In the synth context, usually refers to a synth which is polyphonic in the sense that it can sound more than one note at a time, but all notes are run through a common VCF and VCA. This was a common means of designing string synthesizers in the 1970s; there was a dedicated oscillator for each note, but only one filter and VCA for the whole synth. The VCF would usually track the highest note played. The paraphonic design was a cost compromise for these synths. It would have been far more expensive to provide completely separate voice circuitry for each note, and for the sort of playing often done with them -- mainly block chords -- the characteristics of the paraphonic design were acceptable, if not ideal. However, paraphonic designs disppeared when true polyphonic circuitry became less expensive in the '80s.