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BuchlaMusic Easel Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer - Modern Edition


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Buchla Music Easel

Following the release of the updated 208c Easel Command and LEM218 v3, Buchla's iconic compact modular synthesizer, the beloved Music Easel, is now available once again in its complete form. This Modern Edition of the Music Easel contains both the 208c and LEM218, along with the new Electronic Music Box Input/Output (EMBIO) module, all housed together in one 10-space case, bringing the quintessential "West Coast" synthesis package into the 21st century. Indeed, the Music Easel is perhaps the best way to experience many of Don Buchla's enduring philosophies for instrument and interface design converging into one comprehensive instrument.

The 208c is the latest revision of the 208 Stored Program Sound Source, a consolidation of concepts developed in Buchla's 200 Series modular synthesizer system. Whether you associate the sound of West Coast synthesis with Complex Oscillators, Lo Pass Gates, or Wavefolding, you'll find all of that within the 208c. But perhaps the most marvelous thing about this module is how it's all so elegantly tied together—the color-coded usage of sliders and banana jacks maintains an immediate visual association between the various components of the 208, which is essential for patching with instinct and intuition.

At its core, the Music Easel sound is traced back to two oscillators: a Complex Oscillator and Modulation Oscillator. The Complex Oscillator features variable waveform controls and the signature Buchla Timbre circuit—the original wavefolder of West Coast origin. While you can use the Modulation Oscillator as a secondary voice for duophonic musical purposes, it's perhaps more interesting to use it... well, as a modulation source! It can apply Amplitude or Frequency Modulation (AM and FM) to the Complex oscillator, or ring modulate an external sound source.

Both oscillators are routed through the Dual Lo Pass Gate, a combination filter and VCA circuit utilizing vactrols for their signature organic response. Crucially, these roughly correspond to the behavior of real-world sounds and acoustic instruments—louder sounds are usually brighter and contain more upper harmonics, and slowly round out as their amplitude decreases down towards silence. From there, both Lo Pass Gates are summed together and routed to the output mixer, where separate main and headphone outputs are found, along with the parallel spring reverb.

However, the 208's audio path is merely a part of the total package—frankly, the control voltage generators might be what makes the Music Easel so interesting. We've already talked about the Modulation Oscillator, but the additional five-step Sequential Voltage Source, random voltage source, loopable Envelope Generator, and curious Pulser all provide a foundation for creating complex and interactive control voltages. Furthermore, the Program Interface along the top allows for the connection of Preset Cards: either in the form of old-school, hand-soldered connections just as you'd do back in 1973, or the cutting-edge digital Program Manager Card for instant recall of multiple presets.

Well-known as the controller companion for the 208, Buchla's LEM218 v3 is the contemporary revision of the classic keyboard packaged with Music Easel. Despite the common sentiment that Don Buchla was thoroughly opposed to the piano-style keyboard layout, the design of the 218 proves that this is untrue as it contains many things which were, at the time of its development, ground-breaking technologies. Among other features, the capacitive touch design affords gestural "pressure" control voltages to affect the 208 in real time. Additionally, the onboard arpeggiator, portamento, touch strip, and preset voltage source provide multiple simultaneous ways to control and modify sounds and other control signals with immediate effect.

New for the Modern Edition of the Music Easel, Buchla has designed the Electronic Music Box Input/Output module, or EMBIO for short. The purpose of this module is twofold: it allows for both connectivity to other instruments and gear in modern electronic music studios as well as increased patching opportunities within the Easel itself. You'll find numerous points of I/O here for connecting the 208 and 218 to hosts and devices via USB-C, 3.5mm TRS MIDI I/O, and even Eurorack-friendly 1V/Oct and gate inputs. As for the added utilities, an audio mixer, slew limiter, utility LFO, attenuverters, and more allow for more nuance and interconnected patching than was ever previously possible on a Music Easel.

The entire Modern Music Easel is housed in an incredibly durable ABS case, with the instrument itself housed in a metal frame for stability and safety. There's even a free space in the bottom row next to the 218, should you decide to expand your Music Easel with a Buchla format module in the future. The long-awaited return of the Music Easel is here, and it's poised to be the most flexible iteration of this legendary synthesizer yet.

Music Easel Features

  • Standalone semi-modular analog synthesizer
  • The most modern iteration of the Music Easel yet
  • Holistic West Coast synthesis instrument
  • Contains the 208c, LEM218 v3, and EMBIO module
  • Charming interface of colorful sliders and banana jacks
  • Dual oscillators with variable waveshapes
  • Dual Lo Pass Gates
  • Dual mixer + spring reverb
  • Multiple CV generators: 5-stage sequencer, envelope generator, random voltages, pulser
  • Slot for program cards
  • Capacitive touch keyboard
  • Outputs for pulse, pressure, and pitch
  • Touch strip and stored voltages for alternative sources of CV
  • Arpeggiator and portamento
  • I/O module with onboard CV utillities
  • MIDI I/O via USB-C and 3.5mm TRS
  • Additional space for a single Buchla-format module
  • Rugged ABS case with modules mounted in metal frame
  • Dimensions: TBD
  • Power: TBD
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Buchla Music Easel
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