GeneralMusic GEM S2 / S3 – ingenious pro-synthesizer

Maybe you’ve heard some of those ever-persistent murmurings about the GeneralMusic S-series: “The S2 synthesizer – a secret sound weapon”, “GEM S2 and S3 are among the best master keyboards on the market”, “great polyphonic aftertouch”, “some intriguing sounds”… and on and on.

Let’s have a look at that GeneralMusic S-Series. Are these synthesizers from the early 90s as innovative as rumours have it?

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GEM – a respectable name in the home organ/keyboard/e-piano market

GeneralMusic unfortunately filed for bankruptcy some time ago. It was among the last Italian keyboard manufacturers, along with Ketron (Solton). The company had grown substantially, especially in the late 80ies / early 90ies. But let’s start even further back and have a look at Crumar first. When the great keyboard & organ manufacturer closed its doors in 1986, it was bought by LEM. The latter was taken over by GEM a few years later, as was ELKA.

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

1994 GEM changed their company name to GeneralMusic, but kept GEM as a brand. That means that GeneralMusic now hosted GEM, LEM and ELKA. GEM was still a name to take seriously in the portable keyboard, workstation and e-piano market. LEM produced mixing consoles and loudspeakers, while ELKA offered guitar/bass amplifiers and portable p.a. systems.

In the early 90ies, GEM/GeneralMusic had some 500 employees in five locations. The R&D (Research and Development) department alone employed 25 technicians. That’s where, among other things, some of the S-series custom chips were developed.


The S-series actually was one of the last products ELKA began. After its collapse in 1988, GEM/GeneralMusic took over the plans and brought the innovative “S” synthesizer project to realization. Sadly, the success of the S-series was limited, so GEM/GeneralMusic cancelled the whole product line once the Turbokit had been released. A few years later another, very “S”-like synthesizer appeared, the GEM Equinox. It closely resembles the S2/S3 and seems to be GeneralMusic’s last delving into high tech synthesizers.

I bought the GEM Equinox Pro 88 in 2010 and, to be honest, I can tell you the old S2 / S3 is much better (… it’s mainly the quality and originality of the sounds which is much better and a lot more inspiring).

In 2007, GeneralMusic’s product line contained arranger-keyboards, multimedia workstations, e-pianos, mixing consoles, loudspeakers and p.a. systems. But there was a time when the Italian company could easily have competed with any Japanese or American hi-tech synthesizer manufacturer. That was in the days of the S-series …

Meanwhile, Generalmusic closed its doors. On February 2009 Generalmusic fired all workers that immediately filed for bankrupt which has been declared in 2011. Very sad.

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

We repeat, GeneralMusic made its first serious move into high tech with the GEM S2/S3 and S2R in 1992. Looking at the S2/S3, they seem like any ordinary sample + synthesis keyboard workstation. But these are professional, genuine synthesizers with some fresh new functions and – best of all – a wonderful sound. Physically speaking, they tote some outstanding features: The enormous, deeply sunken aquamarine LCD, the two moulded (freely programmable) wheels, the masculine 61-note/76-note keyboard, the many panel controls.

Although the panel is crowded with knobs, it doesn’t seem cluttered. Most knobs have a specific function, such as EFF. BYPASS, CLIPBOARD or MIDI OFF. The S-serie’s flexible (open) operating system (called MIOS) lets you move about the instrument in a free-flowing computer-like style.

GeneralMusic Equinox Pro 88

GeneralMusic Equinox Pro 88

The early 90ies – birth hour of many respectable S+S workstations

The field of highly professional S+S (sample + synthesis) concepts was quite crowded back in the early 90ies. Actually, the story should start back in 1988 with the all-time classic Korg M1. Its successor, the 01/W, had a bigger screen, more samples, double polyphony and a new “crazy” feature called waveshaping. It remains a very popular workstation up to this day. Roland tried to continue the success of the D-50 and released a PCM sample-based synthesizer called D-70. Sadly, it was too complex to program – a real pain, once you began delving beneath the surface! Yamaha’s SY77 (and its rack version TG77) equally suffered from a too-complex operating system. Although they could have been milestones in synthesizer history (as was the DX7), those wonderfully sounding synthesizers were a pain to operate. Not even the more flexible flagship SY99 was rid of those inherent complexities.

In 1991, Roland’s JD-800 should have been the big seller, but it wasn’t! Too many knobs! People were too easily intimidated by all those sliders and buttons – although synthesizer designers in their turn must have found it pretty nerve-wracking, trying to figure out what synthesizer-programming concept people were actually looking for. 1991 was the birthday of Kurzweil’s K2000, too. This highly respectable instrument was the beginning of a whole bunch of professional synthesizers – up to the latest K2661 now in 2007. One year later – in 1992 – GEM (later GeneralMusic) hit the market with the GEM S-series.

GeneralMusic Equinox Pro 88

GeneralMusic Equinox display

S2, S3 and the rack version S2R were hi-tech instruments, but the company name was by no way an asset. Not many pros knew GEM/GeneralMusic to be a producer of studio synthesizers. The Turbokit for 32-voice polyphony, equipped with an expanded ROM sound bank, didn’t help to turn the S-series into a pro’s instrument, either.

GEM/GeneralMusic stopped its production and support as soon as it became obvious that the whole range would turn out to be a flop. Completing the list of outstanding early 90ies professional synthesizer / workstation concepts, we should mention the Roland JD-990 and Ensoniq TS-10. Both were introduced in 1993. Finally, there was another innovative workstation from home keyboard producer Technics. The WSA-1, released in 1995, was a fully professional, future tech synth with acoustic modelling synthesis. Once again, the missing reputation in the pro user segment was the company’s biggest hindrance to establishing the instrument on the market.

GEM S2/S3/S2R are pro synths with some first-rate sounds, innovative editing procedures and a rarely-to-be-seen polyphonic aftertouch. The only limit was the professionals’ willingness to accept a new name. And maybe rumours were still around that the Italians could not manufacture a proper synthesizer. In its days, Crumar, for example, flooded the market with cheaply built instruments. Many of them toted serious sounds and were based on innovative concepts, but the hardware tended to be low quality. Buy a japanese synthesizer and you know what you get!

