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Elka Synthex

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Elka Synthex
ManufacturerGeneralmusic (GEM, LEM, ELKA)
Technical specifications
Synthesis typeAnalog Subtractive
Storage memory40+40 locations
EffectsChorus, Ring Modulation
Left-hand controlJoystick
External controlCustom interface / MIDI (late models)
Foot switches (Advance, Glide, Hold, Release)

The Elka Synthex is a polyphonic analog 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 490, 610 string machine, the monophonic Solist 505 and the big combo organ/synth X-705. A total of 1850 units were produced. Today is a highly sought-after instrument which recently reached quotations around 8,000 GBP.[1] 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.

Instead 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.[2][3]


Jean-Michel Jarre used the Synthex for the laser harp[4] sound on his Rendez-Vous album.

Geoff Downes of the band Asia used it on their album Astra.

Stevie Wonder used the Synthex on his song "Skeletons".[5]

Martin Gore keyboardist of Depeche Mode used the Synthex a lot in his latest solo album "MG".[6]

When interviewed on Keyboard Magazine he said:

"KM: Was your rig exclusively modular or did you use any more conventional hardware synths? MG: I did use some more conventional stuff. I mean, I love my Elka Synthex."

Nick Rhodes keyboardist of Duran Duran used the Synthex extensively on the album "All You Need Is Now".[7]

When interviewed on Keyboard Magazine he said:

"KM: On the song “Mediterranea,” there’s a sort of bubbling, arpeggiated track in the background. What was that created with? NR: That is actually a pulse. I pulsed it from a cowbell, sort of old school style, like I would have done on “Union of the Snake,” or “Is There Something I Should Know,” and it’s actually the Elka Synthex. There are a lot of layers of Synthex on that particular song—all the beautiful, soft bell tones. It’s particularly good for those."

Rhodes also used the Synthex on various tracks and featured it in the trailer for the Duran Duran album "Paper Gods", according to his recent interview in Keyboard Magazine.[8]

Keith Emerson keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer used the Synthex as pictured and discussed during an interview in Electronics Music & Maker, 1985.[9]

Italian film composer Fabio Frizzi used a prototype Elka Synthex unit heavily in his soundtrack to Lucio Fulci's 1982 film Manhattan Baby.[10]

Italian film music composer Ivan Iusco used the Synthex on his albums Era Vulgaris and Synthagma.


  1. ^ "Elka Synthex Mk3 | RL Music".
  2. ^ Paul Wiffen, "Elka Synthex", Sound On Sound, Dec 1999
  3. ^ Julian Colbeck, Keyfax Omnibus Edition, MixBooks, 1996, p. 20-21
  4. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Jean Michel Jarre - Water for Life (HD) - 12/12. YouTube.
  5. ^ Paul Wiffen, "Elka Synthex", Sound On Sound, Dec 1999
  6. ^ "Martin Gore goes crazy for classic and modular synths on his new solo album | KeyboardMag". Archived from the original on 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  7. ^ "Latest Music, Gear & Equipment News & Musician Interviews". 8 February 2024.
  8. ^ "Latest Music, Gear & Equipment News & Musician Interviews". 8 February 2024.
  9. ^ Goldstein, Dan; Wiffen, Paul (April 1985). "Another Chapter in the Story... (EMM Apr 1985)". Electronics & Music Maker (Apr 1985): 46–48.
  10. ^ From the comments section on Vintage Synth Explorer: "Fabio Frizzi confirmed to me back in January that Gianni Mazza played the prototype Synthex on the "Manhattan Baby" recording sessions back in '82. Frizzi owned a Jupiter-8 at the time (he still have (sic) it!) but as far as he could remember it wasn't used on that score. Maurizio Guarini (of Goblin fame) usually played the synths on Frizzi's scores but this time he was busy working on another production."

External links[edit]