Electronic Music Studios (EMS) VCS3

EMS VCS3 Image

The VCS3 (nicknamed the Putney) is an analog monosynth housed in a distinctive angled wooden case, a truly classic synth. EMS (Electronic Music Studios) was created in England back in 1969. The VCS3 was one of their first synths and it is still a great, unique, funky little unit! Pictured above is the Mark I model. Pictured is another unit with the small wood-cased DK2 voltage-control keyboard required to play the VCS3.

It has three oscillators, and a unique matrix-based patch system. Instead of patch wires, the VCS3 uses a patchbay grid in which the synth components are laid out, and signal routing is accomplished by placing small pins into the appropriate slots. The VCS3 was, in actuality, a modular type synthesizer reduced down to an extremely portable size.

EMS VCS3 Image

It generates familiar sci-fi sounds (Dr. Who) and other truly analog sounds. Unfortunately, the oscillators tend to drift out of tune. There's a Noise Generator, 2 Input Amplifiers, 1 Ring Modulator, 1 Voltage Controlled Low Pass Filter (VCF), 1 Trapezoid Envelope Generator, Joy-Stick Controller, Voltage Controlled Spring Reverb unit and 2 Stereo Output Amplifiers.

Additonally, the VCS3 was also sold in a plastic breif-case and called the Synthi A. The major Synthi 100 system was based on three VCS3's strung together. Some ultra-rare commercially unavailable synths EMS made include the VCS4 in 1969 which was basically 2 VCS3's plus a keyboard. And the Synthi Keyboard 1 of 1970 was just a VCS3 with a mini 29-note keyboard.

Many of these EMS synth's have been used by Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Stereolab, Yes, Aphex Twin, Autechre, Jean-Michel Jarre, Astral Projection, Klaus Schulze, Depeche Mode, Vince Clarke, Add N to (X), The Who, Todd Rundgren, Recoil, Freddy Fresh, John Paul Jones and many more.

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36 Visitor comments
Matt
October 13, 2008 @ 8:48 pm
Yes they did.

And for further trivia:
Jean Michel Jarre also originally had (I think) around six VCS3 units and they feature on just about all of his albums. One of them he donated to a Chinese university following his tours there in the late 70s.

When the BBC Radiophonic Workshop procured their EMS gear, the VCS3 Ring Mod supplied the Dalek voices (along with plenty of other electronic effects) superseding the older Ring Mod unit used in the first Dalek stories.

The famous "filtered organ" effect in The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again is courtesy of a Lowrey organ through a VCS3.

Curved Air also used the VCS3 quite prominently in their earlier work.
keith
September 20, 2008 @ 11:49 pm
did hawkwind use this ?
mike
September 19, 2008 @ 2:49 pm
lets not forget "on the run" by pink floyd.
The cool Square Wave sequence
lf0
September 9, 2008 @ 11:58 am
This synth features in the book analogue preservation here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j89Elwmpw0Y
spookyman
September 5, 2008 @ 3:27 am
The VCS3 was also used by film music composer Francois de Roubaix, from 1970 until 1975 along with the Eminent Solina 310U, Fender Rhodes Suitecase, Piano, Clavinet, etc...
 
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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
  • Oscillators - 3 VCO's - Subtractive / FM analog synthesis
  • Filter - Low Pass VCF
  • VCA - Trapezoid waveshape Envelope generator
  • LFO - Yes
  • Keyboard - No keyboard, needs an external CV/gate keyboard controller such as the EMS DK2.
  • Memory - None
  • Control - CV/GATE
  • Date Produced - 1969 - 94

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