To understand why we started this project, think back to 2013. The days of flagship analog synthesizers seemed to be nothing more than a distant memory. Analog synthesizers — especially polyphonic synthesizers — were in an epic hiatus. With a very small number of notable exceptions, analog polyphonic synthesizers had been out of production for 30 years.
Now fast-forward a little bit, and think back to the first quarter of 2017. Polyphonic analog synthesizers with VCOs were finally beginning to reappear on the market. But new-school analog didn’t have the old-school sound. Everybody knew it, but nobody knew why. Everybody thought the only way to get true classic sound was with obsolete materials: you needed through-hole components, old-stock Fairchild transistors, RCA transconductance amplifiers, and wet-dipped tantalum capacitors from warlords in the Congo.
In 2017, we showed that you could get the exact same sound with surface mount technology.
Because in reality, you didn’t need any of that un-obtainable stuff. Discrete analog synthesizers are extremely complicated systems, but the individual components are simple. And all of the critical analog components are still in production! So if you want to build a great analog synthesizer, you only need 3 things. You need a good schematic. You need a great layout. And you need to build it with the highest quality components obtainable.
I guess you also need to think deeper. And beneath the surface of all of this development effort, there’s a fundamental question that drives everything we do.
Why do we still like analog?
Think about it: why do we still like analog?
Analog is visible but not distracting,
reliable but nondeterministic.
It has an exponential response, and it saturates at overload.
It’s long-term serviceable,
high resolution and a fast response time,
and it’s physical.
People like analog because you can feel it.
And there’s definitely a reason that the Shear Electronics Relic-6 prototype achieved legendary status within a week of its original announcement at NAMM 2017. It shattered the popular beliefs about “through-hole components” and “obsolete materials.” It vanquished the idea that discrete analog polyphonic synthesizers were a “lost art” of a long-forgotten era. And it showed the world that the sound is in the schematic.
But we wanted to do much more than that. So we set a new goal. And we invested an enormous amount of effort into an intense research & development project over a span of several years. Because we wanted to build the best synthesizer we could possibly build. And because it’s not enough to have the best design or the best technology. We need to have both.
Now it’s 2024. And our latest prototype is a remarkable achievement of engineering. It’s as authentic, and as advanced, as any analog synthesizer made today.
This is the Relic.
In our opinion, it is the best analog synthesizer on the planet.
And by the way, the next sentence will be even more controversial…
Analog is better than digital.
The Relic voice core is a remarkable synthesizer in itself.
Each voice core is a pure analog synthesizer, with a discrete signal path and a
tightly coupled digital mod system.
The Relic gives you 8 of these voice cores.
The Relic is also the first analog synthesizer with 8 fully independent voice core processors. So each voice core is fully independent from all of the other voice cores.
[see more at shearelectronics.com/relic/voice-core]
Modern analog synthesizers are large-scale systems with a high degree of
Therefore, it is important to differentiate between the synthesizer architecture
and the system architecture.
(The phrase synthesizer architecture refers to the technical design of the signal path and mod system.
The phrase system architecture refers to the technical design of everything else, including the digital control system, frontpanel, graphical user interface, operating system, and more.)
When you are looking at a synthesizer to buy, you might tend to focus purely on the synthesizer architecture, rather than the overall system architecture. But when you finally get to sit down and use a synthesizer, the system architecture is critically important to the experience — much more than you might expect.
At a system level, the Relic has excellent design and excellent performance.
Design is subjective.
Performance is not.
The Relic looks like a cutting-edge analog synthesizer because it is a cutting-edge analog synthesizer. In other words, the Relic is technically at the prototype stage. But we’re certainly moving forward as fast as we can!
As of February 2024, we are limited by supply. If you’re interested, make sure to put your name down on the waiting list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We expect the Relic to be in high demand for a long time, so you should make sure to write your name down as soon as possible!
Make sure to check out the Relic product page:
You can also check out the Relic status feed:
And remember, shearelectronics.com is a very new website (as of February 2024). We’ll try to update this site pretty frequently, so please tell all your friends about the Relic project, and make sure to check back here every few weeks!