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New England Digital

From Academic Kids

New England Digital (1971 - 1992), based in White River Junction, Vermont, was best known for its signature product, the Synclavier System. Originally developed as the "Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer" by Dartmouth College professor Jon Appleton, in association with NED founders Cameron W. Jones and Sydney A. Alonso, the Synclavier was one of the most advanced electronic synthesis and recording tools of the day. The system was nearly as famous for where it was not used, as it was for the list of premier studios in which it was -- the extremely sophisticated synthesizer enjoyed the distinction of being banned from many famous concert halls, out of fear that it would obsolete the musicians themselves.

The mature Synclavier was a modular, component-based system that included facilities for FM-based synthesis, digital sampling, hard-disk recording, and sophisticated computer-based sound editing. By the late 1980s, complete Synclavier systems were selling for upwards of $100,000, to famous musicians such as Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder (who played his on an episode of The Cosby Show), and to major studios the world over. The Synclavier was also employed by experimental musicians, such as Laurie Anderson, who used it extensively in her music.

Unfortunately for New England Digital, the Synclavier became a victim of market saturation, high prices, and the rapidly increasing capabilities of personal computers, MIDI-enabled synthesizers and low-cost digital samplers. In the span of two years, the company saw enormous sales evaporate, and in 1992 they closed their doors forever. Parts of the company were purchased by Fostex, which used the technical knowledge to build several hard-disk recording systems in the 1990s. Simultaneously, a group of ex-employees and product owners collaborated to form The Synclavier Company, primarily as maintenance organization for existing customers, but with an eye to adapting Synclavier software to personal computer equipment. Beginning in 2000, NED co-founder Jones collaborated with ex-employee Brian S. George to develop a version of the Synclavier software for Apple Computer's Macintosh computer systems.

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