Lot #2112
The Processor: Analog Music Synthesizer

'The Processor'—a hand-built mid-1970s prototype music synthesizer
This lot has closed

Estimate: $25000+


'The Processor'—a hand-built mid-1970s prototype music synthesizer

Impressive analog music synthesizer prototype named 'The Processor,' one of two examples designed and built circa 1975 by electrical engineers Dennis Drew and Thomas Sawyer. The huge unit measures approximately 41″ x 32″ x 19″, and was built to transform the sound of one musical instrument into that of another in real time. The Processor performs its signal transformations by sending audio through a series of discrete devices pre-wired to perform dedicated signal modifications with musical intent. Unlike a conventional synthesizer which uses oscillators, white noise generators and other devices to produce new sounds (which can then be modified with filters, envelope shaping, etc.), the Processor creates no actual sounds on its own. The Processor is a 'pass-through' system that transforms, augments, modifies and converts musical signals into other sounds, in real time, using pure analog circuitry. Some results resemble other musical instruments, whereas other sounds are completely unique.

It is important to note that the Processor is a 'closed loop' system. This is entirely analog circuitry, there are no digital transformations or computerized functions. By routing a signal through a mixer, dynamic limiters, phase-shifting modules, delay lines, and 'signal seeking' filters, the Processor 'extracts' hidden tonal components and adds them selectively to the original sound, or it produces entirely new sounds depending on the requirements. It works particularly well for instruments with wide dynamic ranges, long sustains and/or continuous signal characteristics. Harmonically rich instruments such as piano or organ, acoustic guitar and most stringed instruments capable of both long tones and percussive effects work especially well. It includes a control console that has meters to indicate dynamic response and signal levels, and a joystick to make adjustments. It is currently partially operational: those modules that are physically powered are active, but six missing FLT cables prevent the whole system from operating. This piece will be crated and shipped from New York; the buyer is responsible for all associated costs.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Science & Technology and Space Exploration
  • Dates: #588 - Ended July 16, 2020