Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
Post Reply
User avatar
otto
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by otto » Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:12 pm

So, on a whim and because the price was right I just picked up a SCI Six-Track on my lunch break. It’s sitting in the back seat of my truck and I since I have school tonight I probably won’t even be able to play it until tomorrow night. As I’ve been working out the details of the transaction over the last week I had some time to do some research on this synth and it’s relatives. I know these are oft overlooked/neglected synths and never having the chance to check one out they were relegated to the “I know of it, but not about it” category. In my research I am starting to think these might be overlooked gems.

First, the Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and Max are all basically/kinda the same synth in different packages. The Max offers the least knobs/buttons, the Multi-Track ads outs for each voice and all of those are multi-timberal and the Split-8 has a chorus but is only bi-timberal. I suspect there aren’t a whole lot of each model out there as I see more of the venerable Prophet 5’s for sale at any given time than any of these individual models which might be another reason no one really talks about them.

These all sport Curtis 3394 synth-on-a-chip designs but they are VCO, the last CEM VCO chips. This chip is also in the Akai AX-60 and a couple other synths and drum machines. I believe the Six-Trak is the first (or one of) multi-timberal synths. I suspect the design of these was the inspiration carried over to the DSI Tetra. In the same way the Tetra can be used as either a 4 voice polyphonic synth or as 4 individual mono synths, these can too. The Multi-Trak takes the most advantage of this by having individual outputs for each voice.

One of the complaints levied against these is the lack of knobs-per-function. First, I think that complaint is sometimes thrown around to easily. I’ve used many of the synth that lack lots of knobs and as long as you know how most basic analog poly-synths work it usually isn’t hard to find your way around the less knobby synths. I’ll have to report back on how I feel about programming the Six-Trak. Second, I found out the these synth are supposed to have very thorough CC mini implementation. They were meant to be used with a computer and came with commodore 64 software. So it should be a piece of cake to hook up a cheap midi controller and have knob per function or close to it.

I’d like to compare these to the Tetra a bit, on paper. The later CEM3396 chip is a dual voice DCO synth on a chip which was used in the Oberheim Matrix 6/1000 and most likely a variant or reproduction of that chip is being used in the new DSI instruments. The 3396 has 2 DCOs per voice. On the other hand the CEM3394 of the Six-Trak, etc. only has one oscillator per voice but it is a VCO which, presumably will give it some oomph. I’m not sure yet if Sequential worked out a way to sync oscillators between the voices. I suspect not, but I’ll dig in and find out. However, there is a nice workaround for multiple oscillators. On the Six-Trak, etc. You can stack voices, from one to six. This gives you the opportunity to use 2 full and separate chips per voice so you can have a dual (up to 6 for that matter) oscillator stacked monosynth each oscillator with its own programmable VCA and Filter. Whereas the 3396 has only one filter and VCA per 2 DCOs. The amount of surface controls aren’t too dissimilar. The Tetra offers a few knobs and a nicely implemented LCD. The Six-Trak offers a few knobs, a bunch of buttons and a graphic programming chart. The Tetra has 4 individual voices, the Six-Trak has 6. The 6 Trak only has 6 oscillators but they are VCO whereas the Tetra has 8 DCO. Both have sequencers that interestingly enough can be programmed to change various midi parameters. I’m sure the Six-Trak sequencer is much more archaic but might be simpler to use given both interfaces. If it really can be used to control various parameters of the synth, like the new DSI instruments than it can be a very powerful programming tool not restricted to simple note sequences. It was alleged on bluesynths that it can be used that way so I will see… The other obvious pluses in the favor of the Six-Trak are that it comes with a keyboard and wheels. A downside for the Six-Trak is that older synths like this have lower resolution on knobs which can cause zippering when manually modulated (the obvious workaround is to program sweeps and such internally with the LFOs. Also many of the digital envelopes on older polysynths are a bit slow. I don’t know yet if that is the case on the Six-Trak. I do know the new DSI gear has quick digital envelopes. Also the new DSI gear have a lot of LFOs, modulation capabilities and destinations that ultimately is probably unmatched in vintage gear aside from the OB Matrix-12/Xpander. I suspect the 3394 with its DCO’s will sound a bit more organic and thicker than the DSI but until I’ve played with it, that’s only speculation. The tetra will set you back about $800 and these older SCI units seems to go in the $300-$400ish range.

