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Old 16th October 2013
New home, new studio, new workflow, new gear

So in a few months I will be packing up the last of my stuff (synths, drum machines, cables, records, clothing) and moving across the country to settle back near the east coast. Out here (California) is where I first started to really get into music production and the vibe of the west coast, the people, and the venues have influenced my music, gear choices, and recording process to no end.

That being said, I will be looking forward to getting out of my tiny bedroom/recording space and being able to have a whole room (hopefully) in which I can create and edit tracks. No longer will I use a guitar amp to monitor the output of my mixer! No longer will I be restricted to one keyboard stand and one rackmount for gear! Even though I've designed my setup with space saving in mind I will finally have a little bit of room to stretch out and that is exciting for me.

The move however has not been kind to my gear. There are a few choice items I will be traveling back in hand, but unfortunately I've come to the conclusion that many of my favorite studio tools will not be able to make it back with me. This includes sentimental machines like the first real synth I bought (which got me into this whole recording my own music thing in the first place) and a few machines I've built carefully by hand (you can find my for sale post here!), but despite the losses I am looking at the whole situation as an opportunity to refine my workflow and figure out what can be cut out and what can be added.

When I first started to want to make music I assumed my genre would be house. Though I've started on a few such tracks I found myself really getting into producing (and being able to finish) more acid and techno type music. Like some of the producers I admire (Luke Vibert being one of them), I now find myself trying to make more breakbeat oriented techno and sample based experimental music. Now as my production tastes change so should my gear choices, but moving forward, I have a lot of options and thoughts about what to invest in.

For all of the fun instruments I've come across, I've never been able to afford a true big boy analog synth like a DSI Prophet or Moog anything. Since I also control a good amount of rack gear and DAW instruments I'd hope to get a great synth that can also double as a sturdy MIDI instrument.

Using outboard sequencers and effects/filters have been another part of my gear evolution. One of my best gear purchases of the last year would have to be my Future Retro Revolution because of the kick ass sequencer and audio in filter it provides. Additionally it can output CV signals, so this has given me the ability to enhance my retro gear like the SH-101. Mostly though, I will be starting with the following in my new space:

Roland SH-101
Roland JD-990
Access Virus Rack XL
Mutable Instruments Ambika
Future Retro Revolution
Elektron Machinedrum
Elektron Octatrack
Ensoniq DP/4 Effects unit
Mackie LM-3204 Rack mixer
DBX Patchbay
MOTU Ultralite-mk3 Audio Interface

I really like having flexibility in my setup and the ability to route MIDI and audio in different ways. Everything eventually gets recorded and arranged in Ableton but I also like to jam with my gear in the outboard mixer and manually route effects or a sequence. Basically the more ways I can connect gear together the better.

A few items I've been thinking about adding when I move into my new space:

- Monitor speakers (I've been mastering through Audio Technica headphones which has worked well for me, but now I will have wall/desk space for some real speakers. Would prefer something other than KRK Rokits)

- A classic warm premium analog synth (something like a Moog or DSI Prophet. I've got some great analog gear already but I still lack "the sound" in my production. I would also hope to double this synth as my primary MIDI keyboard controller)

- DSI Tempest (an intriguing piece of gear. The sound and tweakability of the Machinedrum keeps it in my ranks but I the way the Tempest approaches the drum machine has me GASing. I've know a few people who have bought one and sold it not too soon after though, so I remain on the fence about the Tempest)

- Sherman Filterbank 2, Der Oto Biscuit (filtering fun, looking for other similar pieces of gear in this realm)

- AKAI S1000/S1100 sampler (to add that classic AKAI sound to my synths and drum beats. Also the nasty secret LFO. Always wanted to experiment with one of these)

- Elektron A4 (I'm a fan of Elektron and the A4 has a great sound as far as I can tell. I've just never used one first hand or know if it might be duplicating something I already have)

- Sequencing and remixing gear (Yamaha RM1x and/or Yahama RS7000. Maybe an MFB Urzwerg? The remix function on the Future Retro Revo is my favorite thing to play with these days and I'd want something else just as fun and inspiring)

- Modular? (going modular would definitely give me some flexibility and a different kind of glitchy experimental sound. There are a few modules I have my eye on, but the rabbit hole can go deep if I start up buying components...)

