MATRIXSYNTH: EMS SYNTHI HI FLI

Sunday, November 30, 2008

EMS SYNTHI HI FLI

images here
"1973. (£180) £308
Designer: David Cockerell.
Industrial Design: Martin Holbrook.
A guitar treatment unit built as a console on a stand with two pedal controllers which could be routed as control voltages to any of the slider functions.

Main Controls and Effects (Left to right on control panel)

* Top Boost Slider to provide up to 30db boost at high frequencies. The output from this section goes to the Octave Shift, Sustained Fuzz and Ring Mod sections.
* Octave Shift Slider mixes in a Sub Octave signal.
* Buzz Switch adds high frequency overtones to the sub octave signal.
* Ring Mod Slider mixes in a signal an octave up when single notes are played or "ring modulated" effects on chords.
* Decay Rate Rotary control for the decay time of Ring Mod and Octave Shift signals.
* Sustain Fuzz Slider mixes variable upper harmonics.
* Attack Rate Rotary control varies the rise time of the sustained fuzz signal.
* Pedal Switches Each switch routes either the left or right pedal to voltage control the Slider above it. Each switch also has an inverted setting so that single pedal movements can produce complimentary effects.
* Solo/Strum Switch to alter the Hi-Fli's sensitivity to playing style.
* Bypass Mix Central Slider to blend the effects and original signal.
* Modulation Selector Rotary Switch selects: Slow Modulation range, Fast Modulation range, Rising Mod envelope, Falling Mod envelope, Rising Ramp and Falling Ramp.
* Treatment Selector Rotary switch selects: VIBRATO, PHASING 1, PHASING 2, WAA-WAA (single resonant peak), WAW-WAW (six resonant peaks) and MEOW (two sets of three peaks in opposite directions).
* Modulation Speed Slider to fine control the modulation rate.
* Modulation Ramp Time Slider to set ramp time between 0 and 5 seconds.
* Modulation Depth Slider controlling depth of modulation applied to Phase Filter.
* Frequency Shift Slider to bias the symmetry of modulation.

Mains powered: 100-135 or 200-260 Vac
Input Signal: 10mV (min) to 3V (max), 100kohm impedance.
Output Signal: -20dbm (min) to 0dbm (max).

With silly prices being paid for single fuzz boxes, treble-boosters, Univibes, even $5k for a Way Huge Super Puss delay, etc the opening bid is a steal considering the total functional design of this mammoth. So many possibilities exist for a vast number of unique, one of a kind sounds and textures, it's mind-numbing, but all repeatable. This box is deep and worth the dig. No special pick-ups necessary, no MIDI, just pure old school FAT analog bliss, and tracks exceptionally well.

Honestly, this makes everything else sound like toys, including number two, the $3K plus Ludwig phase II synthesizer(really a distant second IMHO).

The pre-amp design is excellent, and the boost you can get alone just in bypass mode sounds great. The filter section is potent, and will leave you stunned if you haven't heard one before(and if you think you can get close with a Small Stone/Micro Synth/wah pedal phaser and fuzz, think again).

This one features the growl switch which gives you a choice of two and three octave drops, greatly extending the capabilities of the filters. Additionally, with all the parameter options, everything can be mixed, treated, and dialed in, plus activated in real-time with the control pedals, that YOU are the only limitation--truly a mark of WAY forward thinking and design, and this is back in 1972!!

There has been what I believe to have been a factory added, and recommended modification(and I have general factory documentation from EMS to back this up) discretely done at the bottom center of the control panel to disengage the envelope function, giving you access to pre-process the filter section however you see fit.

Also, the top half of the completely ORIGINAL fiberglas enclosure was topically cosmetically fixed and painted to match closely to the bottom, and it was well done--reason being, there were no structural cracks, but a previous, possibly bored, demented and ignorant owner took what looked like from the many scars, a dremel tool to ruin much of the perimeter with mindless surface gashes, etc.

It now looks 1000x times better, really clean and original looking. I tried to show in the side shots, how the top is a bit lighter than the bottom(also due to aging of the pigment). Really, just want to be upfront, as you may not be able to tell from most of the pix.

That aside, when you plug in and start dialing up some sounds, you'll be too busy watching your jaw hit the floor.

Just for a point of reference David Cockerell designed many of great 70's Electro Harmonix classics, including the Talking pedal, Attack Decay, Microsynth, Small Stone, etc.

The Hi Fli has way better versions of those pedals(The Attack/Decay for example, and that is what the envelope function is about, and it can track full chords). You can also do ultra vocal, wicked multi-variations of the $1k plus Colorsound Dipthonizer as well.

The other amazing aspect of this unit is it's clean, unprocessed phasing capabilities, really outstanding on their own, and it also has an amazing vibrato to boot. In this regard, as a stand alone studio processor, it works wonders on vocals, keyboards, drums, especially cymbals-really anything you care to run through it.

Yes, this was used more prominently by Steve Hackett(Genesis), and by Todd Rundgren(Utopia), as well as David Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. Here's a cool Youtube link of Genesis from 1976, and you can see the Hi Fli on the side of the stage about 46 seconds in for about 8 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRerIDAEn8M ,(though I don't think he's using it for the song).

Many of these artists used the Hi Fli for singular features that don't really convey the dramatic and more extreme capabilities of this unit. I will try to post some sound clips before auction end to illustrate this.

Of course everyone in this camp knows about the Hi Fli from Analog man's guide to Vintage effects book. Here's an update from the author Tom Hughes, from Premier Guitar(and notice one Hi Fli has the same mod, not so discretely done): http://digital.premierguitar.com/premierguitar/200811/?pg=142 (click to enlarge pages, click inner arrows to turn the page), good article.

Only around 350-400 of these were ever made, and they are getting very scarce, let alone in this condition and with the original pedals. These will only increase in value(if you can find one) and are worth every penny."

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