Interesting Brian Eno quote regarding synth design

This is more of a “Today I Learned” post.

Today while I was looking for some tips and tricks for the H3000 I came across a letter Brian Eno had written in 1992 to Eventide congratulating them for the groundbreaking work they accomplished with the H3000. In this letter he talks about how easy and inviting the H3000 has been for him to use and reminisced about a time when someone from a major synth company told him that 80% of a very popular synth that people had returned for servicing had not been reprogrammed, to which the technician said “proved how lazy the public were”. To which Eno said “I told him that it proved instead how bad the design was.”

Something tells me it was a DX7 or one of those other digital synths with those damn membrane buttons.


Reminds me of “The design of everyday things” by don norman , I’ve had to skip sections because it gets pretty textbook-y imo but he really changed my mindset of design from “ I’m the problem “ to “actually this could just be poorly designed” granted there are still a million things where I’m the problem but it’s still a really good concept


Great book, actually reading it right now.

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Roland D-50 maybe? Though its presets were pretty good. For DX7 my guess would be 95% not reprogrammed :cool: Or maybe they were talking about Minimoog :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


D-50 is an absolute cakewalk compared to the DX-7… or Wavestation.


Why aren’t we just calling it the Yamaha DX7? :slight_smile:


Exactly, 80% is not high enough for the DX7 :wink: I used to own a D-50, horrible interface without the external programmer.

Hmm, had not thought about the Wavestation. Perhaps even the M1?


With all due respect to Eno, I find this implausible. (plausible that he sent the letter, implausible that the H3000 is easier to program than a DX7)

Both the H3000 and DX7 are button & slider/knob interfaces with a limited screen.

The DX7 is very easy to program once you get the architecture in your head. I haven’t programmed an H3000, but it would be impressive to me if it is as easy to program as the DX7.

I think the issue here is that a person in the '80s buying a keyboard synthesizer expected to interact with the device via the black and white keys with the occasional button push. Programming the DX7 requires carefully studying the manual, recognizing that the box in front of you is actually a modular synth, and then progamming it accordingly. The H3000 looks like the piece of computer gear that it is. The kind of person who programs the H3000 with ease can also most likely program the DX7 with ease - such as Eno himself.

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it would be ironic if the synth referred to was DX7, as Eno was a prolific user of it at least through the mid-nineties

I know you said plausible, but here is the actual letter.

Eno may have really liked that there DX7, but I still think he felt it was poorly designed, and was a little proud that he had mastered it while others loathed it. It’s got those famous presets for a reason…now that I’m thinking about it, maybe the D50.


Love that Chicago (font)!


They don’t type letters like they use to!


Didn’t this dink say in another interview that “my solution was to make the equipment unreliable”?

I speculate that the major synth company was Korg. On Korg synths, the “patches” are named programs and combinations (collection of programs). The wording in the letter: “programmes”. The Korg M1 was a bestseller.

Someone get a hold of Eno! Gotta get down to the bottom of this.

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…the only tip from eno that was important to me, was this little one…

take a loop, produce around and all over it, then take the loop out again…

apart from that, all the rest is famous crossdressing while waiting at airports…


I’m sure I heard that quote in relation to the Prophet 5 which wasn’t actually hard to program but given it had presets few people bothered to create their own and there are loads of songs featuring the presets.

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My first thought was


His letter isn’t taking about a synthesizer he owned necessarily, just something an engineer told him.


Having owned all of these I have to admit, I‘ve programmed my own sounds on all of them without thinking about it. But that’s just me. The DXs weren’t really inviting for programming. Neither were other popular synths in history… JX-8P coming to my mind. Terrible interface, hardly usable without programmer…