Would we love synthesizers if they were a little, well, nuts?

And, by extension, don’t we love them even more if they’re a lot crazy instead of a little?

If that’s how you feel, you’ll love the 20. Everything about it screams sex appeal. Apart from luxe materials, this is finally a synth that looks like someone kidnapped Dieter Rams to do the panel design. And the “20” is a reference to how limited it’ll be – twenty black, twenty silver. But if you’re Darth Vader, you really do need those black keys with black body. I mean… why did you work so hard to get to where you are otherwise?

Yeah, that's actually a serial number at the top.

Yeah, that’s actually a serial number at the top.

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The 20 is the creation of esoteric synth genius Axel Hartmann. This is the designer who gave us one of the craziest synths of all time – the neural network-powered Hartmann Neuron, which is still beloved by a handful of devotees. But if BT, Peter Gabriel, and Hans Zimmer were finding their Neuron was getting a bit lonely, you can bet they’re on the preorder list for the 20. (Hmmm.. um, make that “17/20.”)

Some of the legacy of the Neuron is here – in an instrument that I think is genuinely more practical and more desirable. You do get a sample set pulled from the Neuron, for one (minus the interface, though that may be a feature, not a bug).

And the rest sounds nice, too:

Waldorf / Sledge synth engine
SPL “Supra Op-Amp” audio technology (maybe someone can enlighten me here – not sure what makes these supra Op-Amps, but I’ll bite)
Aluminum shell, milled from a single block – oh, sure, easy for Apple, but not something you generally get in boutique synths
“Collapsable, milled ultra thin aluminum panel” – this bit is especially nice, keeping a low profile
Acrylic-glass switches — yes, you read that right, switches
Pure aluminum knobs and wheels

Custom wooden case.

Custom wooden case.

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And there’s that monochrome keybed, all black Fatar.

It’s luxury, in other words, but there’s still a rational reason to use it.

And it sounds lovely. Here are some videos posted this week. I don’t know why they didn’t do a proper record, either. Tell you what, if you’re a potential customer, just go visit them. I’m sure they’re up for it.

All that, and it comes in a custom, wooden case that doubles as a flight case – no cardboard packaging here.

Made in Germany – down to the case. Of course.

All of this can be yours for the low, low price of … 20,000€, or if you’re Hans Zimmer, “a few Euros.” Then again, if Europe falls apart, that may be price competitive with a Korg minilogue soon (he gulps, nervously in Berlin).

Actually, that sounds absurd, but if you actually calculated the real worth of a prototype synth, it’d be astronomical. Scale is what gets price down to what you can afford.

Anyway, assuming I have more than forty readers, this isn’t a synth you’re going to buy anyway. It’s one you’re going to imagine on your own personal Death Star in your dreams. I know that’s my plan. Don’t change a thing, Axel – we love you just the way you are.

“20” synth on Facebook

  • StanleyBrothers

    Thanks for pointing this out, just realized that this guy has been on the design team of all of my favorite synths that have come out in the past few years aside from the dave smith stuff. Thanks Axel!

  • Want… and stupid… kinda perfect luxury item.

  • Paul

    It’s just a Waldorf Blofeld with a knobby interface and some different wavetables in.

  • Derek

    For those of us with Earthlier budgets, the Microwave XT/XTK are also beautiful design exercises from Waldorf and Axel Hartmann. 🙂

  • lala

    Dieter Rahms designs follow the form follows function principle, I can not imagine he would do 2 wheels you can’t use together 😉
    ah its unpractical and useless – lets do it – nope.

    • lala

      ups “h” to much

  • Nagasaki Nightrider

    “Everything about it screams sex appeal”

    Dude, it’s a fucking overwrought digital keyboard for 20 rich people.