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Benefits of a Monosynth vs. Poly Keyboard Synthesizers
Old 15th September 2011
  #1
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Benefits of a Monosynth vs. Poly

What's the benefit of using a mono synthesizer over a poly?

I'm researching the Moog Voyager vs. Prophet 08 and I'm wondering what you gain by only being able to play a single note at a time vs. playing nice pad chords and stuff. Does the synth engine in the Moog just create a much fatter sound b/c it's forced to focus everything on one note at a time? I.E. leads/basslines will sound better on a mono?
Old 15th September 2011
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Does the synth engine in the Moog just create a much fatter sound b/c it's forced to focus everything on one note at a time?
No.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
I.E. leads/basslines will sound better on a mono?
Not necessarily better or worse, just different.

A mono-synth will MAKE you focus on one-note stuff (whatever that may be). A poly-synth MIGHT MAKE you focus on one-note stuff. That's the difference.
Old 15th September 2011
  #3
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
synth engine in the Moog
That's no "engine", that's a piece of circuitry with actual electricity flowing through it. Engine is what you use for gear with a DSP.

Quote:
just create a much fatter sound b/c it's forced to focus everything on one note at a time?
No, but because the number of oscillators/notes is predictable on a monosynth everything can be cranked up to full volume. I'm certain our resident expert Don Solaris one gave a good explanation about this, but I'd have to search for it.

If you want 3 analog oscillators, chances are that unless you spring for a Memorymoog or use workarounds like putting an Andromeda in multitimbral mode (layering 2 voices so you get a whopping 4 at the cost of 50% of your polyphony, but no modulation routings between pairs 1 and 2) you're simply not going to get it in a polyphonic analog.

So, it's not so much a "why bother with mono if you can have poly" but a choice that is forced upon you by what's available.
Old 15th September 2011
  #4
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Thanks fellas, but I have to ask the question: If there's no benefit, why not just make the Moog poly? I mean, I know when I'm making a bassline not to press more than 1 note at a time....do they even make monosynths anymore outside of vintage re-creations?
Old 15th September 2011
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Thanks fellas, but I have to ask the question: If there's no benefit, why not just make the Moog poly?
Because you'd have to duplicate the entire box, minus the knobs. How many voices do you want? 6? Well, just punch in the dimensions in a calculator, see how big it gets.

It's neither cheap nor space-saving.

The Virus can do 80+ voices because it does not have circuitry: it simulates it in a DSP. You haven't seen your computer's processor grow a lot - that's because they're making the circuitry at a smaller scale every time.

The Jupiter 6 uses CEM chips. These are voice boards condensed down to a few chips. They take less space, but they don't sound the same.

The Andromeda does the modern version of that and has this pretty big ASIC which also condenses all sound chips to a few big ones. However, if one of the voices is broken, good luck fixing it. If the same happens with the JP6, pop in a new (old stock) CEM, if you can find them (and they're not cheap). If a Minimoog breaks, chances are you can fix it with a fork and a piece of duct tape.

Developing new CEMs or those ASICs costs an awful lot of money and it changes the sound people know and love.

Quote:
do they even make monosynths anymore outside of vintage re-creations?
If you call everything like it "vintage recreations", then no, except for modulars.

Every LFO, every filter, every envelope you want simply has to be copied and pasted n times where n is your desired number of voices. Additionally, you have to design digital circuitry which reads which notes are pressed and which assigns the leftover oscillators to the new notes.
Old 15th September 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Real MC View Post
Let me throw in the magic word: EXPRESSION

Monosynths excel at this. When you're playing a monophonic line the expression tools - pitch bend, aftertouch, voyager touchpad, glide, ribbon - are far more effective. The concept of single trigger is another expressive tool that only sounds right on a mono.

The ONLY polyphonics I have found that does a decent monophonic voice is the Memorymoog and Andromeda, because you can specify a single voice in unison (monophonic) mode. Many polyphonics don't offer that option and they fire ALL voices in monophonic and it ain't the same.

