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2009/83/6 Mixer panel, custom built, metal / plastic / electronic components, maker unknown, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1968-1972. Click to enlarge.

Custom mixer panel

Made in United Kingdom, Europe, 1968-1972.
This object was part of the equipment incorporated in Tristram Cary's studios established in London in the mid-1960s and built (probably in the early 1960s) specifically for the production of electronic music. An early version of this studio was used in the construction of sounds for the Daleks in early episodes of the BBC's ground breaking science fiction series Dr. Who. A photograph of the Fressingfield, Suffolk studio, about 1969, shows it mounted in a side bay of the studio.

When electronic music was first developed studios consisted of packages of test instruments, like the function generators used in Cary's studio, and custom built panels like this selector panel used to connect various devices and tape recorders in the studio. There were at first no audio synthesisers until Robert Moog produced his Moog Modular system in the US about 1965. Cary's special contribution was the musical support and physical design advice he gave his friends Zinovieff and Cockerell that led to the establishment of the Electronic Music Studios company and the development of the VCS3. Between them they produced a cheap, versatile and portable audio synthesiser that could be used in schools and other music courses. Because it was so cheap it took the English popular music scene by storm and was used by many bands from the Beatles to Pink Floyd, King Crimson and soloists like Brian Eno.

Stephen Jones
Assistant Curator


Object No.


Object Statement

Mixer panel, custom built, metal / plastic / electronic components, maker unknown, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1968-1972

Physical Description

Mixer panel, custom built, metal / plastic / electronic components, maker unknown, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1968-1972

This is a hand-built mixer panel used in Tristram Cary's Fressingfield studio.

It is mounted on a white enamel coated metal plate (approx 30 x 45cm) with numerous controls built into it. Across the top it has a zigzag row of 8 4-position rotary selector switches that select which of four 'treatment return' fader channels are sent to 8 'treatment ratio' potentiometers. The outputs of these ratio controls are buffered using one op-amp integrated circuit per channel and the buffered signals are then sent to the 8 fader controls via bass and treble filter potentiometers. There are also 4 faders labelled 'Main Faders' which have been disconnected but were probably either treatment send faders or recorder and amplifier sends. The faders are all slider-style ribbon potentiometers, with level settings marked in paint in a grid surrounding each fader set. The rotary controls are all standard potentiometers with black plastic knobs on their shafts. There are two cue lamps and two 'Start' toggle switches on the panel between the treatment return faders and the main faders.

There are also labels in dymotape at some of the controls which indicate their purpose.

On the reverse are the working elements of the various control components, plus a circuit board having the 8 buffer ICs.


Dymotape labels



310 mm


483 mm


73 mm



United Kingdom, Europe 1968-1972



Tristram Cary (b. Oxford, UK, 1925 - d. Adelaide, 2008) was a pioneering English composer who worked in electronic music. His first studio was set up in the UK about 1965. He was instrumental in the development of the audio synthesiser being in part the impetus behind the development of the Electronic Music Studios' (EMS) Synthi A, and VCS3. In 1974 he moved to Australia, first to Melbourne University to teach electronic music using the EMS Synthi 100 at Melbourne University and subsequently to Adelaide to teach composition and electronic musk at the Elder Conservatorium, University of Adelaide.

He gained his knowledge of electronics as a Naval radar operator during WWII. During this period he heard of the development of tape recording and he realised that he could edit and make musical works by cutting up the tape with a razor blade and re-splicing it. As he later said:
"It occurred to me that ? here was a chance to have a new sort of music altogether. The editing capacity meant that you could cut sounds together that were not normally together." [David Ellis, "Music pioneer celebrates milestone", Lumen, The University of Adelaide Magazine, winter, 2005, ]

After the war he returned to university at Oxford and then went on to Trinity College of Music in London. He began to experiment with electronic sound in 1949, bought his first tape recorder in 1952 and began composing electronic and orchestral music. His first great success was the score for the film The Ladykillers (1955) starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers. He continued to write film and television music and is famous for producing the music for several episodes featuring the Daleks in the BBC's Dr. Who.

Around 1965 Bob Moog began selling his early synthesisers in America. In 1967, Cary established an electronic music studio for the Royal College of Music and assembled his own studio in his London house. Up until this time most electronic music had been produced within large workshop style studios using an assemblage of electronic workshop test equipment (function generators and filters and the like) and hand built special purpose devices.

Cary met and consulted for Peter Zinovieff who had established a private electronic music studio in Putney (on the south bank of the Thames in London). Zinovieff had purchased a DEC PDP-8 minicomputer to explore computer music and established it in the studio. David Cockerell was an experienced electronic designer who built a ring modulator that gave the distinctive sound to the Dalek's voices in Dr. Who. He became Zinovieff's engineer in 1968. Cary, Zinovieff and Cockerell, through their common interest in electronic sound, worked together to come up with an audio synthesiser that would be more portable and a lot cheaper than existing devices such as the Moog synthesisers.

Legend has it that the Australian composer Don Banks who, in the 1960s was resident in London, also wrote film music and was interested in incorporating jazz into his compositional repertoire, had asked Zinovieff and Cary to make him a small voltage controlled synthesiser. With Cockerell as the main electronic designer, they mapped out how to build what became the VCS1, of which two were built. One of those two is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum [H9953-13]. By 1969 they had established the company Electronic Music Studios and began marketing the VCS3 (a larger version of the VCS1) with 3 VCOs, a VCFilter, an envelope generator and other interesting modules. Again the electronics were designed by David Cockerell, the case was designed by Cary and the whole project was supported by Zinovieff. Apart from its small size the most interesting aspect of the VCS3 as against the American synthesisers of the period was that it used a small plug settable patching matrix to connect outputs of sources to inputs for control of audio signals.


Credit Line

Gift of John Cary, 2009

Acquisition Date

16 October 2009

Cite this Object


Custom mixer panel 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 6 July 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Custom mixer panel |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=6 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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