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Fairlight or Synclaviar tales?
Old 23rd June 2008
  #1
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dannygold's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Fairlight or Synclaviar tales?

Anyone here involved with making a record using a Fairlight or Synclaviar back in the day? Any stories you care to share? What was the workflow? What was recorded on tape and what on the Fairlight/Synclaviar? Did you SMPTE it up so you could bounce stuff back and forth from tape? Was it used in mix or everything on tape by then?
Old 23rd June 2008
  #2
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tiny333's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
wow that takes me back !!!

WOOF CLUCK MOOOOO lol
Old 23rd June 2008
  #3
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Dirty Halo's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Both Fairlight CMI & Synclavier

Quote:
Originally Posted by dannygold ➑️
Anyone here involved with making a record using a Fairlight or Synclaviar back in the day? Any stories you care to share? What was the workflow? What was recorded on tape and what on the Fairlight/Synclaviar? Did you SMPTE it up so you could bounce stuff back and forth from tape? Was it used in mix or everything on tape by then?
Can't say I was involved "back in the day", but I am fortunate to have both a Fairlight and Synclavier (their sampling system, not just the early DX type synth). Actually, a Fairlight CMI III and a different suped up Fairlihgt III/MFX (But still the really the musical version, in fact, one drive DOES has many of the sounds for some Tears For Fears album and perhaps some others.

NOTHING like them!

(Killing me because I'm getting pressure to part with at least one or two of the systems O

As for syncing, today, all midi today.

-andrews
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #4
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tiny333's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
they came with a farmyard sample library.....we where so impressedhehheh

spent many wasted hours

we all loved ART OF NOISE

as i recall it was smpte

printed to tape at the end....used for drum programing....and farmyards....

i guess non of us saw where hip hop would take drum sampling.,,,..
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #5
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I owned a Synclavier back in the day.

IMO, it is still the best feeling and sounding sampler/sequencer on the planet. I loved it.
The sequencer was rock solid with amazing feel.
The sampler sounded amazing! I started with the 50khz mono sampling back in 1986.
My midi option on the unit cost me $1500.
My first hard drive was a used 10MB drive. $2,500.

I would lock it to SMPTE and track somethings to my JH24.
But all in all, it was FAR more stable than the DX7, Mirage and Linn 9000 I was using before that.
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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dlmorley's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Fairlights are just lovely machines. Servicing is a pain, but they are reliable when sorted.
I have a Series I, a Series IIx and a series III. The series III won't boot alas.
I also just picked up a 24 ch MFX3+ for peanuts but that doesn't have the series III stuff anymore.
No stories, but many fun sessions with my IIx. Amazingly intuitive and unique sounding machine
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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Michael Maeurer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I had the chance to work for a while with a CMI III and I love the sequencer inside (Page RS), the sound was always amazing (you could hear which sound came from the CMI) although it was as loud as hell with its 6 fans in the power supply. I also repaired the one I was working with and still have an external 190MB drive with sounds on it. Does anybody wanna have?? heh

@Dirty Halo
You are a gearslut indeed with 2 Fairlights and a Synclavier...

@dlmorley
Where are you located in Belgium? Maybe I can try to help, also if you need an external SCSI HD from Fairlight let me know. heh
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #8
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dlmorley's Avatar
 
2 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikesilence ➑️
I had the chance to work for a while with a CMI III and I love the sequencer inside (Page RS), the sound was always amazing (you could hear which sound came from the CMI) although it was as loud as hell with its 6 fans in the power supply. I also repaired the one I was working with and still have an external 190MB drive with sounds on it. Does anybody wanna have?? heh

@Dirty Halo
You are a gearslut indeed with 2 Fairlights and a Synclavier...

@dlmorley
Where are you located in Belgium? Maybe I can try to help, also if you need an external SCSI HD from Fairlight let me know. heh
Hey Mike!
I am near Leuven (kind of 1 hr from Aachen)
Any help would be appreciated..thx!
I'll drop you mail anyway..
Old 23rd June 2008
  #9
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
We used to use the Synclavier for pitch correcting vocal parts. We'd dump each problematic line in from a Mitsubishi 48 track, automate the pitch wheel for the correction, then dump it back to tape. I worked with a producer who hired a keyboard player with perfect pitch to come in and ride the pitch wheel too.

