The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Synths for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
(My biased) Vintage Monosynth Guide! Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 12th April 2018
  #1
Lives for gear
 

(My biased) Vintage Monosynth Guide!

I started writing this for another thread but soon realized I was writing a small book, and that it could be useful beyond that thread, so here it is. In my search for my monosynth setup, I've purchased and extensively demoed most of the most famous mono-synths out there, all in the last 2-3 years. I did a lot of lengthy a/b comparisons, some of which I put up as demos on Youtube (chris962x). So here's my personal and completely biased guide, hope folks find it useful.

The setup I ended up with: Minimoog old osc, Arp Odyssey Mk3, Oberheim SEM (orig), Roland Sh-5, Korg Maxikorg, Pro-One. I will likely sell the Pro-One at some point, though I love it, it's a bit redundant. If I had to sell another from there, it would be in reverse order, Maxi, Sh-5, etc. Luckily, my job situation stabilized and my bills have been low, so I've been quite lucky, and I'm quite grateful for that.

MOOGS: In my personal experience, a Moog is the best all rounder in terms of tone, doesn't make a bad sound, all sweet spot, and is often the sound in people's heads for what a synth 'should' sound like. I would never want to be without a moog of some sort unless necessary, especially if you like playing lush leads like I do, though an sh-2 or pro one can cover a lot of similar ground in a pinch. In my experience (a phrase I'll often leave out in what follows), best complement to a moog is always an odyssey OR pro one and an SEM. Moog for smooth hugeness, oddy or pro one for modulations, and SEM for huge, 12db/multimode filter, and deceptive flexibility with totally diff sound. If I had to choose, I'd go oddy over pro one for modulations, because oddy's sound is so unique compared to a moog or sem, while the pro one sounds a bit generic, and I find its layout for modulations less useful overall. So, moog, oddy, and sem for the covers most bases setup.

MINIMOOG/SOURCE: I've got an old osc minimoog, haven't compared it to others, but I compared it pretty extensively to the moog source and multimoog I sold that I had before. Filter is better on mini/source than multi, multi sounds a tiny bit 'older' than source, but on 2 osc patches, I could get the source to basically sound identical in a/b comparison to the old osc mini. Maybe it's not really old osc, but the holes in the back and SN seem to indicate it is, but I always hear glorious tales about its tone, and it's great, but not diff from a 2 osc source to my ears. The real diff tho is interface. The source interface is really well laid out and has patches, but getting a sound on a moog is all about tiny adjustments BETWEEN parameters, going back and forth, so I found sounds I got in 2 seconds on the mini took tedious ages of switching parameters and comparing values on the source. In this case, interface realy does make a diff, but it's also half the price. The mini is more drifty in terms of tuning, but in ways that to my ears mostly mean I'm always in the back recalibrating it more than anything else. When I did a really careful a/b of mini to source on 2 osc sounds, I really couldn't hear the diff, and I was quite surprised by this. Still kept the mini, mostly for interface and third oscillator. The reverse saw on the mini is also pretty amazing. as is layering 3 oscillators. Mini always sounds right, whatever it's doing, but sometimes you need other tones. Gotta say, I was surprised how bright the mini is, yet without losing its vintage warmth, it is able to do both, a lotta more modern synths make you choose.

MULTIMOOG: Then there's the Multimoog, which I had for a while too. Oscillators sound beyond great, and the filter is diff from the Mini, but interesting in its own right. They kinda split it up with a switch into two zones, one that self-oscillates, one that doesn't. Downside of this is you can't slide nicely between these, upside is if you switch self-oscillation off, the filter is perfectly calibrated to get maximum resonance with now scream. If you're into syrupy resonance like I am, that's a wonderful bonus, but I would've prefered that when the switch allowed self-oscillation it didn't lose the extra juiciness and range to the filter that it does. Not sure how its setup under the hood, but if I had to choose multi or mini type filter, I'd go with the latter. The Multi is the Moog Oddy, and it has a TON of modulations, setup a bit more like the Pro-One than the Oddy (and I'm guessing the Pro One was partly inspired by the Multi's approach, tho it did it better). The coolest thing about the Multi has got to be the aftertouch, and this makes it amazing for live use. I was in several Rush cover bands, before there were cheap footpedals like there are today, and the aftertouch meant I could play all the rush lines with one hand, keeping the other doing bass on a polysynth or doing a hammer on bass note with my other hand on bass guitar. So useful. There's pwm on both oscillators, and the Multi has a sub-osc that can do 1 or 2 osc down, and can sound huge and SH-2 like. One thing that 'in theory' should sound amazing is you can go from saw to square to pwm smoothly, and modulate by lfo and trigger by aftertouch! In practice though there's a volume drop between saw and sq that's a bit harsh, so the modulation between this expanded pwm doesn't sound smooth, urg. Aside from that, the Multi can get most of the modulations you can on an Oddy or Pro-One, even if you arrive at them diff (which matters when performing). Each has some the others don't, and if you're really into modulations and don't want to go modular and have infinite cash, all three complement in some ways. The 'tone' setting on the filter produces ring-mod type sounds, and there's a switch for two levels of fm. Negative envelope on the filter when combined with the other modulations can do really tasty stuff, particularly juicy when you use the no-self-osc resonance setting and just get juicy, juicy sounds. Oscillators sound warm like a mini, but the filter is a tiny bit less satisfying. I had my mini and multi sitting next to each other for quite a while until I sold the multi, but I felt they complemented, though not enough to make it worth to keep both.

SH-5: Ok, SH-5 I got to play for two quite long evenings recently. Here's my thoughts. First, steep learning curve! Not a bad thing, but it took quite a while to figure out the tricks to getting it to really show what it can do, because some of its quite counter intuitive. The second vca really threw me for a loop. So if you use the A/R env for amp, it seems to function subtractively, while if you use ADSR for amp and filter, or bypass amp entirely, it functions additively, or something to that effect. This means that the only way to get HUGE sounding bass (ie: Sh-2, Mini) is the latter option, cause trying it with the former, it just doesn't seem to happen, perhaps there some sort of crossover going on cause when ar is routed to amp, it seems to scoop some of the bass out of stuff. The other options (adsr amp or bypass amp), though,CAN do huge bass, but my memory is SH-2 and Mini do it a bit huger and snappier, but not dramatically so Another insight is that I expecting it to sound massively different on first go than either an SH-2 or even Mini, considering its diode ladder filter and rather unique oscillator construction, but it didn't! It did in online demos, however, and it took me a while to figure out how those sounds were accomplished. Using the subtractive vca for the lp filter seems to hollow out the bass a bit, but if you fill out the bass with the bp filter, then you get strange harmonics that emerge that create that unique, syrupy filter sound that I always thought was simply produced by it being diode ladder. As for modulations, the learning curve may have prevented me from quickly discovering what it could do, but my sense is that its more difficult to get a wide range of modulations like on an oddy or pro one.

Where it excels however, and can do stuff I haven't heard on many other synths, is layering that bandpass filter with the main filter. So long as you play with one hand and keep moving the bp filter cutoff freq, there are sounds in there I haven't heard elsewhere, though arguably one could get some of those otherwise by layering two other synths and keeping both cutoffs moving. Then again, the odd crossover between the vcas may give the sh-5 a unique sound to it, didn't get time to compare. The base tone is still much closer to an SH-2 than I would've imagined, always a bit 'happy sounding,' its only when you combine the odd filterings that it starts to get dark and odd. I recently asked a tech if he could figure out a simple mod to send the bandpass to one of the many inputs on the back that seem less than useful, for pedal or cv control, because I found that to get most of the sounds I really wanted, my hand was constantly just riding that bandpass cutoff. It's a really cool synth, though I think most of the really unique sounds come about from the interplay between the two filters with that crossover. Just got this synth, only played it for two long nights when a transformer popped, so it's in the shop, so didn't get to fully explore as much as I'd like. Not sure it's worth the cash and hype unless you like strange gurgling resonance sweeps, but I do, it fits my music well.

