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Brand Doepfer


Dieter Doepfers (Dieter Döpfer) first contact with the music world promised to be his last. When Doepfer began his physics studies in Munich in 1972, he had long since put aside the accordion and taken up the guitar. He didn't want to get bored anymore and so the student tinkered with phasers and wahwahs for guitar.

More or less by accident he entered a field that would not let him go from then on. Synthesizers.

"At that time, these were still largely unknown devices. People knew Moog and later also Roland and ARP, but little was known of the technology. " The real breakthrough came with the Formant.

The Formant, a do-it-yourself kit published by Elektor magazine in 1977, was an analog modular synthesizer. For many at the time, the device was their first contact with the world of synthetic sound generation. For Doepfer, the Formant was the springboard to success. For the clunky sound dinosaur, the Munich resident constructed a voltage-controlled phaser module and offered it in a two-line classified ad. Later he went on to build all the modules himself. But as an introduction to the basics of synthesizer technology, the Formant was ingenious.

Having just completed his physics degree, Doepfer ended up doing civilian service in a large Munich hospital. A stroke of luck from which the entrepreneur still benefits today: After a few weeks of shifting beds, he was requested by the eye department. Because for laser operations on the eye, you needed a physicist. This eye department had its own development laboratory where special electronics were constructed. Doepfer: "If there was nothing to do - and there was little to do - then I just developed synthesizer circuits. After all, to the head doctor, a circuit diagram looked like any other. "

What emerged was Doepfer's first complete synthesizer system, the PMS (Polyphonic Module System). However, each of the four-voice modules was only available as a kit or as assembled circuit boards. The PMS was really only something for hobbyists.

At the end of 1982 Doepfer's Voice Modular System (VMS) came on the market. From that point on, the young physicist was able to make a living from his business. The VMS consisted of a card with two VCOs, VCF, VCA and two ADSR envelope generators. The expansion card for this was equipped with VC-LFOs, in addition there was an interface for Commodore PET4000 later for the home computer classic C-64.

The whole sound generation was built from special chips from Curtis Electronic Music Specialties (CEM), each integrating almost a complete synthesizer module. After some negotiations with CEM boss Doug Curtis, Doepfer took over the European representation for the exotic chips, which until then had only been imported sporadically as spare parts.

The Doepfer company brought an 8-bit sampler card onto the market in 1984 to go with the VMS. This was followed by a loop card and a computer interface.

Later the inventor Doepfer shifted to building keyboards. Result: LMK1, a simple master keyboard. He developed the E-510 chip together with the Böhm company especially for this purpose. For almost a decade, behind the Doepfer keys, he defied the competition:

Financially, the entry into keyboard manufacturing represented a breakthrough for the company. Production and sales were bursting at the seams, the former one-man business had grown up: Partner Sibille Heller joined the sales department, Matthias Marrass the keyboard production, Christian Assall took over the programming. Thus the master keyboards became the main product, which brought in good money, but unchallenged the electronic engineer in Dieter Doepfer. In summer 1994 the inner voice won, an analog synthesizer was created: The MS-404.

The idea for a modular system matured after more and more customers asked for a second VCO or another ADSR generator for the MS-404. There was also a lively demand for the old models on the second-hand market. Two reasons for Doepfer to strike into this notch - even if very cautiously. Even the next modules (sampler, quantizer, wavetable module, subharmonic and harmonic generator) of the A-100 are mainly realized with digital signal generation. Whether digital or analog, computer controlled church organs or MIDI gloves - nothing seems to be unimaginable in the house of Doepfer. At least almost nothing.