This is the story of how Synthesizers.com was introduced to the world. First seen by a random person and posted on the Analog Heaven forum resulting in a firestorm of skepticism, outrage, accusations, and some acceptance. Now after 15 years, most are believers :)
While designing the synthesizers.com product line in the late 90's, I spent some time planning how best to introduce it to the music world. It was important for me to have products ready to ship when the website went online so I wouldn't get a bad reputation, especially after numerous past debacles where companies and people made promises they couldn't keep. It's definitely going to be interesting to see the response when the product line appears all at once, but hopefully people will be pleasantly surprised.
The website went on-line in Feb 2000 after I got most of the pages done. In April I decided to write a perl script to automatically display the web logs every hour, but still not much traffic. I hadn't posted the website publicly but expected it to be found by people doing random searches.
In May I began posting the site to various small synth-related websites. Traffic doubled but there was still no flood. So, near the end of May I posted the site to SynthZone and Sonic State. There I was, right of the front page of Sonic State! Strangely though, there was just another doubling of traffic, and virtually no email or contacts.
Then, on the weekend of June 3, 2000, traffic started pouring in. The stats page grew huge. I wasn't exactly sure where this was all coming from, but now I was starting to get a few emails asking about pricing and availability.
Monday morning I woke up to see dozens of emails with 'synthesizers.com' in the subject. Wow, something has happened - but what? As I start reading them, some were not very nice. This is a unexpected slap in the face for 3 years work, but why?
Come to find out, a few weeks/months earlier, a prankster had posted a professionally-created set of graphics depicting a new synth which had duped many people in the synthesizer world. Not being a regular reader of these forums, I missed the story. Paul Schrieber of Synthesis-Technology who lives nearby told me about it at lunch one day but I had no idea it was such a big deal and caused such a big stink.
Anyway, this caused many folks to assume my work was another plot to overthrow the analog synth world. They began by pixel-picking the Q119 Sequencer picture which caused me a lot of grief to create due to its size. This was compounded by my whimsical depiction of a synth monolith linked to the home page. And I was so proud of my new found PhotoShop abilities too! On top of that, some people were saying the photographs on the About Us page were fake even though the only thing that was done to them was cropping.
Someone on the mail list decided to do a WhoIs to find the domain name owner. They found my name, street address and my main company Arrick Robotics. This isn't as clever as it appears since I made that information public on the Order Policy page. But never the less, this fueled suspicion and rumors.
Another person followed the links from Robotics.com to my personal page where it was discovered I have an interest in unapproved topics such as Prophecy, Creation, Catastrophism, Ancient texts, and Archaeology. Not only was I a hoax, now I was dumb too! This unwound a slinky full of postings about dumb creationists, etc. On both sides I might add. I didn't know whether to laugh or jump off a cliff.
As the day went on and I answered email, my endeavor was exposed for the Real Deal that it was. Many people returned kind messages of encouragement and asked more questions about my products. For this gracious change of heart I am thankful. Now my goal is to get back to work producing this stuff so I can make customers happy! In the meantime I had spent 5 hours answering email.
If you're interested, here are some of the emails I received on Monday and some of the postings on Analog Heaven. I've left out last names to protect the craziness. This is not all of the emails or all of the message bodies. You can probably find those in the archives if you want.
I am writing to inquire about your line of analog synthesizers. They look beautiful and I was wondering when they will start shipping....
To kick off this week's discussions... What do people know about the new toys at synthesizers.com? Sucks/Rocks/Hoax? The demo mp3's sound pretty weak but the prices are compelling.
Jeez.... where did this all come from?
I've never heard of this stuff and all looks totally "Moogy" slick and at really low prices.
Who's baby is this?
Wow.... I'm impressed!
Well there's a few things for certain:
1. I don't know anyone that owns one.
2. Things are spoken about in a "we will", "we plan",future kind of way.
3. The web site has been highly developed and gives the impression of a "together company" with parts stock, assembly lines, internal server, etc. But it's just not very convincing.
4. The panel designs are done, say synthesizers.com and they're on that domain.
5. Much of the current draws seems equal for many modules (8 ma or 30ma mentioned many times on both rails)
6. The PCB layouts seem rather simplistic.
My guess is that we've got a some great photoshop and an electrical engineer with access to some great equipment, but possibly not his own. There's no reason I see why this biz can't be successful, only that it hasn't seemed to start up yet. Even if some pics like the Q119 sequencer are at different angles.
I'm not sure the price point that's offered can support quality in either assembly, calibration or parts. That is, I'm not sure this can actually be done. The prices are low and marginally profitable, but the only way this can make money is if robots are wholly running the joint.
Are you for real? This all seems a little phony to me.
Okay, so after my heart has come back to rest...
I'm interested in a QSP22, or probably a custom system. I have a lot of modular gear now, and would love to basically add-on to it.
I will be putting in an order in the next few weeks. What is not available yet? The sequencer looks very worth while.
Oh, and in that picture that you pointed out: Q119 Sequencer
Check the blur seam between the right and middle sections. It's clearly been "Photoshop Smudged".
Nice looking ideas though.
Hi Roger! I know you're very busy, just judging from your websites, etc. I'm on Analog Heaven, but I'm an engineer/firmware guy/programmer, and have been for the last 27 years. I have similar interests in cosmology, bible things, and eqyptology. I have an extremely rare set of books I have collected over the years on the Great Pyramid, just because, well...these things interest me!
BTW, I must commend you on the effort you're going through on your modular setup! In fact, I have to say that many of the things YOU'RE DOING, I wish I WAS.
Just letting you know there's other "strange fellows" out there :) THANKS!
Beyond the obvious Photoshop goofs, one would have to be a little dubious of a scientist whose interests ran to "prophesy", etc. as described in Roger Arrick's personal page (Not, of course, that there's anything cringingly absurd about them.)
Looks like a hoax to me. Come on, the idea is to SELL, right? If so, then their doing a bad job. WHO is synthesizers.com?
I've been all over your page. Your stuff looks really nice.
I think the keyboard and sequencer would be a good place to start with your line of fun. What's availability like?
Looks very promising, I'm just a bit skeptcal after the way the new "moog" company went down... thanks for your consideration.
Creationists... That's worse than cringingly absurd, it's..it's... GAHH!
I know this is not the correct forum, but: Major can of worms, OPEN:
"Credulous acceptance of baloney can cost you money; that's what P. T. Barnum meant when he said, "There's a sucker born every minute.
....So when a modular like yours appears out of the woodwork with no known analog fanatics attached to it, it seemed suspicious to my (admitted in print) paranoid mind. I'm glad the system is real and give kudos to the effort! (More is better, AFAIC when it comes to analog synths.) Apologies if my post caused or causes you any trouble. (However, I stand by my reaction to Creationism. That's just me, and there's room for everyone.)
I dunno, this company seems legit. Too bad there is no LFO module. Only Sample & Hold. The sequencer looks pretty darn nice too!
"When the scientist steps across the threshold into a house of worship he checks his mind at the door." Strong minds work without a net.
You're right Mike...AH is not the place for this discussion. We have our "religion"...you have yours. But I have yet to hear from some Bible-thumper preaching to the list...time and again it's those who oppose it who are spouting off at the mouth with their anti-religious viewpoints.
The ISSUE was that someone interested in prophecy could not possibly be a scientist. That the two are incompatible. But Sir Isaac Newton (one of the greatest scientists of all time) also happened to write a book on prophecy: http://www.csg.net/eschatology/Newton.htm Now back to our regularly scheduled program....
I live down in Austin TX, and I wanted to say "Wow- Very nice work!" I like the looks and the pricing of your synth creations...
Yeup, I agree... Too bad the pic is a fake. :) See my previous message - there's obvious use of a smudge tool going on, and Kevin pointed out the perspective of the knobs is all wrong, even if this was shot with a super-short lens.
