Monday, April 21, 2014

Crumar "The Protagonists" family ad, International Musician and Recording World (US edition), 1978

Crumar "The Protagonists" full page colour advertisement including the Organizer-T2, Organizer-T1, Multiman-s, DS1 DIgital Synthesizer and DS2 Digital Synthesizer from page 29 in the February 1978 issue of International Musician and Recording World (US edition).

pro·tag·o·nist - noun
  • the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text.
  • the main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a real situation.
  • an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea.
 Well, there ya go - for all you cerebral types.  Good on Crumar not to dumb it down for a musician's magazine. :)

Over the last five and a half years that I've been blogging, I've spent exactly zero seconds talking about Crumar or their keyboards. Ziltch. Zip. Nada.  One hundred per cent of the reason has been because I've known absolutely NOTHING about them. And that's because Crumar synthesizers are very rare around these parts. Before last weekend, I had seen two in my entire life. Both DS2s. Both for only brief moments. And that was back in the early 2000s. Nothing since.

So it is with happy surprise that a DS2 just happened to come home with me last weekend. And, since they are notoriously flaky (according to Vintage Synth Explorer where they call it "a risky proposition") I'm happy to report that everything works perfectly on it. That's a photo of it right over there---->

Once I had one in my possession, I decided that I needed to do a bit of research on this beast and maybe get a little bit of history.

According to all things Wikipedia, Crumar was an Italian company, which explains why I haven't come across many of their synths in my part of the world. All the keyboards in this advertisement were first introduced in 1977 or 1978 and the DS2 was actually their first synthesizer to market. One of its main selling features was that it was one of the first synths to use digitally controlled oscillators, allowing it to stay in tune quite well - and something I noticed right away when I first turned it on and started noodling.

One of the coolest things about the DS2, in my opinion, is the amount of front panel real estate that is given to LFO control. Together it must make up about 40% of the front panel. Having two LFOs, and being able to choose which LFO controls OSC1, OSC2, VCF, VCA and pulse width - or both at the same time! - really adds another dimension to the machine.

The other crazy thing is that the DS2 also contains a basic string machine. And when I say basic - I mean basic. But it can be played at the same time as the rest of the synth, and runs through the VCF and VCA. Plus it has high and low pass filters/eq of its own. And its own LFO settings. Not too shabby.

As far as I can tell, this was one of the earliest ads for the DS2 - not just in International Musician, but in any magazine that I have in my collection. Keyboard didn't have a DS2 ad out until four months later in June 1978.

One of the first things I noticed in the ad is that the detailing of the DS2, and indeed many of the other keyboards in the ad's photo, is green. But, if you take a close look at the photo of my DS2, the detailing is in red. According to the DS2 page on (underneath the photo of a green DS2), "Crumar DS-2 as green version, mornal it is red". So, apparently the red is "normal", what ever that means.

But when did the colour change?

According to Studio Dragon's user review for the DS2 on, the synth was manufactured between 1978 and 1980, and since the green version is the one in the 1978 advertisement, I'm guessing that green detailing came before red.

A Crumar DS2 auction post on MATRIXSYNTH indicates that only about 500 were made, and the serial number on my DS2 is in the 500s, so I'm guessing mine came out later on in the manufacturing run. But I can't find a date anywhere on the outside of my DS-2 - I may try and open it up later and take a look on the inside. A date may help narrow down exactly when the colour made the switch.

Well, I've only had the synth for a couple of days, but one thing I've noticed is that the beast has a nice filter, although there is a very narrow margin between not-self-oscillating and self-oscillating. But when you find that sweet spot, it has a really nice quality to it. With the help of the noise (white and pink), it makes some nice percussive sounds too.  I've already sampled it quite a few times into my Korg ESX and begun incorporating its sound into a few things I've been working on.

Not too shabby for just one long weekend of creativity.  :)

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