In 2020 Erica Synths released the , an ode to the legendary A. It wasn’t what exactly you’d call practical. It was large, niche and quite expensive at around $3,000. But, I was unabashedly head-over-heels for it. Now Erica is taking the same core concept and putting even more of its own unique twist on the instrument in the SYNTRX II. Plus, it’s slashing the price to a more reasonable $2,179.
The unique 16x16 is still here, as are the trio of oscillators – one of which is specifically tuned for modulation – and the joystick. Though, this time you can record the joystick’s motions for on-board sequencing and modulation. There’s also a ring modulator that, if it’s anything like the one on the original, should be surprisingly musical. Plus a multi-color noise generator, the trapezoid envelope generator, and even an analog VU meter.
The SYNTRX and SYNTRX II, unsurprisingly, are more alike than they are different. But that’s not to say there haven’t been some significant updates. For one, they’re quite visually distinctive. While the original kept the same basic layout and cream-colored aesthetic of its EMS inspiration, the SYNTRX II is a darker affair that ditches the speakers and oversized tuning knobs for a more monolithic appearance.
I will miss those tuning knobs. They were pure joy to use. But I’m slightly sadder to see the spring reverb get the boot. Instead Erica Synths is including DSP-based reverb and delay effects. I have faith in the company’s ability to deliver high quality effects, but I was still surprisingly enamored with the spring reverb on the original.
One last major upgrade worth mentioning is the ability to use the grid as a piano-roll style sequencer. The original had very limited ways to control the actual pitch of the synth built-in. But now it’s looking a little more like a self contained instrument.
The SYNTRX II looks to continue Erica Synths’ strong history of making instruments that are just weird enough and encourage experimentation. But it also makes some of its more experimental impulses more accessible. Even if it’s hard to call a nearly $2,200 synthesizer “affordable”.