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EMS 8 octave filter bank

Made in United Kingdom, Europe, 1973.
This object was part of the equipment incorporated in Tristram Cary's private studio built in Adelaide after 1974 specifically for the production of electronic music. It is similar to the 8 octave filter bank that was supplied as part of the complement of equipment in the Synthi 100. It is very likely that Cary acquired this from EMS.

When Cary moved to Australia in 1973 he came out to teach staff at the Music Department of the University of Melbourne how to use their newly acquired Synthi 100. In 1974 he moved to Adelaide and established the electronic music studio at the Elder Conservatorium of the University of Adelaide. He also assembled his own private studio at his house in the Adelaide suburb of Glen Osmond. His private studio still retained some of the original equipment but he would have acquired new devices as new techniques became available and this would apply to useful pieces of equipment that became available through developments at EMS.

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 devices. The development of electronic music took off with the appearance of audio synthesisers like Robert Moog's Moog Modular system in the US from 1965 and the EMS equipment which began to appear in the UK in 1969. Cary had contributed to this both as a composer of electronic music for film and television as well as through his classical compositional practice. He also provided musical support and physical design advice to his friends Peter Zinovieff and David Cockerell which led to the establishment of the company Electronic Music Studios and the development of the VCS3.

Stephen Jones
Assistant Curator


Object No.


Object Statement

EMS 8 octave filter bank, metal / plastic / electronic components, made by Electronic Music Studios, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1973

Physical Description

EMS 8 octave filter bank, metal / plastic / electronic components, made by Electronic Music Studios, used by Tristram Cary, England, 1973

The 8 octave filter bank is a device developed by EMS for use with their Synthi 100 system. This version has an extra set of outputs for use with non-Synthi 100 based systems and was used with the various synthesisers in Tristram Cary's private studio in Adelaide. It consists of a 19" (45cm) rack mounted cream-enamelled metal case with controls and output connector sockets on the front panel. The front panel is divided into two parts; the right hand part has 10 output connector sockets which make available the rectified signal level of that component of the audio frequency spectrum at the centre frequency specified by the 8 octaves of the filter bank. There are also a signal input and output connectors. On the left half of the front panel are the gain potentiometers for the eight frequency bands centred at each of the filters' 8 octaves. The octave centre frequencies are 63Hz, 125Hz, 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, 2000Hz 4000Hz and 8000Hz. Most synthesisers were able to delivers signals to about 10KHz so this range was all that was needed.

The EMS specifications for the Synthi 100 indicate that the Octave Filter Bank "consists of eight resonating filters, fixed-tune one octave apart, in the range 62.5 Hz - 8 KHz, separately controllable."


8 Octave Filter Bank
Various control labels.



45 mm


480 mm


160 mm




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 was resident in London in the 1960s, 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 three were built. One of those three 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 or audio signals.


Credit Line

Gift of John Cary, 2009

Acquisition Date

16 October 2009

Cite this Object


EMS 8 octave filter bank 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 July 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=EMS 8 octave filter bank |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=5 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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