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  TOM-1501 At a Glance
Click for larger view arrowReleased: 198_  Specifications
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Panu Talus writes:
Russian synths are awful and making terrible harsh and strange sounds? If you think so, then this will surprise everyone who is familiar with those synths. This is really fat, warm, beautiful sounding real analog, preset string machine.

It's a string machine with 5 preset sounds: Piano, clavesin/Harpsichord, Alto, Violin and Brass. Alto and Violin are exactly same sound but violin is one octave higher than alto, so you can make "string orchestra" sound. Mainly I discovered this to be like Crumar Orchestrator/Multiman-s clone. Piano and clavesin/harpsichords are pretty identical sounding, but... Strings aren't typical "Italic" sounding which can be found on all crumar and some others string machines, Neither european (solina) or american (Moog opus) sounding. They are UNIQUE! They are FAT! They are WARM! They are very beautiful sounding strings. Well... comparing to others, solina is the closest sound to it. Brass is also pretty identical to Crumar Orchestrator, but it have identical filter from Crumar Performer (very weak resonance). Too bad because in orchestrator it could make such a great sweeps, but this cannot do same. But the cutoff is powerful.

About the properties: Sliders are divided into 8 sections from left to the right: main volume, Vibrato, Section volume, Brass filter section, left manual section, String orchestra timbre, right manual section, sustain.

This have great volume control. you mainly control 5 volume sliders of each presets, and therefore you can mix and blend them as you want. The keyboard is splittable for two zones. A white arrow points where is the line for both sides. In fact it have 10 volume sliders for the presets; 5 presets for each zones so you can mix them in any way you want, which is very very useful. And then it have section volume, where you can control "main" volume for piano and clavesin with one slider, and strings with other one. Also in between them there is volume slider for bass. You can add bass sound for the left manual, and under it have bass' ON/OFF push button. So Main volume, section volume for piano/clavesin and strings and volume sliders for the each presets for each manuals... pretty much, huh? In vibrato section, you can add vibrato to your sounds. There is depth and speed control for it, basic stuff, but strange, if have detune in same section which detunes main sound, so why it's in vibrato section? The Brass filter section is the filter only for brass sound. It have controls for cutoff, resonance and also simple AR (Attack, release). But there is ON/OFF push buttons under the brass volumes. When ON, then it add a strange attack thing to the brass sound, which allow for sweeps. The AR affect only if this is ON, so you can make very basic sweeps with resonance and cutoff in addition to this AR. Also this section also have ON/OFF button. Also it's only one filter per voice, which means, if you press keys after the sweep, filter doesn't add second sweep. It just continue the same sweep. Next to Brass filter section, it have a "String Orchestra Timbre". It's horizontal slider which control brightness of the string sounds (sort of EQ), which looks like same as in Crumar Orchestrator, but it doesn't affect anything if you turn it into higher than the middle, which however doesn't bother because it really doesn't need to go any brighter, but this can make much more smoother and darker sound than the Orchestrator. under the horizontal slider there is ON/OFF button for "orchestra", which is in fact a Chorus. No other control for it, it's just either ON or OFF. And then in next to right manual section, there is sustain slider, which control sound how long it will sound after releasing a key, when down, the sound stops like against a wall, and when very top up, then it have very beautiful long fading out. And next to it, power ON/OFF button.

About the sounds: Piano is... what can call... very cheesy and vintage. Well, not exactly cheesy. It's much more better than something as called cheesy. It's almost identical to Crumar Orchestrator which you can hear in soundsheet (Link after this review). Clavesin is also same as in Crumar. it's very bright and sounds like dull, so it's very hard to play as only sound. When combinating to piano, it can make very nice brighter variations to the piano sound (see the soundsheet). Alto and violin, Strings are the most beautiful section of this string machine. They are not anywhere near the Crumar string sound which is a bit harsher and dull comparing to it. If I use this with Electro-Harmonix smallstone, I can get very nice solina phaser sound (Jean Michel Jarre's trademark sound) and that tells how hight quality this sound really is. Yes, solina string is the nearest sound, but still different character. Brass sound is very powerful. When tweaking cutoff, then it reminds me of Vangelis' trademark Brass sound, well... Not exactly, but still. The resonance is very bad and weak. Not useless however, it can add more characters to the sound (see the Crumar performer soundsheet). Brass sound is identical to Crumar Orchestrator, but instead of it's powerful filter, it have identical weak filter from Crumar performer... wonder why. The Bass for the left manual, isn't good for pure sound, because it's more likely pure bass, not an instrument. It will add awesome quality to the string sound for example, but be careful with it's volume slider because it doesn't need to put up very much, only little... it can break your speakers so be aware that it isn't putted accidently top up.

Connections; Phones (Under the main volume, others are in rear), piano, mono, stereo, pedal.

The audio connectors aren't 1/4" jacks. They are 5 dins, very similar to midi. It's an old audio connection which were used in very old devices. Which means you better to use an adapters. Phone out and mono are almost identical soundings. Stereo isn't real stereo. it's just adds left channel brass sound and the others to the right channel. and the piano output is, of course for piano and clavesin/harpsichord sounds only.

The keyboard quality: It's typical russian standard, which can be found on most soviet synths and keyboards (Polivoks for example). it's also very noisy, making "squeak" sounds when pressing because the keys can move a bit horizontally. It is what it is... after practice you can pretty easily get used to it. Despite these words, it's however very high quality... meaning russian technology... they are made to stand almost forever. Really, they cannot easily broke, unlike "better" keyboards in Europe.

The case is also very strong quality, made of Plastic, metal and wood. Thumbs up for russian technology :)

Also, this string machine isn't commonly available. I don't know how many was produced, but the original retail price was $1500!!! So maybe this is indeed very rare, uncommon at least. These were made about in middle or end of 80's.

See these virtual soundsheet of Crumar Orchestrator and peformer. The sounds of Orchestrator's piano and clavesin/harpsichord and brass is identical to this TOM-1501. And the filter from Crumar performer is also identical.

If you are very much after very fat, warm, analog strings and brass, try to find TOM-1501. However it can be very difficut even in Russian these days.

Comments About the Sounds:
Awesome strings and brass sounds. Piano and clavesin are cheesy vintage, but beautiful in it's own way

(Thanks to Panu Talus for this info.)

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