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Emeryville’s Vintage Synthesizer Museum profiled on KQED Arts

3 mins read

KQED’s Alee Karim recently profiled the Vintage Synthesizer Museum located right on the Emeryville/Oakland border adjacent to The Compound Gallery (In the 94608 but it technically may in fact be in Oakland). Curator Lance Hill built his personal collection piece-by-piece over the course of a decade and sought a space to share it with the public. A space on 65th that he described as looking “like an old recording studio from the 80’s.”

“I just knew this was the place to have the collection” Hill notes in an included ABC News 7 video segment.


Lance Hill at his Vintage Synthesizer Museum, where analog electronic instruments are made available for study and use (Photo: Alee Karim).

Apparently one of the earliest innovators of the synthesizer was Berkeley-based Don Buchla, who, along with the late Robert Moog, are popularly considered the fathers of the modern synthesizer. Synthesizers including the ARP 2600, used create the robotic voices of R2-D2 & the Cylons in the original Battlestar Galactica and the Moog Taurus used in the Rush hit “Tom Sawyer” among many others. The sound was used on some of the most influential acts of the 60’s & 70’s including recently departed David Bowie who used the smaller Dubreq Stylophone in his 1969 debut “Space Oddity”.


The instruments were ultimately supplanted by more portable, easier to manufacture electronic devices in the 80’s. Many feel the musical potential of the analog predecessors were never completely tapped into and met a premature demise. A warmer, more organic sound that still has yet to be completely digitally recreated and has fueled a reemergence of “Synth Pop” sound in contemporary bands like Daft Punk. Original Manufacturers like KORG have recently unveiled modern-day recreations of their vintage products as detailed in this LA Times piece.

Hill makes the collection available for in-house rental to professionals and to view by the curious by appointment.
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At Emeryville’s Vintage Synthesizer Museum, Analog Sounds Rule

By Alee Karim
It’s the sound of R2D2 in Star Wars, the Tardis in Doctor Who, the transporter in Star Trek and the original Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. It’s the ominous tension-inducing pulse in Pink Floyd’s “On the Run,” the squiggly joyful noise at the start of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” and the epic supernovae that punctuate Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.”

“It” is the sound of the analog synthesizer, a machine originally designed to mimic acoustic instruments but whose unique timbres — created by routing electronically-generated tones through filters and signal processors — inspire a unique aural space. And though they’ve become rare instruments, the various synthesizers responsible for the above sounds can be found alongside many others at the East Bay-based Vintage Synthesizer Museum, just off of San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville.

Lance Hill is the affable 40-something curator of the Museum, whose boyish hipster looks shave a good decade off of that number. By appointment, he makes his showroom available to all interested, expert and novice alike. For the former, he offers his synthesizers for in-house rental (the museum’s synths have graced records by Dan the Automator, Neurosis, Blackalicious and others). For the latter, he offers a three-day crash course that leaves one with enough basic facility in audio synthesis to create their own compositions — or, at the very least, the ability to make some cool robot noises.

Read More on KQED Arts →

East Bay museum celebrates Vintage Synthesizers

A new East Bay museum dedicated to vintage synthesizers has a collection of instruments that produce unmistakable sounds found in many of the songs of the 1970s and 1980s.
By Jonathan Bloom

EMERYVILLE, Calif. (KGO) — In today’s digital world, an East Bay man is offering up a serious dose of analog at a new museum he just opened to the public.

Some East Bay musicians and engineers have created a unique music space, one that preserves the history of synthesized and music, as well as the instruments which made those sounds in the 70s and 80s, and maybe even more recently.

The Vintage Synthesizer Museum in Emeryville is a place where music lovers can learn, play, rent, or record.


From the classic to the experimental, the museum has instruments that defined more than a decade of music.

Lance Hill is the mastermind behind the collection that acquired piece by piece for more than a decade.

Read More on →


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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.

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