate of the original 'poly-sampling' system, and to give accurate reproduction of many of the included New England Digital (NED) samples that were recorded at 50kHz.
Samples are, of course, clearly integral to Regen, which features over 2,000 royalty-free examples — including over 350 selected original NED samples and 195 newly-commissioned ones from sound design luminaries like English musician and soul singer Jamie Lidell and Canadian keyboard player Leith Fleming-Smith — alongside 550-plus preset timbres categorized by instrument tags, to include 64 hand-picked examples by American musician, composer, and conductor Anthony Marinelli from his film composing heyday — think Blue Thunder (1983), WarGames (1983), Starman (1984), and Stakeout (1987), having originally worked out of a converted pool-house at his parental home eventually equipped with a Synclavier® II digital synthesizer, subsequently stepping up to a Synclavier® D-to-D (Direct-To-Disk) digital recording and editing system specially configured to meet the needs of the film and video post-production professional. Polyphonic aftertouch and MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression) are supported by Regen, and many presets are optimized for MPE.
Regen is a sound-designer's dream in a timeless desktop package, one to which the Synclavier Digital dream team has added more firmware-upgradable features since its eye- and ear-opening introduction, including resynthesis of samples and more microtonal options, plus six additional libraries of presets available to download.
$2,500 USD (excluding any local taxes or import duties)
*If purchasing directly from Synclavier Digital's online Store (https://store.synclavier.com/products/synclavier-regen), the webpage will calculate a local currency price — including free postal service shipping in the USA and Canada, while other express and international shipping options are shown during checkout — based on a fair exchange rate at that time. (That webpage also lists Synclavier Digital's growing global network of dealers in the USA, Europe, Canada, and Japan, should purchasers prefer to shop locally in those territories.)
Timeless synthesis product manufacturer Synclavier Digital was established in 2018 to recreate a modern iOS-based version of the Synclavier® digital audio system, whose world-class synthesis origins date back to March 1976 when inventors Cameron Warner Jones and Sydney Alonso attended Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA. Ultimately realizing that their trailblazing project had commercial potential, the dynamic duo and their mentor, Jon Appleton, founded a Corporation called New England Digital (NED) in nearby Norwich, Vermont. There they continued creating their own CPU (Central Processing Unit) architecture and writing their own software compilers — no small feat at the time — to fulfil their increasing ambitions and the demands of digital audio, the results of which took the pro audio industry by storm in summer 1980 when the trailblazing Synclavier® II digital synthesizer was unveiled, using its innovative Real Time Program software to create its signature sounds with the patented Partial Timbre Method, utilizing both FM (Frequency Modulation) and Additive (harmonic) synthesis. Surfacing in an era when recorded music was commonly captured to 24-track tape, the 1985-vintage VPK (Velocity-Pressure Keyboard), a Synclavier® with an incredible velocity-sensitive keyboard and polyphonic sampling, was a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) well before that term was even invented. It came at a price — priced higher than an average home. However, the Synclavier® soon found favor with top-tier recording artists such as Michael Jackson — the ominous gongs opening 'Beat It' introduced the wider world to a stunning Synclavier® II preset in all its ear-opening glory — while playing a major role in enabling record producers like Trevor Horn to create cutting-edge records for the likes of Frankie Goes To Hollywood and Seal. Saying that, having found a high-flying home in just about every major recording and film studio, the hand-built-to-order, high-quality component-constructed instrument's days were numbered as cheaper technologies took its (pride of) place and NED filed for bankruptcy… but not before the cutting-edge-enabling company succeeded in securing itself pole position in music technology history, thanks to its innovative hardware and software system for all digital non-linear synthesis, polyphonic sampling, magnetic (hard-disk) recording, and sequencing systems technology that is commonplace in all music and sound effects/design to this day. History has a way of repeating itself, though; today Synclavier Digital is home to the Synclavier Go! digital synthesizer app for iOS and, most recently, Regen — representing a bold move 'back' into the hardware arena as a timeless desktop synthesizer; in short, a real regeneration of NED's seminal Synclavier® II — from the miraculous mind of the original iconic instrument's co-inventor, Cameron Warner Jones, ably assisted by 20-year software veteran Craig Phillips with whom he has joined forces.
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