Which is is a shame because
the S2 was (is) a very capable synth, workstation and keyboard.
With each voice having two oscillators (each one accessing
hundreds of multi-sampled waveforms), two filters, several multi-stage
envelopes, an LFO and a lot more besides, this was actually quite
a serious synth. In keeping with its workstation status, it also
had a 250,000 event sequencer and dual multi-effects - it also had
one of the best, most comprehensively programmable keyboards available
in a product of this nature making it an ideal master keyboard with
functionality that rivalled (or even exceeded!) many dedicated master
keyboards. It was also possible to load Akai S1000 samples (via
the separate - and optional - Sample Translator software) from the
floppy disk drive into its modest (2Mb) complement of on-board RAM
to integrate in the factory sample set.
The S2 also had eight dedicated sliders which could be
used to set volume, attack, release, filter 1, filter 2 and pan
position making the S2 ideal for quick tweaking live or in the studio.
Uniquely, however, in the special 'organ' mode, these same sliders
could also be used as drawbars.
GEM also made the S3 which had a 76-note keyboard.
The S2 and S3 weren't successful for this Italian company.
Perhaps it was the name - GEM's background in the home organ and
home keyboard market was maybe a bit off-putting to pro musos. Or
perhaps it was the stranglehold that market leaders such as Korg
had on the world's workstation market at the time. Maybe it was
price (though the S2 and S3 compared favourably with the competion).
Perhaps it was the somewhat limited 16/32 voice polyphony (16-voice
in 'dual oscillator' mode, 32 voices when only one oscillator was
used). It was more than likely a combination of all these factors
that contributed to these keyboards' downfall - just another workstation
product from a relatively unknown company that didn't really offer
anything significantly new and which wasn't significantly cheaper
than the leading manufacturers' products.
It certainly wasn't the sounds that let the S2/3 down.
Although I only had a cursory play with one at a trade show, what
I heard was very impressive and if you seek out any info about these
keyboards on the net, you'll find users and reviewers almost unanimously
eulogising about the quality and clarity of the sounds.
You can decide for yourself with these sounds that have
been very kindly donated by my good friend Louis van Dompselaar
from his own S2 - if big, dramatic sci-fi padscapes are what you
want, look no further!