EDP Wasp Synthesizer

EDP Wasp Synthesizer

EDP’s Wasp helped bring the synthesizer to the masses. Prior to its release in 1978 you needed very deep pockets if you wanted to buy a synthesizer and to many would be electronic musicians, owning such an instrument was an unachievable dream. Luckily, an aptly named British company called Electronic Dream Plant (EDP) were at hand to make those dreams a lot more achievable. The company was formed by musician Adrian Wagner and the British electronics designer Chris Huggett  who later went on to designthe Oxford Synthesizer Company's OSCar Synthesizer.  EDP produced the Wasp, a monophonic synth with two digital oscillators, dual envelopes and a single, switchable (low/band/highpass) CMOS-based filter, all presented in a black ABS plastic case with a “keyboard” in the form of flat conductive copper plates hidden under a silk-screened vinyl sticker. Its colour scheme was a very striking black and yellow… just like its namesake. Distributed by Rod Argent Keyboards, it originally retailed at the far more achievable price of £199, finally bringing synthesis within the reach of the aspiring electronic musician masses. It soon achieved almost cult status.

Despite its toy like appearance, at the time of its release the Wasp punched well above its weight and price tag. It was one of the first commercially available synthesisers to adopt digital technology and featured a 7pin DIN pre-MIDI connection system for linking multiple Wasps and other EDP products together. It has the capability to run off batteries and even features a small speaker making it even more appealing in the late 70’s to cash strapped musos who couldn’t stretch to the further cost of an amp (although in reality the tinny sounding speaker doesn’t really do justice to sound potential of the Wasp). When put through a proper sound system the Wasp is capable of some incredible sounds including some powerful bass sounds which can give some of the dedicated bass synthesizers that came later more than a run for their money.

Perhaps the biggest deal breaker for using the Wasp as a serious musical instrument is the lack of a real keyboard. The flat yellow and white printed keyboard isn’t the greatest of musical interfaces and can be quite “iffy” to use. However, the inclusion of EDP connection interface opens up new possibilities with add-ons like the EDP Caterpillar, a 3-octave master keyboard that can be used to control up to four inter-connected Wasp synthesizers and played polyphonically. Just before the demise of the company, a small run of around 80 “Wasp Deluxe” synths were produced which added a proper wooden case, a moving keyboard and an external audio input to its filter, and mix controls for the Oscillators, and external input levels to the original Wasp.

Then along came the EDP Spider (there was a definite creepy crawly theme to the EDP product line naming!). The Spider is a sequencer which gives the option of being either a 256 step time sequencer or an 84-note real time digital sequencer – at the time of its release most analogue sequencers at the time had offered just 8 or16 steps. The Spider also offers the potential to be used with other non EDP synths with the inclusion of CV/gate outputs for use with standard analogue synths, and has a Sync input for controlling the tempo from an external clock source like a drum machine. The Spider also features buttons for transposing the sequence a semi-tone, whole-tone, major-3rd, or perfect-5th as well as speed controls and can be battery powered. Synced with a drum machine, linking the Spider to the Wasp (or the Gnat - the Wasp’s single oscillator baby brother) transforms the tricky to play synth into a seriously versatile and powerful bassline synth contender.

 

Notable users include 808 State, Dave Holmes, Vince Clarke, Nick Rhodes (Duran Duran).

 

Synthesis type: Subtractive

Polyphony - Monophonic

Oscillators - 2 DCOs, switchable between ramp, pulse width (osc 1), square (osc 2), and one white noise generator

LFO - 1 LFO with sine, ramp, sawtooth, square waveforms + noise to modulate the VCO or VCF; sample-and-hold

Filter - 24dB/oct Hi-pass, low-pass, band-pass, plus dedicated envelope controls switchable between 12 dB/oct lowpass, highpass, and 6 dB/oct bandpass

Arpeg/Seq - None

Keyboard - 25 capacitive non-moving touch keys (or 37 standard keys on Deluxe model)

Memory - None

Control - EDP-Link IN/OUT (proprietary digital sockets). MIDI retrofits and some MIDI-CV converters are able to provide control.

Date Produced - 1978 – 1981

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Wasp Photo by Julianfincham at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Posted in 1970's Synth, Monophonic, Subtractive Synth, Synthesizers.