Powertran Transcendent 2000

Powertran Transcendent 2000 Image

The Powertran Transcendent 2000 was an English synthesizer designed by Tim Orr, also notable for his work at EMS and Akai. In the late 1970s, a good synthesizer was too expensive for many musicians, so Orr conceived the Transcendent 2000 as an affordable kit that could be assembled at home - a similar concept to the one used by PAiA in the United States. According to legend, EMS didn't want their name associated with the varying build quality of a home made synth, hence the kit being marketed by Powertran.

In order to keep the kit cheap to manufacture and easy to assemble, it came in the form of a single PCB that was carefully laid out and accompanied by detailed schematics. Despite this simplicity, the build quality of an individual Transcendent obviously reflects the skill of the assembler. Common problems include a wobbly case, sticky keys, and potentiometers mounted too close to the front panel, making them awkward to adjust. As long as the synth hasn't been bodged too badly, these are all simply remedied by a competent owner.

Even though it was a single oscillator monophonic aimed at the musician on a budget, Orr didn't skimp on the Transcendent's features. The control section sports portamento and a pitch bender (although the original potentiometer lacks a center detent). The oscillator can be switched between a saw or pulse waveform, with an adjustable gradient for the saw, and width for the pulse which can also be modulated by the LFO. Pitch can be modulated by the LFO, or by a sample and hold with the rate controlled by the LFO. There is also a noise generator for more percussive sounds (it also acts as the source of randomness for the sample and hold). The oscillator amplitude can be shaped by a typical ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release) envelope generator.

The filter features the usual frequency and resonance controls, with adjustable levels of modulation from both the LFO and a simple AD (Attach, Decay) envelope. Unusually for a low budget synth, the filter can be switched between lowpass and bandpass modes. The filter can produce extremely vicious resonant squeals, and there are even reports from users who have blown up a badly calibrated Transcendent with too high a resonance setting!

Sockets on the back of the synth provide inputs for CV and gate signals, a foot pedal to control filter frequency, and for an external audio source to be fed into the filter. The CV and gate inputs can be a little bit problematic, as the Transcendent doesn't conform to the usual 1V/Octave ratio, and the external gate will only trigger if a key is already held down on the keyboard. These problems can be easily rectified by using a MIDI converter that allows tuning of the CV ratio and by carrying out a simple modification that adds a switch to disable the keyboard when using external control.

Overall, the Transcendent 2000 is a great little monophonic synth, with a character similar to that of the Korg MS-20, but selling for a fraction of the price. The simplicity of the design also allows for some interesting modifications. In terms of famous users, this was the first synth owned by Joy Division, and can be heard on their debut album "Unknown Pleasures". Pictures from the Joy Division recording sessions also show legendary producer Martin Hannett using the Transcendent along with an ARP Omni II.

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11 Visitor comments
Chris
June 15, 2011 @ 7:02 am
autoceremony: Bernard's Tranny did eventually work, as it was used on the Unknown Pleasures album. There are also pictures taken in the studio during later sessions where Bernard and producer Martin Hannett are tinkering around with the Tranny as it sits on top of their string synth.
autoceremony
June 12, 2011 @ 7:21 am
this model was mentioned on the 'synth britannia' documentary where new order's bernard sumner said that he tried to build one for joy division, to save some money against the expensive analog synths at that time (mid/late 70s). it took him 3 months to built the thing, he said on the docu, and eventually it didn't work :)
paul j. weighell
May 15, 2011 @ 8:41 am
I built one of these kits, about £225? Worked well after a bit of debugging and stayed working well. More stable than a Fairlight I we had later.

Superb single board design optimised for mainstream use without plug board or rack back plane used by modular kit synths.

All inter connections were on the board and hard routed via switches so it was quite rugged. The case was too nice for humping about live and the keyboard was rather lightweight so only used it in studios.

Much enhanced by using the CV/Gate interface with any sequencer of the period.

Rather wish I had kept it…
Gunark
May 13, 2011 @ 11:58 am
As rude as you like but as has been said they are structurally inconsistent. The one I owned fell apart in transit and I had to treat it with kid gloves afterwards (and it had been pro repaired by James before I got it), but with the aggressive sound it is capable of that's the last thing you want to do. Quirky and very individual, you'll stand out of the SH101 crowd, just get a good one or know your way round a PCB..
henry
May 11, 2011 @ 6:29 am
although these are brilliant, they easily die, as did mine. because it is a DIY kit there are a lot of these floating about that werent made properly...be careful of them!
 
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User Rating

Rated 3.23 (74 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • 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 - 1 VCO
  • Waveforms - Saw or Pulse plus Noise
  • LFO - 1 LFO can modulate pitch or pulse width.
  • Filter - Bandpass and Lowpass modes with Attack and Decay envelope
  • Envelope - ADSR
  • Effects - Portamento
  • Arpeg/Seq - None
  • Keyboard - 37 keys
  • Memory - None
  • Control - CV/Gate
  • Date Produced - 1978
  • Resources & Credits
  • Review and images by Chris Wareham.

    Reviewed May 2011.

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