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
November 26, 2008 @ 8:57 am
I have heard many of the examples listed here of the VCS3 in action.

Probably the best example you will ever hear of what the VCS3 is capable of is on the album 'Golem' by the krautrock band 'Sand' released in 1974. The band wrote a whole bunch of folk songs and then rewrote them into sparse desert-invoking synth laden folk songs. Some of the songs are purely synthesizer soundscapes using only the VCS3 and all are amazing.

Check it out for some amazing creative synthesizer work.
Thomas kenny
November 26, 2008 @ 5:30 am
I was listening to the EMS VCS3 Demo it sounded like a electronic transmitter wireless used for AM frequency's so it's one of the early monophonic synthersizer's first used in the late 1960's & used by Brian eno on roxy music's first album,hawkwind & The who's VCS3 module system connected with an electronic organ on their classic hit single "We won't get fooled again" from "who's next?" album in 1971.
November 11, 2008 @ 3:05 pm
And also used by f**** lucky me !! haha... ;)

One thing forgotten is the mic pre, which sounds great. This synth is a killer when it comes to voice tweaking, and in general when used as some kind of external fx device.
November 1, 2008 @ 1:06 pm
It was used by Robert Fripp & Brian Eno in 'No Pussyfooting' (Swastika Girls) in 1973
October 26, 2008 @ 5:57 pm
Hawkwind's Del Dettmar often operated the VCs3 from the mixing desks and Dave Brock also used a synthiA on stage mid 70s often with sequenced effects. The Space Ritual is awash with classic VCS3 acid noises.
Tim Blake used the VCS3 in Gongs early works 72 - 74 check out the 1974 album track You A Sprinkling of Clouds for trippy overdubbed VCS3.
Britain's Zorch played live at Glastonbury 75 using 3 SynthiA's and their 75 album was the only one recorded at the VCS3 creators studio.
Ourorboros (1975) is a great example of VCS3 purity.
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Rated 3.78 (666 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 - 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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