Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dennis Electronics "The new synthesizer that doesn't need a filter" ad, Synapse 1977

Dennis Electronics "The new synthesizer that doesn't need a filter" 1/4-page black and white advertisement from page 11 in the July/August 1977 issue of Synapse Magazine.

First - Happy New Year everyone! I'm writing this post on New Years Day in the hopes of already getting a little ahead.

Looking back through my forth year of posting ads, I never thought I would be able to keep up my twice-a-week blogging schedule all the way through 2012. But yet surprisingly I managed - with a few holiday exceptions.

It was also exciting for me to see my little Facebook page grow to almost 500 "likes" and my Twitter to hit 1000 followers, especially since I'm not the most active user out there. The support through social media and all the emails I'm sent with comments, suggestions and questions is always appreciated. And makes blogging fun and rewarding.

It was a good year for the most part and I'm hoping I can keep up the tradition throughout a busy 2013.

So, to begin the new year, I think this little inconspicuous Dennis Electronics advertisement from Synapse Magazine is the perfect start.

If you read the blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of synthesizer ad-art.

Everything from the simple line drawings of Vibronic... the more detailed line art of  Octave...


To the more colourful and playful Sequential Circuits advertising artwork by that genius artist Mattos...


... to the slightly surreal holiday ad-art of Oberheim... this awesomely f*#ked-up surreal sh!t created for Korg's vocoder.

It all rocks. And thus Dennis automatically gets extra points in my book just for the artwork used in this ad. Definite t-shirt potential.  :)

The ad-copy is also really interesting for a smaller company, making a few interesting statements that would definitely get readers' attention. First is that description of their new VCO with "Dynamic Depth FM technique" and its curious claim of "providing timbral control like no filter has ever come close to" along with the "reduced system costs" it allowed. Quite the claim for a small company with only a quarter-page advertisement. And it got me curious to see what earlier reference information on Dennis I could find.

I couldn't recall coming across the company in Contemporary Keyboard or anywhere else at the time. And the company name didn't appear in the index of Mark Vail's Vintage Synthesizers book either.  This seemed to be the first Dennis Electronics advertisement to appear in Synapse, so I decided to dig through earlier issues to see if there were any other mentions.

Although I couldn't find any references to the company in the September-October 1976, November-December 1976 or January-February 1977 issues of Synapse, it was only a matter of time until their name popped up as word of this relatively new and awesome magazine would spread out of California and the continental U.S. You could see the growth both in the page count and in the company listings section. And sure enough, Dennis Electronics showed up at the end of the March-April 1977 issue in the "Listings" section under "Manufacturers" on page 40:
Dennis (Electronic Music Components)
2130 Metcalf, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
Not a lot of information. But it was something.

When the May-June 1977 issue of Synapse came out, readers were able to find out a bit more information about this little company based out of Honolulu. Dennis not only appeared again in the slightly expanded "Listings" section on page 46, but also under the "What's Happening" section on page 48:
Dennis Electronics, a small Honolulu based manufacturer, is redesigning their system and are offering their old stock at very reduced prices. Call (808) 955-2839 for the modules available and additional information.
Redesigning their systems? Interesting. And mention of their modules. Now we are getting somewhere.

Interestingly, that manufacturers' section had grown over the last couple of issues to not only include some of the more well-known companies like ARP, Korg, Moog/Norlin, Oberheim, Roland, Sequential Circuits and Yamaha, but also companies like Aries, Dennis, EML, Musitronics, Oznie, PAIA and others.

At the bottom of the "Manufacturers" listing is a chart that notes:
*  manufacturer makes kits only
** manufacturer makes both kits and finished products.

Because Dennis had neither of these indicators, it would suggest they were making finished products only. No kits at all.

The growing list of big and small manufacturers referenced throughout Synapse didn't go unnoticed by readers of the magazine at the time either. In fact, in this same issue of Synapse, a letter was printed on this exact topic:
Lesser known systems
After receiving my first issue of Synapse, I was surprised to see such an abundance of lesser-known systems. Is this an indication of differences in quality or something else? I have considered buying E-mu and EML synthesizers, but instead purchased a 2600 and an Oberheim 4-voice. Is there something I don't know about this situation? Also, where to get info on Serge Systems?
Charles Haglan
New Orleans, Louisiana

The lesser known systems (they all were at one time) have always been there and there are more all the time. There has just never been a magazine to let people know about them. Check the Listings for manufacturers' addresses - Ed.
By the July-August 1977 issue of Synapse, when this advertisement finally appeared, the "Listings" sections had grown even larger, on the one hand putting Dennis on equal footing with the big guns like Moog and Oberheim, but on the other hand putting the company in danger of being lost in the crowd of more popular advertisements.

A good little start to our dig into Dennis' past.

With more to come. 

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