Buchla 100 Series

System 100

Buchla synthesizers are the classic creations of Don Buchla, a circuit designer who produced synthesizers when they truly were analog beasts. Buchla started making his first synthesizers on America's west coast to facilitate the creation of electroacustic music, avoiding the painstaking job of tape splicing of "Musique Concrete". (Musique Concrete was a form of music creation pre-dating electronic music in which recordings of various sounds on tape were cut, spliced, distorted, and manipulated in various ways before being spliced back together into something that could result in something musical.) This concept was the driving force behind almost every Buchla synthesizer made - an electronic device that can create some basic sound, manipulate it, tune it freely, and sequence it into organized sound, hopefully something musical! With that in mind, Buchla synthesizers were among the first to use indivudally tuneable keys for limitless micro-tuning possibilities, analog sequencers, and complex waveforms other than basic sine, sawtooth, and square waves.

System 100

The first major synthesizer by Buchla was the modular 100-series (one of which is pictured above) produced from about 1963 to the early 1970's. The system usually consisted of a large wood case with room for a bunch of modules (up to 25 modules on a single power-supply). Although the modules consisted of your basic collection of voltage controlled oscillators, filters, etc. the unique keyboards on this and other models to follow were flat capacitance-sensitive touch-plates. Although they may feel awkward to play, they are pressure sensitive and individually tuneable. There were also 8- and 16-step analog sequencer modules available. Patching and programming a Buchla 100 was a monstrous task since lots of patch cords as well as synthesizer knowledge were a requirement to even get a sound to be heard, and the oscillators usually drift out of tune! These are extremely rare systems but they can make some awesome and unique analog music, if it still works! About the only places where Buchla 100's can be found nowadays are at the The Audities Collection and a few scattered Schools and Universities across the US.

Modules for the Buchla Series 100 (Module# - Description)

  • 101 - wooden case for 25 modules, dimensions are 24" wide x 24" deep x 31" high.
  • 106 - Two 3-channel mixers with both separate and common outputs and level controls
  • 107 - Two voltage-controlled 5-channel mixers
  • 110 - Dual Voltage-controlled Gates
  • 111 - Dual Ring Modulator
  • 112 - 12 touch-controlled voltage sources (capacitive keyboard)
  • 113 - 20 touch-controlled voltage sources (capacitive keyboard) consisting of four circles, each of which is divided into five segments (1 central and 4 peripheral)
  • 114 - 10 touch-controlled voltage sources (capacitive keyboard)
  • 115 - power supply
  • 120 - Distributor - a cross mixer with four inputs and five outputs.
  • 123 - Sequential Voltage Source (8-step sequencer)
  • 124 - patchboard - 24 miniature audio jacks
  • 130 - Dual Envelop Generator
  • 132 - wave-form synthesizer
  • 140 - timing pulse generators
  • 144 - Dual Square-wave Generator
  • 146 - Sequential Voltage Source (sequencer, 16 step X 3 layer)
  • 148 - Harmonic Generator
  • 150 - Frequency Counter
  • 156 - Dual Control Voltage Counter to mix, compress and invert control voltages.
  • 158 - Dual Sine / Sawtooth Oscillators (VCOs)
  • 160 - White Noise Generator
  • 165 - Dual Random Voltage Source
  • 170 - Dual Microphone Amplifier
  • 171 - Dual Instrument Pre-amplifier
  • 175 - Dual Equalizer / Line Driver
  • 180 - Dual Attack Generator
  • 185 - Frequency Shifter
  • 190 - Dual Reverberator - two spring reverbs
  • 191 - sharp cut-off filter - Voltage controlled 24 dB/oct highpass & lowpass filters
  • 192 - dual low pass filter
  • 194 - 12dB/oct bandpass filter
  • 195 - octave formant filter
  • 196 - phase shifter

Source: The A-Z of Analogue Synthesizers, by Peter Forrest, published by Susurreal Publishing, Devon, England, copyright 1994 Peter Forrest

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2 Visitor comments
phil chance
June 23, 2011 @ 4:54 pm
hearing this synth was my introduction to electronic music and synthesizers when in high school in 1970. subotnick's silver apples and his wild bull were both realized on this beast and he did employ concrete techniques with it, and despite it's unwieldy interface and touch keys, it was way better than the moog for that application (concrete). later subotnick used the model 200 series which is still the ultimate modular synth.
Andrew Beddoes
November 15, 2008 @ 8:40 pm
U.B.C. Music Department had one of these beasts. It was difficult to control, and I felt it wasn't musical somehow. The little keyboard was heat sensitive- you could trigger sounds by breathing on it. The engineers said if you turned it loud and low enough, it could stop your heart.
 
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