Tim
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #10
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dannygold's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Timsplace ➑️
We used to use the Synclavier for pitch correcting vocal parts. We'd dump each problematic line in from a Mitsubishi 48 track, automate the pitch wheel for the correction, then dump it back to tape. I worked with a producer who hired a keyboard player with perfect pitch to come in and ride the pitch wheel too.

Tim
That's amazing. There were similar tricks done with Eventides too I recall. Make you actually APPRECTIATE autotune.
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #11
Here for the gear
 
🎧 15 years
Wow, someone had to bring this up. I suppose I should add that I still work on Synclavier systems on a regular basis, and I think most folks would be shocked if they realized even today, just how much of what the hear at the movie theater or on TV still has music or sound effects that were generated on a Synclav system. Yes, they're big and old. Yes, they're 16-bit. Yes they generate more heat then a room full of pc's. Say what you want, but they still sound amazing! And for those in the industry who learned to use them they are still a very powerful instrument that has never been duplicated.

There I'm done.
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #12
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RKrizman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Shepperd ➑️
I owned a Synclavier back in the day.

IMO, it is still the best feeling and sounding sampler/sequencer on the planet. I loved it.
The sequencer was rock solid with amazing feel.
The sampler sounded amazing! I started with the 50khz mono sampling back in 1986.
My midi option on the unit cost me $1500.
My first hard drive was a used 10MB drive. $2,500.

I would lock it to SMPTE and track somethings to my JH24.
But all in all, it was FAR more stable than the DX7, Mirage and Linn 9000 I was using before that.
I used to work on a Synclav system probably even further "back in the day"--actually the one that did the famous opening notes on the "Thriller" album. Originally it was just FM synthesis, with a sequencer that would drift and lose its groove the more parts you played into it (found this out the hard way many times). Eventually we got the sampling, which was monophonic. It was most notable for having a vocal sample of Buffy St. Marie, which we used the crap out of on General Hospital cues. Of course since it was strictly monophonic the only way you could get any sort of legato line would be to play the line into the sequencer, then lock to tape and track every other note, then go back and track the "other" every other notes. I can't tell you how much time we wasted on this.

I think my friend with the Synclav finally bailed when the original $80,000 MIDI option became available. I started to work on borrowed Emulators, finally got a Mirage and never looked back.

Still, the damn thing sounded good. That early FM implementation was extremely interesting, and certainly more engaging and better sounding than the DX7 that eventually came to define that technology.

The best thing about the fact that the Synclav was kind of lame was that almost all the sessions I produced had first rate live musicians playing in great studios in real time.

-R
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #13
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tiny333's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
wow you guys are amazing

i thought i was old and knew everything but you really are and really do !!!

rkrizman.....he best thing about the fact that the Synclav was kind of lame was that almost all the sessions I produced had first rate live musicians playing in great studios in real time.


aint that the truth !!!

interesting to hear that some of you are still using them....

general WOW

Last edited by tiny333; 23rd June 2008 at 10:30 PM.. Reason: k
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #14
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kafka's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hey, that's cool. Where can I find a Synclavier plug-in? heh
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #15
ITJ
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ITJ's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Shepperd ➑️
My first hard drive was a used 10MB drive. $2,500.

That makes me feel better. I bought an Apple HD20 for $900. It was a pre-SCSI 20MB drive with a Mac 128k. I was using it with an Emulator II and Sound Designer.


As for the Fairlight I saw a demo with Jan Hammer(Miami Vice Days) at AES(LA) 1980? and it never really worked properly. I think it was operator error as it was quite a party.
Old 23rd June 2008 | Show parent
  #16
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ITJ ➑️
That makes me feel better. I bought an Apple HD20 for $900. It was a pre-SCSI 20MB drive with a Mac 128k.
I still have my Mac 128KE with a 20 MB hard drive (bought it in 1984).
And it still works! thumbsup
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Addict
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka ➑️
Hey, that's cool. Where can I find a Synclavier plug-in? heh
Don't laugh. There WAS talk a while back of Synclavier being resurrected on PCI cards. Do you guys remember the giant optical drives they had for storage? One of the engineers I used to work with put together a HUGE sample library for Synclavier that was stored on these monsters (they were cartridge loaded optical drives the size of a large pizza). When it was time to load the "Bosendorfer grand piano" we'd need a hand-truck and have to take a lunch break while it loaded.

