Keyboardless Synths with Wild 80's Promo Videos

US Millioniser 2000, Synthaxe & WX7      28/05/24

Keyboardless Synths with Wild 80's Promo Videos

Not all synthesizers have keyboards; The 80's was a time of great digital experimentation in terms of user interface (the beginnings of menu-divers anonymous) and expressive control.

Today we're going to look at 3 synths (or MIDI controllers) that broke away from the piano keyboard. Many of these experimental instruments worked over MIDI, but several featured their own proprietary communication protocols. However they worked, most of them had rad 1980's promotional videos, so let's dig in:

Millioniser 2000

This video is everything; we start with a stone monolith that is cracked open to reveal a glowing figure - playing a weird synth harmonica. The voiceover guy then reveals the benefits of the instrument, amongst glowing panel graphics, before we are treated to a mind-bending solo, where a virtuoso, er, Millionist(?) tries his best to make the instrument look cool in front of several backing vocalists. I'm not 100% sure he pulls it off, which makes the whole thing better, in my view!

The synth itself is fairly comprehensive, with 3 DCO's, various filter types, noise & LFO - was the £2K price tag the main reason it didn't sell in huge numbers?


The SynthAxe wasn't merely a MIDI guitar - a variety of different playing styles were made possible by combining a scanning fretboard with velocity sensitive picking strings & even, pressure sensitive pads.

The opening to this video is super 80's - the player lit only by laser-light as a haunting melody plays, amazing! The well-spoken gentleman then takes us through the features of the device. Later on (11:30), there's a rip-roaring slice of 80'sness called "Dolphin Dreams"!

Yamaha WX7

The WX7 wind controller was a popular performance tool for fans of 80's wind. It was often paired with Yamaha's DX & TX range of instruments as, before physical modeling appeared, FM synthesis was quite good at replicating the inharmonicity (squeaks and noises) of various wind instruments.

I'm including this rather conservative video for one reason; at 19:18 the demonstrator stops fiddling about with fake saxophone sounds, and starts to play this weird, future-arpeggio sound. It suddenly then morphs into a guitar tone, peak 80's right there!

Look out for more weird and wild synths & controllers in a future article.

Posted by MagicalSynthAdventure an expert in synthesis technology from last Century and Amiga enthusiast.

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