GeneralMusic (GEM)

GeneralMusic (GEM)

But history tells us that there were some great pro synths that the Italians definitely got out on the market. The Synthex, for example, is better constructed than the Jupiter-8 or any Oberheim OB-8/Xa/X. That’s not to say that it’s more reliable, but the whole concept and construction is more professional than any of its competitors’ products! The GEM S-series is at least at the same hardware level as a Yamaha SY77/99, or any Korg or Roland workstation. The implementation of polyphonic aftertouch (with release velocity!) afforded high GEM/Generalmusic production costs. And the S-keyboard panels were covered with a special finish (a sort of rubber-encased plastic) that looks very elegant. GEM even produced a Turbokit for the S2/S3 which boosts polyphony up to 32-voices and expands the ROM bank to over 500! IF GEM/Generalmusic had kept producing instruments like this, we might be listing the company name right next to Roland, Yamaha and Korg today – who knows!

Music Processor

Let’s have a close look at the S-series. Basically, the instruments are sort of expanded workstations. What’s new about them? The flexible operating system allows you to use the S2, S3 as a MIDI merge center. Without using the internal sound engine, you can take advantage of the sequencer or control sliders, route and control any external MIDI device in any way you desire. There are two (!) independant Midi busses – that’s a rare one on most workstations, isn’t it? But, sure, nowadays you don’t buy a S2, S3 solely because of its sequencer or MIDI functions. Today you might be interested in these synths because of their intriguing sounds.

GEM did everything to make the S-series as userfriendly as possible. For instance, there’s a row of seven sliders and buttons next to the display, foolproofly marked with volume, attack, release, filter, pan, etc. Although the good point is, you’re not locked into these functions. Switching to “user” mode, you may use the sliders and buttons to control any functions within the overall S2, S3 patch. There’s 6MB of sample material to start with, and the two 2 pole 12dB filter can be combined to a single 4 pole 24dB state variable multimode-filter.

Two independent effect machines are “standard” for this type of workstation concept, but here again, there’s a little bonus: the global rotary effect is not only nice, but extremely useful. I wish more instruments featured this function. The two wheels can be used for standard pitch/vibrato performances, or can be assigned to any other function you wish. Boy, it spells real fun playing a cutting leadsound while changing its attack with the modulation wheel! As with the wheels, the CV/Pedal-IN ports are freely programmable. You’re probably getting an idea of how powerful these instruments are!

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo - Music Processor

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo – Music Processor


By chance, I got to know Lothar Jenske, who worked for many years as a repair man in the German GeneralMusic compartment. “S2/S3 hardly break down” he says. “Generally, they are very reliable instruments”. Sure, as with all electronic gear, some voice less positive experiences as well. In 2002 a user posted the following bloq: “During my last gig the S3 suddenly caught fire. The audience was excited – they thought it was a pyro-effect and part of the show – but it was anything but funny to me”.

The instrument’s display is breathtaking, it’s extremely bright due to special neon background lights. The wheels have a rough surface and are very good to use…

Fader and switches are pretty good quality as well, though some of the switches are very petite. While programming, you need to concentrate in order to make those adjustments exact …

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

Last but not least, it’s the brilliant keyboard action that turns the S2, S3 into a potential master keyboard. The lightly weighted action (to use GEM’s own phrase) combined with polyphonic aftertouch sensitivity (with release velocity!) shows the great master key’s potential. I think polyphonic aftertouch opens a whole new world to the creative musician. Sadly, this great feature was among the most unpopular ones in the S-series’ history. Maybe keyboard (not piano!) players weren’t skilled enough to use the polyphonic feature correctly. To be honest, IT IS NOT EASY to control different keys with independent finger pressure.

The following list shows the basic specifications (dimensions, weight) of the GEM S-series:

  • S2 1055x116x350 mm, 16 kg, 61 keys
  • S3 1267x116x350 mm, 18,5 kg, 76 keys
  • S2R 434×132,5×276,5 mm, 7,3 kg, rack version
GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo


In 1992, when the S-series was released, the press immediately pointed up several missing or improvable features. 16-voice polyphony wasn’t sufficient, important sequencer functions were missing, some day-to-day functions needed to be improved, etc. GeneralMusic, still trying to establish its synthesizers on the pro market, didn’t hesitate and released a respectable Turbokit.

Some of the improved features:

  • a maximum of 32-voice polyphony
  • more than 500 ROM sounds
  • 100 preloaded performances
  • integrated sample translator 2
  • improved sound edit functions
  • improved disk management
  • upgraded sequencer

Let’s have a look at some details of the Turbokit version. For a start, performance titles are now displayed in BIG letters …

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

The main page on the display features an “Oct Up” / “Oct Down” option. It’s like a virtual silver switch of those good old Roland synths where you could easily transpose the keyboard up and down. Further, you may synchronize LFO to MIDI (!). Exciting, isn’t it? Even modern synths sometimes lacks this important function. All sorts of sys-ex data can now to be transmitted via MIDI (very important!). The demo-song is available directly from the ROM area (and not only from the disc), and well… with sample translator 2 you’re able to load Akai S-1000 samples …

All in all, I’d say the Turbokit version is the one to keep a look out for !!! IF you spend a couple of hundred Euros for this wonderful instrument, then why not get it right? I have to point out that some minor highlights of the original S-series’ sound edit functions were kicked out of the Turbokit version to create space. But to me, MIDI synchable LFOs, sending/receiving sys-ex data and other functions are reason enough to go for the Turbokit. By the way, the Turbokit Manual contains close to 100 pages!

S-Series – Programming and Performance

“The ‘theory’ behind every keyboard always takes a bit of head-scratching to figure out and, commendably be-buttoned, screened, and what-have-you’d thought it is, the S2 will still take time to understand fully.” (Colbeck, Julian: Keyfax 4, page 28)

The raw material for sounds is a bank of 208 waveforms. As usual, they are collected in groups: natural instruments, synth sounds, drums, etc. Their quality is quite good, and – as with Korg’s M1 – especially the sax sample seems to have attracted a lot of people. Once you’ve chosen the basic waveform, it is time to concentrate on the filter section, containing two independant multi-mode (digital) filters. What you get is lowpass, highpass, bandpass, parametric boost and parametric cut mode. Sadly, the filters are digital, which is audible. But they’re not too bad. I’ve personally taken a liking to the highpass mode …

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

The Edit Page

The internal effects are organized in two separate effect units. Static effects contain reverb etc, while dynamic effects offer delay, pans, flanging, etc. The quality of the effects is sufficient. Pros, of course, will mute them in order to do external sound processing. But there’s an additional global effect that’s worth mentioning. The (stereo) rotary effect really brightens up sounds! This in addition to the vast panorama modulation function that the sound edit menu already offers. Add some high-quality external reverb (or delay) to your going-through-rotary-while-panorama-modulated lead sound, and you’re top dog!

I can’t tell you too much about the internal sequencer, as I’ve never used it. Basically, it’s a 16 track sequencer with detailed functions such as quantize, loop, track transpose, etc. It controls the internal sound engine and/or external synthesizers. Theoretically, you could run most of your studio equipment from the S2, S3 synthesizer with its two independent MIDI busses.

Although featured with tons of handy functions, the GEM S-series was designed to keep things as simple as possible. Most day-to-day functions are easily accessible. Switching the clock from internal to external mode is a matter of two clicks…

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

Master Transpose …

Function Controller

Next to the very animating neon-lit display, the 7 sliders are among the most eye-catching physical aspects of the instrument. Volume, attack, release, filter 1, filter 2 and pan may be directly adjusted simply by moving the sliders. As already mentioned, you may re-program all functions to your own needs and save the new slider/buttons settings. In performance mode, with sounds “stacked” on each other, the sliders function as a little mixer… move the faders to get the right balance between the various sound volumes … very convenient, isn’t it?

Moving sliders intuitively may not always lead to absolutely exact programming results, so GEM / GeneralMusic implemented a Show function that displays each fader’s value on the large screen. That means you’re able to program sounds vaguely – on the run, so to speak – or, if you prefer, very precisely (with the help of that display).

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

Excellent controllers …


You may have realized by now that some aspects of the S-series differ from competitor products. Here are a few more extras: The GEM S2, S3 offer…

  • Different Scalings, such as Equal Temp. (the boring one we’re all used to), Pure Major C, Pythag. C (the genuine mathematics is back!), Werck. (~meister), Invers (wanna perform a Joe Zawinul solo?), 1/4 Tone, Arabian, User 1-4. Yes, you may save your own scalings !!! I think this is a wonderful option. It might be a lot of work to programm personal scalings, but musical wise it opens new doors …
  • Stereo-outputs plus 4 single (sadly mono) outputs
GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

  • There’s an UNDO function, just in case you made some potential heavy mistakes in programming …
  • Clipboard saves certain settings, it’s sort of a screenshot memory. Let’s say you created a very complex amplifier envelope (they may be up to 10 stages, in case I didn’t mention that!), and now you’d like to use the same settings for the pitch envelope. Simply “save” the amplifier envelope setting into the clipboard memory and recall it once you open the pitch menue. Couldn’t be easier …
  • Yes, the envelopes may be very complex. Up to 10 stages !!! Program a real complex envelope for dramatically different sound shaping once you get bored with the classic ADSR
  • Two totally independat MIDI busses (just to mention them once again)
GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

  • Pan may be modulated by its own envelope, by LFO and key pressure
  • The Manual is quite good (at least the German version). It’s very detailed, and written in user friendly style …


Time to pay attention to the instrument’s sonical potential. Most presets are tasty, well programmed sounds that can be immediately implemented in your productions. In my opinion, many of them are too doused in reverb. But again, simply press EFF. BYPASS and use your outboard equipment instead of the internal effect units. The basic sound is very powerful and surprisingly strong. Thanks to all those modulation routings, the brilliant S2 and S3 engines give you expansive, atmospheric sounds.

Being interested in comparing both the original and the digital substitute, I played some simple chords on both the Elka Synthex and the GEM S3 (S3 first, to be exact). To my surprise, the GEM almost sounds better. Two small drawbacks (there’ve got to be some): The rotary function causes sort of a loop effect at the end, and the filter’s resonance is just not as colourful as on the original Synthex …

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

Some of the buttons are too small …

In other words …

The GEM S-series is a real bargain. Right now in 2012, prices range from 250 to 400 Euros. That’s definitely reasonable, considering that any Roland D-50 costs the same money. If there’s a chance, try to get an S2 or S3 WITH A CASE (I didn’t, but that’s my advice!). The instrument’s special rubber-covered chassis is a little prone to injury, so a case really makes sense.

Sure, neither S2 nor S3 are dream machines. It takes quite a while to reach into the depths of the programming architecture. You need to learn that track and track may be two different things (a performance consists of up to 7 tracks = sounds, and, of course, the sequencer has its own, different tracks). Speaking about programming – I’d say it’ll take several months until you really feel at home.

GeneralMusic S3 Turbo

GEM S3: keyboard with polyphonic aftertouch (!)

But GEM/GeneralMusic did its best to create a synthesizer/workstation that offers heaps of functions for a better workflow. The gorgeous display, the freely programmable sliders, wheels and pedal-ins, the wonderful polyphonic aftertouch – just keep those aspects in mind. Most important, programming efforts end up in stunning, expansive sounds. I highly recommend these synthesizers to all programmers and players. GEM S2/S3 are both great sound engines and potential master keyboards as well.

GeneralMusic S2 / S3

Polyphonic Digital Pro-Synthesizer
(Music Processor)

SoundCloud-Link by Panu Talus (Finnland):
Generalmusic S3 Turbo – testing Bandpass with Polyphonic aftertouch

Filed under 2012, Reviews

“Es genügt, einen Ton schön zu spielen” sagte der Komponist Arvo Pärt im Jahre 2005. Diese Aussage ist ebenso einfach wie ich auch exzellent: Es braucht kein Meer an Tönen, denn entscheidend ist der Klang. Dass so mancher Vintage-Synthesizer der 70er und 80er Jahre teils unerreicht hochwertige Klänge liefert, steht außer Frage. Doch tatsächlich leben wir “heute” in einer nahezu perfekten Zeit. Einerseits hat man – mehr oder weniger – noch Zugriff auf die Vintage Analogen, andererseits wird auch bei Neugeräten die wichtige Komponente des hochwertigen Klanges wieder zunehmend berücksichtigt. Doepfer, Cwejman,, MacBeth, Moog, GRP, Studio Electronics, COTK, John Bowen und andere Hersteller bauen hervorragende Synthesizer, die den “Klassikern” in nichts nachstehen. All diesen (alten wie neuen) “großartigen” Instrumenten ist Great Synthesizers gewidmet. _________________________________________________________ In 2005 composer Arvo Pärt said: “Playing one tone really well is enough”. In other words, it is sufficient to play one tone 'beautifully'. I agree with that. All musical efforts are focused on the sound itself. Although I studied classical music (piano and drums), it’s the electronic sound that inspires me. Synthesizers are the epitome of new sounds and exciting tonal spheres. Today, many companies produce high-quality - excellent! - synthesizers: Doepfer, Cwejman, MacBeth, Moog, GRP,, COTK, Studio Electronics, John Bowen and others. It's their products I'm really interested in ... apart from Vintage Synthesizers, which I have been collecting for 20 years. Subsequent to our former websites Bluesynths and Blogasys, Peter Mahr and I have now created GreatSynthesizers. We hope you like it.


  1. Hi Theo,
    Congratulations, You wrote the best review I’ve seen about GEM S2/S3! Somewhere in the past, I promised myself that I’ll write a review about the capabilities of a polyphonic aftertouch (polyAT) keyboard/MIDI controller, with S2/S3 examples as one of the best implementation of this technology, since Yamaha CS80. Glad that you did it better than me or someone else may expect from an old keyboard review! But these keyboards really deserved it!
    I have a GEM S2 and also a Technics WSA1 “physical modeling” synth, with the rare expansion board. Together with Paul Nasca Open Source ZynAddSubFx softsynth (additive and subtractive synthesis – now polyAT enabled!), the excellent polyAT capable GEM S2/S3 (and it worth also to try some of the 200+ original and user sounds disks available for GEM S2/S3) and Technics WSA1 are a hidden treasure at a (still) very affordable price, for the one who needs new and/or “classic” synthesized sounds. Congratulations again for the review!

      • I read your comments on the Generalmusic S2 turbo.I loved the keyboard also. Unfortunately I tried to change a leaking battery and lost the system OS. If you have any knowledge to direct me to a copy of that system I would be eternally grateful .Anyone else having the OS for this keyboard please let me know.

        • Theo Bloderer

          .. I only have Songs & Sounds discs. In case you need them, let me know …

      • Lars Hauge

        Hi. I have an s3 turbo that won’t boot up.. and I’m very frustrated about it because this really is my favourite synth ever! The guy I bought it from had stored it for several years. It worked fine when I first powered it up but after 10 min it started smoking and making a buzzing noise from inside the synth. I of course unplugged it and ordered the right nicad battery for it but it still won’t boot up. Even the technician whom I’ve asked to repair it can’t figure out what is wrong. Is it possible that the turbo kit is causing the problem? And can it be removed? Or can you recommend a technician (in denmark or at least northern Europe ) best regards

        • Theo Bloderer

          … hello Lars

          I believe any repair of the S3 will cost more than buying another one second hand … However, I’ll send you an email and we’ll talk about it … The S3 is such a brillant instrument, I can really imagine it’s your favourite synthesizer …

          Will contact you – cheers,

          • Lars Hauge

            Hi. Thanks a lot for the reply ? I’ll look forward to receiving your mail? maybe you can repair it yourself? Or a part of it if I send it to you?

            Best regards and thank you!

    • Hi had a GEM S2 Turbo and adored it. I took a chance buying it as everyone else was singing the names of the big players such as Roland & Yamaha but felt the Yamaha alternative at the time felt like cheap plastic. I do wish more people had got behind what this company was trying to do. To me it felt cutting edge.

      Sadly after many years playing the GEM I had to go abroad and put my GEM in storage but couldn’t bring it back to life. The onboard circuit-board battery died and I lost the operating system. Sadly had to bin it. Made me cry.

      Ironically the styling of Korg’s flagship the Kronos, that I would currently love to own if I had the money, reminds me of the GEM of so many years ago…

      • i also have had gem S2 keyboard with turbokit, and gem s2R … unfortunately my ex was collapsed because of battery leak,…but i think that all chips with Os are ok…!

        if you want to see those circuits and parts what i still have ,or want to buy not too expensive,..please contact me on this mail… greetings to all GEM S series players! Ljubo

        • bob_SD

          … interested in acquiring your S2. Please contact me. Email: bob.wright (at)

  2. Pelle Larsson

    My Gem S Turbo a wonderful machine i love it, i also soon heave the Gem S 3 Turbo. My instrumrnts underMoog. And My Band here WWW Yesterday.Se

  3. Hi hoping someone can help my GEM S2 has just stopped working out the blue.It powers up but theas LED screen has all muddled text like hash signs. None of the red led lights come on either. I hoping someone is ale to suggest a good repairer of this unit as grown very fond of it.

    • Theo Bloderer

      Yes … I experienced something similar. It’s probably the operation system that doesn’t boot any more. To be honest, I’d buy another S2. They’re really affordable (250 Euros) … which is about the average costs of a good repair job.