SH-2: The much cheaper option to SH-5 is SH-2. For most of the more 'normal' sides of the SH-5, or a slightly more focused and 'happy' sounding 'poor person's minimoog', it is massive bang for the buck. SH-2 has pwm and more lfo options than mini, negative envelope, and its square wave and pwm can sound quite unmoogish and jupiter like. The Sh-2 remains one of the best bargains in the synth world. I sold my SH-2, not cause I didn't love it, but because of too much overlap in my system, and curiosity about the SH-5. The 1-2 octave sub-oscillators on the SH-2 are MASSIVE.

You could sell your Mini, and get a Source, Oddy, AND Sem with a few extra bucks. Vintage SEM, Oddy, and Source all go for 1.5k ish these days, and the combo is hard to beat.

ODYSSEY: The Oddy is the perfect compliment to the Moog in my opinion. An Sh-2 or Pro-One can replace a Moog in a pinch, but there is a smootheness and hugeness to the moog that is hard to beat, no matter how simple it is. Oddy is no brainer wonderful. I like the Mk3, but I hate the duophony, would like to get it modified so it has a switch so I can just play legato like on the Solus I had, legato is so nice, and it's near impossible to play legato with the duophony on. Oddy complements Moog in almost every way, and not just flexibility, but also tone, and something about the portamento is diff in a wonderful way. Solus sounds just as good, slightly diff env settings cause it has one fewer, missing a bunch of features tho, but Avatar does NOT sound as good (I compared them a/b), something in the oscillators is less alive, sounds near identical to Karp, oddly. Oddys are quite cheap now because of the resissue. And I've compared the new one and old, while the new one is an amazing synth, the old one has 'that sound' that is a bit 'more alive,' and they have come down in price now that the new one is out. I got my Mk3 Oddy for 1300 shipped a few months ago to replace my Solus, only PPC is only semi-functional, but it sounds AMAZING. Fwiw, I haven't played the 12db or 4072 Oddys to compare, but on the Karp, you get a taste of those other filters. I like the 4075 so much from my Solus, I wasn't that concerned to try the others, it's an amazing filter, and cause I'm a huge Tony Banks fan, it's the 'sound of oddy' in my head (Solus is same monosynth as Quadra). The Solus is amazing, just as good tone but limited, but damn sounds good, and a little cheaper. I figured the odd keys that extend over the case of the Mk3 would bother me or seem fragile, but they don't.

SEM: The SEM is the real sleeper here. The 12db filter can be brutish or super sweet, and it has more filter options (notch!) than the Sh-5. For half the price of an Sh-5, layer it in non-lp mode on to near any other synth, and you get a lot of what makes the Sh-5 so interesting (unless you really like the Sh-5 in its more Sh-2 side, which the SEM just doesn't do). The SEM is massively underrated, simply one of the best sounding mono-synths out there. Played alone it sounds great, but where it really shines is when you've got a 24db and 12db playing side by side in a mix, they instantly stand out in relation to each other in ways they don't when played alone, so having one of each type of filter on a mono I find really does wonders for tracks. I think the SEM is less popular simply because it lacks keys, 2 voices are more expensive, and without keys, it's more work to just 'plug and play.' This means its undervalued, but it's also a bit rare. But don't let the simplicity of design fool, there's a much more flexibility than there appears. Not only pwm, but negative env for filter, which few other synths have (including Mini or Oddy!) Env on SEM are just as snappy as Minimoog, and while ADR, the parameters interact in ways that are tricky to explain, but you can coax a ton more shapes out of them than it would appear. SEM may not sound as huge as Moog, but it does sound as wide, if not more (hard to describe). The notch filter is really amazing, massive range of sounds. That said, my brain is so used to how 24db filters react, getting what I want out of a 12db can take more time, the top end of the resonance on a 12db always sounds a little 'wispy' to me, so I spend a bit of time working with envelopes to avoid the more annoying side of that, the env curves just react diff on 12db and 24, diff sweet spots, so it takes practice. If I had to choose 24 or 12db, I'd choose 24, it's overall a bit jucier and more flexible to my ears, but having both 12 and 24 in a setup is a real boost in tone. The slightly harsh tone of a 12db at some settings is perhaps why fewer use the SEM for lead or bass, but it excels at both, while sounding a bit more dark and drier than 24db synths while doing it. Not a bad thing, more just diff, and complements 24db stuff in a track really well. Btw, also compared the old SEM to new a/b, and the same situation, filters are just as good on new, older ones the oscillators have a slight that to some like me is really worth the diff. I've done whole tracks that were nearly all SEM, it's def a top tier monosynth, rich as a Moog, just diff.

PRO ONE: Never sounds bad, can be a real chameleon, huge snappy bass, and that simple arp/sequencer just makes it always FUN to play. The CEM osc sound is a bit more 'focused' (like SH-2 to mini but a little more) but just as 'vintage.' It's a modulation monster like the Oddy, but the setup on these two is just so damn diff. I find the Pro One is better for getting industrial style noises by means of unintended accidents, and a lotta time on the Pro-One, I find myself just semi-randomly turning knobs and buttons until I get something I like, not because I don't understand the controls, but because thinking it through takes too long with the routing, while on the Oddy, everything makes more sense (once you learn it's strange routing system!). Also, the Pro-One's modulation setup is more about routing, while the Oddy is more reliant on sliders, so you can slide in and out of various moduations more gradually, the Pro-One is more on/off. The Oddy is overall more characterful sounding, its more transparent in tone, but both are equally fun in totally diff ways. Only downside to the Pro-One is it can sound a bit generic, I think more the curtis filter chips than the oscillator chips. When I'm playing the pro one, it sounds so good, I don't want to play anything else, but when I compare it to other classic monosynths, I remember that each has a unique character I love, but the pro one is missing a unique character, it's just generic great synth, but again, a bit generic, missing a tiny bit that uniqueness, and always a bit more focused. then again, turning on the seq or arp and tweaking is just fun and its easy to get lost for hours. An Oddy with a sequencer is probably the same thing, but built in makes it so easy. One thing the Pro One shares with the mini and SH-2 is all you need to do to explode the bass end on a performance is drop the resonance out, and the bass becomes beyond massive, the Oddy and SEM don't do that anywhere like that, but of course, sometimes you don't want it to.

MAXIKORG: The sleeper! This is no doubt one of the strangest synths I've ever played. It's huge, massive, punchy, and warm sounding when you have it doing 'normal stuff,' though it takes a bit of work to set it up for that, as it's not really designed for that. That said, it can do smooth detuned saw leads, and massive basses, but really, it's a frankensynth of strangeness. There's a lot of 'not sweet' spot in this synth, but if you like synth sounds that are ugly, bizarre, weird, out there, and just plain 'huh', while always sounding ancient, this is it. The overall sound is a little bit darker and woodier than many of these others, it just sounds ooooooold, and perhaps is missing a little of the top end brightness that something like a moog, SEM, or Arp has alongside its warmth. The oldness is often in a really good way, but that's a matter of taste, and some likely due to the drier and darker 12db filter, not a bad thing, just diff. The routings are beyond bizarre, and as much as I've tried to figure out the envelopes, I usually just mess with the settings till I get what I want rather than try to think through their logic. It's got a VERY strange two stage lfo with multiple trigger options that can create semi-sequenced things like the lfo can on the oddy, but much more, you can have the sound switch between the two oscillators out of sync so the sound switches between saw to sq and back, for example, or have one osc pulse notes at the bottom of keyboard while the top plays a one osc lead, etc. and if you combine it with the dual autobend and dual delayed vibrato, or the dual ringmods, or dual per osc portamento settings, per osc pwm, or dual multi-octave sub-osc with per oscillator settings, well, the combinations can be beyond strange. Downsides are that there's no cv unless you mod it, there's no simple way to do mod-wheel vibrato unless you by cv (though delayed vibrato works quite well, tho its difficult to get the two oscillators totally in sync). The most unique aspect is the dual 12db traveller filters, and so often you have the two oscillators doing very different things, leading to some VERY complex sounds with multiple layers, often from two diff filters, four diff octaves, and bends and slides! The downside is that they are all single oscillator, so it can sound a bit Jupiter 4-ish in that way (and overall, I'm always reminded of a Jp-4 when playing it, but with a much darker square/pwm wave). So I often find that once I have a truly bizarre sound nothing else can make, it still sounds like a layer of 1osc synths, then I want to fatten it up, perhaps with some delay, or double tracking, but such options never quite sound like I like them too. Another option is just to layer it with a more generic sound from another synth by cv, like a 1 osc saw wave. Now what I WISH they'd included would be an option to send both oscillators, mixed, through both filters, so you could get all the phasing before filtering of 2 detuned osc but through the same filter like on all other monosynths (gives a smootheness to the sound that matched dual vcfs get close to but don't quite provide), but with two diff filters to play with! A switch in the back for that would be nice, maybe some tech would know how to make that possible. I wouldn't have this for my only monosynth, it's too difficult to get it to play 'normal,' but as a complement to others, it's the strangest thing ever, sounds beyond old, and there's nothing quite like it. Never played the other Korgs, but I suspect they are equally as nice, one benefit to these is you can send two oscillators through one filter, which can sound a little more 'normal' than trying to line up diff filters on each oscillators, if that's the sound one wants.

