EML Synkey Synthesizer

The EML Synkey is an analog monophonic synthesizer from Electronic Music Labs, launched in the late 1970s and branded as “the first synthesizer you could program”. The synth featured basic synth parameters, and sounded … well, alright, without being a Moog/Arp killer.

But it’s big and innovative thing was the Punch Card interface, that could read (and write) the hole patterns in computer-style punchcards, and thus save and recall sounds. The synth itself is quite nicely designed, with a slightly Yamaha-ish nod. The oscillator section takes a large part of the center space, with a pushbutton selection system, rather than dials or faders.

I had the opportunity to test the Synkey, when my Moog broke down before a gig. The dealer kindly lent me the Synkey so I at least had a synth to play.  I had it for about a week, to get to know it which was more than sufficient. The basic synth engine was very easily programmable with only few basic parameters. So there was actually not too much need for the cards, since you could dial in the sound very quickly. It took some time and practice to change the cards mid-performance, and the cards had a tendency to fold and bend, and thus become hard to slot in the reader.

The filter is a standard, gentle LPF without too much bite. The envelopes are Moog-style, 3 stage with a separate envelope for VCF and VCA.

I was happy when I got my Moog back after repair 🙂

Original image from matrixsynth.com