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Synton Fenix I thread
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Author Synton Fenix I thread
matt23
so is it the Fenix 1 or Fenix I? Or perhaps as Marc and Bert intended... The Fénix hmmm.....

Hi my name is Matt and many years ago I used to run the Fenix mailing list. It was fairly low-traffic but it had some interesting content. The postings dwindled and one day after a server move, I hadn't recreated the list and no one seemed to notice. smile

So anyway, fast-forward about 100 Internet Years and here we are. I see there are some other Fenix 1/I owners on Muff's Modules forums so I thought this might be a good place to reboot some discussion on the Fenix I.

Of course these days we have the Fenix II, but since they are so different from each other I figured it best to leave that thread creation to someone else. If anyone thinks it more appropriate to have a single Fenix thread for the all the models, please sing out.

I am hoping to re-kindle some discussion here, mainly with regard to patches and Fenix information and topics of interest. Personally, I'm rediscovering my Fenix after years of slacking.

To get things started, here are some webcam pics Marc posted to the Fenix majordomo list back in '98. Amazing what passed for picture geometry back in those days. smile It took a bit of finagling to get these pictures back from digital obscurity: they were in a Stuffit archive attachment which was posted to the mailing list. But the submission had bounced so I had to export the mail message and then decode it manually with 'base64'. But the Mac made short work of the Stuffit archive.

If I remember correctly, Marc sent these to show he was off his feet and Fenix I production had slowed as a result. Also, he just wanted to share some pics from his place and a view from his home on the water. enjoy!

http://imgur.com/a/Djhny
matt23
Sawtooth what?

Quote:
From: paap <marc.paping@cameo.nl>
Subject: [Fenix] Fenix Trivia
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 21:35:52 +0200

Hi friends,

Here's a piece of utterly useless trivia about the Fenix:

How can you find out if the sawtooth waves on the VCO's ramp upwards or
down?
Sure, the down-ramp icons are on the front panel, but how can you tell
if they are correct if you have no oscilloscope?


Hint: It involves the Slew Limiter module.


Answer: The Slew Limiter limits the speed that a voltage increases (Rise

control) or decreases (Fall control). By its nature, it attenuates high
frequencies (= fast voltage swings). You can think if it as a sub-audio
lowpass filter, just like the portamento module.

If you listen to a sawtooth through the SL module, you'll find that the
Rise & Fall controls respond slightly different. That's how you'll know!

Low frequencies work best for obvious reasons.

Marc
chamomileshark
Isn't it easier to connect it to an oscillator and see if the pitch goes down or up?
matt23
chamomileshark wrote:
Isn't it easier to connect it to an oscillator and see if the pitch goes down or up?


Hm well in this case, Marc was talking about the VCO's waveform itself. I just posted that old email from the list since it's one of the patches not mentioned in the manuals or on the Fenix website.

Hey any Fenix 1 owners ever synthesize a passable cymbal sound? And by passable I mean: it would be an interesting high-end sound to use rhythmically that vaguely sounds like a piece of ringing metal smile

Since the Fenix doesn't have 12 VCOs my guess is making a "real" cymbal sound is not going to happen.
chamomileshark
ok, I'm used to oscillators that go into LFO territory.
matt23
yeah the VCOs on the Fenix 1 go pretty low..I have never hooked them up to my frequency counter. That might be fun smile Actually these days, probably easier to sample it and look at it in software. razz
matt23
ok speaking of bells and/or cymbals... just got a decent bell-like patch going. Strangely, FM did not do well in this patch so I removed it. Wish the FM on the Fenix 1 was knob-controllable, I guess I could route it though an Audio/CV mixer if I weren't so lazy. But that laziness brought me some decent bell sounds in spite of the lack of direct FM. Using white noise is probably a bit of a cheat but I have it dialed down quite a bit so it doesn't jump out.