YAMAHA CS-SERIES: I had a CS-30L for quite a while, eventually sold it. Don't get me wrong, it's a great synth, but felt my cash was better placed elsewhere. Like the Pro-One, the CS synths sound a bit more 'focused' than many of the older monosynths, but still sound amazing. When I listen to them in a mix, they do sound a little more plastic than the others, but they still sound rich and warm, the plastic is just a tiny bit. They are def hi-fi, though. My biggest gripe was the modulations. The CS-30L has every modulation under the sun, it seems like it would have the range in sounds of the Oddy or Pro One. But the parameter ranges often seemed limiting in odd ways. The LFOs get tantalizingly close to audio range, but don't go there, and many other settings seemed unecessarily limiting. Like the Maxikorg, there's a lot of 'not sweet spot,' but rather than produce sounds so strangely ugly and fascinating that you can't stop listening to them (like on Maxikorg), I found the results often less interesting or truly strange and more halfway this and halfway that, too farty to use but not strange enough to be wtf fun. This is def a synth designed by an engineer rather than a musician, something as simple as getting vibrato on both oscillators is impossible but by something like a Kenton, and many of the routings are beyond incomprehensible even after practice. I like having three envelopes, and they are snappy, but all different in ways I had difficulty keeping track of. the filter and vca routings are cool, and the filters are great. Most of the most interesting sounds involved using a lp filter and a hp filter sweep at the same time going through separate vcas, layered at the end. But that's possible on a CS-15 for half the price! Ring mod is nice, but there's so many other ways to get ringmod (even a cheap eurorack setup). It's a sexy looking synth, great keybed, but ultimately went out to fund other stuff. Fwiw, there's a nice single osc monosynth in my Yamaha Sk-30, the Yamaha sounds quite nice in that 12db filter in single osc mode!

REISSUES: I owned the Karp for a while, a/b compared to Solus, kept Solus, then compared to Avatar, sold Avatar, compared to Oddy Mk3, reluctantly sold Solus. The Karp is AMAZING, but the oscillators are to my ears missing the tiniest bit of aliveness I heard in the vintage stuff. I'd say the same about the reissue SEM, and to me, that tiny bit was worth the extra cash.

COMPLEMENTING: To get the most balanced monosynth setup, assuming the cash is there, I'd want a Moog and an Oddy (take your pick of filter, my sense is they all sound great), and if possible, an SEM. That combo, in my experience, covers the most bases as far as monosynths goes. For strange noises (without going modular), the SH-5, Oddy, Pro-One, Maxikorg combo wins, but not for maximum musicality, like leads and basses.

BUDGET: If you can only afford one? Pro One probably covers the most bases and is most chameleon like, Oddy a close second, a bit less huge, but a bit more character, and the unique arp portamento sound (a matter of taste). And if you can't afford vintage Oddy, Karp and Solus are great, though between Solus and Pro-One, kinda apples and oranges but matter of taste.

If one can only afford two? One approach is a Moog and a modulation monster (ie: Oddy, the most likely complement, I think). But another is two more flexible synths, like a 24db Oddy and an SEM, two very different and strong characters, rather than the more bread and butter Moog.

Reissues are of course a great option here. A Karp desktop, SEM reissue, and Sub Fatty/Minitaur combo can be had used for about 2k total, while a Source, Oddy, and SEM all vintage would be about 4.5k. Is it better to get a Karp, SEM reissue, and Sub Fatty/Minitaur, or a Pro-One or vintage Oddy and a Minitaur combo for the same cash? Again, a matter of taste.

There are some other budget synths that sound GREAT. Anything by Dreadbox is wonderful, I had an Abyss for a while, and it was good as Karp and SEM Reissue. All demos seem to indicate the Mono Lancet is also damn vintage-like, and that filter is wonderful. I find the DSI vco stuff and most other new analog far less to my tastes, the filters sound fine but less so the oscillators, to my ears they sound really good, but not vintage, warm, and 'alive,' in the way my ears prefer, but tastes vary.

WHAT I WISH I'D KNOWN BEFOREHAND: That great songs can be composed with all mono-synths, mono-synths are a whole way of composing and thinking totally diff than when using polysynths.

That using all VCOs can dominate a mix too much. Often a stringer, hybrid, or digital synth in the background can leave more space for VCO synths to shine without crowding them out. Stringers and hybrids are amazing and so often overlooked.

That hardware effects can make all the difference. When I first picked up a Lexicon 300 for $800 earlier this year, it was a revelation. Everything that went into it 'sounded like a record' in ways I didn't think possible. I love my plugin reverbs (Valhalla!!!), but there was something diff going on here. I was able to get my Valhalla to sound almost identical to a PCM 70, but the 300 has more clarity, gets less muddy at high settings, and has a stereo-depth and width that just made everything sound 3D. And it just makes everything it touches sound 'like it should.' Now I have several hardware fx boxes, but if I were to only have one, Lex 300 is most bang for the buck, it's completely professional grade for a totally affordable price (usually 1k).

That hardware delay is amazing too! Lotta great delay plugins out there, and for tape delay, I often find it not worth the hassle, but chunky digital or BBD delay is amazing, often affordable, and the hands on interface is SO much fun to play with. Stuff like Yamaha e1010, Ibanez Ad202, Roland/Boss DC-20/DM-100, Boss/Waza DM-2, totally affordable, and instant mojo of all sorts, and hands on. More pricey, Oto Machines gear is wonderful, the BIM is such a great delay, so 3D and alive sounding (and can often sound like tape with its built in analog filters and drive). Having hands on control to sculpt reverb is also wonderful, and Oto BAM is the cheapest way to get that. A lotta old hardware reverb and delay units that provide all sorts of mojo beyond plugs are also totally affordable. Old Lexicon delays are chunky and amazing, and just sound more 3D than software. It's not that pricey to get one hardware delay and one hardware reverb to complement plugs, and can often be worth it rather than another synth. Far less sexy purchase, but so much fun, and really makes a diff, even to how you compose. Composing around the effect is often as much fun as the opposite.

To get real monitors. I delayed the forever. But now I can determine things accurately, and it makes all the diff. I didn't want to spend the cash on something that didn't make music itself until I had to, but now I can't imagine living without them. I ended up with KH-120a's, and I'm quite happy with them.

