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
Jack Floyd
August 17, 2011 @ 3:20 pm
Family's Poli Palmer used the VCS3 to process his vibraphone's sound. It set up the standard keyboard sound of Family for the time he stayed with them and the result can be heard on A Song For Me, Anyway, Fearless and Bandstand.
Crium Délirium
August 8, 2011 @ 8:28 am
"Crium Delirium" the psychedelic french band use Putney VCS3 since the end of 1971 to 1975. Could you give the reference number for this instrument bought in december 1971 in England by mister Lionel Magal for "A.C.I.D." (association 1901) for eDF. Thanks a lot
June 9, 2011 @ 3:37 pm
I had an early Putney, with a later DK2 keyboard.
I used to take a fan-heater to gigs, to blow into the back of it, to achieve a usable operating temperature.
Selling it was the worst thing i ever did!
antonio lara
November 27, 2010 @ 3:11 am
Fantastic sound ! Renaissance used to in Prologue Album Raja Khan music played byFrancis Monkman.
March 23, 2010 @ 8:25 am
There were a lot of groups using EMS synths in the middle of the 70's. All the germans such as PopolVuh, AgitationFree, Can, Shültze, TangerineDream, frenchy JM Jarre, Pierre Henry and all your best english groups, PinkFloyd, Genesis, KingCrimson etc.
A wonderful sound hard to repeat due to unexpectable behaviours using the matrix.
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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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