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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35 Visitor comments
Max
December 15, 2008 @ 7:23 am
I know the guy who runs EMS, Robin Wood, they now do all sorts of modifications to old EMS's so they're finally reliable!
A VCS3 is a dream of mine, a VCS4 is something I have now realised is a mere fantasy!
Miles
December 13, 2008 @ 1:54 pm
Thanks Max, yeah i somehow glossed over the last paragraph- 'Some ultra-rare commercially unavailable synths EMS made include the VCS4 in 1969 which was basically 2 VCS3's plus a keyboard' ! I'd be even luckier if it was mine and not a family friends ;)
Max
December 12, 2008 @ 4:11 am
Miles- the VCS4 was never put into production. You must have one of the prototypes, you're a lucky guy!
Miles
December 11, 2008 @ 12:51 pm
I have a VCS4 at the moment-but they haven't listed any info...? im just using the vcs3 manual...
Richard
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.
 
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  • Check Prices on eBay
  • The link above will take you to a 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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