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Entries in synclavier (1)


The Roots of Modern Production Music: The Synclavier vs. The Fairlight

Before there was Andy Hong, Pro Tools or Logic Pro . . . The roots of digital music lie in a few tools little celebrated - the Fairlight and the Synclavier.

The Synclaviier 2 debuted in May 1980, had 256 preset sounds and a sequencer that could store over 50 mins of information - a breakthrough machine that had a huge impact on modern studio production. Coming to market at around the same time in May 1980 (a huge month for the future of audio creation and manipulation), Linn released the LM-1 drum machine and Fairlight released the CMI. The combination of these tools and the many tools that came after shaped almost everything that happens in modern music production studios today.

The Fairlight and Synclavier were aimed at the same market although the Fairlight was in some way inferior. One advantange, the Fairlight had a light pen that could "draw" sound and that was a breakthrough because it was a concept that the every-day composer could understand. The fundemental difference was that the Fairlight was a sample based technology and the Synclavier, at that time, was a wave generation unit. While the Synclavier was regarded as a more expressive tool, the Fairlight method, with it s pen, grabbed the attention of E-MU systems and they brought out the Emulator in Jan 1981. Although they only sold twenty units, E-MU's introduction of a sound library on a floppy disk was another breakthrough and the technology allowed composers to load up sounds (fx and music) for the very first time (something we take for granted today). Costing about $10,000 at the time, Fairlight was cheaper than the way more expensive Synclaviers that became status symbols for Pop stars. Moreover, Synclavier lacked the same floppy disk capabilities until later as, early on, they regarded "sampling" as cheating and chose instead to focus on sound control (i.e. attack, sustain, vibrato and decay). Given the high costs of the Synclavier, composers sought more economical systems and the Fairlight, EMU and Linn technologies became more popular. Eventually, Syncalvier evolved into Post Pro, an enormously powerful DAW (digital audio workstation) used in high-end recording studios, and the dawn of the DAWs was upon us as post-production moved to a much faster workflow.

The work horses of music production in the 1980s. Both the Synclavier and Fairlight were the state of the art synthesizer/sampler workstations that changed the face of music production for advertising, film and television shows - moving it from the studio age into the digital age. Pioneering sampling, poly-phonic sequencing, and multi-voice articulation and packing up to 28 MB of raw computing power - these keyboard laden stallions were the backbones of many commercial music production houses for many years. Was it the death of the session player or the dawn of a new age? Maybe both . . . but allowing composers to write, arrange, and sequence music in unprecedented ways as well as capture and manipulate instrumentation, voices and samples beyond what was previously imagineable, pushed music production and our industry to exciting new places and paved the way for the tools we used today.