Trumpets, saxophones, etc are monophonic instruments but it is their expression that makes them appealing.
you can do thart on a polysynth too.. most even allow unisono modes for extra fat sounds..


its actually very easy.. a monophon is way cheaper...

maybe not in the digital domain..there its just the same.. but analog a 6 voice synth is 6 monophon synths... minus keyboard and knobs 6 times more expensive..

so a beast like the voyager would be in the 10K .- range...
Old 15th September 2011
  #7
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Yoozer's Avatar
Not on all. True mono mode is not available on all polysynths, availability of legato modes (retrigger yes/no) depend on the model, too.
Old 15th September 2011
  #8
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With the p08 you can stack all voices in unison, there is also a detune parameter for that. The p08 can do mono sounds fairly well, but the voyager is much better suited for thick leads and basses, plus the filter is nicer. Might be more of a VCO VS DCO thing rather than a mono vs poly thing.
Old 15th September 2011
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Augsy View Post
With the p08 you can stack all voices in unison, there is also a detune parameter for that. The p08 can do mono sounds fairly well, but the voyager is much better suited for thick leads and basses, plus the filter is nicer.
6 voyager would give a good polysynth too..
Old 15th September 2011
  #10
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it comes down to cost for manufacturers and what customers are willing to pay for a synthesizer

analog circuits are expensive

so with a poly you have to have a complete "voice" for every note of polyphony... so whatever circuits make up that "voice" like oscillators, filters, amps, envelopes etc have to be multiplied by the number of voices.. so polyphonic synths inherently cost more

the strength of the mono-synth is one of specialization. since there is only 1 voice the manufacturers can concentrate on that voice... they are able to add more capabilities to the synthesizer at a loss of polyphony because instead of additional voices.. there are more modulation routings or more options for sound design in general

so a Jupiter 8 may be king of analog poly synths... but it couldn't make the variety of sounds a synton syrinx could... but the opposite is true too

synth builders have to try to meet as many needs of their customer as possible while keeping their costs down... the simplest way to do this is to offer fewer modulation routings and the things that aren't as integral to polyphonic sounds on their polyphonic synths... and to offer more in depth sound design options on their monosynths.

so its up to you to choose which is more important to you
Old 15th September 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
Not on all. True mono mode is not available on all polysynths, availability of legato modes (retrigger yes/no) depend on the model, too.
we better list the ones that cant do it than.. because most analoge polysynth have solo modes
Old 15th September 2011
  #12
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Definitly test the p08 extensivly before you buy it, its a love it or hate it type thing.
Old 15th September 2011
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
What's the benefit of using a mono synthesizer over a poly?

I'm researching the Moog Voyager vs. Prophet 08 and I'm wondering what you gain by only being able to play a single note at a time vs. playing nice pad chords and stuff. Does the synth engine in the Moog just create a much fatter sound b/c it's forced to focus everything on one note at a time? I.E. leads/basslines will sound better on a mono?
Hi mate,

Check this users group i've created in soundcloud, it will only receive tracks made exclusively with moog synths, only percussion is allowed. If you use your creativity, you can turn your monosynth into a polysynth (a bit limited, but sounds killer) by sampling the notes or multitracking it.

Check the tunes i've made 100% Slim Phatty and you'll see what u can squeeze out of it. I don't even want an analog poly anymore, gonna buy another mono.

Here's the link:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/100-moog/tracks

Hope u find it useful.
Old 15th September 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
do they even make monosynths anymore outside of vintage re-creations?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
If you call everything like it "vintage recreations", then no, except for modulars.

I don't understand Yoozer's response, unless by "everything like it" he means every single monosynth out there.

There's loads of modern analogue monosynths...tons of them. My weapon of choice is the Doepfer Dark Energy. You may read some marketing blurb that some of the modern ones attempt to emulate classic Moog or 303 sounds, but I wouldn't classify them as "vintage recreations".


Quote:
Originally Posted by Augsy View Post
Definitly test the p08 extensivly before you buy it, its a love it or hate it type thing.
It's also a DCO synth. See this thread for some discussion as to what that means (for those who didn't know already):

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/elect...-than-dco.html


@Stringbean, monosynths will not just sound more focussed (when it comes to solo-sounds, obviously) but they will also focus you playing it. Good monosynths generally sound better at solo bass/leads than many polysynths.

At the end of the day it's a personal preference based on what you like and what kind of music you make. I make lots of poly-based droney soundtrack stuff so I'm happy with just the one monosynth in my setup. Others play lots of solo-lead type stuff and also like monosynths for intricate sequencing in EDM music...so they may have 4 or 5 monosynths in the studio and only a couple of big polys.
Old 16th September 2011
  #15
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honestly if they still made the A6(or if it wasnt so hard to find one) I would have that, a voyager plus a few softsynths thats it.
Old 16th September 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dhollmusik View Post
I don't understand Yoozer's response, unless by "everything like it" he means every single monosynth out there.
Let's see, which popular monosynths do we have nowadays?

The new SEM. That's a vintage recreation to a T.
The new Voyager. If that's not recreating a Minimoog, then I don't know.
The new Mopho. Its circuit board says "Pro One II". Check!
An SE1x. Can't argue that it's heavily inspired on a Mini.
An ATCx. Ditto, but for a Source.

What I meant was that it's too easy to call something a vintage recreation if it merely happens to have analog oscillators, filters and LFOs and envelopes, so one shouldn't do that.

It's good that you mention the Dark Energy - which is a recreation of a previous Doepfer module, but I don't think that one's vintage yet heh.

There's the DSI Evolver too, but DSI understood very well that it might be potential suicide to start with a decked-out polysynth rightaway, so starting with a mono and going from there was simply the sane business option.
Old 16th September 2011
  #17
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main benefit of mono synths is that keyboard players who don't know how to play chords don't need to feel dumb.
Old 16th September 2011
  #18
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Grüß dich, Yoozer.

There's also the FutureRetro stuff. And is the Prophecy classed as modern, vintage or somewhere in between (included if we're not talking exclusively analogue that is)?

The Doepfer MS-404 was made around the same time and despite the marketing blurb is nothing like a TB-303.

The Novation Bass Station is also not old enough to be classed as vintage, but possibly also too old to be classed as modern.


There's plenty more out there too.
Old 16th September 2011
  #19
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Yoozer's Avatar
Good ones. I'd think you can discern the following categories:

- aesthetic - monosynths give you one voice, but if it's a good one it's all worth it
- practical - try making a polyphonic XS in a single box
- reduced cost - Prophecy contains spin-off technology from the Z1
- vintage recreation - the original SEM wasn't polyphonic so this one isn't either
Old 16th September 2011
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
- reduced cost - Prophecy contains spin-off technology from the Z1
The Prophecy came first.
Old 16th September 2011
  #21
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True: should've been OASYS (the original one which never got released, not that new thing).
Old 16th September 2011
  #22
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Seems like you guys know a lot about synthesizers, I appreciate the info gentlemen. Can I ask a stupid question --- how does the Dark Energy work since it doesn't have an actual keyboard? I think I saw a midi input so do you just connect a midi keyboard and send midi commands to the DE? Could you send audio in (say from a mic'd instrument or from another synthesizer) and then transform that audio through the DE?
Old 16th September 2011
  #23
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Can I ask a stupid question --- how does the Dark Energy work since it doesn't have an actual keyboard?
It doesn't need one if you already have one and if that speaks the common language of the device itself.
Quote:
I think I saw a midi input so do you just connect a midi keyboard and send midi commands to the DE?
Yup. Alternatively: it's a voltage-controlled oscillator in there, so any keyboard sending out a control voltage can determine the pitch. The keyboard can also send out another signal, namely Gate - this instructs the volume envelope to start progressing through its motions.

Chances are that the MIDI connector on the back has a mini CV/Gate converter connected to it which translates digital instructions to voltages, so basically, from the point of view of the Dark Energy, everything's one and the same.

A gate is what it says on the tin. Sound comes continuously out of an oscillator, but the volume knob is turned down. Gate turns that volume knob up; the envelope generator makes a curve out of that.

