I was bitten by the synthesizer bug as a teen in the 70s. ELP, Yes, Rick Wakeman, Walter (Wendy) Carlos, etc. hooked me. I wanted a Moog, but clearly understood I could not afford even the most modest version and I wanted a big one.
My father was an EE and taught me (and my brothers) how to stuff and solder a PCB, basic electronics, and instilled in me a desire to learn, experiment, and tinker with all things mechanical and electrical. So, as a teen, I could read a schematic, could figure out circuit basics, and thought I could tackle building one of these things if I could get designs.
In comes Nyle Steiner. I don't remember how I got his name, but I did and it turned out he lived within an easy walk of my home. I cold called him one evening and he invited me down to his home. He welcomed me and took me downstairs to his workshop. There I got the personal demo of my life. He showed me his modular (a big Synthasystem), his recording equipment, gave me my first introduction into multi-track recording, and a demo of his developing EVI. I was overwhelmed. I asked for his help and over the next couple of meetings, walked away with schematics of most if not all of his current modules.
I went to work and started to build a housing, laid out two huge sheets of aluminum which had been anodized black, and started drilling holes. I figured out a keyboard finally. I started by going down to a music store and begging some old piano keys which I mounted on a huge sheet of plywood. I abandoned that and got a Pratt-Read action. I built the keyboard circuit, and an oscillator, but I can't remember if I got anything more built. Nyle also offered me a summer job stuffing PCBs which was a lot of fun. So, if any of you have an early Synthasystem, I might have soldered your PCBs. You can tell because mine were soldered right :).
Life happened, and the project slowed. I got stymied with the power supply, actually. I just couldn't figure out a good one that would power everything. For some reason I had it in my head that everything had to have a common power supply. So, my project stagnated. Eventually, while I was in France serving a church mission for the LDS church, I think (pretty sure actually) my brother cleaned out the basement and threw out all the synthesizer stuff. No, I'm not angry with him, nor was I at the time. Annoyed, but I understood in my heart I wasn't going to finish that project anytime soon. School, marriage, kids, career all got in the way.
Zip ahead 35 years. I'm sitting in my chair, mid life crisis welling up inside me. I still think back to my modular and regret never building it. I had purchased a couple of keyboards over the years, but never loved them. I started looking on the net and what did I find? PAIA! I immediately ordered a 9700 system. In the weeks and months that followed I was completely sucked in. Blacet, CGS, Oakley, JH, the Bridechamber with all the suspects there, and on and on. I bought a Moog Voyager (well two actually, rack mount and keyboard), I pre-ordered a John Bowen Solaris; I started building til my eyes were weary and my brain hurt...
I still felt like something was missing; my Synthasystem. But I knew the schematics were long gone. Both my brother and I looked. I started searching the net. I was floored, there was next to nothing out there for the Steiner modular. Moog, Buchla, Arp, etc. all sorts of information. Steiner, zip.
I did find a copy of the Synthacon schematics and the owner's manual for the Synthasystem. Although the Synthacon "modules" didn't have all the features of the Synthasystem counterparts, I thought I could at least start here and build something like a Synthasystem. After all, these were still Nyle's designs.
I kept looking and decided I needed to try to find Nyle. At the worst, he wouldn't be able to help. I had seen Nyle a couple of times over the years and had exchanged a couple of emails at the start of my mid-life crisis. But recent emails had gone unanswered.
I managed to find someone who had better contact with Nyle and he acted as an intermediary and sent Nyle an email for me. I got a reply and, a new email for Nyle. Nyle was still as nice, humble, intelligent, clever, and as good a guy as ever. I asked if he would be willing to share his designs with me again. His reply was simple, I'll help you with whatever you need. Wow...
Next thing I knew, I had scans of all his schematics.
Over the next month or two, Nyle and I spoke many times and caught up with life. He again invited me into his home, and I was able to finally reciprocate and have him in my home. I think he is about as excited with this project as I am. He gave me access to all his old archives. I took his original schematics and made very high resolution scans of all of them, and other improtant information and started capturing all the schematics and notes into Eagle.
So, motivation? I am now coming full circle. I will finally have that system I wanted as a young man, but done right. The first thing I made sure I did was the power supply :)
This project has some very deep and personal meaning and satisfaction for me. Renewing a friendship with a truly good man, trying to help him get more of the recognition and praise I think he deserves, and breathing life back into a very unique and cool analog modular synthesizer is an amazing experience.
It is my hope that those who come to these pages and build a module or two will come to appreciate the genius in "the man"; Nyle Steiner. He made some real contributions which deserve remembering by those who love synthesizers, especially the monster modulars.
Thanks and enjoy.