ARP Solina String Ensemble

ARP Solina String Ensemble Image

The Solina String Ensemble is often thought of as the String Machine of the late 1970's disco era. It's a multi-orchestral machine with Violin, Viola, Trumpet, Horn, Cello and Contra-Bass sounds. These sounds can be engaged via individual on/off switches, allowing for a variety of ensemble configurations. The Cello and Contra-Bass sounds are monophonic and available only on the lower 20 keys of the keyboard. The remaining four sounds are polyphonic and can be played across the entire length of the keyboard. On their own, the sounds are quite unrealistic and not particularly useable. But when combined as an ensemble, and especially with the Chorus effect engaged, the resulting string sound becomes especially lush and shimmery.

The Solina String Ensemble uses divide-down technology, common in organs of the era, to achieve full polyphony. The Chorus/Ensemble effect is achieved by passing the sound through three modulated delay lines that cause a phase-shifting effect to make it sound thicker and more animated. There are also on-board Crescendo (attack) and Sustain Length (decay) sliders, volume sliders and a global tuning knob. It also has Gate and Trigger outputs from the polyphonic keyboard and is completely cased in wood (or wood-like) panels with a clean and discrete layout.

The Solina String Ensemble, like a few other ARP products, is not actually an ARP invention. The Solina was created by the Dutch company Eminent in 1974. It was derived from the string section of Eminent's 310U Organ, and sold commercially as the Eminent Solina String Ensemble. ARP bought the rights to re-brand the Solina for the US market as the ARP String Ensemble. There were also four versions: SE-I was monoaural with a permanent chorus effect, SE-II added an on/off switch for the chorus effect, SE-III added stereo sound, and SE-IV added LEDs.

The String Ensemble has been used by Air, The Eagles, Elton John, Pink Floyd, The Cure, Joy Division, OMD, Josh Wink, STYX, Tangerine Dream, Keane, Japan, and New Order.

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50 Visitor comments
September 7, 2008 @ 2:18 pm
Jammed with three guys who took me to their studio and told me about there two Juno 106's which I was looking forward to playing. When I got there I saw the arp and gasped....they said 'what?' I explained...they said they hated the it out of uncles attic, I laughed.

Having said this, playing it was a weird experience.
The best thing about playing it was the honor to play such a legendary synth, this actually outweighed the sound.
you have to add the sustain and crescendo to get the best out of long as you are using violin viola and cello at the same time!!!!
Good fun, but to be honest Gmedia's VSM had much greater playability....not just in function but expressiveness.
September 2, 2008 @ 3:54 pm
joy division used an omni......not a solina.
August 28, 2008 @ 12:07 pm
I also wanted to add that they were still produced by Eminent up until 1984 although this was then the poorer quality stereo version, with LED's in the buttons.
August 28, 2008 @ 12:02 pm
Probably the most gorgeous sounding string synth there is(the arp omni and quadra string sections sound almost identical) , but you have to be careful which model you purchase. The best sounding is the very first early 70's version. It has no button for the chorus, and no gate jack sockets. Steer well away from the stereo 80's version, electronically they are totally different and the sound suffers greatly.
The spec on this page are also wrong, it is fully polyphonic(paraphonic).
August 18, 2008 @ 5:36 am
I think the proof the that this was an excellent string machine is in the fact that folks like GForce has copied it with their software synth VSM. "Back in the day" I could manipulate the sliders while playing it (with just my left hand, it sat on top my C-3), so it was a very capable machine. A bit of reverb and you could almost hear the rosin on the bow!
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 3.97 (390 Votes)

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  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Full
  • Oscillators - Viola, Violin, Cello, Contra-Bass, Horn, Trumpet
  • LFO - n/a
  • Filter - n/a
  • VCA - Crescendo (attack) / Sustain (decay)
  • Keyboard - 49 keys
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Control - CV/GATE
  • Date Produced - 1974 - 1981
  • Resources & Credits
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    Review updated August, 2012.

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