MATRIXSYNTH: More Info on the Vintage Waldeck Synthesizer from the 1970s

Monday, May 09, 2016

More Info on the Vintage Waldeck Synthesizer from the 1970s

The first post on the Waldeck synthesizer went up back on May 1 here. MATRIXSYNTH reader Adam wrote in to let us know he tracked down and interview with the creator of the synth, Steven Waldeck, on the School of the Art Institute of Chicago website. Steven Waldeck was actually a professor at the institute starting in the 1960s.  He picked up an EMS Putney VCS3 for his department and and built his own synth, the Waldeck.

Pictured: "Duncan Green (left) and other Time Arts students working with a synthesizer, 1979"

From the interview:
"Waldeck: My philosophy was to offer technical assistance to any students from any area of the school. As an interest in 'sound' grew, and a school budget finally appeared for supplies, I bought a sound synthesizer called a Putney for my area. I also developed and built an electronic sound synthesizer of my own, called Waldeck.

Eventually, the interest in sound became too overwhelming for me to handle, so I asked Dean [Roger] Gilmore to consider hiring someone to handle this direction, and the SAIC Sound area was born. My area of kinetics also experimented in light and explored neon and holography, later to become separate entities. The Time Arts area was created at SAIC as a response to my written proposal sent to Dean Gilmore outlining and defining this conceptual area."

Update: some additional info from Adam who picked it up follows:

"I only had a few minutes with it and limited RCA cables to patch it up (that's how it patches).

I opened it. It is signed and labeled 'tested' and is hand dated by Steven Waldeck. The year is 1978.

There are two main seems to house the three oscillators, while the other contains most of the effects. There is a cool small reverb tank.

I couldn't get sound out of the third oscillator, but I think it won't be a big deal to fix.

I got some very EMS style sounds in just the five minutes I had with it before work. I have a VCS3, but haven't been able to 'side by side'/ A/B them.

I also found an old blog post by - I think - Mark Verbos. You can ask him. He might have one, as well. He says the build is crappy. It is kind of Sears-like. It is, but it has a nice panel, and with a little TLC, this one will be 100%.

I am not much of an electronics guy. I can solder and fix broken things, but I couldn't say where the circuit designs came from, or whether they are closely modeled to anything else.

That's all. I might bring it to Moogfest if anyone wants me to."

Update2: and some notes from Mark Verbos here:

"The Waldeck has a nice veriety of modules: three oscillators, a noise source, a ?envelope? (actually a combination amplifier and envelope like the Putney), a ?volume-pan? (this is a cool module), a ring modulator, a bandpass filter with resonance, a lowpass filter without resonance, a preamp, a spring reverb, a mixer-amplifier, and a meter with the mysterious ?trig? button. The oscillators have two waveform outputs: a pulse with variable width and a saw. The noise source is just white noise. The ?envelope?, as it is called, is dumb as there is no way to mod the filter with the it, because it can only mod the amplifier. Too bad. The ?volume-pan? module is cool for voltage controlling the mix between two oscillators. There is something like this for the Serge, that?s the only other place I?ve seen anything like it. The ring modulator is not very nice. The sound is more mushy than my Putney. The bandpass filter has resonance, labeled ?response-osc?, and is only marginally useful. The only controls being cutoff and ?response-osc?. The only mod input is the cutoff input. The meter is a joke. The window is about the size of a dress shirt button. The ?trig? button, I don?t understand."

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