New England Digital

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New England Digital Corp. (1976–1993), founded originally in Norwich, Vermont and eventually relocated to White River Junction, Vermont, was best known for its signature product, the Synclavier Synthesizer System, which evolved into the Synclavier Digital Audio System or "Tapeless Studio." The company sold both an FM digital synthesizer/16-bit polyphonic synthesizer and magnetic disk-based non-linear 16-bit digital recording product, referred to as the "Post-Pro."

Originally developed as the "Dartmouth Digital Synthesizer" by Dartmouth College Professor Jon Appleton, in association with NED co-founders Cameron W. Jones and Sydney A. Alonso, the Synclavier would become the pioneering prototype hardware and software system for all digital non-linear synthesis, polyphonic sampling, magnetic (hard-disk) recording and sequencing systems technology that is commonplace in all music and sound effects/design today.

The instrument's development picked up speed in late 1978/early 1979, when master synthesist, sound designer, and musical arranger, Denny Jaeger, began working with NED to help create system upgrades, advanced capabilities, and unique sounds that were tailored to fit the needs of the product for the commercial music industry. The second generation's user interface panel and overall music design features of the original Synclavier (that would become Synclavier II) were substantially driven and designed by Denny Jaeger. His relentless attention to detail and unparalleled understanding of synthesis, audio recording, and technology provided tremendous product/market insight to the original founding hardware and software engineering team of Alonso and Jones.

In November of 1979, immediately following the arrival of Denny Jaeger, Alonso hired Brad Naples as the company's Business Manager. Working in tandem, Jaeger and Naples were the main drivers of the marketing and sales/business development efforts of the company. However, all four individuals—Alonso, Jones, Jaeger, and Naples—worked as a collaborative team, which was quite unique and unparalleled at the time. NED unveiled the newly improved Synclavier II at the AES show in May of 1980, where it became an instant hit.

The company continued to refine the Synclavier II, with Jaeger leading more musican-friendly, technological improvements, and Naples evolving to become the company's President/CEO (1983-1993) to assist Alonso and Jones, who were substantially expanding the hardware and software team. Mr. Appleton remained involved with the company, but mostly continued his professorship at Dartmouth College. It should be pointed out that without the insight and assistance of Professor Jon Appleton, the Synclavier idea would never have happened. It, in fact, became one of the most advanced electronic synthesis and recording tools of the day. Notable early adopters included:

  • John McLaughlin
  • Pat Metheny
  • Michael Jackson, particularly on his 1982 album "Thriller"
  • Denny Jaeger and Michel Rubini, the first to use the Synclavier to score a major motion picture (The Hunger, with David Bowie, released through MGM in April, 1983) and to score the first network TV series (The Powers of Matthew Starr, from Paramount Television, released September, 1982).
  • Laurie Anderson, whose 1984 album "Mister Heartbreak" includes visual depictions of Synclavier sound waves in the liner notes
  • Frank Zappa, who composed his 1986 Grammy-winning album Jazz From Hell on the instrument. He continued to use it on his studio albums until his death in 1993, culminating in the posthumous release of his magnum opus Civilization, Phaze III (by Zappa's estimation, 70% of this two-hour work is exclusively Synclavier.)
  • Producer Mike Thorne, who used the Synclavier to shape the sound of the 80s producing bands such as Siouxsie & The Banshees, Soft Cell, Marc Almond, and Bronski Beat
  • Record label founder Daniel Miller (Mute Records). It found use on most Depeche Mode albums in which band member Alan Wilder was involved.
  • Sting
  • Genesis
  • The Cars
  • Herbie Hancock
  • Sean Callery

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