Synclavier returns: iconic ‘80s brand is back with the Regen desktop synth

You probably never owned a New England Digital Synclavier - an early digital synth that became a fixture in high-end studios in the ‘80s - but you’ve almost certainly heard one.

It’s all over Thriller and Bad, Michael Jackson’s two all-conquering albums of the era, and others users included Tony Banks of Genesis, Geoff Downes of Asia, and Mute Records’ Daniel Miller, whose Synclavier would be used on a few Depeche Mode productions. 

One particularly notable use of the Synclavier (specifically, the Synclavier II) was the intro to MJ's Beat It, which was recorded using one of the instrument's stock presets.

The synth is also remembered for its humongous price tag. A basic system cost $13,000, but adding more features could raise this to as much as $400,000, ensuring that the Synclavier was very much a rich person’s plaything.

Fortunately, this isn’t quite true of the Regen, a new desktop synth bearing the Synclavier name that’s just been announced. Promising to draw on “the rich history of the Synclavier, while simultaneously breaking new ground,” this offers both additive and subtractive synthesis and sampling.

The Regen contains the Synclavier II DSP engine in an enhanced and optimised form. There’s additive synthesis with full control of 24 harmonics, while the inclusion of subtractive synthesis means that super saws, PCM square waves, and noise generation are within reach. You can also use samples for your carrier waveform.

You can mix and match waveforms, building your sounds with up to 12 partials, and crossfades can be assigned to the likes of velocity, pressure, the mod wheel and your keyboard.

Regen comes with more than 250 so-called ‘timbre presets’ including six artist timbre libraries. There are also two exclusive sample libraries containing more than 300 new samples, plus a “mega library” that contains more than 700 original samples from the New England Digital era.

Control options for the Regen include a ‘touch swiper’ and 12 selector pads, and you can assign multiple effects to each of the 12 tracks (the synth is multitimbral or you can stack/layer sounds. Four USB ports enable you to plug in keyboards and other peripherals, and there’s a further port for connection to your DAW. You can keep track of what’s going on via the two high-resolution screens, and there’s a “high fidelity” DC-coupled audio out (stereo XLR or TS) with 130dB of dynamic range.

The Regen is available for pre-order now priced at $2,499 and is expected to ship in January. If that’s a little pricey you could check out Arturia’s Synclavier V, an exacting plugin emulation of the original synth. 

Find out more on the Synclavier Digital website.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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