Tim
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #18
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
The only "story I care to share" was from back when I was selling pro audio retail at LaSalle in Watertown MA and we had a Fairlight CMI II in the recording room. One of the guys who worked in the sound reinforcement department used to do a demo of Audio-Technica ATM25a mics that involved throwing them against the wall as hard as he could (to show how their windscreens did not dent, unlike an SM58). For some reason he was in my room with a potential client when he decided to perform this ATM25a trick. Mic bounces off the wall, hits the Fairlight keyboard, and breaks 2 keys. Repair bill was over $500 as I recall.

A couple months later we wound up selling that Fairlight to Kool & The Gang.
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #19
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🎧 15 years
Synhouse is the guy to go to for a synclavier today
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #20
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Sigma's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
fairlight [jim's on here] , syclavier, and PPG wave here..so long ago i forget specific projects..i think the snclavier had that big [physically] winchester drive

i do remember seeing sting at th echina club in NYC i believe where there ws a stage set ip for a full band but no one came onstage but him with a syclavier
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Fairlight memories

Memories, memories. I had one of the first ones in Australia. In fact, I lived just down the road from the factory in Sydny, so ended up spending quite a bit of time there. As one of the earliest owners, I also contributed to the library in exchange for service, updates etc.

I also toured with mine. Yikes. I remember one scary moment in Darwin of all places, where we opened the truck to find general carnage. Guitar amps are relatively easy to repair, but Fairlights ... I had a few dates on the tour trying to fake it with some borrowed synths.

As for SMPTE etc. .. one of the great joys of the Fairlight was that it would sync to tone. The standard trick was to use one channel to send tone into the sync port. If you hit a note on the "tone "channel, it would just start playing. Very useful for live.

Had mine for 4 or 5 years before MIDI came along and I saw the writing on the wall, and sold it for a goodly sum, which I used to invest in early Emus. But always miss/remember my old beige monster.

B
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #22
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dannygold's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
how about this as a followup question... can anyone recommend a couple records that are good examples of these in use? EG what are one or two really fairlight heavy records and one or two really synclaviar heavy records?
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #23
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T_R_S's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka ➑️
Hey, that's cool. Where can I find a Synclavier plug-in? heh
I bought the Syclav Library for Samplecell The CD's all work in Stucture.
I used several Synclav strings on the new Into Eternity CD.
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #24
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Tony Shepperd's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dannygold ➑️
how about this as a followup question... can anyone recommend a couple records that are good examples of these in use? EG what are one or two really fairlight heavy records and one or two really synclaviar heavy records?
Check here:
Synclavier - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


My favorites would be:
Scritti Politti's Provision
Anything that Peter Wolf produced.
And one of the most memorable Synclavier projects would be the Frank Zappa, Jazz from Hell CD.
Jazz from Hell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Back in 1990 when i entered the game i would only DREAM about these wondermachines. Just the design would make my draws drop. Allmost every night i would read about them in this ol'skool synth book call "Keyfax" and hope that one day i would afford them.

The closest i would come 3 years later was PPG 2.3+Waveterm, Emulator 3 and Emulator 2. Im still owning the Emulator 2 ;-)

Those early fairlight and Synclavier sound libs where legendary and it could be fun to hear how they where created by the people, who actually did them........
Old 24th June 2008 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Guru
 
chrisso's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Almost any pop album from the late 80's would see heavy Fairlight or Synclavier use.
Pet Shop Boys, Prince, Trevor Horn productions. The Art Of Noise being a classic.

I remember doing many sessions alongside a Fairlight programmer.
Regarding workflow, well it slowed to a snails pace.
Everything was run from the Fairlight. Any real playing was checked against the Fairlight. Could the Fairlight play the part better? Could the Fairlight improve the the live musicians part.
I remember albums getting anal, when everything was either programmed into the Fairlight, or checked against the Fairlight, or edited, tightened, polished in the Fairlight.

Listening back to many of those albums now, they sound too big and perfect.
The backlash came when artists started listening to the clunky sounding and imperfect playing on old funk and soul records, and started sampling them.

The Fairlight and Synclavier groove is great though, and the sound superb.
It was just a bit overdone at the time.
The funniest thing to me though was that most programmers had put the same amount into their Fairlights as it cost to buy an apartment.
Not many years later, instead of owning an apartment they owned a sampler that was worth $1,000 to $2,000.
Old 26th June 2008 | Show parent
  #27
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Michael Maeurer's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
By the way, for Synclavier there is Mitch Marcoulier and this site:
Welcome to Synclavier!

