Where are all the British synths?

I was thinking earlier how few British synth makers there are. But then technology seems to have died off in the UK generally.

Off the top of my head I can only think of Novation and Cheetah, with Cheetah being long gone.

Some of Cheetah’s products were quite advanced, they just had very bad build quality, one of their synths was created by the founder of Autonomy who later got bought up by HP.

Are there any British DIY synth projects out there?

All I could think of.

There are plenty of boutique companies making synths/modular stuff in the UK.

And by “British synths” you meant “steam-powered synths sold by The East India Trading Company as part of the colonial super power’s mercantile economy, in the name of The Queen”, right?

I’m not bothered where things come from. It’s not a patriotic post, just curious as to why there isn’t really a noticeable DIY project in the UK?


Thonk is UK based. DIY Eurorack modules gallore

I believe there is also a new DIY FM synth coming out of the UK soon- forget what it’s called.

EDIT: could be Germany- I was linked to it once on another forum (which means a hardly paid attention to it).

Arpie, Le Strum are british I recon, not synths but DIY midi stuff.

Vaco Loco is british too. http://www.vacoloco.net

You’re also forgetting about Analogue Systems UK

Actually, just come to the next SDIY UK to see that there is a DIY scene :smiley:

What about Oakley

Tony at Oakley has been around for years and makes superb gear. His SVF is killer. I have several of his modules in my MOTM rack. How about Analogue Systems? Kenton? Analogue Solutions?

Hmm, i started thinking about EDP with Wasp etc which begat OSCar. Previously there was Orgon Systems with their Enigizers. Plus RedSound but they’re gone. Digisound used to be around and wholly DIY. Also, there were some Maplin synths.

Still, Sequentix is alive but not DIY, Trevor Page has his DIY 9090 project. There’s Ken Macbeth up in Scotland. EMS are still around.

There’s probably even more out there too.

Digisound, hell yeah! Like CEM, they are long gone (RIP Charles Blakey), these days strictly the preserve of old fogeys and curmudgeons. But they were ahead of their time - the Alphadac 16 module was really pushing the envelope (if you’ll pardon the pun) back in 1981, and the 80-21 module from 1985 is clearly a spiritual if not technological precursor of a certain widely-praised MI Eurorack module.

Don’t forget the very British, DIY Powertran Transcendent 2000, as used by Joy Division.

Picture credits: me, Science Museum, London, Sept 2013 (and yeah, that’s a Digisound-80 VC digital oscillator module next to it, which is why I took the photo).



I like the Owl FX Pedal. Although it’s pricey at £249.

There was a discussion at The Register news site recently about the 30th anniversary of the Sinclair QL and the discussion was largely about how British engineering focussed on cost reduction too much. So this is what made me start this thread, I wondered if this was also the fate of the British synth companies.

In the case of Cheetah I think they were trying to be cheap and didn’t really build up a following. Their MD16 drum machine was very advanced, it’s just awful looking. The human interface side of it was what let it down.

Bugbrand in Bristol.
Tom builds probably the greatest modular synth modules of them all (non eurorack). Very sought after, but you have to be part of a top secret society to be able to buy them. Funny handshakes and all that.

He’s a very nice bloke too. We got him in to record a few sessions with my old band, he also did the mad scientist making strange noises bit with us on stage too.
Nothing sounds quite like a Bugbrand system.