Electro Harmonix Mini-Synthesizer

Electro Harmonix Mini-Synthesizer Image

The Mini-Synthesizer is a novelty instrument these days. It's basically a plastic & metal box with a couple colorful sliders and a few buttons. Its 25-note keyboard uses membrane buttons rather than real keys. This can be uncomfortable and unreliable to play. Other synths that tried this approach to touch-keyboards include the much better sounding EDP Wasp and the more advanced touch sensitive Buchla and Serge machines. The inclusion of a built-in speaker indicates that the Mini-Synthesizer was, and always will be an entry-level, ultra-compact, portable synth.

As for the sounds, well there isn't much here. The Mini-Synthesizer features just one analog VCO with just a Pulse waveform. Although there is an octave divider and dedicated LFO for a Pulse-Width-Modulation (PWM) effect, this single VCO does not stack up against other synths if you're looking for thick or punchy analog bass, organ and synth sounds. There's a rather quirky analog filter onboard too. Two sliders control the cutoff-point at the start and end of a note, another slider controls the sweep rate between them and the fourth slider adjusts phase-shifting of the filter. Resonance, phase in/out and sensitivity are handled by on/off switches. Finally it also has a 2x switch which also creates a phase-shifty effect.

Some models (unlike the one pictured above) feature an analog delay effect for some nice echo. They also feature a Ribbon-Controller above the keyboard for a glide effect. Although these may be nice, the Mini-Synth still lacks memory, ADSR envelope controls, CV/Gate and actual keys. It may be capable of a low bass sound that could be worth sampling but the lack of controllability and playability leave much to be desired. And unless you're into esoteric gear, the Mini-Synthesizer is at best, a collectible. It has been used by Van Halen, Jean-Michel Jarre, Jimmy Edgar, and the Moog Cookbook.

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17 Visitor comments
August 7, 2014 @ 4:48 am
To see a Mini-Synthesizer being used in live performance, go to the Vimeo video Puppets, Turntables, And A String Quartet | K.K. Barrett & Kid Koala's "Nufonia Must Fall Live" at http://vimeo.com/channels/animationandpuppets. There may be more detail on the web site noted there, but I can only think the musician is using for its quirky sound in relation to the quirky subject of the performance, rather than using a more capable synth like a Virus or Nova.
Shaun Aisbitt
May 2, 2014 @ 11:39 am
I Still have mine in working condition. I Got it as a present from Jean Michelle Jarre himself when I worked in showbiz in the 80's (I took care of his ex-wife Charlotte Rampling). He signed it for me on a sticker. But unfortunately I lent it to a band one night and it returned without autograph :-( It's a lovely little synth, some nice early synth sounds can be gotten from it. I have sampled it many times and gotten wow features!
October 30, 2013 @ 5:03 pm
I have one of these that I got as a random gift from a friend...he was cleaning out his closet when he found this nestled in with some old Plaboys. And it was fun while it lasted. But many years ago the power supply almost fell off and the tuning knob disappeared, and the last time I tried to plug it in, the keys responsiveness were severely lacking. Wish I could find a cheap replacement and do some videos of it on my YouTube channel (same as my name)
July 22, 2013 @ 11:13 am
It looks like a toy, the membrane keyboard has a life of its own and the mod options are both limited in number and quite awkward. That said, I love the gritty and erratic tone of the Mini-Synth a lot. Sample a short percussive patch multiple times with different settings and trigger the samples rhythmically in a track, really awesome. I also like to sample a sustained tone with my Ensoniq Mirage and use its analog filters to turn it into an analog monster lead or pad. In short, even a toy-ish synth like that has its use, especially if it sounds as interesting as the Mini.
Dave Cornutt
November 6, 2012 @ 1:16 pm
Poorly made, flimsy construction, limited architecture. It does, however, have a nice-sounding filter and it does a killer imitation of a Moog Taurus. When I was in a band (long ago), that's what I used it for: bass pedal sounds. I had a set of headphones Y'ed into the output so I could play a note and then preview what note was actually sounding before it went into the P.A. The membrane keyboard can sometimes be made to behave somewhat better by playing with the six (rusty) screws that attach it to the case, which you can see in the photo above. The torque has to be just right.
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Rated 3.08 (193 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 - Monophonic
  • Drum Tones - 1 VCO with Pulse waveform only and an octave divider
  • Effects - Analog Delay (on later models)
  • Filter - VCF with Sweep Rate, 2x effect, Phase, Q (resonance), Sensitivity
  • LFO - Phase (Sort-of)
  • Keyboard - 25 Membrane Keys
  • Memory - None
  • Control - None
  • Date Produced - 1980-81

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