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
November 2, 2011 @ 5:06 am
My father found one of these around 84' or something I used a little,
But thought the sound was annoying some got rid of it somehow.
yesterday I recorded old cassette tape into my computer; boy what is that sound ?
So Broad and deep and well nothing that vst plugs can do.
then I remembered "It must be that old Italian stringer I had" - Why didn't i keep it.
October 31, 2011 @ 5:06 pm
I'm proud to say that since saturday I have a mk 1! And I love it! Nothing can beat this baby stringwise!
October 15, 2011 @ 5:46 pm
My old bandmate had one of these and the sounds are superb. He ordered it from the Holland and I think the shipping (to the US) ended up being more than the actual cost of the keyboard. So yeah, this thing is heavy. It's actually made out of particle board and looks a bit like your grandma's old end table. But oh the sounds. My favorite was it's fat string bass sounds. Probably the fullest sound I've ever heard from any synth, it almost really sounded like a bow moving across dusty old strings - suprisingly realistic. The sound of this thing brings grown men to tears. A true classic!
September 23, 2011 @ 4:39 pm
I bought my String Ensemble in the 70s and all these years later, it still follows me from house to house. After hearing Gary Wright and then the Bee Gees use it, I knew I had to scratch up enough money to get one. It has a kind of 'angelic' sound and it made our harmonies so much tighter. Also, rock solid. No tuning problems at all. Everything you read about it is true...
August 14, 2011 @ 11:12 am
I recently bought an Eminent 310 for 75 euro and had it repaired by a former Eminent technician in Holland, for 100 euro. The other option was paying 750 euro for a solina string ensemble, so it was simple. Also: the 310 sounds much fuller than the string ensemble. The 310 is an incredible organ with lush analogue sounds. The organ sounds are also very good. I own an Eminent 1600 as well, which I also bought for 75 euro. This one has a nice arpeggio by which you can arpeggiate the strings. Highly underrated organs.
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Rated 3.97 (388 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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