Thursday, April 22, 2010

Steiner-Parker Two-Voice Synthacon and Sequencer 151, Contemporary Keyboard and Synapse 1976

Steiner-Parker Two-Voice Synthacon synthesizer and Sequencer 151 advertisement from page 30 of Contemporary Keyboard Magazine and the back inside cover of Synapse Magazine November/December 1976.

I've included both the Contemporary Keyboard and Synapse version of the 'Free Sequencer' ads to help make the point that when you are giving away a sequencer with every synthesizer, a multi-publication advertising campaign is probably the right move - especially during the holiday season.

With a Synthacon synthesizer listing for $1395 in 1976, giving away $528 (and 32 cents...) in extras is going to make a bit of a dent in your bottom line. It was a bold and I would guess costly move by S-P to try and wedge their way into a world dominated by 'the big three'. I know I might have been convinced to choose a Synthacon over an Odyssey with an offer like this.

In fact, I'm actually quite surprised that more companies didn't take advantage of both publications simultaneously. More on this in future blog posts.

Looking at the S-P ad that appeared in Contemporary Keyboard, the company upgraded from their usual 1/4-page ad to a 1/2-page ad. The increase in cost was probably considerable, but one could argue that it probably helped get their promotion noticed in the back half of CK.

The third-person ad-copy "See your local dealer or contact the manufacturer" was obviously overlooked by S-P. In my last S-P post, I speculated that S-P was probably getting their ads designed by an outside firm. This text seems to support the theory.

Turning attention to the Synapse ad, I think S-P made a really smart move spending the cash to claim the full back inside cover. S-P had already tested Synapse's waters with a full page Synthasystem advertisement in the previous issue and probably got a good response from the magazine's highly targeted audience. It was probably a no-brainer to spend a few extra bucks to take the back inside cover for this promotion effort.

But there is something wrong with the balance of the Synapse ad. I included as much of the page in the scan as possible so you could see just how much extra white space there is. I'm torn between wanting to use that space to put more information about the sequencer in this ad, and being happy that S-P stayed on-message - buy a synthesizer, get a sequencer - even if it means including less text. A larger font would probably have solved this.

In the case of both ads, I'm also a little bummed out that the S-P waveform logo doesn't appear with the Steiner-Parker logo-text. We'll have to see if this becomes a common occurrence in future S-P advertisements.

Looking online, I couldn't find any reference information about the 151 Sequencer at the usual synthesizer reference sites. But, two on-line videos have become very popular with well known synthesizer Web sites such as MATRIXSYNTH. These two videos also dominate Google results if you do a search for 'Steiner-Parker 151 Sequencer'.

Both videos feature the Synthacon and the 151 Sequencer doin' their thang. You really get a good demonstration of the Synthacon and its sound (what's with all that reverb?!?).

One last observation - In an earlier Synthacon post I made the case that the actual name of the two-voice Synthacon is 'Synthacon II' based on findings in a 1975 dealer sheet. You will notice that in these scans, one ad refers to the synth as a 'two-voice Synthacon' while the other as a '2-voice Synthacon'. Using these names to describe the synthesizer more clearly to readers makes sense (some readers at the time may not know what the 'II' means). But the lower case lettering helps me cling to my belief that the actual name was the definitely cooler 'Synthacon II'. :o)


zenbecca said...

The copy in the CK ad makes me a little crazy, but then I have a long-standing aversion to divided words...and especially words divided incorrectly.

...and you have to admit that there is a certain quaintness to the "Christmas Day" deadline in the Synapse ad. It kinda makes you think about how awesome it would be to find one under the tree. :-)

Micke said...

I'm suspecting that the S-P price list that you linked to in a previous post dates from 1976 (or possibly early '77) rather than 1975, because I'm pretty sure that the two-voice version, the multi-phonic keyboard and the 151 sequencer appeared later.

Nyle Steiner also made a few Synthacon's which, like the 'multiphonic' keyboard (shown in the first S-P advert), incorporated an arpeggiator. I think these were made on special order only. A few Synthacon's without a keyboard were also made, one of which was built for Shirley Walker to augment her stock Synthacon.
Shirley was using this "Double-synthacon" on the cues she recorded with Nyle Steiner for the Apocalypse Now soundtrack back in '79 (Nyle used his EVI hooked up with a Synthasystem). They performed/recorded the following AN cues together: 'Nung River", "Clean's Death", "Finale" plus a couple of unused tracks (Nyle performed on several of the other tracks as well).

The EVI, Synthasystem and Synthacon are all over the above cues.

At some point in '76 they switched to making the black faces. Other than the color and
an occasional circuit update, the black panel modules are identical to the silver ones. According to Nyle, the biggest reason for the change to painted panels was that when making the silver panels
" we were sanding the aluminum ourselves. This was a laborious task and it was difficult to get consistent results. I recall that there was also some discussion with my partners about using black because it seemed to be a popular color for synth panels.I later discovered how to get consistent results in making brushed aluminum panels using a wet wire brush. That worked well enough that I sometimes made custom equipment with silver panels long after we had switched to the black painted ones."

RetroSynthAds said...

Excellent info - appreciated!

Micke said...

You're welcome :-)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for an excellent synth blog.

Keep up the good work.


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