Bell / cymbal-ish sound.

patching:

VCO1 - pulse wave, double patched to
VCO3 CV2
VCO2 CV2

VCO2 - pulse wave, patched to MIX2 A input

VCO3 - pulse wave, patched to MIX2 B input

VCF1 - hi pass out to VCA1 audio input
audio in from MIX3 output

LFO3 - patch to EG1 gate input
* this is just a convenient trigger source

EG1 - A/D output to VCA1 CV input

MIX2 - audio output to MIX3 audio A input

Analog noise - MIX3 Audio B input

MIX3 - see above

VCA1 - final audio stage output to tip+ring / system audio
or route through MIX1 first for attenuation control


knobs:

VCO1 - 3 oclock (about 1 kHz)
tune: center
PW: 2 oclock

VCO2 - 3 oclock (about 1.3 kHz)
tune: 1 oclock

VCO3 - 3:30
tune: 11 oclock
CV2: 1 oclock

EG1 A/D - 2 oclock

MIX2 - 1 oclock
MIX3 - 9 oclock

Analog noise: 12 oclock


adjust:
* VCF1 for balance of low end in 'clang'
* EG1 A/D for overall length of ringing
* MIX2 for balance of VCO2 and VCO1 audio
in this patch, VCO2 is more present as lower freq components
* MIX3 for balance of VCO audio and Analog noise

general VCO adjustments to get 'ringing' (npi) from chorusing



If anyone's interested I can post some sound clips.
Reese P. Dubin
I dont remember if the saws were up or down ramp. However, i do know that ALL of the waves were the most textbook perfect I have ever looked at on my scope. Often it is said that this does not translate necessarily to the best tone, but they sounded amazing.

I sold my Fenix last month, but feel the FII more than covers its bases. It feels and sounds like military hardware. I will forever prefer the patchbay on the original, but I cant get too sentimental anymore. FII is the best synth I will ever likely own made by others hands, but the original is still my favorite, so make sense of that.
matt23
ah ok Reese thx I wasn't sure if you were still running with your F1 ... congrats on the upgrade! nanners
Morley
I LOVE the knobs on the Fenix I over the II. Amazing sounding synth.
The Fenix II is my main synth now along with the Fenix III.
Marc and Bert are fab. I'll buy anything they put out.
synthfanatic
Thanks for starting this thread and sharing those photos. I own a Synton Fenix and purchased it used over ten years ago. Back then, the price was only $2000, which was a bargain! At the time, I considered getting a ARP 2600, EMS VCS3, or a Doepfer Eurorack modular. I am glad I went with the Fenix as it has got a very idiosyncratic feature set, is fun to use, and sounds incredible.

As appealing as building a custom modular is to some, I prefer self contained systems as it allows for creative limitations and prevents gear acquisition syndrome. At the end of the day, I don't want to spend too much of my time and money thinking about what other modules to get, and would rather focus on making music with what I got. The Synton Fenix comes prepackaged with some well thought-out specifications and gives me exactly what I need.

I considered a Fenix II & Fenix III, but I ended up passing up the opportunity as I didn't want to stuff more gear in my already cramped apartment, and decided to use the money toward a EMS Synthi A instead.

Is there anyway anyone can share the mailing list archives? I believe I used to be on it about a decade ago, before the message threads started dying off...
matt23
thanks for chiming in, synthfanatic! yeah I can dig those up. might have to repackage them, not sure if I have them in their original majordomo-based archive format.

I am curious to see how other people are managing their Fenix I's ... I had ordered one of those Proel cases but it arrived conveniently pre-broken (thanks UPS!) I dropped the ball on following up on that since I was moving at the time.

I read how one MW member apparently used an SKB case by filing down the rails in the case (!) and apparently another used an SKB case but didn't have to alter the rails thanks to some clever insertion technique. Hmm that's an interesting term. meh
matt23
here's an interesting (and bittersweet) post from the past:

Quote:

From: Coil <john@[redacted]>
Subject: [Fenix] COIL live at royal festival hall
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2000 09:32:02 +0000

Hi

We are playing the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday 19th a5 7.30.
Utilising the sound of 3 linked Fenixes plus 2 live on stage as well
as ARP 2600 and ARP sequencer, VL-1, Synthi AKS and much more. It
will be a real workout for the dream machines.If people can make it we
would be very happy.

many thanks

John Balance of COIL


RIP, John and Peter. Om
dogoftears
does Thighpaulsandra still have/use the Fenix I? Coil's work with this synth is pretty incredible.
Reese P. Dubin
I had mine in a plywood box, attached to a turn of the century cast iron drafting table base. The height could be raised from sitting to standing level, and everywhere in between. The angle is also totally adjustable from vertical to flat, also turning 360 degrees.