I'm sure people will disagree like crazy, ears differ. Anyway, hope this was helpful to anyone! This sort of guide would've been helpful to me when I started my search. It was a ton of fun to write.
Old 12th April 2018
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Farmboy presents's Avatar
Great read. Thanks for your views.
Old 12th April 2018
  #3
Lives for gear
 
autoy's Avatar
Bravo! Loved your personal appreciations and this is all very valuable experience. Of course I find your preferences way too biased towards classic American sound while I prefer a bit more emphasis on the Japanese side of things but I can see where you’re coming from. Please do a polyphonic roundup when you find the time.
Old 12th April 2018
  #4
Lives for gear
 
24dB's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
I started writing this for another thread but soon realized I was writing a small book, and that it could be useful beyond that thread, so here it is. In my search for my monosynth setup, I've purchased and extensively demoed most of the most famous mono-synths out there, all in the last 2-3 years. I did a lot of lengthy a/b comparisons, some of which I put up as demos on Youtube (chris962x). So here's my personal and completely biased guide, hope folks find it useful. .
Nice summary!
I will say though that there are probably more synths that do negative env for filter than you think. OSCar, JP-8080/8000 from my current stable, many more that I have used over the years.

Last edited by 24dB; 7th May 2018 at 09:13 PM..
Old 12th April 2018
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by autoy View Post
Bravo! Loved your personal appreciations and this is all very valuable experience. Of course I find your preferences way too biased towards classic American sound while I prefer a bit more emphasis on the Japanese side of things but I can see where you’re coming from. Please do a polyphonic roundup when you find the time.
Yeah, I totally prefer American stuff in general, Korg is probably my favorite of the Japanese companies, I only go to Roland or Yamaha in a pinch, though I can def hear why others might prefer otherwise. Rolands are so glassy and precise, and Yamahas can have an old school charm (love my Sk-30, so strange!).

Curious, though, what Japanese synths would you rate higher, or would want to mention, and why?
Old 12th April 2018
  #6
Lives for gear
 

I don't get why negative env isn't just standard on all monosynths, I would figure it's a really cheap extra feature to add. Sh-2/5, Multimoog, SEM, but other moogs, arps, or pro-one, though I guess a 2600 can do it (and much else).
Old 12th April 2018
  #7
Very specific question, but can you talk a little more about Odyssey (vintage) versus Solus? I own a Solus and have been wondering whether the additional features available on the Odyssey are enough to justify trying to "upgrade."
Old 12th April 2018
  #8
Lives for gear
Great post. Even with your own preferences there's enough "objectivity" for someone who knows what they're looking for to have an idea where they might get it.

Now with Behringer in the business you can get D + Odyssey + SEM for about 2k and that's pretty amazing all things considered.
Old 12th April 2018
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by autoy View Post
Bravo! Loved your personal appreciations and this is all very valuable experience. Of course I find your preferences way too biased towards classic American sound while I prefer a bit more emphasis on the Japanese side of things but I can see where you’re coming from. Please do a polyphonic roundup when you find the time.
My polysynth experience isn't as broad, unfortunately, as they are pricier to purchase! But I still have a decent breadth of experience, just not anywhere near comprehensive.

My current vintage analog vco polysynth setup: Sequential Prophet 5 r2, Oberheim Ob-x, Arp Rhodes Chroma, Oberheim Xpander, Korg Trident Mk1, Sequential Prophet 600 gligli, Yamaha Sk-30.

Complemented by: Sequential Prophet VS rack, DK Synergy, Yamaha DX7IIfd, Casio VZ-10m, stringers.

Previously had: Ob-xa, PolySix.

Some more vague thoughts.

PROPHET 600 Gligli: My first real polysynth, and my first love. Still the most underrated synth out there, so much bang for the buck here. It can do near anything with the gligli mod. The envelopes aren't hardware fast, but they are DAMN fast and snappy. Gligli gives it a bunch of new lfos (including random for oberheim type s/h sounds), multiple lfo speeds, env curves and speeds, you can assign lfo to one or both osc, there's a nifty arp and transposable sequencer, a separate vibrato lfo (that can also be set really slow to give things more drift), and a few more minor features. But it's the curtis chips that are the stars of the show, the thing just sounds great. How great? Comparing it a/b to a prophet 5 r2, it gets 85%, a lot closer than I'd like to admit! Some of this require careful programming, and some of its more some sounds than others. What's the diffs? Hardware env still a little snappier and punchier, and overall I think the vca has more pop on the 5. The tuning on the 5 is always drifty and that sounds ancient and wonderful, while the 600 locks in place which has a more modern sound. Some drift can be programmed in with slow uses of vibrato lfo, but doesn't quite get there for tuning drift. SSM filter on prophet 5 is all sweet spot, and if you really try, you can usually match the prophet 600 filter to that of the 5, but the envelope curves are diff, so it's difficult on sounds with filter sweeps more than others. While the prophet 5 is all sweet spot, the 600 has a lot of parts of the filter curve where it can sound a bit more nasal or mid-rangey. Still, I haven't sold it, despite it being largely redundant, cause if ever I gotta sell everything, it could substitute for much of the rest of my setup in a pinch, kinda like an insurance policy.

PROPHET 5 r2: It's the way a synth should sound. The SSM filter is all sweet spot, but I really think it's the chunky SSM oscillators that are the best part. With no resonance, just full and open, they sound warm and chunky and thick and present in a way that few polysynths do. There's a 3D quality to the sounds it makes that can be amazing, and it does haunting and dark exceedingly well, especially with the drifty tuning. It's also hyper flexible, even more than the gligli in some ways, and in terms of tone, it can do industrial noises in spades. Like the Minimoog, it just works, and it's all sweet spot. That said, it takes a bit of programming to get it outside of the presets, and it can't store many presets. Needs midi and sysex to really open things up.

OBERHEIM OB-X: I have a four voice version, currently needs repair. Amazing complement to the P5. If I had to choose I'd go for the P5, but still, the OB is amazing. There's an organic drifiness to the oscillators, not in tuning, but in their discreteness, that just sounds like a living entity, even if I find the high end a little biting at times, which is a part of its 12db filter that always allows some highs through. Oftentimes this synth is just the most beautiful thing, though it also does brash, it's a synth of extremes, seems to separate out its highs and lows more extremely, and its resonance goes from super syrupy to ultra dry. It can sound super haunting, but in this warm and cloudy way totally diff from the P5, and they complement amazingly.

ARP RHODES CHROMA: the interface is nowhere near as bad as its reputation, I got quite fast quite quickly on it, because you can quickly toggle over from parameters addressing one osc, the other, or both. The key is just to have the parameter chart in front of you. Nowhere as immediate as most other synths, but much closer than most think, with the chart at least. And the sound? Beyond hi-fi. top tier, detailed, rich, organic. Not as much bass or oopmh as a p5, but just as top drawer. And flexible beyond belief. Can sound almost digital at times in its precision, but with so much more texture and detail than any digital I've heard, except maybe a PPG. No question this is one of the greatest polysynths. Its character can be a little chameleon like, and its got massive range, so it can sound like a zillion other synths, but it's always refined, precise, yet organic and gorgeous, no need to choose. It can take a bit of thinking to probe its depths, and in this, its' like the Xpander. Can do 24db by serial use of two 12db filters, but never seems to sound great on mine, so I rarely use it. But damn those 12db filters sound amazing, and soooo many options! And the filters make getting formants and other such tones possible that just can't be made on near anything else, and it always sounds incredible doing it. With proper filter use, it's even possible to make massive distorted bass, this synth hides a lot of hidden capacities that need to just be dug to the surface.

ObERHEIM XPANDER: Amazing compliment to nearly any synth. Wouldn't really use it as my primary synth, though it can do bread and butter, but it always sounds a bit restrained doing that, lacking some heft or something. Where this synth shines beyond any other is the 15 filter types. Make a set of relatively generic presets, then scroll through the filters, and each opens up a new sonic universe. Not as organic or drifty as the Chroma, nor as powerful and organic as older Oberheim's, the later Curtis chips are more precise, a bit like a pro-one polysynth (but without the bass oopmh). The oscillators cand sound a bit tame, but through the 15 filter flavors, they sound full and never bland. Compared to the Chroma, where there's quite a bit of overlap, the Chroma is organic and drifty but less focused, while the Oberheim has a full power and precision, both are good, just diff. And each can do things the other can't, with the Chroma's ring mod, and the Oberheim's FM. As far as interface, on the surface the Oberheim wins, but in practice, I find them about the same. They complement each other well, and each complements other synths amazingly well. The Xpander can sound a little samey, unlike the Chroma, which is definitely the better synth all round, but also quite a bit more expensive.

