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November 24, 2011 12:11 AM   Subscribe

In 1978 a tiny English company called Electronic Dream Plant produced their first product, the EDP Wasp synthesizer, the first of a short-lived range of creepy-crawly-named devices. In the golden age of big wooden and metal synths the wasp was made of plastic, battery-powered, with a built-in speaker, a keyboard with no moving parts, and used a brilliantly minimalist CMOS circuit design (in fact, people are still copying the Wasp filter circuit). It was the first analog synth to be truly affordable. The Wasp's accessibility, unique sound and portability saw it quickly used by musicians ranging from buskers to rock stars.

The Wasp's main designer Chris Huggett later went on to design some of the most respected synths and samplers of the following decades like the OSCar and he helped make Akai's hit S range of samplers working with EMS synth legend David Cockerell. These days Mr Huggett designs Novation's terrific sounding synths. Not too many working Wasps survive, due to their flimsy construction, but EBay demand is very high for the few that live on.
The sound is as popular as ever, you can still get them repaired, and because of the kind of cottage industry that gave birth to the Wasp in the first place, the magic box required to MIDI-control Wasps is still in production.
posted by w0mbat (22 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pgetty sure Warehouse rocked a wasp...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:29 AM on November 24, 2011


Ah OK, that explains where that free plug-in I played with a few years back got its name.

Interesting synth, altho that list price of £199 was the better part of the (1969) £330 price of a VCS3. Sort of no-contest there. But for a lad with barely the dosh, it mighta started a career in the late 70s!
posted by Twang at 12:34 AM on November 24, 2011


From the demo, this appears to be the high quality version of Korg's SH-101 which had all the identical filters, but probably not as nice a tonality to it as the Wasp, although the SH-101 had an optional neck-attachment so you could new wave your butt off while wearing a black skinny tie and a linen jacket with the arms rolled up. I was in band in the early 90s that used an SH-101 mostly for the white noise generation and the occassional randomized robot loop.

Anyhow, you can tell the Wasp launched a mess of monophonic imitators. I've always wondered what a Wasp looked like and actually I thought the sound would be a bit more biting and subversive, but I suppose, connect that thing to a distortion pedal and there you go. More bit and more subversion.
posted by Skygazer at 1:21 AM on November 24, 2011


Disclaimer: I never wore a black skinny tie or Members Only jacket with the sleeves rolled up.
posted by Skygazer at 1:25 AM on November 24, 2011


Mmmm, pgetty...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:49 AM on November 24, 2011


Uhhh, the SH-101 was quite an improvement over a Wasp.
posted by tremspeed at 2:30 AM on November 24, 2011


brilliantly minimalist CMOS circuit design

Brilliantly minimalist is a bit generous. The schematic shows CA3080 Op Amps (pdf datasheet) and external discrete capacitors and resistors in what appears to be pretty much standard configurations: filters, sample and hold circuits, saw-tooth oscillators, etc. It's a nice clean analog design - certainly distinctive - but not more than that.
posted by three blind mice at 2:31 AM on November 24, 2011


It's not a truly analog synth. It uses digitally controlled oscillators instead of voltage controlled oscillators. With that, it suffers from the same amplitude issues that were present in many early economy DCO synths.
posted by Siempre La Luna at 3:10 AM on November 24, 2011


Uhhh, the SH-101 was quite an improvement over a Wasp.
posted by tremspeed at 5:30 AM on November 24 [+] [!]


Really? Cos that demo, makes the Wasp seem quite a bit more well designed even with the flat keyboard and capable of generally nicer tonality.

I was thought the SH-101 was incredible primitive, but, Oh wait..it was midi-connectable wasn't it? Which certainly would make it an improvement if you hooked it up that way.
posted by Skygazer at 4:39 AM on November 24, 2011


The SH-101 uses 1V/octave control voltage, not MIDI. Also, Roland made the SH-101, not Korg.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:35 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


high quality version of Korg's SH-101 which had all the identical filters


They don't have identical filters. Roland's SH-101 uses an IR3109 24dB lowpass filter.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:59 AM on November 24, 2011


DEVO used a WASP for a while, but allegedly the sweat from their yellow suits got under the touch-sensitive keyboard causing it to short circuit and play itself.

