Farfisa Syntorchestra

details and troubleshooting



The Syntorchestra is divided in two sections:

1. POLI: 4 polyphonic instruments

2. MONO: 9 monophonic instruments  


1. The POLI section

The POLI section offers 4 polyphonic instruments (from left to right, fig.1):

Trombone (16')

Trumpet (8')

Piano (8')

Viola (8')

fig. 1

Only one of the instruments can be played at a time. If you have switched down more than one tab, you'll here the instrument of the most right tab you have chosen. On the other hand you can combine a POLI instrument with a MONO instrument.

The volume slider is - together with the volume slider of the MONO section - at the far left of the panel (fig. 2).  

The sounds can be changed with the POLI BRILLIANCE, which is a cut off frequency filter (fig. 3). The more the slider is moved up, the sharper the sound will be. 


fig. 2                                     fig. 3 

VIBRATO can be added with the POLI VIBRATO on/off button (fig. 4). When the Delay button is pressed too, the VIBRATO will not start immediately after a key is pressed, but a little later. The speed of the VIBRATO is changed with the VIBRATO Speed slider.

fig. 4


The complete POLI section can be switched on/off with the Cancel POLI tab (fig. 5)


fig. 5


2. The MONO section

The MONO section offers 9 Monophonic instruments (from left to right, fig 6a., 6b. & 6c.):

Tuba (32')

Trombone (16')

Trumpet (8')

Baritone Sax (16')

Alto Sax (8')

Bass Flute (8')

Flute (4')

Piccolo (2')

Violin (4')


fig 6a.                                             fig 6b.                                            fig 6c.

Only one of the instruments can be played at a time. If you have switched down more than one tab you'll here the instrument of the most right tab you have switched down. On the other hand you can combine a MONO instrument with a POLI instrument.

The MONO (= Monophonic) instruments can be played only one note at a time. If you play more than one key at a time, the most right key pressed will sound (right note priority).

The volume slider is - together with the volume slider of the POLI section - at the far left of the panel (fig 2).  


is the development of the sound, in volume and/or filtering, from the moment a key is pressed until/after a key is released.

The Syntorchestra offers two kinds of ENVELOPE:



One the two ENVELOPEs must be chosen by the tab at the far right of the instrument, situated under the keyboard (fig. 7). When SOFFIATO is chosen, DECAY will be not working and vice versa.

fig 7.


When the SOFFIATO slider is at zero, the tone is immediately at his highest volume, stays at that point (DECAY + sustain), at when the key is released, there is no release in the tone, but it stops right at the moment the key is released (fig 8.).


fig 8.

When moving the SOFFIATO slider up, the attack of the tone -  when a key is pressed - gets slower and slower, stays at a height volume (DECAY + sustain) and after the key is released, there is a small release which is getting longer as the slider is moved towards the highest position (fig.9).

fig 9.

When the DECAY slider is at zero, a note will sound very short when a key is pressed (fig. 10). There is no sustain, no attack, and only a very short DECAY and/or release.

fig. 10

When moving the DECAY slider up, the DECAY and/or release of the tone -  when a key is pressed  - gets longer and longer, it doesn't stay at a certain volume (so sustain = 0). The DECAY time and the release time are the same. (fig.11).

fig. 11  

Filter settings of the MONO section.

The Cut Off Frequency of the filter is set with the BRILLIANCE slider (fig 3.). The more the slider is moved up, the sharper the sound will be.

The Resonance of the filter is somewhat hidden. The WHA WHA has two functions, it will turn on the Filter modulation, but also the Resonance (fig 7.).

No matter what the position of the ENVELOPE or the BRILLIANCE sliders are, turning on the Resonance will immediately affect the sound.


1. Changing the BRILLIANCE will sound different with the Resonance on.

2. The Resonance is - VERY - affective on the ENVELOPE.  

The Pitch of the MONO section can be changed by the Pitch slider, for about half a note up and half a note down (fig 12.)

Another way of changing the pitch of the MONO section is the knob, positioned above the pitch slider. (fig 13.) This knob has four positions to choose:

1. normal position

2. 3rd: turns the pitch a 3rd down.

3. 5th: turns the pitch a 5th down.

4. 6th: turns the pitch a 6th down.

When playing a solo, with use of the POLI section as an extra MONO oscillator this switch can be very effective. Try for instance a solo with both trumpets (POLI and MONO), with the pitch knob on 5th.  


fig. 12                            fig. 13 


PORTAMENTO is an effect which smoothly changes the pitch form the first-played key to the next-played key.

The PORTAMENTO is switched on by the PORTAMENTO CONSTANT tab (fig. 14) or by pressing the large PORTAMENTO TEMPORARY tab (fig. 15). The last one will automatically turn to it's OUT position after it is released.

fig. 14                                             fig. 15

The PORTAMENTO time (the time which takes the pitch to go to the next pressed key) can be set with the PORTAM. TIME slider (fig. 16).

fig. 16


The WHA WHA tab (fig. 7) was already described at the filter settings part. The WHA WHA tab is also used to turn on the filter modulation.

Note that the WHA WHA only will work, with ENVELOPE set to DECAY and VIBRATO on. The speed of the modulation can be set with the VIBRATO slider.


The complete MONO section can be switched on/off with the Cancel MONO tab (fig. 5)


Features on the back of the instrument

Outputs (fig. 17)

There are two outputs:



fig. 17

The POLI output is for the POLI signal only. When the POLI output is used, the POLI signal coming from the mix output (POLI + MONO) is switched off. 

The MONO / POLI + MONO output, will therefore function as MONO output only when the POLI output is used, and function as mix output for POLI and MONO signal , when only this output is used.

The HIGH/LOW switch changes the total amount of output signal.


fig. 18
A volume pedal can be connected to this input.


fig. 19

These are two trim pots. With the POLI PITCH trim pot the pitch of the POLI section can be changed.

Be very CAREFUL with changing the MONO TRACK!! It doesn't affect the pitch MONO section, but it's tracking. I will say more about the tracking/calibration of the MONO section below.


Tuning and Calibration of the MONO section of the Syntorchestra.
First of all, tuning/calibrating the instrument is at your own risk!!

At best, a chromatic tuner can be used to tune the instrument. Of course, using a digital synth as a tuning reference is also possible.

OK, here we go:
1. Remove the wooden top of the instrument (it's not necessary to remove the part with the sliders/knobs).
2. Turn on the Syntorchestra and let it warm up for half an hour.
3. Put the Pitch slider (MONO TRACK) on the back  of the instrument in it's middle position. Switch all Vibrato OFF. Switch Portamento OFF. Wha Wha OFF.

4. Choose the Mono Trumpet preset.
5. Press the highest C key.

5. Tune the 8'' , this is the trimpot numbered 4a on the photo. This is the general pitch, be sure to tune it in the same pitch as the Poly Trumpet.

7. Press the lowest C key.

8. Almost at the far right there is a trimpot somewhat hidden beneath the wires, perhaps it needs some searching to find it..... It's numbered 4b on the photo. Use this one, to tune the lowest C.

9. If the highest C and the lowest C are tuned well with the 2 trimpots, the monosection has a perfect calibration again. Now we are gonna tune the other voices:

10. Choose the mono Tuba preset. This is a 32' voice.

11. Press a key (middle C for example)

12. Tune with trimpot number 8

13. Choose the mono Trombone preset. This is a 16' voice.

14. Press a key

15. Tune with trimpot number 7

16. Choose the mono Flute preset. This is a 4' voice

17. Press a key

16. Tune with trimpot 6

17. Choose the mono piccolo preset. This is a 2' voice

18. Press a key

17. Tune with trimpot 5

Tuning trimpots for the PITCH switch.
The 3rd, 5th and 6th of the PITCH switch all have their own trim pot to change the pitch of it!! Very nice. Unfortunately their reach isn't too large, so it is not possible to tune the 6th one octave lower than the original pitch.

1. Switch the pot to 3rd

2. Press the middle C key

3. Tune to A with trimpot numbered 2 on the photo

4. Switch the pot to 5th

5. Press the middle C key

6. Tune to F with trimpot numbered 3 on the photo

7. Switch to pot to 6th

8. Press the middle C key

9. Tune to E with trimpot numbered 1 on the photo


Trimpots numbered 9, 10. 11 and 12 on the photo (you have to remove the part with the sliders/knobs at the left of the instrument for this)

With this trimpot the "acoustic distortion" of the bass flute can be changed. Not very effective.

Trimpot to change the waveform of the SAXES. This is a very nice one, I wish it was placed outside to instrument, as a normal knob. When the trim pot is in it's most left position, a pure square wave will sound. Then, turning it clockwise, it will turn into a pulse, which will turn into a sawtooth, which will turn into a triangle. All very smooth.

Trimpot to change the length of the Mono Decay. Very usefull. This trimpot might be hidden somewhat beneath the wires.

Trimpot to change the length of the Mono Soffiato (= attack).

Trimpots numbered A, B, C and D on the photo below (you have to remove two large screws at the bottom of the instrument, also remove the metal plate at the right of the instrument. Now you can turn the keyboard in a vertical position (see photo).

Trimpot to change the maximum vibrato rate.

Trimpot to change the maximum volume of the Poli-section.

Trimpot to change the sofficato (= attack) of the Poli-section. This will NOT affect the Piano-attack.

Trimpot to change the Piano decay. This is a very effective one. The decay can be changed from very short to very long. One nice thing, if you choose a rather long decay, also a short release when releasing the pianokeys will be heard.

Dead - or soft Pianokeys.

The Syntorchestra has little VCA-circuits for every Pianokey. Indeed, only on the Poli-piano sound. My Syntorchestra had some dead Pianokeys when I bought it and some Pianokeys sounding softer. Again: only when the Pianosound is chosen. Since then I've read (EBAY!) about other Syntorchestra's having this problem. This problem is (most of the time) caused by broken/rotten elco's. At the photo, near the bottom you see a row of little lightblue tubes. That are the elco's I'm talking about. One for every key on the instrument. The elco's can be replaced easy if you know how to solder.
The VCA elco's on the instrument are 22 uF / 25 V. When you buy them be sure that the elco's you buy are 22 uF. The V can be 25V or higher. My Syntorchestra has replacement elco's of 22 uF / 63V. Works perfectly. Also be sure to buy ''standing'' elco's, in stead of ''lying'' ones. If you're not familiar with soldering, then better not do this. And when you replace, it is at your own risk, of course! Note that elco's have a mark on one site, this looks like an arrow or something. This arrow marks the negative pole of the elco. Be sure, to place the elco's in exactly the same position as the old ones. So keep an eye on those marks!! Elco's are very cheap, I payed 30 Eurocents a piece. If you have doubts, don't hesitate to ask me. Good luck with it.

A close-up of elco's: