20 Synthesizer

What would happen if the design of a synthesizer was not determined by budget restrictions or branding criteria? What if its designer could do exactly what they wanted — use any material or choose a manufacturing process that simply allows for fantastic design results without any consideration for cost or complexity? The 20 synthesizer is an embodiment of that, representing 20 years of synthesizer design by Axel Hartmann and his team at designbox in 2015.

Its basic housing, ultra-thin movable control panel, and all operating elements are made of solid aluminium, with more than 2,000 man hours spent working on perfecting the design and construction of the housing and add-on parts on a 3D system. As a result, the basic housing and operating panel are both milled from a solid aluminium block, achieved using a high-precision, five-axis CAD/CAM machine which also completed the interior fittings to accommodate the circuit boards and cable harnesses in subsequent steps. All visible surfaces were then blasted by glass beads in a computer-controlled process, resulting in a slightly rough surface. Finally, the exterior was anodised in black or silver, depending on customer requirements, before being in receipt of a laser-engraved product graphic.

In order to make the complex manufacturing process optically apparent, all housing parts are three-dimensional, with a slightly cushion-like appearance. The resulting soft shapes markedly contrast with the cool materiality of the housing. The basic black- or silver-anodised colour is complemented by a homeopathic use of orange for the LEDs and panel support. The totally black keyboard reverses perception of what is actually an unspectacular detail to enhance the overall sublime, technically clear, and expensive appearance of the instrument.

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