At about noon I decided to respond to all of this:
Hello. I was told about the posts on Analogue Heaven by Zon. I've noticed that most people are questioning whether I actually exist or not so I'm hoping this will help clarify things.
WHO AM I:
My name is Roger Arrick, I own and run Arrick Robotics (12 years now) at http://www.robotics.com ,My personal information page is at http://www.robotics.com/roger.html . I also run several websites for embedded computing at http://www.pc104.com and http://www.controlled.com And I build synthesizers at http://www.synthesizers.com I keep these businesses as separate as possible. I'm in in in the Dallas/Fort Worth Texas area in Euless at 2107 W. Euless Blvd where I have about 3000 sq/ft - mostly manufacturing space. Here are some other personal pictures of me http://www.robotics.com/hp and http://www.robotics.com/arobot/501c.html In spite of how all of this looks, I'm just one small business owner with a handfull of hard working employees. I live in a normal 3-bedroom house and have a family with kids and a dog, and yes, plenty of electronic toys.
Back in the late 70's when building my first 8080 computers with CP/M, I became interested in synths mainly from Yes, Switched-on-Bach, genesis, and the Who. I would skip school and drive to Arnold and Morgan music in Garland to play the Arp 2600 and Mellotrons. My first kits were from Paia (which still work to this day!) and I successfully interfaced them to my computer. Years passed and the internet came along. One day I discovered that there were a lot of people like me who loved vintage synths - big knobs, cabinets, and those awesome sounds that no one else has ever heard. Eventually I decided to build a synthesizer and make it into a product line. This would fit nicely into my existing manufacturing business and the design would last many years. Since the best way these days to do business is over the internet I tried to acquire 'synthesizer.com' domain name but the guy wanted $50k. So I settled for 'synthesizers.com' and began building the product line. In the beginning I meet Paul Schrieber who lives very close to me. Paul is probably the smartest analog designer I've ever met and a very good person to boot. We got together and I was hoping we could come up with some mechanical/electrical standards so our systems would be compatible. Paul decided against much of that. One of the important things to me was the user interface, cabinets, and cost. Paul being an excellent engineer, decide to use very expensive pots, etc, and I decided to use open-style carbon pots instead of listening to people complain about the price. After a couple of years here we are, my product line is about 95% complete and I can ship systems and most modules. Letting people know about synthesizers.com was a strange problem. I didn't want anyone to know until I was actually able to ship products. In the last month or so I've watch the access logs on the website as I've submitted the site to various search engines. Over the weekend (Jun 3, 2000) the logs went crazy but I didn't find out that it was because of a posting on Analog heaven until I got a call from Zon Vern Pyles. I don't have time to read these lists but I went to the archives and saw many postings. Most of the postings were pleasant, but some were troubling to me and prompted this letter. There are probably some out there that will hate me just because I build synthesizers in a way that they wouldn't but there's nothing I can do about that. I've also received many emails from folks asking about me and it's been a lot of fun. Whether it will result in orders or not, who knows, this market is very strange (and small) but I'm in this for the long haul.
Concerning the photoshop questions. Getting a decent image of a module is almost impossible with a camera. I even broke down and bought a Sony FD91 and was not pleased with the results. One night I got an idea and actually placed the modules on my HP 4C flatbed scanner and the images came out great. This works great for single and double-wide modules, but when it came to the sequencer, I had to take 3 images and paste them together. I'm a bit new to this photoshop thing so my seams aren't perfect but I'm still happy with the results. That's why some of the shadows and perspective are weird on the large Q119 sequencer pictures at http://www.synthesizers.com/q119.html When going through a photoshop tutorial I created the mars/synth image on the home page which I thought people would think was cool, instead some think it's an indication that this is all a fake. In fact one email I got said "what's with the crappy photoshop renderings?". I try not to let this impact me but it usually does.