I’m not suggesting they are any kind of direct match or replacement for each other but they are in lots of ways comparable and I suspect that a lot of people don’t know that is how these older SCI synths are set up. In a way they are really very unique. You won’t find any other vintage multi-timberal VCO based synths that can be used as true mono or true polyphonic or as 6 individual monos or stacked as many individual voices you want. Seems that there may be a lot of power in there and if they sound significantly better or different than the new DSI gear they might be a welcome alternative.

I’d like to hear other peoples thoughts on these synths, pros and cons, etc.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

THEODICY
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 343
Joined: Fri Oct 19, 2007 2:06 am

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by THEODICY » Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:36 pm

I've only owned a six-trak out of all of those to mentioned and I didn't like the sound or the envelopes at all. I sold it and have not missed it one bit. YMMV.

User avatar
otto
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by otto » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:55 pm

Yeah, I’ll let you know what I think of the sound once I have time to program it and see what it is capable of. I’m excited by what it can do but ultimately the sound will be the test.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

User avatar
otto
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by otto » Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:56 pm

So I had a good amount of time to play with the Six-Trak last night.
Pros:
- The VCOs and the filter have good flavor, it sounds vintage and actually to my surprise it does have the character SCI sound to it. It’s not as anemic sounding as the CEM3396.
- It has a lot of unique capabilities not likely to overlap another vintage poly:
- Although it only has 1 VCO per voice it allows selection of any or all of the waveforms. Selection of multiple waveforms does boost and thicken the sound.
- It has an envelope for the VCO which I found interesting and haven’t fully explored. Maybe someone can suggest some interesting tricks?
- In addition to the LFO in the filter section is has Oscillator modulation of the filter.
- The ability to stack different patches makes for interesting combinations, allows it to get nice and thick and is probably where this synth really shines.
- I like the build of these style of SCI synths. Like the prophet 600, these usually stand the test of time really well and look fairly new for being 25 +/- years old.

Cons:
- Only one VCO per voice is limiting. Used strictly as a polysynth it can be thin compared to a Prophet 5 or 600 but it still sounds thicker and wider to my ears than a Juno 106 (but not as sweet and not capable of quick, tight bass) and of course you can use outboard chorus to thicken and sweeten sounds. As a polysynth I would probably turn to my P600 most of the time.
- You need to read the manual to know how to use this thing. It’s not that it is difficult, it’s just not immediately intuitive. Some of the negative reviews I’ve read about this synth suggest people don’t know how to use it.
- Programming is not hard but it’s admittedly kind of stupid. You have to push the parameter button than use the keypad to choose the parameter to change (based on the chart). Then you have to push value and turn the knob to change the value. Once I got going it became fairly quick and easy but I can see why that would be a turn-off (Still as easy or easier to program as a JX3P). Since it has good midi implementation you can make this whole process a lot easier and knobbier with a midi controller.
- The low bit resolution of parameters means that you need to use the LFO for sweeps and such if you don’t want stepping. It also means that the adjustment of parameters is limited to the bits of resolution but this is fairly common on most cheaper vintage polysynths.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

User avatar
meatballfulton
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6036
Joined: Wed Apr 13, 2005 9:29 pm
Gear: Logic Pro X

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:37 pm

otto wrote:It has an envelope for the VCO which I found interesting and haven’t fully explored. Maybe someone can suggest some interesting tricks?
Use fast attack and decay for a pitch sweep on the start of the note, tune the depth of modulation and the decay time to get chiff sounds. Emulate the property of many acoustic instruments going a hair sharp on the attack of the note. Create effects that sound like polyphonic portamento. Lots of applications when making FX noises.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

User avatar
nadafarms
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 1067
Joined: Thu Jun 01, 2006 7:33 am
Location: NorCal

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by nadafarms » Thu Jan 07, 2010 1:25 am

sixtrak really isn't a bad synth. just use it for what it does best and don't expect unrealistic things and you'll be stoked especially for the price. pwm pads are nice, resonating filters that can be modded by oscillators is nice :)

it's pretty damn reliable and the unison is really fat and it's a nice lead mono synth

good utility synth for feeding vocoders too and a great live synth because it's stable, small and sounds decent. I honestly like the way it sounds kinda better than the P08...
for sale/trade: EML-101

User avatar
Dogpupkus
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 70
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 2:27 am
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by Dogpupkus » Thu Jan 07, 2010 5:11 am

otto wrote:So I had a good amount of time to play with the Six-Trak last night.
I was really thinking about getting one of these. Ive been hearing about how they're an inexpensive source for some strict SCI sounds. I think based on your review, and the price they can be found at... It's worth picking up. Thank you :D I've been craving a new synth to mess around with.
Image

User avatar
otto
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1571
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 8:00 pm
Location: Utah

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by otto » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:50 pm

Dogpupkus wrote: I was really thinking about getting one of these. Ive been hearing about how they're an inexpensive source for some strict SCI sounds. I think based on your review, and the price they can be found at... It's worth picking up. Thank you :D I've been craving a new synth to mess around with.
It’s a good deal, I can’t think of another VCO poly you can get for the $300ish these go for. It sound SCI-light in poly-mode. The interesting stack and sequencer features are very unique in vintage synths.

