The original development project for PAiA's 9700 series of analog music synthesizers was something of a sequel in its own right. That work was inspired by requests from our friends to reissue modules from the 4700 and 2720 synthesizer systems. The novelty of those modules remains because they represented something unique - a very simple and low-cost way to explore electronic sound creation.
Design of the 4700 & 2720 modules was constrained by a some very difficult requirements. To make the kits inexpensive and easy to build, the designs had to use a minimum number of the most durable but affordable components in circuits that could be adjusted without sophisticated test equipment.
Given these constraints, the 4700 & 2720 modules were astounding successes. Many thousands were successfully built. The price was certainly right: 4700 series module prices, circa 1978, cost between $22.50 and $38 (multiply by 3.2X to get 2009 pricing). We know from our active service history that many of those systems live on, despite having been built by amateur enthusiasts in an amazing variety of circumstances.
John Simonton's architecture for the original 9700 system modules was an evolutionary departure from modular synthesizers tradition (see his first chapter in The 9700 Chronicles ). He designed them to provide incredibly high functional density, with normalization that allowed many complex sound synthesis operations to be performed with very little patching.
Two features make the original 9700 system modules challenging to employ. First, they are the most complex-to-build synthesizer module kits ever developed. Second, the sophistication of their normalization scheme can be best appreciated by the user only after he has completed the assembly and setup of the module.
We restarted our development of 9700-series modules in 2006. Our original goal was to provide a small set of low-cost "completer" modules allowing more elaborate synthesizer systems to be built wholly from our own catalog. Our ground rules were:
Eventually, we decided that in order to please ourselves, we had to add the following requirement:
High-performance circuits that don't require adjustment become more complex. As we developed solid, better performing circuits with higher device counts, we knew there was only one way to meet our original goals: to assist the kit builder by performing some of the assembly in advance. To turn this to the experimenter's advantage, we worked to make the circuits customizable wherever practical. The result was a new and unorthodox method of kit design, seen now in the new 9700-series modules.
The 9700 development project continued to evolve at every turn. Progress accelerated in 2008 when we were joined by our newest designer, Cliff Schecht. Over the next year, Cliff took the existing design sketches and concepts and developed most of the new crop of modules with significant consultation from Geoff Schecht and feedback from the rest of us. When David Arms joined Chuck McLeavy's production team in 2009, these modules began to make the final huge leap from prototype to production.
Benefits from employing this new method of kit design have surpassed our expectations. The new crop of 9700 modules is utterly true to the original design goal: basic modules at an extremely affordable price that are, by far, the easiest-to-build kits we have ever produced. Even sweeter is that their performance rivals modules available from any manufacturer at any price.
Our final set of design goals, met with the new 9700-series modules, are:
Each of the circuits employ the following features to improve performance and reliability:
The new modules we have released for this series are a start in a new direction for modular synthesizers. An exciting path lies ahead of us and we are excited to have you join us for this journey.
Brad Martin & Scott Lee
On behalf of the entire team at PAiA.