Honestly I have to try out a piece of gear first hand before I can really decide whether or not it's for me, but I'm wondering what I might be missing here or which of these items would be best to get now as opposed to later. Any practical first hand advice or experience with the gear I'm looking at would be helpful too.
Old 18th October 2013
Old 18th October 2013
Gear Guru
Yoozer's Avatar
What's your budget?

I don't know - personally I wouldn't add any more drum machines to what you've got already, but that's me. Unless you only want to use one or two at once each time. I would not get the RM1x, rather the RS directly, but again with the caveat - do you really need that many drum machines?

For MIDI keyboard duties I'd consider DSI the better choice.

Modular is a rabbithole I would only get into after you've comfortably settled.
Old 19th October 2013
I would say all in all I have around $3000 to play with. I'm aiming to buy quality gear over quantity (since I've been doing the opposite up till now, with a few exceptions) but I also hope to not spend all that on one or two purchases.

I feel the same way about getting the Tempest vs already having the Machinedrum, but I also see the Tempest as more of a synth that's built for creating drum tracks than just a drum machine. I could see myself using the Tempest for a variety of sounds and sequencing but can't really know if it's for me until I lay hands on one. Maybe a trip to Guitar Center is in my future.

As for drum machines, I love my MC-909 for drums and classic Roland sounds. Some of the built in effects help it sound less dated. I've looked into the RS7000 for similar reasons and it seems like a box I might enjoy, but would not be essential in the beginning for me to own. The Yamaha sound is a little different than what I can currently produce, but I wonder how diverse the drum/synth samples are on that box. RM1x is kind of a toy/live improv box imho, but also an expensive toy that may not get a ton of use.

As for a great synth that can act as a great MIDI controller, are there other makes/models you would suggest? The Prophet definitely looks like what I would want in terms of good keybed and lots of knobs for local or remote controls. I enjoy the sound too but I've heard the DSI sound described as more brassy than other companies. I have yet to hear or play one firsthand.
Old 19th October 2013
Gear Guru
Yoozer's Avatar
You could consider selling your Virus XL and going for a TI keys if you really wanted to splurge but that'll take a good chunk out of your budget. The feeling of the keyboard is really great and there's room on the right hand side for small stuff you want within reach.

I'd say for the Prophet, testing in person (preferably more than once!) is pretty vital, otherwise you spend a good chunk of money on something that eventually won't make sound because you don't like the character (and you already know the XL's character, so if you want to keep that, might as well upgrade).
Old 19th October 2013
Gear Maniac

i've spent about 1.5k on my 90hp modular and plan on spending around 2k more to get another up to a point where glitches can come directly out of it.

if you're considering the modular route at all, run around muffwiggler for a bit, and consider pacing your purchases. the way i personally do it is to add a single module or at most two at a time and learn the way it works with my setup, then add another.

i know this doesn't directly address your question, but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
Old 19th October 2013
The Virus TI keyboard has one of the nicest keybeds from what I hear, but yeah, super expensive. I use my Rack XL for some percussive stuff and some darker sounding bass and stabs and keys. I haven't played with a TI yet but people say the character of the Virus C/Rack XL is more classic and warm than the newer Viruses. For the amount I use the Virus I don't know if I can justify buying a TI yet.

As for modular, I have a few modules in mind to buy already, but yeah they would cost enough to leave me with nothing left over for non-modular pursuits. Some of my gear can send/receive CV so part of my reason for starting out modular was that I could do *some* sequencing and glitching with what I already have. My thought with modular though is that it could replace some of what I'm selling off and replace it in a way that give me a lot of routing and synthesis options. It would take a lot more time and $$ to get it "off the ground" as it were.

Related to studio furniture, are there any modular desk and rack options people would suggest that aren't $1000? I'd like to have a desk that can seat a couple of pieces of gear, monitors, as well as a computer keyboard and some extra space for misc desk stuff. I have a good amount of rack gear I'd like to have accessible from my desk too, but I could also see putting it into a large rack off to the side.
Old 20th October 2013
Lives for gear
grumphh's Avatar

Originally Posted by portervance View Post
I now find myself trying to make more breakbeat oriented techno and sample based experimental music.
- A classic warm premium analog synth (something like a Moog or DSI Prophet. I've got some great analog gear already but I still lack "the sound" in my production.
These two just don't gel together for me.

