Suzuki (not - I think - to
be confused with the motorcycle manufacturer) had enjoyed a certain
amount of low-key success in the 'consumer' market with the musical
instruments they had been making since 1954. However, like so many
other such manufacturers at the time, they wanted a slice of the
'professional' market but in the absence of any 'in-house' synth
technolgy, Suzuki looked outwards to find their solution. They found
it in Italian manufacturer Siel.
Siel too had been striving to enter into the 'pro' market
with products such as the DK-series, the Cruise, the Orchestra and
others. In the mid-80s, they released the EX80, an inexpensive 8-voice
analogue table-top synth expander module. Suzuki presumably saw
a chance with this and so the product was licenced, re-badged and
sold as the Suzuki SX-500, identical to the EX80 in every respect
- in fact, open up a Suzuki SX-500 and you'll see the ROM labelled
"EX80" and "Made in Italy by Societa
Industrie Elettroniche" on
the serial number plate ... something of a giveaway as to its origins!
It had a spec that was typical for the time - 2 x DCOs
offering sawtooth and square waves, a filter, a VCA, ADSR envelopes,
two LFOs (one for the DCOs, the other for the filter). There was
also a chorus unit on the output. The EX/SX also had a built in
2-track 'scratchpad' sequencer offering storage for 300 notes -
this could also be used to control external MIDI gear and it could
be synchronised to external clock sources such as a trigger pulse
and MIDI. The EX/SX had 50 presets (40 fixed factory / 10 user)
and sounds could be layered in a special 4-voice mode.
However, the EX/SX had one major limitation - there was
only one filter to service all eight voices and it wasn't truly
polyphonic. In fact, it was more like the ARP Omni or PolyMoog from
ten years earlier in that it had a polyphonic audio source but monophonic
audio processing. It had options for single or multiple triggering
to help go some way to overcome this limitation but it was still
a major restriction.
But this is where it gets interesting.....