EMS Synthi


The infamous Synth A, aka ‘Portabella’, developed by David Cockerell in 1971 for Peter Zinovieff’s Electronic Music Studios, EMS.

The original A version needed a separate keyboard, the DK1 ‘Cricklewood’ ,which was also used to control the VCS3 or ‘Putney’ (the better known table top version of this synthesiser, probably on account of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon sleeve

The Radiophonic Museum’s keyboard is a prototype DK0, of which only 2 other are known to exist.

EVE BBC EMS Synthi DK 0 Cricklewood keyboard

The Synthi A became the Synthi AKS, with slightly revised patch matrix. The KS keyboard sequencer was integrated in the Spartanite case.


It also included a Presto Patch which is a very handy thing.

EMS synthi features

Much information exists on the web about these wonderful instruments which were more often than not found in laboratories, educational music facilities and experimental electronic music studios, including of course the Radiophonic Workshop.

the radiophonic workshop

Suffice to say, the Radiophonic Workshop were not alone in the iconifcation of this diminutive briefcase.  EMS themselves were the master of this art.


BBC Radiophonic Workshop portable effects unit


The PEU/1 was another piece of wartime kit originally designed for the test engineer on the move, which would have had a lid and shoulder strap.

Re-purposed by the Radiophonic Workshop for creative sound sculpture, it offered basic equalisation with a passive inductive high and low pass filter.

Here seen in the background of a typical working day with Daphne Oram.


And standing the test of time, in a later era with Paddy Kingsland


BBC Radiophonic Workshop Zither


One of two ‘Foreign’ instruments heavily modified by the Radiophonic Workshop during the early years; the other being an acoustic six stringed guitar.

Each string of the zither was wound with a custom electromagnetic pickup system for pseudo stereo effect.



A BBC Monograph written as early as 1963 refers to these instruments in the inventory of Workshop II, along with many others, some of which have survived and are now held in deep storage by the Science Museum.