by MIKE MCCUNE
Manhattan Analog’s Steiner Synthasystem VCF is based off of the Synthacon, a monophonic synth made by Utah based Steiner-Parker from 1975-1979 that was originally made to be an alternative option to the more expensive Minimoog and/or Odyssey. While the Synthacon never reached the same heights as the aforementioned, having sales in the hundreds as opposed to the thousands, it’s prized nonetheless, due to its relative scarcity as well as its unique filter, designed by company co-founder Nyles Steiner. While quite a few Eurorack companies have made their versions of this famed filter, and Arturia even based their Brute filter on it, only one company, Manhattan Analog, has made an officially licensed re-issue of the famed filter that has the blessing of Nyles Steiner himself, with Steiner even getting some of the proceeds for each unit sold.
The Steiner Synthasystem filter sports a -12db/octave multimode filter, with two parallel outputs, two CV inputs, and cutoff and resonance controls. Not having a Synthacon in the flesh to do a side by side comparison, but having experience with a few recreations of the filter, the best I could do was watch as many videos as I could find and listen to a handful of sound samples of the original to see how the MA filter compared. Like the original, the Steiner Synthasystem has three modes: a low pass filter, a high pass filter, and a band pass filter, and can go from bubbly aquatic sounds to fizzy whines to glitched-out unpredictable howling. Its charm–the reason for the acclaim–is not for the faint of heart. This is a beast that dares you to tame it. It can get mean, it can get nasty, and it can get out of control with self-oscillation, though, due to its circuitry, it doesn’t lose volume with the increase of resonance as did the Minimoog and Odyssey. A pretty key factor.
Two questions that are sure to be asked are: why isn’t there a notch mode, and why isn’t there CV control over the resonance? The answer, according to Manhattan Analog’s Jason Coates, is that since they aren’t on the Synthacon, they aren’t on this, as he wanted to keep this as close to the original filter topography as possible. Can’t argue with that.
As far as I could tell the Steiner Synthasystem is a pretty spot on recreation of the original, and it’s easy to see why it’s so prized. It sounds gnarly and completely different from the Moog filter, the pre-eminent filter sound at the time of the Synthacon's existence and arguably still. If you’re looking to break out of your ladder filter dependence, and want something a bit edgier, this is a great way to go.
Price: From $109 - $219