If i were in your situation i'd consider postponing the acquisition of a horribly expensive analogue monster until you can afford the luxury of buying one as a collectors item.

It just doesn't look like it fits into what you say you're doing musically, and i am sure that you could spend those couple of thousand dollars on gear that will be much more useful to you...
Old 20th October 2013
Gear Maniac

i've heard experimental stuff in with breakbeat that also had some amazing warm sounds with it.
lucidstatic's dreamcatcher comes to mind. it was extremely aggressive stuff though.

anyways... if you want a prophet but you're on a budget, get a mopho and learn to process it adequately. my two cents on that.
Old 25th October 2013
The more demos I check out the more I am starting to lean towards a Mono or Poly Evolver keyboard. The sequencer looks super intuitive and fun to program and some of the sound demos I'm hearing make me think I can use it for the basics as well as really out there sonic tones. Plus all those knobs to twiddle with! Price point is in the right area too
Old 25th October 2013
Problem with your thread is you are looking for "that sound" but that's really hard for us to answer. That's kind of a trial and research thing.
Old 25th October 2013
Granted. Even with the greatest advice I read I still need to sit down with the gear myself to come to a conclusion.

By "that sound" in the OP I was referring a classic warm fat analog sound which is something I feel I'm lacking. Many times "the sound" can be created after the fact with effects and plugins, but I've never laid hand on a true (read: expensive) synth that can give me that warm analog feel out of the box.

The SH-101 is the most authentic sounding synth of the bunch IMHO. I can do many things with my Virus and JD990 (also my Ambika is my favorite polyphonic at the moment) but there can be a lot of digging I need to do to achieve good results (could also be a factor of me having rack versions vs keyboard version). I would like to add a keyboarded synth to my setup that's more satisfying to use from the get go and I think a DSI or Moog might be that.
Old 25th October 2013
Can you tell us what synths you laid hands on?

If you're only looking or trying modern stuff that warm sound doesn't come by so easily. Especially with DSI stuff.

The Evolver is definitely not warm and vintage. It's modern analog. DSI are not known for their warmness.
Old 25th October 2013
Well, some examples of what I've been playing with and where they excel/fall short:

Novation X-station (really great as a MIDI controller, built in synth sounds good when there are effects on, can sound flat otherwise since it's digital, does good pads and ambient sounds)

Roland MC-909 (very versatile, I'm a big fan of the rhythm and drum sounds on this, lots of front panel control, JV engine can be limited in range, very good at old school sounds but that's about it)

Mutable Instruments Ambika (my main squeeze these last few months, great polyphony, great filters, has mod matrix, but it does have limitations which are apparent with some sounds)

Roland JD-990 (very new in my arsenal, classic 80s/90s sounding, very warm and fat, but I have to set up a control surface with this rack unit before I can really have fun, not as inspiring to use right off the bat)

Virus Rack XL (basically a Virus C, great and multipurpose, can take some of the digital edge off with effects/filters, options kind of overwhelm me with this synth, also need to set up a better control surface with this one)

This has been my synthesizer experience more or less with gear in my own workflow. I like the Evolver from the sound demos I am hearing, and at least with the desktop version the workflow seems to be atypical (which to me means inspiring, a different way of doing the same thing). Like you said, DSI has a reputation for sounding a bit brassy. I'd have to investigate first hand. A friend of mine has been hinting to me that it might make more sense to get the Tempest over the Evolver since it can be played as a 6 voice polysynth with some of the same sound characteristics.

I guess I don't want to constrain people's recommendations by saying I only want a "warm fat analog". I'm more or less looking for a premium synthesizer that offers a great organic sound (read: not flat, digital sounding), an intuitive way of approaching synthesis (good front panel controls/interesting workflow/great sequencer/etc), a great feeling keyboards, and comes from a manufacturer with a great reputation for making quality sounding instruments.

Also looking at other gear recommendations as well. I seem to be getting hung up on the premium synth aspect because I'll end up using that synth to control my other rackmount gear.
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