A Brief History of Crumar Synthesizers

When discussing vintage synthesizers, the name Crumar doesn’t usually spring to mind alongside other more recognizable brands like Moog, ARP, Roland, or Korg. Yet Crumar, an Italian manufacturer best known for their productions in the '70s and '80s, has earned their niche in the pantheon of analog synths. Many of them have even been utilized by artists as diverse as Sun Ra and Duran Duran, with one of their most desired models, the monophonic Crumar Spirit, designed by Bob Moog himself.

Crumar’s Early Years

Founded by Marco Crucianelli in Castelfidardo, Italy in 1971, Crumar initially manufactured organs and string synthesizers throughout the 1970s. Early products included the T2 Organizer (drawbar organ) and the Multiman-S and Performer models (analog strings and brass synths), before releasing a series of integrated synthesizers. Their first, the DS-2, was released in 1978, and had one of the earliest digitally controlled oscillators.

Crumar’s initial success as a manufacturer of entry-level (read: “cheap”) keyboards in the early ‘70s led to them not being perceived as a serious contender with more established brands like Moog or Roland. This held true particularly since these larger companies helped to define the market for high-quality synthesizers years earlier with popular models such as the Moog Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, and Roland’s Juno series. Despite this, Crumar made nearly 40 different keyboards and synthesizers with a wide range of unique features. Many of these proved comparable with their big-name competitors, such as their more sought-after models like the Spirit, the Performer, and the Trilogy.

Delving Into the Synth Market

Crumar Orchestrator

Crumar Orchestrator

Crumar shifted their focus to synthesizers in the mid 1970s in response to the ever-growing consumer demand for affordable and user-friendly models, developing a line that is often considered an emulation of more popular synths of the era. One of their early forays into fully polyphonic synthesizers was the Crumar Multiman-S, released in the U.S. in 1977 as the Orchestrator. The synth was named for its six available voicings: brass, piano, clavichord, cello, violin, and bass. The ability to mix sounds and a unique split-keyboard option offered two sets of controls for the left and right sides of the keyboard, allowing the user to play multiple timbres at once. Pedal controls for volume and filtering options further expanded the control over these combinations of atmospheric orchestral sounds.

Crumar Performer

Crumar Performer

In 1979, the Orchestrator was followed by the Performer, a fully polyphonic brass and string synthesizer known for producing high-quality string sounds similar to the ARP Solina. An LFO controlled delay length, rate, and depth, and the combination of brass and string over a fully polyphonic board allowed for rich, full sound. The synth was further fleshed out by 16’ and 8’ string voices with 4 filter controls per instrument section and a Moog-style ladder filter.

Crumar released the Performer 2 in 1982, a 4-octave paraphonic string and brass synthesizer with multiple oscillators sharing a single filter control and envelope. An expressive string section, 3-band EQ sliders and transposition buttons which adds an octave tone allowed for richer, fuller textures. The brass is produced by a square wave passing through a low-pass VCF with resonance control. The LFO section can affect both the string and brass sections or routed to change the VCF or pitch, adding quite a bit of variety to the instrument.

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Hidden Gems: The Trilogy and the Spirit

Crumar Trilogy

Crumar Trilogy

1981’s Trilogy, one of their best-known models, is named after its 3 sections: organ, string, and synthesizer. The Trilogy employs a few more functions than its American cousin, the Moog Opus 3. The organ sounds are generated by a square wave, with two oscillators, each with 2’, 4’, 8’ and 16’ voicings. The synthesizer section features triangle and square waveforms, with the LFO section sporting controls not often found on other synths. These included a variable delay control that determines how quickly the LFO is brought into the sound, a variable slope for blending two separate tones, and a glide feature for a glissando pitch change in the initial attack of a sound. An oscillator sync option determines the high frequency attack of one oscillator with the other high frequency oscillator. An input on the rear panel allowed for pedal control of this function.

Crumar Spirit

Crumar Spirit

The Spirit, introduced in 1983, is perhaps their most sought-after model designed by Bob Moog with Jim Scott and Tom Rhea, co-developers of the Minimoog. A monophonic synth with 2 VCOs and 2 LFOs, the makeup of this model features two assignable modulation wheels, 2’, 4’, 8’ and 16’ voicings, options for sample and hold, arpeggiation, filter overdrive, ring modulation, and two assignable modulation wheels. All these features give it a different sort of palette and even more options than the Minimoog.

The Crumar Bit99, produced in 1985, used digitally controlled circuitry and two digital oscillators, but its signal path is otherwise analog. The Bit99 features 6-voice polyphony, two envelope generators per voice, MIDI capability, assignable velocity sensitivity, and an option for the keyboard split function as well. The interface uses button controls, but with the parameters printed on the front, editing is accessible and straight-forward. Similar to Roland’s JX8P or Korg’s Poly800, the Bit99 never found as big an audience as those synths, despite being on par with their features and versatility.

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Crumar’s Resurrection

Crumar Mojo

Crumar Mojo

While Crumar’s initial production run stopped in 1986, Italian organization V.M. Connection restarted the Crumar brand in 2008, producing the Mojo series of drawbar organ/electric piano keyboards along with a number of accessories. In their initial run, Crumar's aim for designing analog polyphonic keyboards was to compete with other poly synths from Oberheim, Yamaha, Moog, and the like, but their unique features and acclaimed string sounds set them apart. As Crumar’s ads proclaimed, their synthesizers “produce unique string sounds that others just can’t.”

While their market is not as broad as better-recognized brands, Crumar’s products have a well-deserved following due to their versatile features that allow for lush and truly unique sounds. Their fully integrated synths are also host to features that just aren’t found in other brands, putting many Crumar products in a class of their own, and making them a welcome addition to any keyboard or synthesizer collection.

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