Don’t be afraid to dig into the manual to get the most use of its features. The guy I bought it from didn’t even realize it could be used in poly-mode and thought that it could only be used as 6 mono-tracks. The odd thing about it though is that it starts in poly-mode. I think he bought it, switched it on, got confused and then it sat for a few years until he sold it to me.

I’ll have to play with it more before I decide if it is a keeper. I do like its unique feature-set but the basic sounds overlap what I can already do on my P600(obviously other than the stacking feature). I actually thought they would sound more different from each other than they do. I guess aside from chip design a lot of a company’s signature sound probably has to do with how they program envelopes, soundpath, etc. I’d expect it to have a common sound with the AX-60 but judging from AX-60 demos they aren’t all that close, it does sound sequential. They look nice together, haha, a matching set.
hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again

User avatar
minime123
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1065
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:44 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by minime123 » Fri Jan 08, 2010 5:03 pm

no time to read the rest of this thread, but here are my 2 cents...
a single voice on one of these sounds good, but never did much for me because there arent enough parameters for a synth nerd like me to tweak. however, the ability to stack sounds makes a sixtrak a really nice, powerful synth.
i havent got one in my personal studio, but only due to limited space. if space wasnt an option, i would.
mini
VINTAGE SYNTH DEALER
- We Buy Sell Trade Repair Vintage Synths
- We Buy Broken Gear & Parts Too...
- Huge Selection, Dependable Service
- https://tonetweakers.com

User avatar
Sir Ruff
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 3519
Joined: Tue May 09, 2006 11:55 pm
Gear: Two persimmon modulators and a frequency adjudicator.
Band: Ruff in the jungle
Location: Philadelphia

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by Sir Ruff » Fri Jan 08, 2010 5:09 pm

meatballfulton wrote:
otto wrote:It has an envelope for the VCO which I found interesting and haven’t fully explored. Maybe someone can suggest some interesting tricks?
Use fast attack and decay for a pitch sweep on the start of the note, tune the depth of modulation and the decay time to get chiff sounds. Emulate the property of many acoustic instruments going a hair sharp on the attack of the note. Create effects that sound like polyphonic portamento. Lots of applications when making FX noises.
I think it's most useful when modulating the filter with the osc... then you get the usual modulated FM sounds. I can't remember if osc>filter mod still works when all waveforms are switched off, but I think it does.

I had the multi-track briefly (that has the benefit of chorus), but had no regrets selling. The split 8 I could see buying-you at least still have 4 note poly when the oscs are "doubled".
Do you even post on vse bro?

User avatar
rharris07
Expert Member
Expert Member
Posts: 1124
Joined: Wed Nov 18, 2009 4:41 am
Real name: Ryan
Band: Ghost Fires, The Witch Family
Location: Austin, TX
Contact:

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8 and

Post by rharris07 » Fri Jan 08, 2010 7:21 pm

i picked up a split-eight about a month ago for about 90 bucks, and yes...it is in simply amazing shape. I am currently trying to order replacement side panels, but the rest of it is in perfect shape. anyways - i really like the sounds i've pulled out of it so far, it can be a biiiiit flat at times...doesn't have as much character to it as my prophet '08 obviously, but for some thick sounds you can turn that unison and chorus on and it sounds pretty awesome. absolutely worth the money i paid...i don't think i want to get rid of it any time soon unless i just got an awesome offer for it. it can really fill out a track if i need it to. i just orderd a space echo pedal, and plan on hooking that up to the split - i have a feeling that will really help develop the sound i want from it much more.

this is the only SCI i own so its the only one i know of, but i'd love to find a six trak somewhere!

MEK | SixTrak | DrumTraks | Motif 8 | DW8000 | MicroKorg | EMX1 & ESX1 | Soviet TOM | Arp Quartet | SD-1 32V | Elka 490 | Indigo 2 | E6400 | Morpheus | SQ2 | DotCom Modular

Virgule
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 379
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:46 pm

Re: Thoughts on the Sequential Six-Trak, Multi-Trak, Split-8

Post by Virgule » Sun Jan 10, 2010 10:42 am

:):

Post Reply