TRIDENT MK1: I love this synth. The strings are great and rather uniquely spacey in tone, but I have other stringers that I go to first for a lot of things. The brass hits me as mostly useless. the flanger is glorious, but can be overused quite easily. But what I love is the tone. It just sounds ancient, yet without losing the hi-fi. It's vintage in all the right ways. The raw oscilllator tone is a joy to listen to, and when you hit the same key twice, it uses a diff voice, so it detunes into spacey wonderfulness. The overall sound is like being lost in vintage space. The SSM filter is juicy and warm, almost a good as the P5, and it's oscillators are nearly as thick and textureful but diff in tone. It's hyper limited in terms of modulations, but the single envelope is oddly designed in terms of its curve to get the maximum mileage, I suspect it's application to amp is diff than to filter, because I get a lot of tone shaping mileage out of it. Envelopes are hardware and crazy fast. Pwm on this synth is gorgeous beyond I think any I've played, totally diff tone than p5. P5's tone is glassy yet dark, this is full and thick but chewy and morphing, if that makes any sense. This synth is simple, but all about tone, and it has tone in spades.

YAMAHA SK-30: Strangest layerings imaginable. Early 2 digital osc detunable polysnth into single paraphonic multimode analog filter, layerable with stringer, layerable with drawbar organ, layerable with vco monosynth, all into either tremolo, lesilie, or 3BBD ensemble? So many strange combos, and all sound super old.

SEQUENTIAL PROPHET VS: It can do SOOOO much and always sounds good. Terrible interface, but now there's the Stereoping programmer which looks great, and it responds to Midiquest, but usually I just tweak the rather substantial set of patches avail on sysex, just use basic patches and tweak the wave selection and fun stuff nearly always arises. I don't use it as much as I should because of the interface being less than ideal, much slower than Xpander or Chroma. But it sounds beyond amazing, that GRIT seems only present in handful of hybrids, mostly the VS and PPG (there's technical reasons why that Acreil has explained in other threads). Perfect compliement for analog.

SYNERGY: Mostly sounds like a much warmer DX7, but I keep it mostly for one thing. The polyphonic glide with the footpedal sounds so strange, I've never heard any other synth do anything like it, and much more can be done sonically with it than one might normally imagine with glide. There's also word of a new programmer being written for OSX, that would be nifty. The Wendy Carlos sounds are mostly orchestral, but there is some limited tweaking you can still do from front panel.

DX7IIfd: mostly my midi controller! But it also sounds good, particularly when put through hardware verb. I've tried a whole punch of FM, none seems to have the right mix of features and programming and sound. But this works for my needs for now. I hear the orig sounds a little warmer, but when using digital, sometimes clarity wins. Splits and layers are nice. If only there was a good knob box! FM synthesis is so powerful, if non-linear and hard to predict (mostly happy accidents and a lot of time refining them if one has patience), just needs knobs. Oh well.

SOLD:

MKS-80: It's great, sounds warm, the filters are beyond amazing, but something about it sounds way too precise compared to other vco polysynths. On its own, it's amazing, but in comparison, I usually us other stuff, which is why I sold it. Only real exception is those filters at high resonnce, WOW. Glassy perfection. Still, that sound only works sometimes for me. Interface is logical but tedious, though stereoping now has a programmer.

KORG POLYSIX: I don't always like this as a bread and butter polysynth, particularly as the one env seems like well tuned on this than the trident for versatility. But as the stranger stringer ever, with the ability to make very strange, out there sounds, all that sound super vintage, it is like the Sk-30, but with a totally different tone pallete. I'm not sure I always like the sounds it can make, but they are always interesting, but I often find that in the studio, it is a supremely USEFUL synth, often because it can be pretty and detailed, but with its ensemble on single oscillator, like a stringer, doesn't take up much space in the mix.

OB-XA: To my ears, the prophet 600 gligli sounded better, a very unusual statement, I know! I just wasn't a fan of the curtis osc into 12db filter combo, kinda sizzle and squash to my ears. The Ob-x was so much more interesting to me. But there's no question, it's an amazing, classic, vintage polysynth. Maybe not up to P5 or Ob-x tones to my ears, but def the same or better as P600.

ENSONIQ SQ-80: Amazing hybrid. Nowhere near as cool as VS, but 1/4 the price, and still sounds amazing. Interface is efficient and well laid out, but it just takes a long time. Stereoping makes a new knob box for it now. Sold it to a friend after I got the VS, and he makes a lot of use of the sequencer that he says is quite powerful. Even though it doesn't sound like the VS, it sounds damn good, and often has its own thing going on. Needs a good chorus and a programmer to really open up though.

KAWAI K3m: Great little hybrid, and so cheap! I really like this synth, total diff palette of sounds than the SQ, this one is much better for ppg type stuff, the SQ for VS type stuff. K3m is wonderful for bell-like tones, and its sweet SSM filters make some haunting tones in that nifty chorus. Only sold it to fund more pricey hybrids (ie: VS), but it's a bargain.

JUNO: Briefly owned Juno 6 and 60. Never quite gelled with them, not sure why.

DSI Tetra, Mopho x4: Sold these. Filters were nice, modulations nice, but the oscillators just sounded a bit lifeless to me.

DSI Evolver: Can do stuff few other synths can. Totally fascinating box, particularly for industrial.

CASIO VZ-10M: A dx7 with a much worse interface, a slightly 'rounder' and 'fuzzier' sound, and can do this phasey thing that sounds really nice I've never heard a DX7 do. Impossibly slow to program, but they are so cheap these days, it almost doesn't matter.
Old 12th April 2018
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Again, these are my personal, biased opinions.
Old 12th April 2018
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by spertia View Post
Very specific question, but can you talk a little more about Odyssey (vintage) versus Solus? I own a Solus and have been wondering whether the additional features available on the Odyssey are enough to justify trying to "upgrade."
I was in that situation for a long time myself. I totally love the Solus, especially that you can do legato without cv hookup. So it's much more immediate than the Oddy. But the Oddy can do everything and the kitchen sink. There's so much sound sculpting potential on the Oddy. So yeah, the upgrade is really worth it, and often the Oddy can be found not dramatically more expensive with some time and effort (I paid 200 more for my Oddy, with faulty PPC, than I did the Solus!). The difference in sound sculpting options is exponential. And the sound is as wonderful, they are both the same in terms of sound, even if the envelope curves are a tiny bit diff, you can get the totally same stuff, neither is more rich or warm (I colmpared them a/b at length to see!).

Took me forever to decide which filter, went with Mk3, the Solus sound, and am thrilled with that choice. And the Oddy looks really cool too.
Old 12th April 2018
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
I like the 4075 so much from my Solus, I wasn't that concerned to try the others, it's an amazing filter, and cause I'm a huge Tony Banks fan, it's the 'sound of oddy' in my head (Solus is same monosynth as Quadra).
Great read!

Solus is not the same as the Quadra lead synth though. I have compared both side by side. Both the sound and features of the Quadra are unique. They might have the same filter, but the Solus sounds more aggressive to me. I would say the Quadra has more of a slippery sound. Hard to describe.

I've not compared either directly to an Odyssey, but I generally think of the Odyssey's as having a tighter sound than either the Solus or Quadra. All these synths sound extremely good. Hard to pick a favourite, but for tone, the Pro Soloist also has to be a contender, or maybe even an early Pro/DGX (Pro Soloist III) with a 4034 filter which has a better quality output than the earlier Pro Soloist to my ears. What they lack in terms of size of sound and tweakability, the Pro Soloist's make up for in tone and expression. Not the only monosynth you'd want though.
Old 12th April 2018
  #13
awesome posts, thx for the detailed read
Old 12th April 2018
  #14
Lives for gear
 
autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Yeah, I totally prefer American stuff in general, Korg is probably my favorite of the Japanese companies, I only go to Roland or Yamaha in a pinch, though I can def hear why others might prefer otherwise. Rolands are so glassy and precise, and Yamahas can have an old school charm (love my Sk-30, so strange!).

