Curtis Family Speaks Out Against Behringer Synth Clone Plans Using CEM3340

The Curtis family have posted a revealing open letter to those wondering what Doug Curtis would make of his chips being cloned for use in Behringer's classic synth cloning plans.  

While Behringer have wide ranging and impressive plans to bring a number of clasic syntheiszers back to life in the form of clones, not all involved appear to be happy. We're not referring to synth purists or certain synth lovers. We're talking about the family behind the original Curtis CEM3340 chips. 

A week back Uli Behringer took to Gearslutz to let the world know: "We just received the first batch of our 3340 VCO chip. It is a 100% exact replica of the Curtis CEM3340 which even includes the 40 year old, 8 micron manufacturing process. It was a difficult and expensive undertaking but we are very pleased with the result as this VCO is considered one of the best sounding oscillators. 

"We are continuing to invest in reviving other legacy Curtis and SSM semiconductors which will allow us to bring back classic synths - all in the most authentic way. We have also reissued the 3320 filter chip which should be arriving in a few months."

Clones of these chips are apparently used by Dave Smith Instruments and Elektron. We believe the former definitely with the blessings and permission of the original makers.

Behringer D is a planned clone of the Minimoog Model D.

Behringer D is a planned clone of the Minimoog Model D.

However, news just in via MatrixSynth is that the Curtis family have released a statement pertaining to Behringer's plans to clone these chips, as Behringer 3340s manufactured by CoolAudio (also owned by Behringer's Music Group).

"Many of you who are active on synth forums have recently contacted us regarding another company's claim of producing VCO chips that are the equivalent to the CEM3340 that was used in many legendary synthesizers.

"To avoid any confusion, please know that there is only one manufacturer of the authentic CEM3340 designed by my late husband, Doug Curtis. Any claims, use of this product designation, and use of the name Curtis Electromusic by other companies are made without permission from OnChip Systems (our current company name) or the Curtis Family.

"As much as Doug would be humbled and so very happy about the legacy his products enjoy, we can assure you that as a person of the highest integrity he would be deeply saddened by the attempt of others to trade on his name and to make unsubstantiated claims of equivalency to his original inventions.

"In his loving memory and gratitude for the community of musicians and synthesizer enthusiasts, Doug's family is committed to making his authentic designs available as demand presents itself. Thank you for your continued support of Doug's analog synthesizer legacy.

"Mary Curtis and our daughters, Ashley and Julia"

Now while the patents would appear to have expired, this does add a new twist to the ongoing Behringer synth cloning situation. Dave Smith Instruments (DSI) are using Coolaudio SSM clones (V2164):
homemade polysynth — A quick tour of the Prophet 6 voice card

Elektron are using Coolaudio parts as well:

Behringer are planning on cloning the ARP2600 and OSCar

Behringer are planning on cloning the ARP2600 and OSCar.

However, it's worth noting that other companies that tend to clone synths do so when the originals are nolonger being produced. MatrixSynth points out that the Minimoog Model D is currently in production which could explain why Behringer's moves in the market are being seen as disruptive.

Uli Behringer has made the following clear in a German language forum:

"Something clearer. Patent rights are generally 20 years, whereby the technology is freely available for everyone. This allows the inventor, on the one hand, to harvest the fruits of his invention, but also to ensure that no monopoly arises and, after the expiry of the protection, everyone has free access to the technology - without a bad conscience.

"In the case of the Curtis or SSM chips, the patent rights of these 40-year-old components have run out for a long time and everyone can reproduce them today. Why this no longer companies do is simply because the mask costs are very high (6-digit USD range per chip) and on the other hand the minimum edition is about 300,000 - 500,000 pieces.

"Curtis has registered the name rights for Curtis and CEM, but on the number 3340 etc. there is no protection. Therefore, there are other vendors who have revived these old chips: ... er-as3320 /

"Or look at how many manufacturers. The 074 Opamp.

"Why are these 40 year old chips being rebuilt? Anyone who once belonged to an old Oberheim OB-Xa or a Prophet 5 will agree with me that the sounds of these Curtis and SSM chips are absolutely unsurpassed in their sound qualities. This specific sound is not easy to replicate with discrete technology and since we have an immense passion for analog synthesizers and believe that customers will appreciate these components, we are taking the financial risk of reviving these chips. Coolaudio has just produced the 3340 VCO successfully and the 3320 filter chip is now also under development - further building blocks will follow.

"For more than ten years, the company, which is affiliated with us, has specialized in restoring expired components. On the one hand the company produces the coveted BBD chips from the Panasonic times, but also VCA's, OTA's, Optocoupler, etc.

"Our intention is to focus on the old Curtis and SSM chips, as we want to use them in our future synthesizers. At the same time, Coolaudio will also offer them for sale, which allows other competitors to build analog instruments as well as help people repair old synths. Many of the Coolaudio chips are already used today by our competitors and we are happy if we can make a contribution to the fact that these analogue components are made of music.

"I personally consider VA for eyewash because this is ultimately digital technology. No digital synthesizer will ever be able to reproduce the 'unpredictability' and 'inaccuracy' of an analog synthesizer - no matter how much marketing is operated. Anyone who listens to analogue and digital synthesizers in comparison can easily find out. That is exactly why we will be specializing in analogue synths.

"Perhaps our desire for analogue technology is simply that we humans are knitted by themselves analogously and the emotions associated with it determine our existence."

It might be time to get the popcorn out and sit and watch...

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & macProVideo. He's built a crack team of professional musicians and writers to create one of the most visited online resources for news, review, tutorials and interviews for modern musician and producer. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic Pro Rounik has taught teachers, professional... Read More


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