EML SynKey

EML SynKey Image

The SynKey is a classic programmable polyphonic synthesizer with plenty of unique features. Its sounds are thick and analog. It has thirteen oscillators! That is, one for the primary tone and twelve more for higher semi-tones, each of which are easily accessed by a simple on/off button. You can turn on or off any of the oscillators you wish, and no tuning is necessary! The oscillators only generate square waves and though the synth itself is monophonic, the SynKey is still one fat sounding synth. Its new 'Second touch' is like Aftertouch which gives you filter sweeps, vibrato and pitch bends by pressing harder on the key.

EML SynKey 1500 Image

The SynKey employed a truly unique form of program memory for supposedly better on-stage use and hassle-free programming. Sounds that you create are stored on plastic punch-cards. One sound or patch can be stored per card and this includes most of its editable parameters. The SynKey originally shipped with 25 blank cards and 25 pre-punched cards, which were some EML factory sounds. So loading and storage of programs was fast and easy. But without the cards... well, then you'll just have to revert back to writing down your patch settings. There were two models made, the programmable one pictured top (SynKey 2001), and a non-programmable version pictured just above (SynkKey 1500). It has been used by Herbie Hancock.

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5 Visitor comments
Jim Mooney
January 27, 2010 @ 4:39 pm
To clarify, the Syn-Key was a monophonic instrument in that you could play just 1 note at a time. HOWEVER, every time you pressed down that 1 key, you could have up to 13 tones sound out. The idea was to push in the interval buttons and set up what was a "1-key chord", kinda like a Magnus chord organ from the past. I had a Syn-Key (the punch card version" ) in the late 70's and set it up to play 4ths and 5ths so that I could do a Gino Vanelli type of gig. It was pretty cool (unless you lost the punch cards!)
September 12, 2009 @ 5:45 pm
so it's actually paraphonic?
the description above says both polyphonic AND under specs it says the Synkey is monophonic (!!?!!)
CJ Bani
February 26, 2009 @ 4:12 pm
As I recall, the Syn-Key had a single oscillator, but used a top-octave generator (a la the Paia Organtua) to derive the chromatic intervals. There was one at a musci store that I worked at in the early 1980's and it was bizarre and fun to play.
February 6, 2009 @ 1:38 pm
Tommy Mars used a Synkey with Frank Zappa's band.
December 4, 2008 @ 4:44 pm
A wonderful synth! The best thing, except the uncommon possibility of using different semi-tones in the same time, is the knob to change the general wave shape: from pulse as well as triangle to square - in a stepless way! There is a great LFO too. The sound is so fat and 100% analog. I love it!
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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 - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 13 oscillators (square waves only)
  • Memory - Punch-Cards (Originally came with 25 blank cards and 25 pre-punched factory sound cards)
  • Keyboard - 44 keys (with second touch feature)
  • Effects - None
  • Control - CV/Gate
  • Date Produced - 1976-84

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