Curious, though, what Japanese synths would you rate higher, or would want to mention, and why?
Thanks again for your detailed roundups. I have less than a quarter of your synth experience but I've been through some modern and vintage units. While the American sound is in general impressive on its own and complements rock/progressive incredibly well, I find the Japanese synth to be the cornerstone of purely electronic genres. Probably because it's precision and less heavyweight sound they are synths that glue together really good between them, specially Roland. That hollow square bass or the classic Roland chorus always sit right in techno and electronica. And of course those Roland filters or the classic Korg35, or the magnificent multimode Yamaha filters. If you choose Minimoog, SEM and Arp Ody my team would be Korg MS-20, Roland SH-101 and Yamaha CS-15 (though I also have a Moog and not a Yamaha :D). Among the polys I favor, out of the ones I have or played, are the Polysix, Juno 6 and Jupiter-4 - my personal favorite polysynth. Like you, I've had some modern DSIs including the OB-6 and none of them has made me feel so deeply in love as these.
Old 12th April 2018
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Where's all the wonderful music you've made with these expensive dinosaurs?
Old 13th April 2018
  #16
Lives for gear
 

Where's the music? Here you go!



(PS, there's a bunch of tracks there, just click the link, there's also a BUNCH of synth demos, recorded under the same conditions).

These were mostly recorded when I had a decent bunch of these monosynths, but few of the polysynths. Look at the notes to the tracks for equip used. Then my day job took over for a bit, but looking forward to another round of recording soon with these polysynths! Most of these tracks are recorded with Moog Source, Arp Solus, Pro One, Sh-2, PolySix, Prophet 600, Oberheim Xpander, Minimoog, Kawai K3m, Prophet VS, some bass guitar, Logic virtual drummer, and lotta stringers. These tracks eventually need some remixing, and the reverb is all Valhalla, but I'd like to replace some of that with hardware. But give a strong idea of my sound.

Sent this demo out to ten micro online record labels and a few artists I like a few months ago, exactly one response from an artist who generally self-releases. If anyone has ideas on strategies for how to get to a next step, that would be amazing!
Old 13th April 2018
  #17
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by autoy View Post
Thanks again for your detailed roundups. I have less than a quarter of your synth experience but I've been through some modern and vintage units. While the American sound is in general impressive on its own and complements rock/progressive incredibly well, I find the Japanese synth to be the cornerstone of purely electronic genres. Probably because it's precision and less heavyweight sound they are synths that glue together really good between them, specially Roland. That hollow square bass or the classic Roland chorus always sit right in techno and electronica. And of course those Roland filters or the classic Korg35, or the magnificent multimode Yamaha filters. If you choose Minimoog, SEM and Arp Ody my team would be Korg MS-20, Roland SH-101 and Yamaha CS-15 (though I also have a Moog and not a Yamaha :D). Among the polys I favor, out of the ones I have or played, are the Polysix, Juno 6 and Jupiter-4 - my personal favorite polysynth. Like you, I've had some modern DSIs including the OB-6 and none of them has made me feel so deeply in love as these.
Fascinating! I had an MS-20 reissue for a little bit, never gelled with the crazy aggressive filter and overall sound, so never tried the original. Never played an SH-101, nor from demos was I really able to 'get' why people like it so much. CS-15, of course, I really like, but probably for totally diff reasons!

My music is inspired by old horror/sci-fi sountracks, so I've got a very particular set of sonic needs (ie: John Carpenter, Zombi, Pink Floyd, 1976 Genesis).

Anyway, I'm really curious to hear about this set of other, more Japanese centric, EDM based synth tastes. What do you like about this other set of synths in relation to your music?

Btw, often been tempted to try a Jupiter 4, but as much as I like it, I keep telling myself to save up for a Jupiter 8 and PPG. After that, can retire from studio building and just record! But would love to play a Jupiter 4, difficult to find any of these synths without buying to 'try' it.
Old 13th April 2018
  #18
Lives for gear
 
autoy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Fascinating! I had an MS-20 reissue for a little bit, never gelled with the crazy aggressive filter and overall sound, so never tried the original.
For me it's the original MKII MS-20 where it's at. Wild if you want to but also classy and delicate, as well as incredibly fun to patch. Pretty much good at everything, excels at weird sounds and drums too. The MKI is more suited to acid, industrial, post-punk and general sonic abuse.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Never played an SH-101, nor from demos was I really able to 'get' why people like it so much. CS-15, of course, I really like, but probably for totally diff reasons!
101 is the one you don't really get until you start making actual music with it. Doesn't say much by itself but that hollow, somewhat metallic square bass against some strong drums is the foundation of techno. Amazingly fast envelopes, where most American synths fail. As important or more than a 303.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
My music is inspired by old horror/sci-fi sountracks, so I've got a very particular set of sonic needs (ie: John Carpenter, Zombi, Pink Floyd, 1976 Genesis).
I can totally see why the love for the Prophet 5 and 600.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Anyway, I'm really curious to hear about this set of other, more Japanese centric, EDM based synth tastes. What do you like about this other set of synths in relation to your music?
You mentioned precision but it's not the only thing. Envelopes is another huge one. Bleepy filters, thumpy VCAs. Something that works well with a strong set of drum machines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Btw, often been tempted to try a Jupiter 4, but as much as I like it, I keep telling myself to save up for a Jupiter 8 and PPG. After that, can retire from studio building and just record! But would love to play a Jupiter 4, difficult to find any of these synths without buying to 'try' it.
The Jupiter-4 is a really odd one cause the VCOs are not as precise as the 8, 6 or any Juno of course, but has that signature ultrafast envelopes, brutalist filters (at least on the revision I models) and the LFO both faster and slower that I've heard. Also the classic Roland chorus (more vintage sounding than the one in the Junos) and super deep subosc that makes the most terrifying unison. The result is more like a polyphonic old Roland modular, or like 4 SH era monosynths stuck together. It demands a different kind of playing technique and it's definitely not a synth for everyone. With the IO Kit mod it becomes a perfectly integrated piece of studio and version 2 of this kit is indeed very promising, so I hope I can talk more about that later in the year.
Old 13th April 2018
  #19
Here for the gear
 

Ive got an Odyssey Mk2 with 4035 filter and a B1 voice board. I think a MK2 Odyssey with 4035 filter could probably sit in for a Moog Sound pretty well.

I’ve also added the Syntaur sub-oscillator mod to mine and it has turned it into an absolute beast.

I’ve also owned an OB-1 and an Arp Axxe and an MG-1. An SEM or OB-1 is just an incredible monosynth. But I’m super happy with my Odyssey.
Old 13th April 2018
  #20
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
ARP RHODES CHROMA: the interface is nowhere near as bad as its reputation, I got quite fast quite quickly on it, because you can quickly toggle over from parameters addressing one osc, the other, or both. The key is just to have the parameter chart in front of you. Nowhere as immediate as most other synths, but much closer than most think, with the chart at least. And the sound? Beyond hi-fi. top tier, detailed, rich, organic. Not as much bass or oopmh as a p5, but just as top drawer. And flexible beyond belief. Can sound almost digital at times in its precision, but with so much more texture and detail than any digital I've heard, except maybe a PPG. No question this is one of the greatest polysynths. Its character can be a little chameleon like, and its got massive range, so it can sound like a zillion other synths, but it's always refined, precise, yet organic and gorgeous, no need to choose. It can take a bit of thinking to probe its depths, and in this, its' like the Xpander. Can do 24db by serial use of two 12db filters, but never seems to sound great on mine, so I rarely use it. But damn those 12db filters sound amazing, and soooo many options! And the filters make getting formants and other such tones possible that just can't be made on near anything else, and it always sounds incredible doing it. With proper filter use, it's even possible to make massive distorted bass, this synth hides a lot of hidden capacities that need to just be dug to the surface.
Interesting to read your comments on the Chroma's interface. I've always been intrigued by the sound from the demos I've heard but will admit the thought of the interface has put me off seeking one out. I always felt it could be the synth that gets closest to the kind of velvet pads you can get from a Jupiter 8, which appeals to me greatly as the Jupiter 8 has been a real workhorse for me.
Old 13th April 2018
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Wow, great read.

