Synclavier Digital has released the standalone Synclavier Knob – a USB hardware partner to designed to compliment the Canadian corporation’s Synclavier Go! and Synclavier Pocket! iOS apps.

Synclavier KnobA re-creation of the knob that was central to the Synclavier II Digital Synthesizer’s control surface, the hardware was commissioned by co-inventor Cameron Jones to provide control over the Synclavier’s FM (Frequency Modulation) and Additive (harmonic) synthesis capabilities, at an affordable fraction of the original’s prohibitive pricing.

Like the Synclavier Go! and Synclavier Pocket! iOS apps, the Synclavier Knob has history: ‘During development of the first Synclavier prototype, I remember Sydney Alonso brought me a sheet of aluminium with a bunch of knobs on it,’ says Jones, recalling the 1976 origins of what would become a game-changing hardware/software system for digital non-linear synthesis, polyphonic sampling, hard-disk recording and sequencing. ‘I took one look at it, and said, “no, this isn’t going to work… why can’t we have just one knob?”’

Since he wanted Synclavier Go! and Synclavier Pocket! to give the full Synclavier experience, Jones gave the one original knob he had from a Synclavier II VPK (Velocity-Pressure Keyboard) to Craig Phillips, a 20-year software veteran with whom he formed the new Synclavier venture. ‘It had to feel the same,’ Jones says. ‘I didn’t want to disappoint users of the original system. Many people have built their careers using my hardware, and that makes me happy.’

The new knob is milled from a bar of 2-inch aluminium on a 1986-vintage lathe in Synclavier Digital’s Canadian hometown to follow the dimensions and knurling pattern of the original. The spring-pins and extension springs critical to its operation were also specially sourced and tested.

The resulting Synclavier Knob is a spring-loaded (let go and it returns to the centre) precision rate-of-change controller. The hysteresis algorithms associated with the original knob are also applied to the device. As smarter software dictates how it changes any selected parameter’s value, the Synclavier Knob ‘knows’ how to increment or decrement each in an appropriate way – whether by tens, units, or decimals. Deeper, selecting the Fine button in Synclavier Go! makes Synclavier Knob yet more sensitive to movement.

The original Synclavier systems of permit users to select multiple parameters simultaneously. Synclavier Knob overs this, too – turn its knob clockwise and the selected values are all nudged up in concert until the highest value selected reaches its ceiling, at which point it is maxed out. Above and beyond that, the algorithms get even more complex when different kinds of parameters are selected; so, for instance, simultaneously selecting Release (in milliseconds) and Peak (a percentage) from the Envelope settings with a swipe of a finger forces Synclavier Knob to modify both values in increments appropriate to increasing the envelope of the sound vertically and horizontally when turning the knob.


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