Philips PMC 100

Philips PMC 100 Image

From the designer of the SFX peripherals for the Commodore 64, came this curious little box — the Personal Media Composer (PMC) 100. It's got a Yamaha two-operator FM chip, a membrane keyboard (flat, but not capacitive like the EDP Wasp) and its most striking feature, the built-in cassette deck. This allowed you to save your compositions as either sound or data, or it could function as a Walkman or dictaphone. The PMC 100 came in black or (a much rarer) white.

The main voice is monophonic, with simple preset accompaniment rhythms (with 15 options for the rhythm's voice) controlled by the 'Gling' safe-note system. This heavily limits its potential as a solo instrument, not only because the beats are laughably thin but because the accompanying voices are fixed in their patterns.

There are 100 preset melody voices, mostly the standard Yamaha PortaSound two-op noises, but there's also a surprising amount of useable sound effects and slow, evolving (but moving in very obvious digital steps) pads. It's charming in its own incredibly lo-fi way.

The real area where it shines, though, is the step sequencer. It's visualized on an LCD screen in full stave notation with rock-steady tempo, adjustable to insane degrees! Notes can be edited in or out of the sequence at will. If this thing had MIDI out it would have become a cult classic.

Sadly, though, it was a flop in terms of sales. It's not that hard to understand why; even by the mid-eighties this thing would have been considered comical and there's little hope of understanding the architecture without a manual. Still, it's a great curio to have in any synth collection and can even be useful for some styles or when buried in a mix.

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12 Visitor comments
billywood
May 10, 2012 @ 8:25 am
Even though I don't use mine often, it brightens up the shelf it sits on. It has some charming monophonic FM sounds - beautiful if you run them through an external delay. The drum sounds are very thin though.

Contrary to what the article says, it is actually possible to sequence the bass and chord (but not the drum) parts manually, although it's very slow work and the interface is a traditional stave. If you do get that far, it's fun to flick between your pattern and the preset accompaniment in realtime. You can mute parts in realtime too.
Richard
March 21, 2012 @ 3:23 pm
Won one when it came out. Between my Juno 6 and SK1 I really didn't get the point of it at the time - 2 operator FM sounded as horrible then as it does now, and it is limited in so many ways that its most reasonable use back then was simply as another tapedeck.

In 2012 it's hard to see what its place might be. It's too limited and fiddly to be really considered fun, unless figuring out weird little toys is a hobby. If you find one for, say, 20 euro, it might be fun to sample for a bit and then sell it on. But even at that price I have to wonder if you're getting your money's worth.
Mike
March 20, 2012 @ 11:20 am
Leave it to the 80s to merge a Synth Walkman and Some form of drum machine thing
lightman
March 13, 2012 @ 9:38 am
Played around with one at a local computer fair in the 80s, wasn't too impressed back then. Today, the PMC makes a nice source for lo-fi sounds and video game tunes. It's not really unique, though, you can do what the PMC does with any other FM synth as well, just use only two carriers or one carrier + modulator with sines and you're set. Still a fun little machine, if you have a sampler and like oldschool sounds, grab it if you see one. Mind you, I wouldn't pay more than the low end mentioned in the info box.
Gogledd
March 4, 2012 @ 12:28 pm
Makes sense that it's in Dutch - Philips is a Dutch company.
 
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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 - 1 playable voice, 3 non-playable accompaniment voices
  • Oscillators - Two FM operators per voice
  • Waveforms - 100 preset main waveforms, 15 preset accompaniment waveforms
  • LFO - Preset operator modulation
  • Filter - None
  • Envelope - Preset volume envelope
  • Effects - None
  • Sequencer - Complex programmable sequencer
  • Patterns - 13 accompaniment rhythms, each with one of four accompaniment voice patterns
  • Songs - Three preset demo tracks
  • Keyboard - 25-key membrane buttons
  • Memory - One internal sequence / cassette data storage
  • Control - None
  • Date Produced - 1986 - 1988

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