Steiner-Parker Synthacon

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Steiner-Parker Synthacon, Tecnópolis Sonora 1 (clip).jpg
Steiner-Parker Synthacon
Technical specifications
Oscillator3 VCO
Synthesis typeanalog subtractive
Filter2-pole resonant low-pass
Attenuator2 ADSR envelope generators
Effectssample and hold, portamento
Keyboard49 keys
External controlCV/Gate

The Steiner-Parker Synthacon is a monophonic analog synthesizer that was built between 1975 and 1979 by Steiner-Parker, a Salt Lake City-based synthesizer manufacturer. It was introduced as a competitor to other analog synthesizers, like the Minimoog and ARP Odyssey.

The Synthacon includes three voltage-controlled oscillators, a two-pole resonant Sallen Key filter, two ADSR envelope generators, a pink and white noise generator, and a 49-key keyboard. While the Synthacon was not a modular system, signal routing could be achieved through a series of switches. Although Steiner-Parker only sold a few hundred units, the filter of the Synthacon is still in use in modern modular synthesizers and a modern analog mono synthesizer, the Arturia MiniBrute.


The Synthacon was first released in 1975 as a more affordable competitor to the Minimoog and ARP Odyssey.[1] It uses the same circuitry as Steiner-Parker's modular synthesizer of the same period, the SynthaSystem.[2] The Synthacon's filter was designed by company co-founder Nyle Steiner.[1]

Synthesis model[edit]

The Synthacon is a monophonic analog synthesizer. It uses three voltage-controlled oscillators (VCOs) as sound sources. One oscillator could generate sine or sawtooth waves, and the other two could each generate either sawtooth, pulse, or triangle waves.[3] The synthesizer was also capable of generating white and pink noise.[2] Unlike those on the Minimoog, the oscillator controls on the Synthacon were placed on the right side of the sloped control panel; the Minimoog placed them on the left side.[4]

The filter for the Synthacon, designed by Nyle Steiner, is a 12db/octave multimode filter capable of functioning as a resonant low-pass filter, a high-pass filter, or a band-pass filter.[2][5] Like the contemporary Minimoog filter, the Steiner-Parker filter is capable of self-oscillation. Because the filter uses positive feedback, increasing the resonance does not cause the audio output to lose amplitude, as it does in the Minimoog and other analog synthesizers.[1]

Several types of modulation are available on the Synthacon. Each oscillator can be modulated against the second ADSR envelope, another VCO, the keyboard, the noise generator, or the sample-and-hold effect.[3] The VCF can also be modulated by the second ADSR envelope, the keyboard, one of the VCOs, or the sample-and-hold. The VCA is modulated by the first ADSR envelope.[2]


According to designer Nyle Steiner, "several hundred Synthacons were made and sold". The Synthacon is considered to be relatively rare.[3]


The Synthacon's filter circuit, often referred to as a Steiner filter, can be found in contemporary modular synthesizer designs due to its low cost and relative ease of construction.[6]

The Arturia MiniBrute uses a 12db/octave multimode filter, designed by Yves Usson under guidance from Nyle Steiner, based on the Steiner-Parker Synthacon filter.[1] The filter for the MiniBrute incorporates improvements on the circuit design to reduce the “chaotic behaviour“ (as Yves is naming it) [7] of the original design.[5] Usson insisted on the Steiner-Parker filter because of its versatility and its distinctive sound, which separates it from the 24db/octave filter used for synthesizers such as the Minimoog.[8]

See also[edit]

  • Swede Patch 2000 — a synthesizer/guitar hybrid for which Steiner-Parker developed the Microcon, a smaller version of the Synthacon, around 1977


  1. ^ a b c d Mark Vail (22 January 2014). The Synthesizer: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding, Programming, Playing, and Recording the Ultimate Electronic Music Instrument. Oxford University Press. pp. 158–159. ISBN 978-0-19-933486-5.
  2. ^ a b c d "Steiner Parker Synthacon". Vintage Synth. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Synthacon". November 14, 2006. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  4. ^ Mark Jenkins (19 October 2009). Analog Synthesizers: Understanding, Performing, Buying--From the Legacy of Moog to Software Synthesis. CRC Press. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-136-12278-1.
  5. ^ a b Reid, Gordon (March 2012). "Arturia MiniBrute: Analog Monosynth". Sound on Sound. Retrieved 6 August 2015.
  6. ^ "Synthetic Sound Labs Intros Enhanced Steiner Filter Module". Synthtopia. December 8, 2014. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  7. ^ "Improved Steiner VCF".
  8. ^ Usson, Yves (15 November 2012). "Yves Usson – Co-developer of the Arturia MiniBrute" (Interview). Interviewed by Peter M. Mahr. Great Synthesizers. Retrieved 6 August 2015.