This Effectology clip was a lot of fun for me to record as I was able to emulate one of my favorite vintage synthesizers: the EMS Synthi AKS.
The EMS Synthi AKS is a portable modular analog synthesizer with a built-in keyboard/sequencer made by EMS in England starting in 1972. The EMS line of synthesizers was used by Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Stereolab, Yes, Aphex Twin, The Who, Todd Rundgren, and many more.
The picture below was taken during the actual recording of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” album. On the right side of the picture you can see David Gilmour setting up the EMS AKS Synthi for a recording.
The EMS synth has:
1. three oscillators
2. a noise generator
3. a ring modulator
4. a low pass filter (VCF)
5. an envelope generator
6. a spring reverb unit
Being way ahead of its time, the AKS also sported a mono 256-note digital sequencer to playback recorded phrases.
While this may seem like a tall order to emulate using just a guitar and floor pedals, you will find that almost all the components listed above already exist in various EHX effect pedals!
The crafty part is just putting the pedals together to produce the EMS Synth sound.
1. The EMS analog synthesizer starts with an oscillator to create the pitch.
That’s easy! We have our guitar string that functions the same way. By adding distortion and filtering to our guitar we can create different “wave forms” just like an analog synthesizer.
2. For a noise generator, I cannot think of a better one than a Big Muff pedal on 10. Think about it: if you stop playing, what you’ll hear is a wall of noise. It is basically just what an analog synth does within its noise module.
3. The ring modulator function is a snap. The EHX Frequency Analyzer pedal is a ring modulator and performs much like the ring-mod in the EMS Synth.
4. A low pass filter is found in many EHX pedals like the POG, POG2 ,HOG and the Microsynth. The Q-tron, Bass Balls and Bi-Filter are also low pass filters that respond to the way you play your guitar. Technically speaking these are called a VCF or Voltage Controlled Filter. (Your picking strength controls how the filter opens and closes. Think “Auto-Wa”.)
5. An envelope generator can be found in the EHX Microsynth, HOG, POG2 and for that matter even a simple volume pedal can do the trick.
In simple terms an envelope generator controls the how long it takes for you to hear your guitar after you pick the note. It can also control how long the note you pick will sustain or how long it takes to fades away.
The envelope generator is an essential tool for making the guitar sound like other instruments.
6. Lastly the EMS spring reverb is also very easy to emulate as there are several EHX reverb pedals that produce not only the spring sound but a digital studio reverb as well.