Soundfreak pulls the essence and beauty of the VCS3 into 4U modular
Soundfreak aims to expand the vocabulary of the Buchla 4U modular format through the high-quality interpretation of the VCS3 synthesizer. This is a stunning addition to the 4U family.
The VCS3 is the much-loved analogue synthesizer from EMS that first emerged in 1969. It was the first portable synthesizer, pushing back against the huge Moog, ARP and Buchla modular systems of the time. It’s remained distinctive in both its look, style and feature set. The pin matrix, the joystick, the way it sits up and presents itself, and the colouring on the knobs made it a very unique object.
Soundfreak, headed up by artist and synth engineer Alina Kalancea, has taken on the task of creating authentic replications of the three most iconic sections; the oscillators, filter and envelope shaper. The modules are officially licensed by EMS; let’s check them out.
There’s something about the combination of precision vernier knobs and bright colours that generates a sense of seriousness with a very playful vibe. The three oscillators for the basis of the lush and chunky VCS3 sound. While the controls are all identical, the range and the waveforms differ, giving you some nice versatility.
In the original, the range of the oscillators could go down very low to use them as LFOs via the modulation matrix. Oscillator 3 was used primarily as an LFO. In this version, all the oscillators are kept in the audible range. However, oscillator 3 has a switch to range it down as an LFO modulation source. This and the other modules have both banana plug and Tini-Jax connections for maximum compatibility.
Here we have a pair of filters based on the original 24dB low pass filter. Soundfreak has added a self-oscillating bandpass mode which can produce a sine wave as another oscillator. The cutoff has an FM input that can handle both CV and audio-rate modulation. You can also calm the filter slope down to 18dB/oct to give a wider range of tones.
Envelope Shaper/Noise Generator
This brings together two parts of the VCS3, the envelope and the noise generator. It recreates the trapezoid envelope generator of the original, which takes some getting used to if you’ve only come across ADSR-style envelopes, and is also loopable so it can work as another LFO. It has a built-in VCA and can take in four separate inputs.
The Noise Generator has a Colour knob that cuts the high or low frequencies to dial in your favourite sort of noise. This is voltage controllable.
The first few modules are on their way to customers, but production has been slow for all the usual reasons. These are impressive and beautifully made modules that would bring a whole different character to your Buchla and 4U modular system. I believe they would be well worth the wait.
The Triple Oscillator is €2120, the Dual Filter €1620, and the Envelope is €1480.
- Soundfreak Triple Oscillator: Soundfreak
- Soundfreak modules: Soundfreak
handsome design. good lookin vernier’s too. too expensive for me though – would have liked a much larger panel.
Insane prices, massive mark up given the very simple electronics. Good luck selling these in a recession☺️☺️
Not all companies have a complete lack of scruples, partnering up with Behringer to produce clones of other companies’ original designs.
Will wait for the Behringer.