RIP Rob Hordijk, Dutch synth designer dies at 64

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Dutch synth engineer Rob Hordijk, designer of many 5U and West-Coast designs (Benjolin, Rungler… circuits) has passed away today at the age of 64. 

The year 2022 is not a good one for friends of synthesizers. We lost a lot of legends this year like Dave Smith, Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, Andy Fletcher… Today one of the most talented synth developers from Europe has left us.

Dutch developer Rob Hordijk left us forever today at the young age of 64. He is no longer with us, but his extraordinary designs will always be.

RIP Rob Hordijk
Picture source: Synth DIY Wiki

RIP Rob Hordijk

Rob Hordijk was born in 1958 in the Netherlands and lived in beautiful The Hague. “Trained as a designer and not a musician, Rob came from an arts background, studying as a sculptor and jeweler in the 1970s.

He approached electronic music in a similar spirit to abstract painting, inspired by the ambient works of Brian Eno, and Luigi Russolo’s Intonarumori instruments; where attempts were made to blur the boundaries between music and art.”  This was also noticeable in his very different designs, which differed significantly from other synth releases.

Musicians who have dealt with classic synthesizers probably knew the developer less. He was a celebrity, especially in the Moog-style 5U and West Coast areas. Unusual was that his circuit designs were never actually mass-produced. Only one of them, the mighty Benjolin circuit, is open-source and has been cloned by several Eurorack manufacturers recently. All others are rarities.

The most popular design is the chaotic synth voice/generator Benjolin, just recently cloned by US-based company After Later Audio. The core consists of two oscillators, the famous rungler (stepped CV generator), and a multimode filter. This particular arrangement emerged from Hordijk’s efforts to design a synth that was, as he puts it, “bent by design.”

As such, the module functions according to principles of chaos theory, where short to long sputtering patterns spontaneously transform themselves, at times, gradually, at others, quite suddenly, morphing into new pattern doublings and bifurcations.

Hordijk 5U Format Standard System

Hordijk Modular System

As already mentioned, he had a great passion for big, powerful machines like the Moog Modular (5U format). Here Rob Hordijk has created System, a modular synthesizer packed with special modules. For example, this consisted of a harmonic oscillator, oscillator sync, dual envelope, rungler, dual fader, VCA shaper with frequency shifter, and more.

It looks like a classic Moog modular style Synthesizer. However, it’s not that classic. He built many unique, innovative functions into the modules, with which he massively expanded the 5U world in terms of both sound and functionality.

Interview & Tutorial

Rob Hodijk certainly wasn’t the superstar of the synthesizer world. He was instead the “superstar” among the synthesizer technology nerd communities who are constantly looking for new ways to break through the classic school of synthesis.

I didn’t meet him personally, but I salute his work. A great developer has left us. RIP Rob Hordijk. You will be missed.

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