Electronic Music Studios (EMS) Ltd. (not to be confused with EML) was the leading manufacturer of synthesizers and other electronic music equipment in Great Britain in the 1970s. The company was founded by electronic music and psychoaccoustics researcher Peter Zinovieff in 1969 and released its first product, the now-famous VCS3 synth, that same year. Over the next several years, EMS released several variations on the VCS3 theme, such as the portable Synthi-AKS, the Synthi-E for the educational market, and the high-end Synthi 100. The company owned its own studio which featured both its commercially available products and a huge variety of prototypes and one-offs that never went into production. The studio was available for commercial use but was used mostly for R&D. EMS also worked closely with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, supplying new products and providing support to the Workshop.


In the mid-’70s, the company turned its attention to vocoders, releasing several products, including one that was used on the Alan Parsons Project’s “The Raven”, a groundbreaking use of the vocoder. EMS, never a big fan of keyboards, also delved into alternate controller devices for synths, including ones that sensed performer body movements and others that sensed light. Although expensive and sometimes quirky, EMS’s products were highly regarded by performers and always in demand. Despite this, the company collapsed in 1979 after a series of financial missteps, including an attempt to enter the mass market for guitar effects.

The assets were acquired by another company, which soon put a halt to R&D efforts. Zinovieff left, along with several of the design team. The company has changed hands several times since then and is now owned by former employee Robin Wood. It is still in business, but its business seems to be limited to refurbishing its vintage products today; although the company’s Web site still advertises availability of newly built VCS3s and Synth-As, there are no reliable reports of anyone taking delivery of one in the past decade. All EMS products are highly sought after on the collectors’ market.

An interesting aspect of EMS’s history is that founder Zinovieff experimented extensively in the 1970s with digital synthesis, processing, and control techniques. But little of this ever found its way into EMS’s products, which were nearly all based on analog technology. A design called the Computer Synthi could have beaten the Prophet-5 to market had it been completed, but the single prototype was never finished.

EMS Listings

EMS SYNTHI AKS Vintage Analog Modular Synthesizer REFURBISHED vcs3 a synth 

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EMS Rehberg Synthi Logik Synthesizer Free Shipping EMS Tracking number

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[block] Release Date: [field Release] [/block] [block] Keys: [field Keys] [/block] Manufactured by Sequential Circuits Dates 1978-1984 Price US$4495 (Rev 1, Rev 2); US$3995 (Rev 3) Technical specifications Polyphony 5 voices Timbrality Monotimbral Oscillator 2 VCOs per voice LFO 1 Synthesis type Analog Subtractive Analog Frequency modulation via Poly-Mod Filter 24 dB/octave resonant low-pass Attenuator 2 x ADSR; one for VCF, one for VCA Aftertouch No Velocity sensitive No Memory 40 patches (120 patches on later units) Effects None Input/output Keyboard 61 keys Left-hand control Pitch & modulation wheels External control CV/Gate Optional factory MIDI kit for later Rev 3 units