This ends your useless trivia for today.
posted by SansPoint at 7:02 AM on November 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mmmm, pgetty...

Man, you can't touch a Pgetty for less than £1000.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:19 AM on November 24, 2011


Can you describe what's used to create the live sound of Whitehouse?

Last time we were in the States, which was a long time ago, we had the two Wasps [synthesizers] and the vocals, which were treated a little bit. But this time there was no treatment at all on the vocals and we used one Wasp and one tiny little Yamaha quasi-toy keyboard. And it worked really well, the sound was excellent-I think the best ever.

Is it difficult to duplicate the studio sounds live?

What we do is to put the Whitehouse sounds into the toy keyboard and then the Wasp is pretty easy to program. They are three basic sounds, which are modified occasionally.

posted by stinkycheese at 8:23 AM on November 24, 2011


They don't have identical filters. Roland's SH-101 uses an IR3109 24dB lowpass filter.

The IR3109 24dB lowpass filter?!

*Slaps forehead*


It wasn't mine. I just liked to fiddle with it ever once in a while. I know it was monophonic which was always real annoying to me.
posted by Skygazer at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2011


the sound was excellent-I think the best ever.

Yes, the Wasp is big with the Power Electronics crowd. Also, not too difficult for Whitehouse to improve on their sound I think. A blender could do that...

But talk about your easy set up before a gig...and no need for a van, or even a car for that matter.
posted by Skygazer at 8:30 AM on November 24, 2011


Actually, interesting Whitehouse gets brought up. My friend Greg Scott, who owned the above mentioned Roland Sh-101, was the most massive Whitehouse fan in the world probably and had every Whitehouse album ever put out (including all the limited discs) signed by William Bennett and the other two members.

It was a priceless insane coup, now regretfully lost, in the ether somewhere as Greg Scott, is no longer with us. I'm pretty sure he was close to Michael Moynihan and Boyd Rice as well, actually and we had a PE project together called Hydra.
posted by Skygazer at 8:36 AM on November 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had an SH-101. It's a nice, interesting bass synth for what it is, but it sounds like a pair of soggy buttocks. Actually, it sounded like a singular soggy buttock because it was monophonic.

It's main advantage over the Wasp was that it wasn't made out of recycled tissue paper and it had a real keyboard.

However, they made the mistake of using sliders instead of rotary pots where it should have really just stuck with rotaries. Those sliders gather crud and moisture, and there really isn't a reason to not use rotaries except that it was more new wave to use sliders.
posted by loquacious at 8:45 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then how do you change more than two parameters at a time, loquacious? ;) The visual feedback is better with sliders, too.

The SH-101 is probably my favorite monosynth of all time. Yeah, the filter sounds nasally and thin, and I would never own one because they are too old. But it has been on tons of classic records, it comes in three colors, and you can wear it!
posted by Mr. Merkin at 10:21 AM on November 24, 2011


Looks a lot like an Electro Harmonix Mini Synth (which sounds freakin great), with a nicer build. Does anyone know how they compare in sound?
posted by bongo_x at 11:08 AM on November 24, 2011


Both synths are VERY basic, but the SH 101:

Much more readily sync able with other gear (by Roland)
Real keyboard
Arpeggiator
'sequencer'
Analog VCOs
Better sound (IMO)
Better construction, means alot in a vintage instrument
posted by tremspeed at 2:06 PM on November 24, 2011


The SH-101 is definitely a classic and has a great sound, and it's way better made than the Wasp. However the Wasp has its own sound, and can make lots of quirky sounds I love, that the SH-101 just can't make.
Firstly the two oscillators rather than one gives the Wasp access to all kinds of fat detuned sounds and harmonies. You can try to fatten up the SH-101 with the sub oscillator and some PWM, but it's not quite the same. The main thing though is the difference in the filters. Rolands have that naturally squelchy acid sounding filter, and Wasps have a weird dirty sounding filter. The Wasp filter has lowpass, bandpass and highpass, not just lowpass, so it's capable of some added tinny and nasal sounds that I like, but even when both synths are in lowpass mode there's something different about Huggett's weird op-amp filter design that just appeals to me. Probably because I haven't heard it so much on other people's music, so it feels like it belongs to me more. Or because a Wasp was my first synth, and you always remember your first.
posted by w0mbat at 10:31 PM on November 25, 2011


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