BuchlaMusic Easel Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer - Retro Edition


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Buchla Music Easel Retro Edition is expected to begin shipping in Spring 2024!

Buchla Music Easel

Offering the classic vibes of the legendary West Coast synthesizer, the Music Easel Retro Edition aesthetically harkens back to the 1970s but contains Buchla's modern 208c Easel Command and LEM218 v3. If you seek the classic Music Easel experience but still desire a touch of modern connectivity options and feature sets, this Retro Edition is the ideal package to explore the direct lineage of West Coast synthesis.

The centerpiece of the Music Easel is the 208c, a direct descendent of the original 208 Stored Program Sound Source from Buchla's 200 Series modular synthesizer system. Truly the distillation of elements associated with West Coast synthesis, the 208c contains a complex oscillator, wavefolder, low pass gates, and numerous other components that give it a signature sound that inspired countless other designs in the world of modular synthesizers. The 208c refines these circuits even further, making it the best iteration yet. And of course, the distinctive interface of color-matched sliders and banana jacks ensures you can always trace connections in your patches and keep track of how signals are being modulated and controlled.

As far as the audio path is concerned, you'll find two oscillators, two lowpass gates, a mixer, and an authentic spring reverb, all of which work together to give the Music Easel its signature sound. The so-called Complex Oscillator is the primary sound source, offering variable waveform shapes and the legendary Buchla wavefolder. While the second oscillator may be used for duophonic purposes, there's a reason it's called the Modulation Oscillator—it offers internal and external modulation capabilities to extend the timbres and dynamics of the sounds that the Music Easel can produce. Use it to ring modulate an external signal, apply Amplitude or Frequency Modulation (AM and FM) to the Complex Oscillator, or take its green banana output from the top to control other elements of the Easel.

Each oscillator is paired with its own combination filter and VCA, Buchla's signature Lo Pass Gate design that simultaneously shapes the amplitude and harmonic content of signals. Their distinctive response is owed to the usage of vactrols within the circuit, resulting in a character that is somehow organic—real sounds will roll off high-frequency harmonics as their amplitude decays, and the response curve of a vactrol combined with the LPG circuit emulates this behavior beautifully. The outputs of both Lo Pass Gates are summed together and passed to the main and headphone outputs, along with a true spring reverb running in parallel.

However, the 208c offers so much more beyond its sound capabilities alone—the array of control voltage generators that it has to offer is, in many ways, what makes the Music Easel so interesting. From the five-step Sequential Voltage Source and Quad Random Voltages to the looping Envelope Generator and unique Pulser, there is absolutely no shortage of ways to modulate, shape, and modify sounds within the 208c. This is even more apparent when incorporating the Program Interface slot—drop in hand-soldered cards for pre-wired connections, or grab Buchla's Program Manager Card for instant recall of numerous different configurations.

Designed as the perfect controller counterpart for the 208, Buchla's LEM218 v3 is the matching companion for the 208c and completes the Retro Music Easel. Combining the traditional note layout of a piano keyboard with the ability to produce "pressure" sensitive control voltages, the capacitive touch design is intuitively gestural and sits in line with Don Buchla's philosophies of synthesizer controller designs. Add in the arpeggiator, touch strip, and preset stored voltages, and you'll find plenty of ways to use the LEM218 to control multiple aspects of your Easel patches at once.

For the Retro Edition, Buchla has chosen to house the Music Easel in a classy aluminum case, offering a distinct aesthetic with the briefcase-like vibe. Additionally, the knobs are vintage-style Rogans, just like the original Music Easel from the 1970s. But despite the vintage look, you'll still find I/O along the left for USB and TRS MIDI connections, opening up the 208c to external control and allowing the 218 to work with other instruments in your studio. The reputation of the Music Easel has given it near-mythical status as a compact modular synthesizer, and this Retro Edition is Buchla's way of making that iconic sound and instrument available once again.

Music Easel Features

  • Legendary semi-modular analog synthesizer
  • Modern Music Easel in a Retro-styled package
  • Complete West Coast instrument
  • Contains the 208c and LEM 218 v3
  • Colorful interface of sliders and banana patch points for instinctive patching
  • Dual oscillator configuration
  • Dual Lo Pass Gate
  • Mixer + spring reverb
  • CV generators include: 5-step sequencer, envelope generator, quad random voltages, pulser
  • Program card slot
  • Capacitive-touch keyboard with piano-style layout and pulse, pressure, and pitch outputs
  • Touch strip and preset voltage sources
  • Arpeggiator and portamento
  • MIDI I/O via USB-C and 3.5mm TRS
  • 1/4" audio outputs
  • Aluminum briefcase
  • Dimensions: TBD
  • Power: TBD
Product Demo Videos
Buchla Music Easel
Buchla Music Easel Semi-Modular Analog Synthesizer - Retro Edition Reviews