Old 26th June 2008 | Show parent
  #28
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Bob Ross's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by dannygold ➑️
how about this as a followup question... can anyone recommend a couple records that are good examples of these in use? EG what are one or two really fairlight heavy records and one or two really synclaviar heavy records?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Shepperd ➑️
And one of the most memorable Synclavier projects would be the Frank Zappa, Jazz from Hell CD.
Jazz from Hell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yeah, Zappa's Jazz From Hell or the non-live half of The Perfect Stranger are great examples of what a strictly Synclavier album can be...although Frank himself admitted that his Synclavier didn't even have the sampling option when he did the tracks on The Perfect Stranger so it was basically a glorified DX-7.

My favorite Fairlight example is Peter Gabriel's Security.
Old 26th June 2008 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
In 2000 I went to work for a battleship sized studio and was given a control room to use for my own work.
I already had a fairly knocked-out Mac, Studio Vision Pro, Sample Cell, DigiDesign recording rig and I had finished hundreds of production music library cuts on it, so I was set.

In the corner was the tower from a full blown Synclavier system.
I had all of the sampling upgrades as well as the 16-track recording option.
One day the owner of the facility asked if I would like to get the thing re-assembled and running.
I though, Well, cool! A new toy to play with!"

It took me a couple of days, but I was able to get it all up and running except for the 16-track recording portion.

They had up-graded the interface and it was "controlled" with a Mac (a Mac 7100?)

I used the Synclavier KYBD to control my MIDI rig and I could also use the Synclavier, but it took me only a few hours to realize that my Studio Vison Pro software was way more advanced than the sequencing pages (what were the called? Page R?)

In the end I had my rig triggering the Synclavier sounds via MIDI and I even eventually gave up on the Synclavier KYBD because it actually triggered too much like a piano action which made writing MIDI drums parts VERY difficult.
I used my Roland KYBD instead after about a week.... the Synclavier LOOKED cooler!
The sounds were fantastic and the partial mixing was fun, but the whole system was terribly cumbersome compared to even my year 2000 rig.

The sounds were awesome and the timing resolution was amazing, but it was a tank to manipulate through simple stuff.

I think I sequenced about three cuts using it and the MIDI parts were all dumped to ADAT for project I was shipping back and forth across the country.
One project was follow a up to the stupid Billy Bass talking fish thing.
Yeah... I recorded music for those stupid singing and dancing toys for a few months.
The sad truth is that by 2000 even my home sequencing rig using a Mac IIci and SVP was far more powerful than a Synclavier!

PLUS.... the owner of the rig was a software genius, but he thought that N.E.D.'s use of XPL as a programming language severely hobbled the possibilities and future of that platform.

It was intersting to see what the system that the still awesome Frank Zappa material was realized on. I was able to get a glimpse at what he use to create music.

Sadly after I left that studio a few months later the Synclavier was shut off and never used again.
It lives in warehouse with a useless SONY 3324 DASH machine and a bunch of other obsolete didgital (DigiDesign cards and, computers and stuff.)
Old 27th June 2008 | Show parent
  #30
Here for the gear
 
🎧 15 years
I said I was done but reading some of these post makes me laugh and cringe at the same time. Systems like the Synclavier and Fairlight pushed the envelope of what was possible in the late 70's. 80's and right up until the early 90's. I am not a Fairlight expert, worked for the opposition, but I can say without hesitation that the accuracy of the Synclavier's sequencer far surpassed that of any MIDI system at the time. Even today, with many systems running on newer PCI based Mac interfaces, those machines are still putting out block-buster material that everyone is listening to and they don't even realize it. Sure, you can perform many of the same functions today by ganging together a combination of computer based tools, and there's nothing wrong with that either. But a Synclavier in the hands of a skilled user is still a powerful machine. And they still sound amazing. Combine one with Pro Tools or whatever your favorite DAW is, and your can work wonders if you know what you're doing. Folks like Tony will know what I'm talking about. They had to make a living on them before Digi was even an idea scratched on a napkin.

You may be too young to have ever have even heard of either one of these systems, but give credit where its due. Much of what you take for granted now was first driven by these pioneering 'relics' that you're dis'ng.
πŸ“ Reply

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