The Synton Fenix has been used by the likes of Martin Gore and has a story interwoven with decades of Dutch synth history. Here’s your chance to discover this little-known gem – and learn some synth technique you can apply to your own software/hardware modulars!

Roland Nebe of Making Sound Machines in Düsseldorf writes us with this one. They’ve been working on new videos with the Fenix IV, the latest in a lone and storied line of synths named Fenix that … you probably have never heard of. They are delivering an ultra-limited run of handmade systems now, so you could get in on this if you’ve got the means. But it’s great fun regardless – I’m certainly not buying a modular right now, but I love their jams and it gives me some inspiration for heading back into VCV Rack or Reaktor!

Now the “you’ve never heard of” part I’ll bet is for people who aren’t Dutch. Because if you are, Synton was not only a manufacturer but a major early importer. Founded by Felix Visser in 1973, they did their own keyboards, vocoders, sold modulars to Karlheinz Stockhausen and Big Briar (Bob Moog’s company) and created a ton of ahead-of-their-time designs. And then they went bankrupt, which was the other thing that often happened to 80s synth makers. (I know – even with the Karlheinz Stockhausen celebrity endorsement!)

Fortunately,  Marc Paping and Bert Vermeulen got the band back together and created a new analog modular system in 1997.

The modulars are beautifully designed, even if they have remained short-run affairs, in contrast to the creations of someone like Dieter Doepfer. And they’re modular in the patching sense, but designed as complete, standalone systems.

To hear what this instrument can do in the hands of an inspired musician, check out this video from artist splitradix’s excellent channel. (That channel features various analog jams.) All Fenix, with a little added clap and hi-hat from an Elektron Analog Rytm:

More – splitradix linktree.

Now Priscilla Haring and Stijn Haring-Kuipers are making the Fenix IV.

And there’s more. They write:

The Fenix IV modular synth is the fourth member in the Fenix family of standalone patchable synthesizer systems. Made by Stijn Haring-Kuipers (This is Not Rocket Science) and Lauri Koponen (Vaski), with conceptual and practical guidance by master builder Bert Vermeulen (Synton / SyntoNovo). The first systems are being delivered right now.

All Fenixes seek to bridge the usual divide of tonal versus experimental or additive versus subtractive synthesis and offer multiple types of oscillators, filters, LFOs, envelopes and effects to patch. The Fenix IV also bridges the usual analog versus digital divide.

Getting started with the Fenix IV modular synth by This is Not Rocket Science

In this video we’ll take a closer look at This is Not Rocket Science’s Fenix IV modular synth. Please join and watch us gleefully fumble through this insane bag of tricknology:

In 30 minutes we will guide you through everything you need to get started with a Fenix IV. We will follow the signal flow and analyze audio with the built-in scope. We will start with  basic tone generation and guide you through your first patch using all the colours in the Fenix IV: Generators, Envelopes, Modulators, Filters, Effects and Utility modules – including the sequencer.

If you are watching this with a Fenix IV in front of you, this tutorial is meant to show you all you need to start and go and explore further on your own.

Prototype Jam! TINRS Fenix IV, mmalex Plinky and Faust on Teensy 4.0

Here’s a short jam using Fenix with other modular equipment:

Playlist: TiNRS Fenix IV – Beats and Patches

Short form videos with patch inspiration and patch breakdowns are available here: 

I seriously dig the array of modules – Roland isn’t kidding when he says this might be a good starting point when thinking about a VCV Rack or other software modular setup. When you’re faced with a blank canvas, something like this is a great balance of options:

YELLOW –  Generators
Fenix Oscillator
Digital Oscillator
Chord Oscillator

ORANGE – Envelopes

RED – Modulators
Triple LFO
LFO 1 & 2

INDIGO – Filters
Ladder Filter
Digital Filter
State Variable Filter (SVF)
Low Pass Gate (LPG)
Pink Filter
Blue Filter

BLUE – Effects
Wave Multiplier
Dual Delay
Ring Modulator

GREY – Utilities
Slew Limiter
Mixer 1 & Mixer 2 & Mixer 3
CV Adders
Offset Knob
Octave Selector Switch
VCA 1 – 5
Case Microphone
Out A & Out B (Master Mixer)
S&H (Sample and Hold)
Headphone Output