Synthheads and sound designers rejoice, as the vintage VCS3 emulation that has been under development for a while finally hit the App Store today. Developer apeSoft has carefully designed iVCS3 for iPad to look and play like its 1969 hardware counterpart, sporting the same joystick and patch board matrix.
The countless controls and patch board matrix might make iVCS3 a tad overwhelming for beginners as this really is a sound generator more than a preset-flicker. Fun fact: the original VCS3 was responsible for many of the sounds and atmospheres in the original Dr. Who series.
The VCS3 was created in 1969 by Peter Zinovieff’s EMS company. The electronics were largely designed by David Cockerell and the machine’s distinctive visual appearance was the work of electronic composer Tristram Cary. The VCS3 was more or less the first portable commercially available synthesizer—portable in the sense that the VCS 3 was housed entirely in a small, wooden case.
The VCS3 was quite popular among progressive rock bands and was used on recordings by The Alan Parsons Project, Jean Michel Jarre, Hawkwind, Brian Eno (with Roxy Music), King Crimson, The Who, Gong, and Pink Floyd, among many others. Well-known examples of its use are on The Who track “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (as an external sound processor, in this case with Pete Townshend running the signal of a Lowrey Organ through the VCS3’s filter and low frequency oscillators) on Who’s Next. Pink Floyd’s “On the Run” (from The Dark Side of the Moon) made use of its oscillators, filter and noise generator, as well as the sequencer. Their song Welcome to the Machine also used the VCS3. The bassy throb at the beginning of the recording formed the foundation of the song, with the other parts being recorded in response. The VCS3 was also a staple at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, and was a regular (and most frightening) sound generator for the Dr Who TV series. Many fo the monsters and atmoshere;s created for the show came directly from the VCS3.
The VCS3 has three oscillators (in reality, the first 2 oscillators are normal oscillators and the 3rd an LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator), a noise generator, two input amplifiers, a ring modulator, a 18dB/octave (pre-1974) or 24dB/octave (after 1974) voltage controlled low pass filter (VCF), a trapezoid envelope generator, joy-stick controller, voltage controlled spring reverb unit and 2 stereo output amplifiers. Unlike most modular synthesizer systems which use cables to link components together, the VCS3 uses a distinctive patch board matrix into which pins are inserted in order to connect its components together.
DK1 keyboard controller
Although the VCS3 is often used for generating sound effects due to lack of built-in keyboard, there were external keyboard controllers for melodic play. The DK1 in 1969 was an early velocity sensitive monophonic keyboard for VCS3 with an extra VCO and VCA. Later it was extended for duophonic play, as DK2, in 1972. Also in 1972, Synthi AKS was released, and its digital sequencer with a touch-sensitive flat keyboard, KS sequencer, and its mechanical keyboard version, DKS, were also released.
Here’s the developer’s video once again to give you an idea of the iVCS3 in action:
Furthermore, apeSoft celebrates the iVCS3 release with a big discount for all of their other apps. This is a rare occasion, so if you were eyeing iPulsaret, iDensity or Stria, now is your chance to get them.