I wish I had this 5 or so years ago, I would have saved a lot of money, and time dreaming or surfing eBay and Craigslist.
Old 13th April 2018
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Where's the music? Here you go!



(PS, there's a bunch of tracks there, just click the link, there's also a BUNCH of synth demos, recorded under the same conditions).

These were mostly recorded when I had a decent bunch of these monosynths, but few of the polysynths. Look at the notes to the tracks for equip used. Then my day job took over for a bit, but looking forward to another round of recording soon with these polysynths! Most of these tracks are recorded with Moog Source, Arp Solus, Pro One, Sh-2, PolySix, Prophet 600, Oberheim Xpander, Minimoog, Kawai K3m, Prophet VS, some bass guitar, Logic virtual drummer, and lotta stringers. These tracks eventually need some remixing, and the reverb is all Valhalla, but I'd like to replace some of that with hardware. But give a strong idea of my sound.

Sent this demo out to ten micro online record labels and a few artists I like a few months ago, exactly one response from an artist who generally self-releases. If anyone has ideas on strategies for how to get to a next step, that would be amazing!

nice tracks
Old 13th April 2018
  #23
Lives for gear
 

Oh, forgot, I also owned these briefly until I sold them.

CHROMA POLARIS: Great synth. For a while, my combo was prophet 600 gligli and Chroma Polaris. I sold it because there's this mid-range tone to the oscillators that I wasn't able to eq away, I think due to the use of later Curtis chips (oscillator chips are the same as in Xpander and AX-80, very odd). Nice filters, can get real screamy, negative envelopes, digital ring mods, really heavy, so not easy to transport. Now there's a replacement for the membrane panel, $200 to Paul DeRocco. Overall sounds kinda huge and Oberheimy, kinda massive. The best part - separate LFOs per voice! Not sure how they are triggered, free running or keyboard scaled, or whatever, but any use of lfo can create patches of incredible complexity because of the separate lfos, particularly on anything with long release times. Such movement! Now when I sold it, I didn't have my monitors, so perhaps the mid-rangeyness was a result of my headphones, not sure. There's quite a few goodies hidden in the bipolar sliders and assignable control slider. A lot of people complain about the 8 bit parameter stepping, particularly on the resonance, but I never found that an issue, and so long as you let the envelopes slide the cutoff point rather than move a slider live, it's completely smooth. The stepping can be an issue with long release times on the vca, but there's a way to set it so it doesn't do that. One cool feature is PWM (that's what the manual calls it) on the saw wave! Now it's worth mentioning that the pwm, saw or pulse, is stepped pretty severely, unlike most other parameters on the synth, but in this case, it provides a really unique sound that I really like. Makes the CP able to get all sorts of almost industrial sounds. Anyway, it's a very cool synth, if a quirky one.

AKAI AX-80: Ok, never really owned it, but it spent a long time at my house. It's a vastly underrated dco. When the filters are engaged with resonance, it sounds as good as VCO polysynths twice its price. Without a lot of use of resonance on the filters, it's crazy DCO Jexus territory. Quite a few modulations. relatively quick to edit once the interface makes sense. A real bargain for what it does. The oscillators can sound a little rubbery and mid-rangey and dull, but for the price, helluva synth. Would take this over near any modern analog poly, DCO or VCO, in a heartbeat, cause it still sounds vintage to me.

WALDORF STRIECHFETT: I love stringers, love the idea of this synth so much, but compared to any real stringer, sounds a bit digital, and not sure it's closer than a VST like Loomer String (my favorite software stringer plugin, way better than G-force to me).

MICROWAVE 1A: Love its sound, hate the interface. Slowest interface other than VZ-10m or Yamaha FM. Prob real reason why is the zillion stage envelopes, similar to SQ-80 in that respect but worse. Then again, with enough presets on any of these machines, you use them for envelopes, and just adjust certain parameters, and on Microwave, that'd be the wave and starting points. Sounds great. Much darker and grungier than PPG or prophet VS, and missing the 'harmonic' grit they both have, as well as the 3D specialness that I've only heard on those two hybrid synths (again, Acreil has explained in various posts the technical reason for this), but still much closer than anything else to PPG, other than VS which has the harmonic grit and 3D but totally diff sound palette and such. I really like this synth, but knew the PPG was a whole level better, sold it to try to save up for that. Compared to prophet vs, not in the same leagues, but still a great synth taken on its own. Before that I tried XT, loved the interface, found the sound too lo-fi and grungy.

WALDORF PULSE 2: Really quite nice! A bit overpriced, tho. Built like tank. Great filter, the use of drive before the filter is really nice, and the 3 dco architecture is surprisingly flexible. The dcos are a little static. The paraphony is actually quite nice and useful! My favorite part was how it integrated the arp into the sounds. And it looks beyond spiffy.

MUTABLE AMBIKA: Love the concept, not quite the results. So many features, love the hybrid idea and filter options, but the waves sounded too lo-fi for my taste, and everything just sounded a bit dinky. But some people swear by these, and the whole idea is really cool in quite many ways.

Last edited by fromthepuggle; 13th April 2018 at 03:46 AM..
Old 13th April 2018
  #24
Lives for gear
 

Wrote this for another gearslutz post a while back.

STRINGERS: My sense is they all have their charms, but that vsts don't get that close. My favorite of the VSTs is Loomer String, it doesn't use samples, but I think it's a lot closer in spirit to what stringers are doing and it sounds great, better than the sample based stuff that just doesn't capture how the chorus works well. Streichfett is also really cool, but can sound a bit digital, even if there's some crunch there, best live option. Where all of them seem to lack is reproducing that triple BBD chorus. Without that, stringers are still worth buying. Best place to find them cheap? Music Go Round! I've found quite a few deals searching their website. Streichfett's digital ensemble through a real BBD chorus, even single BBD, might get close, there's quite a few BBD chorus units these days, but I didn't try that before selling it. Tried the Elkorus later. Gotta say, it was just lacking something, so finicky on levels, never got it to sound good, so I sold it.

Compared to other classic stringers, I don't think Solina was that much better than others, even if it was the first. I had a Solina relatively early in my stringer obsession, but comparing it one to one with the logan II and Crumar Performer I had at the time, I liked both of them better. They were crunchier and more ancient sounding, while the solina just sounded like a pillow of fluffy air. So I sold it.

Since then I've tried most stringers I could get my hands on. Sold the Logan cause it sounded too close to an organ, sold the Performer cause it's a little generic but kinda regret it, it's just good at what it does, sonically flexible with 3 band eq, nice brass effect, it's nearly the only stringer that's portable, and can be had for bargain prices. My favorite of all is Eko Stradivarius, not because it sounds the most hi-fi, but because it sounds the most like a horror movie soundtrack, which is kinda my thing. My other standby is my Elka 610, which I sounds like the Eko and the Solina had a baby, and has that clav and piano that can be layered for extra fun. I also have the RS-202, glassy and smooth, and it's able to get basically identical to the Trident strings with even some more sonic range. The Roland and Korg both sound a little more 'cosmic' than creaky. From what I hear RS-101 isn't as good, and RS-09 totally diff and really budget. I had a Freeman, and it's cool and quite diff from most others, but real limited, and heavier than a car. Another great one is Godwin, is refined and also quite flexible in terms of tone, and unique in that you can adjust the speed and depth of the chorus. Tried the Korg PE-2000, wasn't blown away, so I sold it. Also tried the PE-1000, very strange, loved the use of the traveler filter in parphonic mode, but it was super limited. Oddly found it better as a strange, semi-holo mono-synth with a very unique tone, but as a polysynth, egads. The pitch expansion was a great idea in theory, but largely fails in practice. Never played an Omni, I hear its supposed to be one of the best, but for whatever reason, the demos never drew me to it. Never tried the Yamahas, really like the SS-30 demos, but I have an SK-30, which kinda combines a couple of Yamaha stringers, and its 3 BBD really shows how that can transform just about any sound into vintage coolness.