      • chris hainstock

        where can I buy another S2? – mine has stopped working also

        • I got an S3 Turbo from a friend as a gift, it was in an attic for many years. I powered up and was playing perfectly then suddenly nothing. I left it for a few hours and it lit up again but no sound. Any advice on battery or power supply. It’s in immaculate condition and don’t want to loose it.

          • Theo Bloderer

            … battery: probably not the problem (the S3 still would play a sound, even if the battery is low or exhausted). Power supply … well, if the synth powers up (display lights up) – then the PSU should be ok. Question: Does the system startup process finish? Or does it just stop during booting? (GEM S2 and S3 often have problems with botting up, sadly) …

  4. Thanks very much, nice detailed review! I do wonder, why no one mentions the SX2 Version of the S-Series? It appears very difficult to find comparison info. If I had to guess, I’d say that the SX2, is an S2 with the Turbo Kit (Upgrade), which would make sense as Synthesizer “upgrade” history goes. I haven’t yet found a (PDF) Manual for the S-Series Synthesizers – I’m sure it must be attainable. These are a rare find: I didn’t see any on eBay at this time.

    • Andrume

      Hi. I have a GEM S Series Manual in PDF. If you want it, I can send it to you via e-mail. I have a S3 Turbo since many years ago. I have many Sound Disks in .img format and I use OmniFlop v.2.2d in Windows 7 for convert these images a floppy disk. I will do maintenance whenever necessary. The power supply was damaged once and I fixed it myself. From time to time I do maintenance to the contacts of each key. It is a tedious job but not complicated.

      Andrume (Valle de la Pascua – Venezuela)

      • Theo Bloderer

        Hello Andrume. Yes, the PDF would be very useful. My email address is theo(at) … thanks in advance! Greetings to Venzuela …!

    • Paul Boissonnault

      Hi. Just bought a used (and very dusty) SK88. There are manuals for the SK760 and SK880 at:

      Unfortunately these are newer harddrive based units so there is no reference to the floppy drive. Would you mind sending me the pdf for the S series if it’s for the older ones like mine? I’m really looking forward to getting this thing ship-shape.

  5. Theo Bloderer

    You’re right. The SX2 looks very similar (display, wheels, floppy, keyboard, chassis). Although it misses those controller / fader and seems a little different organized. Anyway, thanks for your comment! We’ll try to collect some SX2 info …! The S2 / S3 is offered regularly on eBay (and – especially in Italy – on alternative plattforms). Regards, Theo

  6. S2 & S3 General Music Keyboard has been my work station of choice
    for several years. Definitely interested in buying a backup. Please
    email or call 240-350-4822. In Washington, DC area. Bill

  7. I have an S3, great master keyboard for my studio. Anyone know where I can get a Turbo Kit from?

    • Theo Bloderer

      No idea, sorry. GeneralMusic is history and so its service department. Easiest would be to buy a secondhand S3 Turbo … shouldn’t cost more than 250 Euros … and the S3 you have would be useful for spare parts. Regards …

      • I own a Gem S2. I might sell it, but I don’t like shipping it. Please come to Norway and pick it up. One key is defect. It sounds different than the others.


    Hola y muy buenos días, quisiera información sobre el GEM MK2, que me lo han regalado, está sin usar aunque tiene un pequeño defecto, que me están intentando reparar, me gustaría saber en que precio podría venderlo y me decidiera a ello, y si es posible conseguir un manual de este.
    de antemano agradezco su colaboración.

  9. My parents bought me a GEM S3 Turbo in 1993 when I was 13 years old and I gigged it 3/4 times a week for the next 10 years! It was an exceptional synth and I played it faithfully every day for hours, recorded on it etc.
    At the time I was looking at Korg 01WFD (remember them!) Yamaha SY 85 and Kurzweil :-) GEM S3 Turbo blew them away in terms of editing, master keyboard functionality and the different tone it generated in terms of sounds. True, the patches weren’t as epic as the Korg, but they were great in other ways. The Sequencer was in another league too as well as the ability to sample.
    My GEM S3 has been a very faithful friend who never let me down once in some very big performance settings.
    Reluctantly I am selling her as we are downsizing, but not before celebrating her brilliance! Listed on right now if you are interested. If she doesn’t sell, I will continue to be a proud GEM S3 owner :-) The keys need an overhaul as some don’t sound now, but it works well slaved to a master keyboard.

  10. Spencer J. Williams

    I own a GEM SX2 Synth which I use regularly in my home studio and it also my favorite synth to play for shows/performances. I own a Korg Polysix Analog Synth, Korg EX-M1 Synth & Roland D-50 as well but the SX-2 has been the staple of the bulk of recordings I’ve done. I run Propellorhead Reason 7 software on a tricked-out customized ASUS Laptop and the GEM sounds intergrate into the software recordings seamlessly. It would be great if GEM could’ve stuck around long enough to see how many users their S-series has garnered over the years. Still a top-dog in my book!!

    • Atropix

      I also own a GEM SX” now and I’m desperatley searching for a manual! Hope you can help!

  11. Looking to purchase S2 or S3 turbo keyboard or rack mount.
    Email me at crewsmusic (at) or text 240-350-4822
    Will also pay for shipping. Bill

  12. I sold my Gem S2. It had some very good and some dated sounds and terible hiss. I don’t know why. Anyway this is wonderfull machine!

  13. Jim Fisher

    I have a Equinox 76note that doesn’t work. It is stuck trying to boot from the floppy. I have replaced the battery and that hasn’t helped. Any ideas? I would hate to sell it as scrap.


    Jim Fisher
    847-997-5598 cell

  14. Alfred

    Hi there!
    I have the WX 400 Multimedia Workstation (GEM) from 1996 and I want to replace the battery. Can you help me please what kind of battery is this and how can I replace it by ny self ?
    Best regards.

  15. Still seeking to purchase an S2 or S3 turbo keyboard.
    Please contact email at crewsmusic at or call


    As a proficient ONE-MAN-BAND / ONE-MAN-ORCHESTRA and expert GEM S2-S3 artist, most 4 piece bands and some mini orchestras are intimidated by what I’ve been able to get out of this reliable workstation (both performance and recording). Trust me – an updated version with original features, improved polyphony and post 1990 technical enhancements would result in this instrument selling like hotcakes.

