The Elka Synthex has to be one of the great unsung heroes in synth history!

Released in 1982, it was an attempt by the Italian manufacturer Elka to get a slice of the professional synth market that was pretty much dominated by Sequential Circuits' Prophet 5 and Oberheim's OBn polysynths.

Prior to this, Elka's biggest claim to fame was probably their Rhapsody string synthesiser that was popular with a wide range of musicians and which was (probably) responsible for the decline of the Mellotron as it offered a reliable and highly portable string sound that could, if used carefully, sound quite convincing. Used without care and attention, the Rhapsody simply provided a lush background texture beloved by the likes of Tangerine Dream, Klaus Shulze, Jean-Michel Jarre and other synth luminaries.

The Synthex was very well received in its lifetime. It had a better spec than the Prophet 5 or Oberheim synths offering two multi-waveform oscillators, a white / pink noise generator, a multi-mode filter, an LFO and two ADSR envelopes. Unusually, the Synthex also had a built-in chorus unit on the outputs that added the same kind of 'lush' sound found on the company's earlier string machines.

The Synthex also featured a simple but effective sequencer, keyboard layering and key-splits and all of these, combined with cross modulation, ring modulation and a comprehensive modulation matrix, made the Synthex a very potent synthesiser indeed. By all accounts, the Elka Synthex was a phenomenal polysynth with unique capabilities that eclipsed the stalwart polysynths of this era ..... you would have thought that it just had to be a success.


Despite being used / endorsed by artists such as the aforementioned Jean-Michel Jarre (who used the Synthex for his famous 'laser harp' performance live on-stage), Stevie Wonder, Keith Emerson, Geoff Downes (Yes and Buggles) and others, the Synthex failed to achieve the impact planned by Elka - perhaps it was their name and their reputation (they had produced some truly awful electronic pianos in their history) or perhaps it was just bad timing as the MIDI revolution and the Yamaha DX7 were waiting in the wings to knock the wind out of almost every analogue synth's sales!

Of course, nowadays, the Synthex is highly sought after and can fetch as much as $2,000.

Nostalgia's Synthez samples were kindly donated by Rein van den Oever.