The best stand EVER, and you would have to attack it like a linebacker to knock it over and probably fail. What do you know thats where II lives now. Tho I do need to make a nicer box for it. Maybe I will post a photo someday.
synthfanatic
Matt23, if you have the archives, please don't hesitate to contact me privately off this thread.

I currently have mine standing upright next to my trusty old Atari 1040 STE. I had a SKB pop-up case originally but it was big and bulky and didn't fit the Fenix properly so I got rid of it. Part of the appeal of the Synton Fenix is that you get a lot of functionality in such a small form factor and I thought the case detracted from the intended design.

There are a few "famous" artists that own the original Fenix. I believe Coil, Thighpaulsandra, Richard James, Experimental Audio Research, all own one. I recently saw a cameo appearance of the original Fenix in the Depeche Mode video seen here:

Depeche Mode In The Studio
sonicwarrior
matt23 wrote:
Sawtooth what?

Quote:
From: paap <plain email address in the original posting>


Someone is happy about new offers he got per email now. razz Mr. Green
matt23
sonicwarrior wrote:
matt23 wrote:
Sawtooth what?

Quote:
From: paap <plain email address in the original posting>


Someone is happy about new offers he got per email now. razz Mr. Green


heh no worries there, Marc moved from that cameo.nl address long before the Fenix mailing list went off the air. He moved 2 or 3 times, iirc. Cameo.nl is up for sale by some registrar. Make them an offer! hyper
moog55
i was on the list for the original fenix and even had the recommended (at the time) special italian-made case that allowed it to sit up at a 45 degree angle, but my isp went tits up and i ended up being out of the loop on the internet for a month or so. i tried to contact to marc and did not receive a reply and ultimately lost my opportunity to purchase the fenix. still not sure why i never heard back from them to this day. sigh.

if anyone wants to sell theirs, let me know. smile
hellohihowareyou
FII + FIII owner here just came across this thread and enjoyed reading the old mailing list posts. If you dig up any other fun stuff, matt, please share :)
xpando
original Fenix I owner here. i will never sell mine. im currently building a Bugbrand based skiff to use with it.
Morley
xpando wrote:
original Fenix I owner here. i will never sell mine. im currently building a Bugbrand based skiff to use with it.

Nice. I'd love some bugbrand to go with my Fenix.
michaelvertex
hellohihowareyou wrote:
FII + FIII owner here just came across this thread and enjoyed reading the old mailing list posts. If you dig up any other fun stuff, matt, please share smile


Agreed! Maybe they aren't so dissimilar to have an open forum to discuss all things Synton since I pretty sure they re-used some schematics to build their platform on
michaelvertex
Yesterday i was curious about the similarities in both machines so i emailed bert i thought it would be appropriate to post his response here...

"basicly the cores of the vco vcf and VCA are allmost the same in both synths.
I found small improvements,  but that i found that they are improvements but mayby not soundwise allways improvements, but more technical"
Sonic boom
matt23 wrote:
Sawtooth what?

Quote:
From: paap <marc.paping@cameo.nl>
Subject: [Fenix] Fenix Trivia
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 21:35:52 +0200

Hi friends,

Here's a piece of utterly useless trivia about the Fenix:

How can you find out if the sawtooth waves on the VCO's ramp upwards or
down?
Sure, the down-ramp icons are on the front panel, but how can you tell
if they are correct if you have no oscilloscope?


Hint: It involves the Slew Limiter module.


Answer: The Slew Limiter limits the speed that a voltage increases (Rise

control) or decreases (Fall control). By its nature, it attenuates high
frequencies (= fast voltage swings). You can think if it as a sub-audio
lowpass filter, just like the portamento module.

If you listen to a sawtooth through the SL module, you'll find that the
Rise & Fall controls respond slightly different. That's how you'll know!

Low frequencies work best for obvious reasons.

Marc




Marc's vibes and designs and Berts expertise in carry thru reality = one the best fixed format semi-modulars - (FFSM's) ever .
It might'nt have the looks of some , but the sonic design is stunning ...

When i picked up my fenix 1 from marc he showed me a trick where u take 2 diff waves from the osc , route thru the 2 inputs of the vc mix & yse the same osc's sub output as the cv input to the mix ....

....this is the sort of sound all synths should be able to generate ..
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