A very rare prototype Synthi Hi-Fli, dating from 1972, in excellent condition following a full overhaul by EMS earlier this year. One of only ten pre-production units made.
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A very rare prototype Synthi Hi-Fli, dating from 1972, in excellent condition following a full overhaul by EMS earlier this year.
One of only ten pre-production units made in 1972. David Gilmour reputedly still owns two of them…
Ultra-rare prototype EMS Synthi Hi-Fli – this is a knob-twiddler’s dream of an effect and the ultimate in hens’ teeth: your guitar will never sound the same again.
Different sound and spec to a standard Hi-Fli – this is the second such unit we’ve had and it broke my heart to sell the last one (I’ve been a committed HiFli nut since I bought my first one many years ago and have always had at least one in the studio ever since).
The prototypes don’t have the growl function, which was introduced about 18 months later. Production Hi-Flis all have the Buzz switch, but only the first ten prototypes had the Fuzz switch, which adds some interesting colouration to the up and down-octave sounds.
Ten production prototype Hi-Flis were made in 1972 but a redesign quickly followed the launch at the Frankfurt Fair to try to reduce the factory cost (the prototype design is not especially ergonomic for a guitar player to use – you have to lean back somewhat to access the pedals underneath the main unit). This original design features a removable aluminium pole which plugs into the underside of the main console and the top of the base unit, acting both as a stand and a conduit for power and signal connections (pole not included with this unit). The heavy-duty nylon-dipped base houses the power supply and sturdy twin pedals.
Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd is reputed to still have two of these original units, which, according to Phil Taylor were first used for the Dark Side of The Moon tour that started in May 1973 at Earls Court. Opinion is divided as to whether a Hi-Fli featured on the DSOTM recordings: I can only say that it certainly sounds like it did.
Number one in Analogman Tom’s list of rare guitar effects from his excellent book.
Used by David Gilmour – see this Gilmourish blog for further details – he bought a prototype in 1972 and from what he recalls it was “very, very expensive”; Gilmourish also suggest it was used during the recording of Dark Side Of The Moon
The physical design of the control panel differs from later Hi-Flis. The font used for the legending is different, as are the four rotary control knobs and caps for the sliders.
The specification of the Mk1 Hi-Fli prototype is slightly different to the main production run which followed. Whereas the Phase Filter section with six effects (vibrato, phasing 1, phasing 2, waa, waw and meow) and six control waveforms is the same, the Octave Shift section on the left is different. Instead of Octave Shift and Ring Mod mix sliders it has Up/Down and Level. With the Up/Down slider set halfway the octave shift has no effect and a clean signal results. Moving this fader down from the mid-point introduces progressively more down-shifted signal. Moving the fader up introduces ‘up-shifted’ signal. The level fader to the right controls the overall level of the signal passing through the Octave Shift section. Note there is an extra switch here labelled ‘Fuzz’. This provides a different (more subtle) colouration to the up/downshifted signal than that provided by the ‘Buzz’ switch. The Top Boost and Sustain Fuzz sections perform as normal. Note that the pedal assignment switches are on/off rather than plus-off-minus.
The Hi-Fli is supplied with a separate 8-way female-female connector cable which can be used in situations where the aluminium pole (missing) is not required. The AC mains connection is via a detachable mini-Bulgin lead (as used on EMS Synthis).
The Hi-Fli was designed by David Cockerell in 1971 for EMS. Only 350 were originally made making it a very rare beast indeed.
The Hi-Fli was actually referred to as a synthesizer in the original ad, but it’s basically an analog multi-effect processor, which can be used on vocals, guitars and organs. It has two footpedals, which could be routed as control voltages/expression pedal to any of the slider functions. It’s got no memory to bank up settings, – everything is in real-time, so one had to manually tweak the sliders for each tone change. You’ll suddenly hit upon an amazing combination while tweaking the knobs – be sure to hit record as repeating it can prove elusive.
In excellent cosmetic condition with only minor scratches on the face. The case is very good with some dings and signs of wear. See photos for more information on cosmetic condition.
For sales in UK/EU, this item is on the margin scheme for second hand goods. VAT-free sales are not possible for this item.
220/240v unit. A step-up transformer will be required for use on 110/120v supplies. Please ask if you need advice on what to use. We do not recommend using cheap, generic Chinese mains transformers.
View this post on Instagram
HiFli-ing Birds... Last night @liamgilmour928 engaged in a little post-synth fixing EMS HiFli action on our InstagramLive feed. His arms being fully occupied by playing guitar, you’re seeing the hands of confirmed HiFli nut @wayoutgentleman at the controls. We both enjoyed it so much we forgot to go home - see the full session on our #instagramlive feed now (for the next 9 hours or so). Will edit and upload more to our IGTV soon, but I think it’s safe to say this isn’t the last you’ll see/hear of the pair of HiFlis we have in the office...
Tony goes deep into the Synthi HiFli - history, some of the ways it can be used, and the different versions we've had through the studio...
PUBLISHED: 2nd Oct 2018
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