|Still Flyin’ Hi
From Analog Man’s Guide to Vintage Effects
“Formerly known as the Sound Freak, the Synthi Hi-Fli represents the pinnacle of rare, collectible vintage pieces. For people in this business, there is none higher—it is the Holy Grail. Most people in the know have heard of it, but it’s hard to find someone who’s actually seen one, making it somewhat akin to a Sasquatch sighting… Analog Mike has one of the most extensive vintage effects collections known to man, yet the Synthi Hi-Fli eludes him. Whenever it is mentioned, he ruefully expresses the unlikelihood of ever acquiring one… The closest thing I ever came up with was when I found a dealer who had a rubber foot that apparently had come from the bottom of the stand in which the original unit was housed. He wanted twenty dollars for it. After much agonizing, I had to decline. I couldn’t stand the thought of taking it from some poor guy out there who might be suffering with a wobbly Hi-Fli.
The EMS Synthi Hi-Fli is known for having been used by David Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon… Steve Hackett used the Hi-Fli extensively with Genesis on albums such as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (featured prominently on the solo to “Counting Out Time”). Steve told us, “The Synthi Hi-Fli was also useful for achieving an almost backwards sound—specifically on the middle section of ‘Ripples’ on Trick of the Tail.” Ah, but what exactly is a Synthi Hi-Fli, you may be wondering? The best description comes from the original nineteen-page owners manual, titled Hi-Fli Explained:
‘The Synthi Hi-Fli combines many well-known processes in a single package, such as tone control, fuzz, octave dropping, modulation, phasing, waw-waw, vibrato, etc. The weighting of these effects is ostensibly at the control of the operator and can be manually set and/or be controlled by a dual foot pedal and in some cases can be effected by a transient generator which, in turn, is triggered by the operator. The purpose of this machine is to process musical signals, in particular, guitars.’ Well said.”
Little has changed in the time since the above was written. The fabulous Hi-Fli is still number one, and Analog Mike still does not have one. A fine example was procured, however, by yours truly for an absolutely embarrassing sum that I would be ashamed to disclose. Hey Mike! Are you reading? I got me a Hi-Fli!
New information since the publishing of Analog Man’s Guide To Vintage Effects has lead us to believe that the Ludwig Phase II Guitar Synthesizer may not be as rare as we originally thought. Here is the lowdown oin this effect, from the book:
“The Ludwig Phase II Synthesizer isn’t a synthesizer at all. So what the heck is it? Hmm… good question. Well, it’s a multi-effects unit of sorts (one of the very first, too) that includes a fuzz, a tremolo (labeled “Animation”), and an odd filtering section labeled “Formant Trajectories.” (A+ for that name.) These appear to have been made in extremely limited numbers between 1970 and 1971 by Ludwig—yes, the drum company. The circuit uses a rather vast number of discreet components (no ICs). One of the more appealing features (depending on your taste) is the impressive array of lighted controls and colors; it seems more like a mini-cockpit than a stomp pedal, inviting the user to strap in and take off. In more recent years, the Ludwig Phase II has developed a loyal following of users, including producer/ engineer Tchad Blake, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, and Larry LaLonde of Primus.”