  17. Frans disco

    de diskettedrive van mijn Elka C 1000 orgel is stuk zodat het orgel niet meer bespeeld kan worden kunt U mij helpen aan en diskettedrive die op dit orgel kan geplaatst worden zodat het weer kan bespeeld worden.

    graag uw antwoord indien mogelijk.
    met vriendelijke groet.

    Frans Disco

    • The S3 got the best synth key feel. Fast, light and smooth. Aftertouch, very consistent. The polytouch is simply in another league from others. As a master board, alone, it does a remarkable job.

  18. Carol Williams

    This was so interesting to read, how do I find out the series of my Gem general music piano? It is a rp120 I am trying to see how much it is worth, bought in 2002

    • Theo Bloderer

      … it probably might be difficult selling a GEM e-piano from 2002. The RP120 has a wonderful hammer action, it’s heavy and very well made. But times changed, modern e-pianos are lighter, easier to carry around, less bulky, and they have excellent sounds at a very low price. A Korg SP-250, for example, costs a mere 700 USD. Regarding the RP120, wich is 10+ years old, I’d say 400 – 450 USD might be a “realistic” secondhand price. Regards …

  19. Does anyone know how one might reach the Italian manufacturers
    who built the S2 – S3 General Music Keyboards? or is any one
    interested in selling the same keyboard in the “States” (US) ?
    Bill Crews – 240-350-4822

    • Hi Bill- Left the same post below also: I have an S3 Turbo with a ton of software that I have been thinking about selling. I bought it new.
      I have original the original manuals, video instruction manual, a ton of software- sounds etc. , and the original box. Keyboard is in decent shape and plays well. Let me know if you haven’t found one and would be interested. I live in the US.

      • Still interested in purchasing
        s2 or s3 general music turbo keyboard
        located in US
        call 240-350-4822 – Bill

  20. Good article Theo, which I have just come across by accident.

    A new forum has been created on the Generalmusic Owners Club website which I hope will help others with any queries on this excellent range of GEM instruments, sadly no longer in design/manufacture.

    Dave @ GEMClub.

    • Edward Howard

      Hi Dave, my name is Eddie. I purchased my General Music sx2 may 19 1995. It worked great all these years and just a few months ago my navigation data entry was lit, but not displaying anything. Took it for repairs and founded out the battery had leaked…got it back, the screen light up , but no infor is displayed…how do I RESTART? I STILL HAVE AL THE DISKS THAT CAME WITH THE SX2 WHEN NEW. THANKS

  21. christian

    I am the owner of a WK8 Gem keyboard and I need a replacement battery for it. Can anyone please assist me as to where I could get one from.

    • Theo Bloderer

      I’m sure you know the owner’s manual. Anyway, the WK8 battery should recharge automatically …

      Battery discharged message
      If the instrument has been left turned off for a long period of time, the battery will slowly discharge. When the battery discharges completely, it causes the total loss of all user programmed data. If the battery has lost its charge completely, turning the instrument on will show the following message: “Battery completely discharged, instrument re-initialized

      The message cancels automatically after 2/3 seconds.After the message cancels, be sure to save all of your edited work to disk until after the battery has sufficiently charged. Leave the instrument on for a few hours to recharge the battery. One hour of charge time corresponds to approximately one day of use – the battery charge remains active for approximately 15 days of non-use. If you foresee leaving the instrument turned off for a long period of time, be sure to save all user-programmed data to disk to safeguard your data against automatic erasure due to battery discharge.


      Syntaur offers batteries for the WS Series … could be worth a try to see if they are the same …

  22. I need a new floppy drive wich one (firm mayby type#) do I have to look for

  23. Joe Shibona


    I talked to you a few weeks ago about a power supply circuit board for a JD800… now I’m looking for a rechargeable battery for the General Music Equinox.


  24. Hi
    Wonder if you can help? Several years ago when I owned a GEM S3 Turbo keyboard which I had originally bought in the U.K and which I took to New Zealand when I emigrated. Wrote some great songs on it and still have 15 disks with those songs on. The keyboard was stolen and I would dearly love to get another or an equivalent GEM which can read those disks. Any idea of places I could check that might be able to help?

    • Theo Bloderer

      Hello Anji

      I guess it’s only the S-Series (S2/2R and S3) itself that can read the discs. Maybe the GeneralMusic Equinox Series can do that too, I have to try … but other than that I guess it’s the S2/S3 you have to concentrate on. (And by the way: the S-Series sounds much better than the later Equinox Series …). You should be able to find a S2 or S3 for 300 – 400 Euros / Dollar on eBay …


    • Hi- don’t know if you ever found an S 3 yet- but I just noticed your post and I know they are hard to come by. I have an S3 Turbo I bought new- and was looking to sell it. I have a tone of software with it, video instruction manual, original manuals and box. Keyboard is in decent shape- never used on gigs, just home recording. Let me know if you would be interested. I live in the US.

  25. Kiliman Arnsson

    hi I’m trying to get some info on a keyboard that’s selling on my local craigslist. It’s called a Gem sx2, and I’m not finding anything about it. I’m finding info on s2/s3 and a turbo s2 and s3, but nothing about sx2. Is the x designation referring to the turbo version, or is it something particular to Canada (I’m in Canada)? thanks.

    • Theo Bloderer

      Hi … the SX2/SX3 are the “arranger keyboards” of the S-series, as far as I know. Similar (or equal) sound architecture to the S2/S3, but a different user panel: no real-time access to sounds (no sliders), bigger (illuminated) buttons and an enhanced sequencer (that shows lyrics and chords of songs, if I’m right). Second hand prices are a bit lower (compared to S2/S3), I guess …

  26. hi all, i’m sorry be more my speak don’t smart, i have a gem wk 1 oriental but now blend,lcd on but havn’t message and no out voice, please i want solution to formating manual,how idea?thanks and sorry.
    i’m bukhori from indonesia. Email: gepengilir (at)

  27. Kiliman Arnsson

    hi I just want to update this discussion. I went and saw the Sx2 that was for sale. He had the original manual. The Sx2 does have poly aftertouch, and it says so clearly in several places in the manual. It also doesn\t have real time controllers, and the particular one I tested had terrible velocity; it was actually useless.
    People should know that the Sx2 is not properly speaking, one of the S series.

  28. George Beacroft

    I have a gem S1 having trouble with one of the speakers intend
    to replace it ( the speaker ) please your comments on this
    instrument have been very pleased with it since I bought it new
    early nineties

  29. John Carpenter

    I live in New York and I own S3 and Equinox61 synths for a long time.

    I think that Equinox61 is sonically is better, almost like an Analog sounding synth with digital controls. S3 has an older digital sound, which is also interested.

    My vote goes to Equinox which is the best digital synth ever manufactured, better than relative Kurzweil or Roland workstation models.

    • Theo Bloderer

      … thanks for sharing your experience – thumbs up for the Equinox! What a shame GeneralMusic is no longer in existence …

  30. I have a S2 Turbo for about 17 years now without any major problems except a broken key . I sent it to some service for repair and they told me to not sell the synth ever. New synths have different keybed construction and the material (rubber?) has to be replaced after a few years, while GEM S2/S3 have some construction without any rubber and the service man said something like this keyboard will keep working for a very long time…
    But to be honest, I use it only as homestudio masterkeyboard, no gigs, no frequent transportations…

    > Stereo-outputs plus 4 single (sadly mono) outputs
    I think this is not true – you can also configure the mono outputs as stereo pairs – at least according to the manual.

    I have to figure out how to get those S2 sound images to floppy on Win7 64bit… OmniFlop should work hopefully!? Any experience?

    Also was anyone able to make a good supersaw simulation on this synth?

  31. Hi, I own a GEM S3 Turbo for 22 years. Great keyboard used most as a midi master keyboard and mixed the acoustic sounds with the Roland JV1080. I read many forum topics about leaking batteries and many had replaced them, so did I. After that, the keyboard apparently loses its OS. Many asked for a OS disc. So am I, up to now nobody seemed to get any response on this, or there are no OS discs available? Can somebody please help to get me a OS disc. I’m Dutch, my email adress is tonnysnijders59 (at)

    Many thanks in advance


    • Theo Bloderer

      … hello Tonny

      I’ll have a look, will send you an email …

      cheers, Theo

      • Hi Theo,

        I received the mail, many thanks in advance.


    • Hi from Italy!
      My S3 turbo has the same problem.
      It is caused by the oxidation of some contacts on the main board (due to the leaking battery).
      This is not an os problem.
      After replacing the battery, I turn on the synth but I can hear no sound.
      But if I detach the display controller and I turn on again, the synth is working! But it very difficult to use it, because you can’t see what you are doing on the display…
      The solution is: clean the mainboard and check its contacts

  32. Theo, did you get a chance to look at the OS disc?

    Regards Tonny

  33. HaniaSelim

    Hi all,
    I need to buy GEM S2 TURBO. Could you please help me find one in reasonable condition either in Europe or in USA?
    I appreciate your support.
    Thank you and best regards,

  34. Felipe

    Hi all !! I have a GEM SX2 like new !! but i cant find info about it, i would like to sell it because its not my kind of keyboard …. or i can trade it for other synths like korg, moog, ensoniq …. Can anyone give me an orientation about the value? Thx a lot.

  35. Panu Talus

    Hi Theo. Maybe you don’t remember but I have got the scans of original Sound-On-Sound review of S-serie which was too early for online view so now anyone can read it. It’s very promising review which makes it sad how the synth ended being flop product. Besides the SOS review there’s also ads, schematics and floppy images of all original GEM disks and compatible samples from other brands:



  37. Hi all:) if someone somewhere has a turbo kit for sale I’d be very interested in buying it :) best regards Lars

    • Maybe if you are just using the gem as a Motherkeyboard you may as well uninstall the turbo kit.. (and sell it to me;)))

      • Problem solved:) I disovered by disassembly that it was in fact already installed:)
        best regards

  38. victor tolentino

    Im looking to buy a general music sk760 and w8 se where can I buy these two keyboard? contact me ASAP thank you

  39. I had a dead GEM S3 Turbo. I replaced the leaking battery, it did not help. Also replaced Some parts around the battery, no cure. At last I bought e new(!) cpu board. It helped. Now my display freezes after a while playing the instrument. I still can play it, but the display does not react at all. If I switch it off and on again, the display is blank with Some blue lines. I checked the controlller board, but that seems to be fine looking at it. It looks like when getting ‘warm’ the refreshing gets disturbed. May be Someone recognises it and can help me. I’m not an electrician, but it may be just a small component causing this problem. When the instrument has been switched off for a couple of days, it starts working again. But when playing for a short time the screen freezes again. Many thanks in advance for your help.


      • Does anyone know if s2 turbo disk recordings can be salvaged and transferred to some other midi device?

  40. victor tolentino

    want to by a wk8 se or sk76 keyboard whats my next step thank you

  41. A completamento della descrizione del progetto S2 e S3 voglio segnalare che il design è stato affidato allo studio IDEA di Marcello Gennari di Pesaro che si è confrontato e coordinato nel corso dello sviluppo con gli ingegneri che stavano elaborando hardware e software

  42. Karla Silvana Velani

    Olá, eu tenho um sx3 e ele não está funcionando, gostaria de saber onde tem assistência técnica?

  43. ola quero saber se agem ainda fabrica teclado arrangadores 6/8 eu eu stou procurando um eu vi uma vez genesyspro nunca mais vi se for atendido agradeço valeuu

  44. Larry Lockwood

    Do you know where I can get the floppy disk (or disks) for the S3? I do not have any disks with the keyboard and would like to have the disks to change sounds etc.

    Thank You …

  45. Hi, Theo, do you know where I can get the floppy discs for the S3, please. but just the music so I can listen to the keyboard as I don’t play. Thanks, Graham.

