Monday, April 12, 2010

Steiner-Parker Synthacon II, Contemporary Keyboard 1976

Steiner-Parker Synthacon II (aka Two Voice Synthacon) duophonic synthesizer advertisement from page 22 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine September/October 1976.

Although this second Contemporary Keyboard magazine advertisement from Steiner-Parker may look quite different, on the surface, from their first CK ad, it is actually quite similar - and I'm not just talking about size and shape. In that first advertisement, S-P shows a little attitude by declaring that S-P is the "fastest growing synthesizer company in the world".

This ad not only brings back the attitude, they dial it up a notch. You don't have to look very hard to realize that the name of the synthesizer is no where to be found. Either they expected everyone to know what synthesizer is pictured in the ad, or it was a ploy to get people curious enough to mail in for all the details. Either way, it was a ballsy move. And even more ballsy was that S-P went on to compare this unnamed synthesizer to a very well known competitor.

So, what synthesizer was S-P promoting?

The synthesizer in the advertisement is the duophonic Synthacon II. I've noticed that many on the 'net call it the 'Two-Voice Synthacon'. I think this might be because the description of the keyboard on the 1975 price list some people reference is:
"TWO VOICE SYNTHACON: The SYNTHACON II is identical to the monophonic version described below, except that when two keys are depressed, it plays two notes."
Sure, 'TWO VOICE SYNTHACON' is in all-caps, but that to me is more of an introductory description, and the fact that 'SYNTHACON II' is also in all-caps leads one to believe that this was the actual name of the synthesizer. Plus, it sounds cooler. :o)

The Synthacon came in both monophonic and duophonic versions. Early models featured a silver front panel, while later models, like the one photographed for this advertisement, had a black front panel.

Looking at the layout on the front panel, S-P was even ballsy when it came to the design of the Synthacon. Unlike most synthesizers that conform to the usual signal-flow lay-out from left to right (VCO --> VCF --> VCA) the Synthacon did the opposite. VCO's were located on the right side of the panel, and the graphic representation of the signal flowed to the left. Awkward during performance? Probably until you got used to it.

You can find some great photos and reference information on the Synthacon at and

In fact, you definitely have to check out the Synthacon in colour. To me, the color-coded toggle switches, especially great lookin' on the silver-faced model, are reminiscent of the colorful sliders on the earlier ARP Odyssey models.

And what synthesizer was S-P comparing the Synthacon to?

I'm thinking they are referring to the Minimoog. The Minimoog was the Big Cheese at the time. And according to my Moog 1974 price list, the monophonic Minimoog was retailing for $1595.00, while according to the S-P 1975 product list featured on, the duophonic Synthacon was going for $1395.00. So, two Mini's are going to cost you $3195 - a difference of $1795.00 for one Synthacon. Coincidence? I think not. But I'm open to other theories. And don't even start me on the drifting-oscillators jab.

Interestingly, Moog pulled a similar 'you-know-who-we-are-so-we-don't-even-have-to-tell-you-the name-of-the-synthesizer' advertising stunt years later in a 1979 Minimoog ad. And in their case, they pushed it up to a whole new level. Moog had both the reputation and silhouette-recognition factor to not even have to include their logo, let alone the model name of the synthesizer. That takes *balls*.

No comments:

Post a Comment