Quote:
Could you send audio in (say from a mic'd instrument or from another synthesizer) and then transform that audio through the DE?
Yes, though whether you can call it "transform" depends a bit on your expectations.
Old 16th September 2011
  #24
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dhollmusik's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Can I ask a stupid question --- how does the Dark Energy work since it doesn't have an actual keyboard? I think I saw a midi input so do you just connect a midi keyboard and send midi commands to the DE?
Not a stupid question. I was asking stuff like that not too long ago.

Yes, you can connect any midi keyboard to the Dark Energy and play away.



Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Could you send audio in (say from a mic'd instrument or from another synthesizer) and then transform that audio through the DE?
Yes you can. I will do audio demos soon of how the Dark Energy affects things when inserting audio into it.


Until then, check out my audio demo of the Doepfer MS-404. The main growl is the 404, and all other stuff is my Yamaha RS7000 which went into the Doepfer's audio-input:



You can expect similar results with the Dark Energy, except the Dark Energy has a darker base* sound and more flexibility.


*base, not bass...although because its base sound is darker, it also means its bass also sounds darker...if you know what I mean.



Get the MS-404 if you prefer a brighter, growlier & mid-rangey sound for your monosynth. Go for the Dark Energy if you want more audio-routing options and you like a darker sound.

For me I effectively swapped the 404 for the DE for those reasons, plus the DE is so useful with its small square size...very portable.


Both sound great, tho'...to my ears superior to most of the other sub-€500 offerings out there in monosynth land.
Old 16th September 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Real MC View Post

The ONLY polyphonics I have found that does a decent monophonic voice is the Memorymoog and Andromeda, because you can specify a single voice in unison (monophonic) mode. Many polyphonics don't offer that option and they fire ALL voices in monophonic and it ain't the same.

Trumpets, saxophones, etc are monophonic instruments but it is their expression that makes them appealing.
I'm not sure about this because I never use it for a mono application in the sense that you mention, but the MKS80 with the MPG80 (you need the programmer) offers a "solo" mode. I think it acts like a two osc. one voice in this mode. the solo mode on the MKS80 was designed for portamento kind of stuff and the envelope behavior that a typical mono would render.
Old 16th September 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3phase View Post
we better list the ones that cant do it than.. because most analoge polysynth have solo modes
But I think The Real MC's point was that not all analog polys allow you to control the number of voices in unison or solo mode. This is, in fact, one of the great features of the OB-8, where, in "page 2" mode, you can specify the number of active voices in unison, anywhere from 1 to 8. So it can really work as a monosynth (esp. with all those portamento options).

Anyone know if the OB-Xa has this functionality?
Old 16th September 2011
  #27
ark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
Thanks fellas, but I have to ask the question: If there's no benefit, why not just make the Moog poly?
You can make the Moog poly -- just buy a bunch of them and connect them together. There's even software in the keyboard controller to distribute voices among them.
Old 16th September 2011
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3phase View Post
we better list the ones that cant do it than.. because most analoge polysynth have solo modes
My Akai AX-60 can't do it. Juno 6/60 can't.

That's not even considering the lack of legato mode..
Old 16th September 2011
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CfNorENa View Post
This is, in fact, one of the great features of the OB-8, where, in "page 2" mode, you can specify the number of active voices in unison, anywhere from 1 to 8. So it can really work as a monosynth (esp. with all those portamento options).

Anyone know if the OB-Xa has this functionality?
no it is all the voices only in unison - but good GOD what a sound!
OB-Xa unison kills my A6 Sunsyn and JP-8 no contest...it's the best I ever heard
Old 17th September 2011
  #30
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what is this 'single-voice unison' of which you speak...is that like a harmonically-rich sinewave?

i hear what your saying though; if i wanted to ever record a mono(not stereo) unison part i can "select" the # of unison voices by hard-panning the associated trimpot per-voice and then only using the single output jack the voices are panned to.
gotta open up the Xa to do this, as there's no pg2

that said, i rarely use the OB-Xa for unison - it's really much better to use a monosynth structure with many oscillators detuned relative to each other (and individually CV'ed in pitch!!) than it is to repeat a duplicate voice structure.
hell, you can just pop an E340 into your eurorack and now you only need "one" oscillator module to get the most awesome supersaw around. get two and it's stereo-supersaw heaven.
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