Electronic Dream Plant Wasp synthesiser demo
A demonstration of some of the sounds available from the legendary Wasp synthesiser.
The Wasp is a quirky little synthesizer that, despite its toyish look, is a quality instrument capable of fun and funky analog sounds. It really is black and yellow too, just like the insect it is named after. Probably its most distinguishing feature is the 2-octave keyboard which uses non-moving touch-sensitive keys. The flat little keys are sensitive only to your electro-static touch. It’s a nifty technology for 1978, but in reality they are unreliable and difficult to play. Other unique touches include a little speaker built-in to the synth and EDP’s own pre-MIDI connector ports for linking it to other Wasps and EDP gear.
A look under the hood, however, reveals some nice surprises. The WASP is monophonic and powered by two digital oscillators supported by analog filters, envelopes and controls. This makes it one of the earliest compact digital/analog hybrid mono-synths, and it sounds great! The Wasp offers flexible subtractive synthesis. It’s pretty easy to dial up some cool bass, synth, and other classic monophonic sounds. Its designer, Chris Hugget, also designed the Oxford Synthesizer Company’s venerable OSCar Synthesizer.
Later versions of the Wasp included the Wasp Deluxe (released 1979) which had all the features of the original plus a standard 3-octave keyboard, wood panels, an oscillator mixer, an external audio-input, a larger built-in speaker, and battery operation. It was definitely redesigned for the practical musician. There was also the Wasp Special (released 1981) which also came with wood panels, a black and gold color scheme, and an internal power supply, but no built-in speaker and a return to the 2-octave touch-sensitive keyboard design. EDP also produced a heavily modified Wasp that was built into a guitar-form called the Keytar. It had a 2-octave keyboard with transpose and portamento buttons on the neck. However, only two Keytars were ever made as far as we know.
The rest of EDP’s wild world of synthesis includes the Spider, a 252-note step, or 84-note real time digital sequencer designed to control the Wasp. The Caterpillar which is a 3-octave master keyboard for controlling up to four inter-connected Wasps played polyphonically. The Gnat which is a smaller, single-oscillator version of the Wasp that could also be linked to another Wasp to form a makeshift triple-oscillator synth playable from either keyboard (the Gnat also came in three versions similar to the Standard, Special and Deluxe models of the Wasp). All EDP instruments could be inter-connected via their own pre-MIDI style connection interface. While the Wasp and it’s fellow insects may seem quirky and even toy-like, their sound, technology, flexibility and portability make them surprisingly good instruments that can still be found in use today.