Can you solve the riddle of the mystery synth?

Can you solve the riddle of the mystery synth?


This was brought to my attention today by Peter Vogel. An individual by the name of “Audiö Hoarder” contacted Peter about a piece of gear he acquired that looked similar to some of the internals of a Fairlight CMI, but clearly wasn’t one. Here’s what they had to say about it…

“It was bought from the Washington area. I came across a curious synthesizer online a while ago. I have looked into the individual chips, and they seem reminiscent of the Fairlight CMI, but it is not a Fairlight.

It is composed of a similar chip architecture. It has 2 Motorola digital chips, some Fairchild 8Bit DAC chips and envelopes, an odd purple 8bit DAC chip that is relative to one made by Analog Devices, and a Buttersworth lopass filter chip per voice. The big difference seems to be that it uses a 40 pin NEC CPU instead of the 40 pin Motorola CPU. The keyboard is a pre-assembled component.”

It very much looks like a prototype, and Peter said that it looked very much like something he could’ve made, but that it definitely wasn’t. You can totally see why someone might think this had something to do with Fairlight.

Can anyone out there tell us what this is? Click on the individual images for full sizes.

Drop me a line or leave a comment below if you have any clues or ideas as to what this might be :)

  • Posted on September 18, 2013 - 8:52 am
  • By Rob Puricelli
  • Posted in
comments so far
  • Thibault says:

    Hi Failed Muso, first of all, I really like your blog. It’s very informative and well written, went straight into my favourites folder. I have no idea what synth that could be, but it looks incredibly awesome from a design standpoint. Something Dieter Rams would dream up, perhaps a Fairlight-Braun collaboration ;) Even if its minimalism probably wasn’t intentional. I have a question about one of your older posts; this old little red Behringer UMA25S you reviewed some time ago, do you still use it and would you, five years down the line, still recommend it? Or have much better devices come along? I travel a lot nowadays and I’m looking for a portable keyboard which has a very good ‘feel’ to its keys and buttons. I played a little with it in the store and it does feel very good. Also the built-in audio-output is a plus since the 3.5mm jack of my laptop is broken (also, the soundcard is extremely poor). But the price is still around 99 EUR which (I feel) could very well be a little overpriced for a 5-year old device. Would you say the UMA25S is still worth it, or is it perhaps dated and have better options come along since 2008?

    Many thanks!

  • Hi Thibault! Great to hear from a “fan” :) Glad you like it!

    Peter Vogel has confirmed that this is nothing to do with him and I’ve not had any responses to help clarify the situation. Looks like this one might just be an eternal mystery ;)

    As for the UMA25S, it still gets used here :) I’m not aware of many other 25 note controllers that also come with a reasonable audio interface built in, mainly because I’ve not been looking for one. The keys are half action keys and take a little getting used to, so if they’re important to you, I would suggest trying them out first. For me, it’s great for travelling and using for quick sketching. I couldn’t spend hours writing with it.

    Akai’s MPK25 has a much nicer action but is obviously a lot more expensive and has no built in audio interface.

    I don’t think you’ll get anything else at €99 or less that has as much as the UMA25S :)

  • Thibault says:

    Great, thanks for the quick answer! Read your message while returning from work, took a detour and picked one up from the local instruments store in Berlin. That’s just how impatient I am :) Thanks for the advice, can’t wait to try it out.


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