I have spent several evenings getting to know a powerful little synth called the EMW-200 and I am very pleased to own the first unit off of the assembly line. Serial number 1001. Beta testing is on!
The EMW-200 is a recreation of the venerable ElectroComp EML-200, a rare synth to say the least. Only 150-200 of them were ever made, depending on your source, so let me say at the outset that I cannot speak to how much this little guy sounds like it's big brother. I have never laid eyes on on an EML-200. However the designer of the EMW-200 owns one and I think that he went to some pains to get them as close as possible, while making it an instrument that someone can afford to actually purchase.
The designer, and owner of Electronic Music Works is Paulo Sergio dos Santos. He and his company hail from Brazil and both are dedicated to building great sounding, affordable instruments.
The demo I recorded is intended to display some of the range of the instrument and is well over the top into alien world soundscape territory. You can listen to the demo track or download it here...http://atomicshadow.bandcamp.com/releases
The EML-200 was designed primarily for electronic music courses at Universities. It had no keyboard and leaned in a more abstract direction from the start. The EMW-200 also has no keyboard and will not do 1 volt per octave. The only controls are knobs and one button that can trigger a simple envelope. Where the new version differs from the original is in size. The original was quite large, close to the size of an Arp 2600. The EMW-200 is 16 inches wide, a little over 8 inches tall and 6 inches deep. Nice and compact. The other two places where it differs is a delay unit where the original had a spring reverb, and an a dedicated LFO where once there was a microphone amp. It uses 3.5mm patch cables so if you own Euro Rack gear this will assimilate easily. With the right adaptors it was more than happy to take some modulation from various DotCom modules. This is an analog synth. It is sturdy, steel cased and the knobs do not wobble at all. Nice.
All module sections have two outputs. This is a very flexible arrangement as it opens up a lot of signal routing possibilities.
From the top left there is a master oscillator with a five position range knob and frequency knob for fine tuning. It outputs simultaneous noise, sine, triangle and square waves. Next we have two saw oscillators with frequency and swing control inputs for modulating pitch. The next module is a delay unit, the only DSP used on the EMW-200, modeled after an analog delay. The Switch module can alternate an A and B signal at it's two outputs. The final modules on the top row are high pass and low pass filters.
The first module on the bottom row is the wave shape section. It consists of sampler (sample/hold), envelope generator and modulator sections. The modulator section has a mode switch to select between amplitude mod, ring mod, and two other variations of amplitude modulation.
The mixer section is very flexible with six inputs in two groups of three with pan control on the groups. Two mono outputs per side or two stereo summed outputs are available.
The final two modules are a dedicated ring modulator and the previously mentioned LFO.
To learn more about these modules I suggest downloading the original EMl manual here...http://archive.org/details/synthmanual-electronic-music-laboratories-eml-200-owners-manual
So how does it sound? Well... fabulous! In no time at all you have soundscapes from alien worlds (kind of my thing I guess), squiggly beeps and tweets, atonal ring modulated moaning, hissing and banging. I think that Universities still might be a good potentail customer for this unit. It has all of the fundamental building blocks of electronic sound in one nicely designed package. This is not some cheap toy. It is well built, solid, with wooden end panels. There are no menus or memories, just knobs and patch cords, the way God intended. Last night as I recorded the demo I thought that this thing is sort of the VCS3 that I will never be able to afford. How affordable is it? Paulo said the MSRP is $1,299.00US. At the present time there is no US distributor for this product so you will have to contact Electronic Music Works directly (for now) at this link...http://www.electronicmusicworks.com/
UPDATE: Since this review was published there have been some questions and comments that popped up at the Atomic Shadow FB page, Vintage Synth, Sythtopia and new information at Matrixsynth. In no particular order.
My Production figure of 150 to 200 EML-200s appears to be low. One comment at Vintage Synth placed it 500-1,000 but cited no source. Mark Vail's excellent book on Vintage Synthesizers places it around 400. Maybe we will never know the actual number, but whatever it is, they are quite rare. You see many more ARP 2600s coming up on Ebay than EML-200s.
Electronic Music Works does not yet show the unit on their website. Never fear. Just contact Paulo directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to make an order. I paid via payPal and was provided a tracking number that worked with the Postal Service in Brazil and plugged right in to the USPS system once it cleared customs in the US. Safe and secure.
Matrixsynth had some extra information about the updated electronics and scooped me on the upcoming EMW-300 companion controller. Read about it here...http://m.matrixsynth.com/2012/07/atomic-shadow-reviews-electonic-music.html