The VCS 3 (an initialism for Voltage Controlled Studio, version #3) is a portable analog synthesizer with a flexible semi-modular voice architecture, designed by Electronic Music Studios (London) Limited (EMS) in 1969. The VCS 3 Putney was one of EMS' first synthesizers.
The VCS3 has three oscillators (the first two oscillators are normal oscillators and the third an LFO or Low Frequency Oscillator), a noise generator, two input amplifiers, a ring modulator, 24dB/octave voltage controlled low pass filter (VCF), a trapezoid envelope generator, joy-stick controller, voltage controlled spring reverb unit and 2 stereo output amplifiers. Unlike most modular synthesizer systems which use cables to link components together, the VCS 3 uses a distinctive patch board matrix into which pins are inserted in order to connect its components together.
The VCS 3's basic design was reused by EMS in many other of their own products, most notably in the EMS Synthi 100 (1971), and the Synthi A (1971) and AKS (1972) (essentially a VCS 3 housed in a plastic briefcase). The AKS also has a sequencer built into the keyboard in the lid.
The VCS3 was popular among progressive rock bands and was used on recordings by The Alan Parsons Project, Jean-Michel Jarre, Todd Rundgren, Hawkwind, Brian Eno (with Roxy Music), King Crimson, The Who, Gong, and Pink Floyd, among many others. A well-known example of its use is on The Who track Won't Get Fooled Again from Who's Next. In this instance the synthesizer was used as an external sound processor, with Pete Townshend running the signal of a Lowrey organ through the VCS3's filter and low frequency oscillators. Pink Floyd's "On the Run "(from The Dark Side of the Moon) made use of the VCS 3's oscillators, filter and noise generator, as well as the sequencer. Their song "Welcome to the Machine" also used the VCS 3. The bass throb at the beginning of the recording formed the foundation of the song, with the other parts being recorded in response.
Polyphony - Monophonic
Oscillators - 3 VCO's - Subtractive / FM analog synthesis
Filter - Low Pass VCF
VCA - Trapezoid waveshape Envelope generator
LFO - Yes
Keyboard - No keyboard, needs an external CV/gate keyboard controller such as the EMS DK2.
Memory - None
Control - CV/GATE
The Gear Rack