Switched On – Austin, Texas - Atlas Obscura

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Switched On

A synth musician's paradise at the heart of a community responsible for the soundtrack to 'Stranger Things.' 

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The growing analog synthesizer scene in Austin can attribute much of its growth to this small shop, which specializes in the distribution and repair of analog music electronics. For synth musicians and producers, the store is heaven on earth, with walls and shelves covered entirely in all types of used and new analog electronic music equipment, which uses circuits and potentiometers to control sound, rather than ones and zeros. 

Being one of the few brick-and-mortar establishments in the country that specializes in preserving the legacy of analog synthesizers, Switched On’s shop and the community that it fuels are rare. Dozens of analog synth bands have been popping up in Austin ever since the store opened in 2010. Before then, Austin didn’t really have any businesses that could provide these services. The store gave Austin’s electronic musicians a community hub. 

Though many of the pioneers of electronic music—Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode—used this kind of analog equipment, digital synthesizers had supplanted it through most of the 1980s. However, the 1990s began to see a resurgence as techno, rave, and DJ musicians without the budget for expensive digital equipment helped increase the demand for second-hand analog equipment. By the end of the 1990s, many musicians were beginning to rediscover the warm, vintage sound quality that analog synthesizers could offer.

Recent years have seen another resurgence for analog synthesizers, so now Switched On’s influence extends beyond Austin. The store has become an international destination for musicians and producers, attracted to its extensive collection of both vintage audio devices and new, innovative instruments. Led Zeppelin’s lead singer, Robert Plant, has passed through to explore the collection.

The store really saw the limelight after one of Austin’s premiere analog synth groups, Survive, was asked to write the soundtrack for the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. Survive’s members, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, are just two of the many Austin analog synth alumni who have been employed at Switched On and call it home. 

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