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  EX50(L) At a Glance
Picture needed arrowReleased: 1987  Specifications
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Mather's Studios () writes:
This is actually an electronic organ with a double manual and pedalboard as opposed to a synthesizer, but works much in the same way as some of the preset synthesizers which have been posted at this site.

This was my second instrument, which I was bought in 1990, and am still using to this very day. I use it a lot for jamming, but since buying a digital recorder with an effects procesor, I have started to use the instrument for more serious composition work.

As regards the appearance of the instrument, it has sat in the front room of our house for the last 12 years and still never fails to amaze anyone who sets eyes upon it. Built in the days of having a button for every function, and a coloured LED for each of those buttons, it takes on the appearance of a christmas tree when played in a darkened room. The instrument is also extreamly well built and very robust.

In terms of sounds, the presets themselves cannot be modified or programmed like a synthesizer, but what the system does allow the user to do is create combinations of sounds multi-timbrally through a central control panel called the 'Orchestral Conductor'. The sounds are split into four basic groups: Tab Voices (these are organ flute sounds), Poly Presets (Polyphonic sounds like piano and harpsichord), String Ensamble and finally, Solo instruments. Unfortunately the Poly and Solo instruments can only be played on one manual at a time, but both tabs and strings can be specified for both manuals. On the Upper manual, there are 16, 8, 4, and 2 flutes plus a percussive attack, a string sound and a click to (not particularly well) emulate the key click on the dirty contacts of old organs, while on the Lower manual, only 8, 4 and the string sound are available. Both manuals also feature a Harmonic Coupler, of which the user can specify the coupling interval. The string ensamble benefits from adding maximum sustain possible, and it is also possible to achieve the effect of having a pressure sensitive keyboard, even though the organ doesn't respond to velocity. If sustain is set to full on, playing a very short note means that the sound does not have time to reach it's full envelope level - therefore, short notes yield a softer sound than ones held for a longer period. Bass sounds are fairly limited and it is best to make use of the basic organ bass sounds, as the electric bass is very thin, the acoustic bass isn't particularly good, and the tuba, well that one's just awful!

There are many panel functions which can be assigned to the Voice Setting Computer. This is basically where you can store seven different panel configurations, or 'Performances'. The organ also remembers any panel settings after switching off, so when you power up again it will return in the state you left it at your last session - a valuable characteristic indeed.

The organ includes about 24 preset drum patterns covering the usual home organ types: 16 beat, Swing 1 and 2, Disco and the like, but there is also a rhythm composer which allows you to make your own 16-step, four bar loops. This is a great function, and in my view the actual samples used in the drum composer sound a lot better than the preset ones. With a reverb added they can even take on quite a realistic quality which I like. To input a drum loop, you use the first 16 white keys on the lower keyboard, and to select a drum sample (hi hat, bass drum etc), the preset rhythm buttons become selectors for the different sounds. The first three black keys on the lower keyboard also have three different preset patterns for each drum sound. These are generally very good and usable. There are three memory locations for your custom drum loops. I tend to use all of them to make drum breaks where I can give the impression of dropping out a snare or bass drum. It sounds much less preset and mechanical during a performance if you do this. The preset rhythms also include automatic rhythmic and melodic patterns. The closest I can get to synthesizer-type terminology for these patterns is somewhat akin to a basic arpeggiator. Some of the rhythmic patterns are actually very good (of particular note here is the second variation for the 16-beat), but the melodics, well they sound a bit Game Boy-ish. It is also a shame that these rhythmic patterns can't be played when a custom drum beat is in use. The drum section also has a volume control, but even on the minimum setting it is still audible. This is a shame, as it would be nice to just get the rhythmic sound on its own. Perhaps this can be transmitted over MIDI, but I have never tried it.

In general, the EX50L has been a great instrument. My initial gripe before getting into true synthesizers was the lack of bass sounds, and it is not possible to trigger sounds below MIDI value C1, which at the time was an enormous limiting factor. The "Wah Brass" sound I mention in the Specifications would sound really thick and squelchy (one might even say analogue!) if you could play it this low down. Unfortunately, you can't. Now that I have other synthesizers which perform the job of making bass sounds, I have returned to the instrument to further extend the sound pallette I have at my disposal for composition.

Comments About the Sounds:
The sounds are generally early PCM and sound fragile and brittle on their own. The system allows sounds to be layered multi-timbrally (Up to three different sounds simultaneously) which helps to reinforce the sounds. Some of the acoustic sounds are much better if effects are applied

(Thanks to Mather's Studios for this info.)

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