While I like them all for their individual nuances, only like 1% of listeners will be able to tell the diffs between them. That means the best substitute for a Solina is just about any vintage stringer. And when you put them into a nice thick analog phaser, they really come even more alive, and then they really do all sound identical.

Budget options? Performer and RS-202 can be had for about 5-600 still, even if you generally need to get the RS-202 shipped from Japan. But I had several synths shipped from Japan, never had an issue.
Old 13th April 2018
  #25
Lives for gear
 
drockfresh's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Wrote this for another gearslutz post a while back.

STRINGERS: My sense is they all have their charms, but that vsts don't get that close. My favorite of the VSTs is Loomer String, it doesn't use samples, but I think it's a lot closer in spirit to what stringers are doing and it sounds great, better than the sample based stuff that just doesn't capture how the chorus works well. Streichfett is also really cool, but can sound a bit digital, even if there's some crunch there, best live option. Where all of them seem to lack is reproducing that triple BBD chorus. Without that, stringers are still worth buying. Best place to find them cheap? Music Go Round! I've found quite a few deals searching their website. Streichfett's digital ensemble through a real BBD chorus, even single BBD, might get close, there's quite a few BBD chorus units these days, but I didn't try that before selling it. Tried the Elkorus later. Gotta say, it was just lacking something, so finicky on levels, never got it to sound good, so I sold it.

Compared to other classic stringers, I don't think Solina was that much better than others, even if it was the first. I had a Solina relatively early in my stringer obsession, but comparing it one to one with the logan II and Crumar Performer I had at the time, I liked both of them better. They were crunchier and more ancient sounding, while the solina just sounded like a pillow of fluffy air. So I sold it.

Since then I've tried most stringers I could get my hands on. Sold the Logan cause it sounded too close to an organ, sold the Performer cause it's a little generic but kinda regret it, it's just good at what it does, sonically flexible with 3 band eq, nice brass effect, it's nearly the only stringer that's portable, and can be had for bargain prices. My favorite of all is Eko Stradivarius, not because it sounds the most hi-fi, but because it sounds the most like a horror movie soundtrack, which is kinda my thing. My other standby is my Elka 610, which I sounds like the Eko and the Solina had a baby, and has that clav and piano that can be layered for extra fun. I also have the RS-202, glassy and smooth, and it's able to get basically identical to the Trident strings with even some more sonic range. The Roland and Korg both sound a little more 'cosmic' than creaky. From what I hear RS-101 isn't as good, and RS-09 totally diff and really budget. I had a Freeman, and it's cool and quite diff from most others, but real limited, and heavier than a car. Another great one is Godwin, is refined and also quite flexible in terms of tone, and unique in that you can adjust the speed and depth of the chorus. Tried the Korg PE-2000, wasn't blown away, so I sold it. Also tried the PE-1000, very strange, loved the use of the traveler filter in parphonic mode, but it was super limited. Oddly found it better as a strange, semi-holo mono-synth with a very unique tone, but as a polysynth, egads. The pitch expansion was a great idea in theory, but largely fails in practice. Never played an Omni, I hear its supposed to be one of the best, but for whatever reason, the demos never drew me to it. Never tried the Yamahas, really like the SS-30 demos, but I have an SK-30, which kinda combines a couple of Yamaha stringers, and its 3 BBD really shows how that can transform just about any sound into vintage coolness.

While I like them all for their individual nuances, only like 1% of listeners will be able to tell the diffs between them. That means the best substitute for a Solina is just about any vintage stringer. And when you put them into a nice thick analog phaser, they really come even more alive, and then they really do all sound identical.

Budget options? Performer and RS-202 can be had for about 5-600 still, even if you generally need to get the RS-202 shipped from Japan. But I had several synths shipped from Japan, never had an issue.
I’d like to give a shout out to the RS-505

Sold a Solina, replaced it with the Roland

The 505 is the best bass synth I’ve ever heard

And also a nice stringer

That is all
Old 13th April 2018
  #26
Lives for gear
 

Oh, hardware fx!

YAMAHA E1010: Love it. warm but precise, massive range, does great chorus too, prob my favorite overall BBD.

DYNACORD VRS-23: Love it. slightly darker hits than E1010 delay, impossible to get chorus on it, but it's the odd BBD reverb that makes it a keeper. Putting that into digital verb to lengthen the tail but keep the wierdness can be great fun.

ROLAND DC-20/DM-100: Also great. Continuous delay knob from fastest to longest settings. No chorus/flange, but at longer settings, pillow soft repeats, gorgeous.

OTO BIM: warm, thick, 3D repeats, with built in drive and analog filter, can sound really close to tape delay. Overall great box, if a little pricey.

LEX PCM 41: found BIM better, certainly much more versatile.

IBANEZ AD-202: also great, but sold it, felt the E1010 was better, and while the stereo BBD chorus was great, I don't think it sounded any diff from just hard panning the chorus on the E1010.

PCM 70: Valhalla got close enough to me in a/b comparison, could hear slight diffs, but minor enough I sold the 70. Didn't sell the Lex 300!

LEX 300: wow, 3D.
Old 13th April 2018
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevBKeys View Post
Interesting to read your comments on the Chroma's interface. I've always been intrigued by the sound from the demos I've heard but will admit the thought of the interface has put me off seeking one out. I always felt it could be the synth that gets closest to the kind of velvet pads you can get from a Jupiter 8, which appeals to me greatly as the Jupiter 8 has been a real workhorse for me.
Played a Jupiter 8 only briefly under crappy conditions, so I really have nothing to go on but online demos, and the price seems to be going up by the minute. The Chroma can do super warm, as can Xpander, when you lower those filters ways down. But can it do velvetty? Overall, the Chroma tends to hard more than soft. Not sure.

Chroma doesn't do 24db well, fwiw. A friend suggested maybe mine was restored with polarity on its two filters reversed so serial filters don't sound great, wouldn't be surprised cause it just sounds a bit off. Chroma's filters also aren't syrupy like Roland, they're great, but are the to curtis end of the spectrum.
Old 13th April 2018
  #28
Lives for gear
 
autoy's Avatar
Oh another thing about the Jupiter-4 that I haven't really seen in other synths is the VCA manual control where you can actually saturate the output and has a LED to indicate it. This means in practice you have a polyphonic voicing with a manual control on the voice summing, where most synths would automatically control the VCA output depending on mono/unison and poly modes. The downside of it perhaps is that you have to really keep things in check if you don't want to go deaf and it takes a bit to master, but I love it has this unique function.
Old 13th April 2018
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Took me forever to decide which filter, went with Mk3, the Solus sound, and am thrilled with that choice. And the Oddy looks really cool too.
Thanks, your input is helpful. I too will go the Mk3 route if I eventually decide to replace Solus with Odyssey. I'm certainly pleased that the Karp has brought down prices on the originals.
Old 13th April 2018
  #30
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by autoy View Post
Oh another thing about the Jupiter-4 that I haven't really seen in other synths is the VCA manual control where you can actually saturate the output and has a LED to indicate it. This means in practice you have a polyphonic voicing with a manual control on the voice summing, where most synths would automatically control the VCA output depending on mono/unison and poly modes. The downside of it perhaps is that you have to really keep things in check if you don't want to go deaf and it takes a bit to master, but I love it has this unique function.
Can you explain how you use this function? I'm a little confused as to what that gives you.
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump