MATRIXSYNTH: 1995 Lonestar Technologies "The Key" Guitar Synthesizer

Dave Smith Instruments
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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

1995 Lonestar Technologies "The Key" Guitar Synthesizer

via this auction

Product Serial # 100BK01AAU000246C9500

"History of "The Key": The key was developed by Lonestar Technologies, a company based in Hicksville New York. It was marketed as an "Interactive Musical Instrument" and came out in 1994 with an MSRP of $400 and above. For the time, the technology was ground breaking, and included design help from rock & roll guitar legend Randy Jackson. "The Key" has a far out design and in itself is a guitar synthesizer, where the frets are key like and strings are "veins". What made the instrument so appealing was the fact it was MIDI compatible and expansion units called "SONGPAC" catridges could be purchased. "SONGPAC" catridges included licensed songs (i.e. Stone Temple Pilots - Vaseline cartridge included in the auction) which allowed "The Key" user to play along (rather easily) with their favorite songs. You could "CD Sync" the instrument when you had the CD of one of the songs included on the "SONGPAC", playing in sync with your favorite song. There was also an option where you could play along with your favorite music videos that were specially encoded for "The Key" through your VCR or LaserDisc player. Believe it or not, "The Key" also had networking capabilities. Through a 4 wire telephone cord, you could connect two units together and send information. WOW!

Unfortunately, the technology was ahead of its time. "The Key" did not sell many units, maybe due to its hefty price. It went the way of the LaserDisc. However, "The Key" was the predecessor for the ever popular "Guitar Hero", which has now become the medium for interactive musical entertainment.

Using "The Key": Though "The Key" was initially introduced to the public as high tech home entertainment, the capabilites of the instrument were far superior. With the ability of MIDI, you can use "The Key" as 'keytar'. I have personally used the instrument in live performances before, and you will achieve very unique and distinct leads through the instrument. As a synthesizer alone, it has a great sound. The built in speaker does not do the tones you can achieve justice, and you can record some great riffs through the Out line. Something really awesome a friend of mine was able to achieve was using "The Key" as a MIDI controller to a vocoder, creating something similar to a 'talkbox' effect as heard on Daft Punk - Discovery.


The unit runs on a 9V AC adaptor or 6 D Cell batteries. It also includes connectors where you can attach your guitar strap.

These guitar synths rarely appear for sale anywhere. Today it has become a collectors item."

This one spotted and sent in via Jimmersound

3 comments:

  1. very nice instrument !i found my Lonestar in Holland

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! Cool to find this. I have a museum quality one new in the box that was purchased by my father in 94-95 and on the box has a sticker that says BONUS SONGPAC ENCLOSED (and yes it's spelled SONGPAC) on one side of the box and on the other says BONUS VHS TAPE ENCLOSED... I opened it and it has 6 songpacs 11 songs from Eric Clapton on one, 12 songs from Metallica, 17 songs from the Beatles, 11 songs from the Rolling Stones, 11 by Elton John and another with REM... Then it has 4 key coded VHS tapes for THE KEY with the key emblem on each, one appears to be an instructional tape, one is Jimi Hendrix Woodstock, one is Aerosmith, and one is an assortment of 13 groups like Tom Petty, Tesla, Hootie and Blowfish, Live ETC.... If anyone has any info on the rarity or value of these I'd love to hear from you at david@TwilightResearch.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lonestar technologies "the key" interactive musical instrument = ($599) base price and each additional songpac = ($34.95 each)...

    I'm not sure it ever officially went into stores for sale. The Chicago Tribune wrote a small article on it in July 1995 saying it should be available in stores 2 months later in September but gave a number to Lone star technologies where you could order it directly before September which is how I believe my father ordered it.

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