Elka Synthex

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Elka Synthex
Elka Synthex
Manufactured by Elka
Dates 1981-1985
Price 2,500 British Pounds
Technical specifications
Polyphony 8
Timbrality 4
Synthesis type Analog Subtractive
Memory 40+40 locations
Effects Chorus, Ring Modulation
Keyboard 61-key
Left-hand control Joystick
External control Custom interface / MIDI (late models)
Foot switches (Advance, Glide, Hold, Release)

The Elka Synthex is an analog, polyphonic hybrid music synthesizer produced by Italian music instrument manufacturer Elka from 1981 to 1985.


The Synthex was conceived and developed by independent Italian designer Mario Maggi, who then gained the financial backing of the Elka company of Italy, who produced the synthesizer from 1981 to 1985. Elka, a company more noted for its organs, had previously introduced their Rhapsody string synthesizer, and viewed the Synthex as a quick way to gain a greater share of the professional synthesizer market. The Synthex was not a commercial success, but today is a highly sought-after instrument. It was succeeded by the Elka EK-22 (based on the CEM3396 chip which was also featured in e.g. Oberheim's Matrix line of synthesizers) and the Elka EK-44 (based on Yamaha's 4-OP FM).

Features and architecture[edit]

The Synthex is an 8-voice analog synthesizer with 2 oscillators per note, separate envelope generators, and chorus. The use of stable DCOs (digitally controlled analog oscillators) and oscillator cross modulation of Pulse Width and a multimode filter made it unique in its time. Unusually, the Synthex also contained a built in real-time and step-time 4-track monophonic sequencer with real-time transposition. The four different sequencer tracks can have different length, and sounds (Upper/Lower can be allocated to different tracks). Also it is possible to insert rests between notes as well as length of notes. Sequences and patches could be dumped to analog cassette tape through an audio interface. Each of the eight voices has 2 DCOs with selectable waveform. The Synthex has three keyboard modes. 8 voice single sound (both Lower/Upper voices), Split with user selected split point (4 voices Lower/4 voices Upper) or Double which reduce the polyphony to four voices. Later versions implemented basic MIDI functions.

In lieu of traditional pitchbend/modulation wheels, the Synthex employs a joystick which allows for greater variable real-time control over the two LFOs, oscillator and filter modulation. The 6 sliders beside the joystick assign what (LFO, osc and filter) goes to the joystick. Voices can also be layered or split across the keyboard. Other features include the onboard digital Ring-Modulator, Chorus effect and Dual or Layer modes available.[1][2]


Jean Michel Jarre used the Synthex for the laser harp sound on his Rendez-Vous album. Geoff Downes of the band Asia used it on their album Astra, and Stevie Wonder used the Synthex on his song "Skeletons".[3]


  1. ^ Paul Wiffen, "Elka Synthex", Sound On Sound, Dec 1999
  2. ^ Julian Colbeck, Keyfax Omnibus Edition, MixBooks, 1996, p. 20-21
  3. ^ Paul Wiffen, "Elka Synthex", Sound On Sound, Dec 1999

External links[edit]