  46. Alan Crombie

    Hi Theo, -I know your review of the S3 was many years ago now, but what a great job anyway!

    I own an S3, (1992) which is non-turbo, and still functions in all respects. I’m kind of being forced to downsize, so might have to (regretfully) sell it. Is there still a following for the instrument out there?

    Thanks, Alan

    • Theo Bloderer

      … hello Alan … great to hear your S3 is up and running! Sadly it’s only of limited value on the secondhand market. In Italy, the S3 is traded for approx 300 Euros, in Germany it’s only worth slightly more. So, I guess 250 – 350 Euros is probably all you will get for this wonderful instrument (regardless of its “polyphonic” aftertouch, its high-quality 76-note keyboard and its superb sound machine) … Cheers, Theo

      • Alan Crombie

        Hi Theo,

        OK, thanks. If only I was in Europe. (I’m in the Mid-East). Ah well, see if there’s anyone interested in the local market. Thanks for your reply.

        Best wishes.


  47. Hi Theo,
    Thanks for writing such an excellent and deep review. It’s great find some other people that appreciate such an awesome underrated synth. I’ve got an Equinox, and also an S2 & S2 Turbo. Sadly, both S2’s need repair … the battery and OS. I read through all the comments but wasn’t quite clear, do you by chance have the OS available for the S2? If so, I would love to try and repair my synths and get them working again. Nothing sounds quite like the S2.
    Kind regards,

    • Andy53

      Hi Chaka

      There is no OS on floppy, because its in Eprom on the motherboard, so if battery is empty or removed, S2 still works, only time and date will lost after switching off and in Turbo version the contest of RAM disk, if installed.

      Most common failure is NiCad battery leaks in Turbo version, destroying chips and PCB traces next to it. The chip on the right of the battery, ic54, 74HC245 is a gate to the LCD, so in most cases there is disturbing or no LCD image at all, only light or flickering. The chip next to ic54, ic53, 74AC32 is partly there to access the OS Eproms, if they are bad then the synth can not boot.

      In both situations you have to clean up the PCB and remove all infected ic’s by cutting them away (clean underneath and inspect traces under them) even if they are working, put good quality sockets in place where you can put new ic’s in it, also inspect the traces to them with a multimeter.

      Search for s2 s3 repair, there are some active …

      • Chaka my name is eddie and what you`re saying sounds like my sx2 . I wonder if you know of some repairs shops that can repair my sx2 and thanks, eddie.

  48. Mr Vusi Vilakazi

    Hello Sir/ Madam
    I would really Love to replace my FLOPPY DRIVE in my old (WK 3-GENERALMUSIC WORKSTATION KEYBOARD)
    to a USB FLOPPY DRIVE EMULATOR, So that i can use a USB MEMORY FLASH DRIVE TO BOOT IT: Since there are no more “Blank STIFFY FLOPPY DISC” TO BUY …..
    Where and how can i get a ” GOOD ” REPLACEMENT ???


  49. We at have now released a new Arpeggiator for the S-Series and a new floppy disk tool kit, more will be available soon.

  50. Jim Arcieri

    In 1993, when I was 36 years old, I purchased an S3 primarily for church use. I have been using it continuously ever since, in various venues, and its versatility, depth, and intelligent simplicity in design continues to impress me. At that time I also purchased, for $20, the Hammond B3 sound, which was very realistic. I wished I could’ve utilized all of its features – but alas, raising a family and pursuing a career took precedence. Obviously, modern synths are in a class all their own (digital technology, USB access to computer sounds, and Gigs of memory); yet, when I play a modern synth, I’m left feeling cheated when I compare them to the capabilities of my S3. Thanks for the article – I always wondered what happened to GEM; maybe they were too far ahead of their time? Keep up the good work!

    • Theo Bloderer

      … thanks for your comment. I’m also still (very) impressed of the GeneralMusic S2 / S3 (have got a few of them). They are available for a mere 200 / 300 Euros/USD these days. They are beautifully made and full of musical expression/excitement. Leackage of the internal battery and failures in boot procedures are the two main technical problems of the S-Series these days.

      GeneralMusic closed its doors around 2009. All remaining instruments and synth components (dating back to the glorious Elka Synthex … Elka and LEM were also part of the company) were then bought by a northern business man. Most of the GeneralMusic spare parts are now stored in a warehouse in Finland.

      • Hi Theo – this webpage is a great resource.

        Do you know which brand of 3.5″ disks are best? I have one (1) Kao 2mb floppy that works for backing up sounds. But I need more. Not sure where to find!

        I tried some other brands that I have around the house, but none worked except the one KAO that came with the unit. Bought it about a month ago.

  51. DefCase

    Thanks for the contributions Theo, as well as other commenters! I have my sights set on the GEM S2 to use as a masterkeyboard, due to the polyAT and revered Fatar TP/8S keybed (the internal synthesizer is a plus as well).

    Probably a long shot, but if anyone is using an S2 or S3 (Turbo included) with a DAW, can you tell me if it sends all MIDI velocity values of 0-127? I’ve found that even good feeling keyboards are sometimes missing a lot of resolution in between (i.e. unable to ever register 105-109 velocity).

    It seems like GEM went all out on the S-series (to correct an earlier poster, the SX does not have polyAT/release velocity, just the S and Turbos). So I imagine there’s a good chance they have full resolution.

    Sad how ill-fated they were as a company.

  52. What does it take to resurrect the S2 or S3 General Music turbo keyboard ? The comments and reviews on this quality instrument clearly indicate that it should be returned to the market place. Having become an expert orchestrator over the years using this keyboard, I would gladly purchase at least 5 of them in excellent condition if I could find them in the US, Italy, Finland or any place on the planet, just to teach and pass on my music orchestration skill sets to willing students.

    If anyone knows how to encourage the keepers of the technology for the S2 or S3 Turbo General Music Keyboards, please let me know. I will gladly illustrate the extensive capability of this instrument to persuade re-production.

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