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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16 Visitor comments
April 5, 2012 @ 10:36 pm
This should be rated 1/5. It sounds crappy, looks very ugly, and the keyboard is impossible to play.
September 23, 2011 @ 6:59 pm
Well, I have been reunited with my modded EH 400 at last (see below)! Trouble is, some wires have fallen off in an unfortunate accident! If anyone out there could send me a pic of the circuit board (solder side) I'd greatly appreciate it! Found a schematic on Synthfool, but it is hand drawn and a little blurry.
May 21, 2011 @ 8:31 pm
Wow. This is like the Sinclair ZX-100 of synthesizers. This makes a Casiotone look classy. It's like a pocket ARP Odyssey that's too big to fit in anyone's pocket. Take this 25 years into the future and you have something that actually works: the Korg Monotron.

And, alessandro_... dude, they saw you coming. I'm sorry, I shouldn't rub salt in the wound, but I have to save up $850 to replace the main board in my Kawai K5000W, and I am in the perfect mood to rub salt in someone's wound, and you are available. I'm cackling, if you can't hear it. But, sorry, really. No.
Roberto Funk
March 31, 2011 @ 11:25 pm
In a interview to Newcleus founder Cosmo D, he admit that this mini-synthesizer was his first synthesizer used by NEWCLEUS, pioneers of ELECTRO FUNK. ("Jam On it")
March 25, 2011 @ 1:18 pm
My first synth, going back to 1981-82! Yeah, a toy (it had a cardboard back, after all!), but had/has some quirky-cool sounds. When they keys went flaky on mine, I took a Rheem Kee Bass (see:Devo's Whip It video), gutted it, then chopped the keybed off of the mini synth and it fit perfectly into it's new home! Not much better, but it at least had keys at that point. About to be reunited with it after having lost track of it for about 29 years!
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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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