Anyway, I don't plan to change anyone's mind with words alone, I love to build things and I expect this product line to last for 10-20 years. In a couple of years everyone will know that I'm for real because there will be many systems out there. There will probably be a magazine review or two in a few months you people are welcome to wait and see. There are no plans to add to the product line beyond the 'future' page shown at the website. This is a small business and it always will be, that's why it will work well for me.
I hope this clears some things up.
PS: Anyone who has built a website the size of synthesizers.com knows that it isn't some kid pulling a prank.
Roger Arrick - Roger@Synthesizers.com
I think the people of Analog Heaven are universally in favor of your entry into the market. However, a quick word of explanation (from my perspective) on why you may have had a slightly negative response...
For the past several months there has been a hoax running on AH and other mailing lists - some clown put together some gorgeous Photoshop renderings of a new synthesizer, along with other marketing material, and leaked them in strategic locations on the Net. It had a lot of people fooled - myself among them - and in the end, most of us quite upset to learn that it was all a hoax. So we're a little twitchy.
So again - it's nice to see your new equipment. May your fortunes rise -
Well, I for one will apologize to you for doubting, but there's been a number of "fun and games" out here in the world revolving around synths in the last couple of weeks. And then there was a bit of a catastrophe regarding the "rebirth" of Moog over the last few years via Don Martin.
The "fun and games" revolved around a full-blown faked up ad campaign for a major polyphonic synth. We're talking someone creating a 3D wireframe and taking it to the hilt. The spoof lasted about 6 weeks and had a lot of people fooled.
Anyway... Welcome to the real world!
Congrats on the accomplishment, and I most certainly will look closely at putting a system together.
Basically you'll have to consider that we've been duped in AH land several times before and when we see such a slick site, it raises questions. I didn't doubt you really, only some of what was shown on the site. (I've been doing the panels on the scanner for quite some time too....pretty hip, eh? :)
As for your work, I wish you utter and complete success. :) Even if you don't need or want dealers, I would be happy to show some of your work to some very interested parties at no charge.
Please keep in touch and best wishes,
It was _INCREDIBLE_ Roger...
The guy makes a living as a 3D computer artist, and he's quite good.
(Sorry, these links are all dead now)
Ken's original unveiling went through the various steps that he had done, including test images and all that. The att.net link that he mentions on his page is empty now.
The original prank included a fake scan of a magazine review, you could even read the print-through from the "back" of the faked page.
And no, it's the best possible time for your venture :)
As a member of the analogue heaven list, I would like to apologize for the dragging through the mud you took recently from some of the members. There are obviously a few rabid members who like to tear any, and everyone down. Most of us, however, are a little more well mannered. I am very interested in your systems. I'm working on gathering my pennies together to see how much of a system I can afford. I was looking at the Doepfer and MOTM systems mostly, but now I've seen yours and I like what I see. Besides, like me , you are a Texan. I'm in San Antonio. Look forward to dealing with you in the near future.
Thanks for your very upfront post to AH on the synthesizers.com issue (or non-issue). As one who is anticipating purchasing a modular in the future, I'm glad to see another participant.
Keep reading through the AH mail today... This has all been explained. The nay-sayers (that'd be a few of us here, including me) were wrong on this one, and we've all apologized to Roger.
He and I flipped mail for a while today. He's quite amazed at how bad his timing seems to of been in the wake of the Sage.
Nice guy, building what looks to be nice gear at incredible prices. I know I'm interested in checking it out more.
1. congratulations to synthesizers.com for taking the highly unusual step of manufacturing product BEFORE announcing it, or taking our money. This is contrary to standard industry procedure. I suppose you could say that he has accidentally produced a brilliant 'anti-hoax' in the mirror image of the Sage, even producing a 'faked' image of a 'real' synth!
2. send all this god/dog stuff to AHOT
3. wasnt the 'prophesy' a synth anyway?
I'm tired! Time to go to bed
What a day.....
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