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Why are serge panel synths so expensive? Modular Synthesizers
Old 6th August 2008
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Why are serge panel synths so expensive?

Just curious why the serge stuff is so expensive? Even their new entry models like the Creature are still a couple thousand dollars for a small panel.

When I compare this price to other independent electronic musical instrument developers it seems like you get a lot less but I could be missing some important factors.

Are the parts in the Serge synths really expensive?
Are they hand-built to order?
Are the R+D costs really high?

With serge and buchla it seems like they are amazing and creative tools but I am betting that the price puts them out of reach of most musicians.
Old 6th August 2008
  #2
They are hand built.
It's a very much smaller operation that something like Doepfer, so costs are going to be higher.
The unique Serge sound and good build quality are the selling points, so I guess they can charge what they like as long as the business remains afloat.
Old 6th August 2008
  #3
Gear Nut
 

With a lot of these types of situations I am always curious about their choice of business model and balancing supply/demand blah blah blah. I guess it is their choice and it is up to me to find an alternative if I can't afford it and don't like their prices. Personally I would rather see people take advantage of the wonderfully cheap manufacturing available these days (even for small runs) and get the prices of cool music gear down.
Old 7th August 2008
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

ironically Serge was originally based on affordable systems self-built by students
Serge Synthesizer History

I've got 4 panels of serge and how I'd justify the price is:
- it sounds great - no it sounds really GREAT!
I've owned quite a few modulars few come close (EMU is one)
- you get more functions/variation per module than many
- it's still worth roughly what I paid for it and will keep its value
- it's cheaper than a Buchla (although the surprising thing about Buchla which also does these sorts of 'electric' tones brilliantly is how 'acoustic' it can also sound)

anyway in answer to the original question, something is only worth what someone else will pay for it, but money aside Serge actually is pretty brilliant just for what it is.

I dont know if you could ever justify that in terms of components or costs, things are either just right or they are not?

:J
Old 7th August 2008
  #5
+1

Or perhaps that should be +$2,000.
heh
Old 7th August 2008
  #6
Gear Nut
 

Isn't the Serge Animal more like $4k??

I guess that a Cwejman S1 and a used Arp 2600 are close in both capabilties and price at that point.

When a synth is really expensive becuase it is small scale and handbuilt I would prefer to build it myself. It is too bad they don't still have Serge kits!

Can anyone recommend a good diy Serge clone project??
Old 7th August 2008
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by intellijel View Post
I guess that a Cwejman S1 and a used Arp 2600 are close in both capabilties and price at that point.
The 2600 is a very different beast, equally good, but apples and oranges.
Old 7th August 2008
  #8
Gear Nut
 
cebec's Avatar
 

Rex, the owner of STS who took over Serge operations in the early 90's told me that some of the high cost comes from needing to have the capital to purchase military spec and audiophile-grade components in small quantities. The front panels and the process used to chemically etch them is also very expensive. He also said that he has a handful of skilled and experienced builders and he wants to keep them, and keep them happy, so he pays them well.

I own 6 panels and can honestly say that I have never been happier with a modular synthesizer and I have tried/owned several. The functional density, ergonomics and sound quality are second to none.
Old 7th August 2008
  #9
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cebec View Post
Rex, the owner of STS who took over Serge operations in the early 90's told me that some of the high cost comes from needing to have the capital to purchase military spec and audiophile-grade components in small quantities. The front panels and the process used to chemically etch them is also very expensive. He also said that he has a handful of skilled and experienced builders and he wants to keep them, and keep them happy, so he pays them well.
i wish more business owners in general had this attitude. if you find good people who do good work then keep them happy. Also, the serge stuff is quality all the way. every detail seems to be very considered and you don't get that with a lot of stuff these days. how many times have you had a great sounding synth but the led's were too bright or the knobs were cheap?? that's just something you won't have to worry about with something like a serge panel.. but you do pay for that worry free state of mind .

Quote:
Originally Posted by cebec View Post
The functional density, ergonomics and sound quality are second to none.
that's the key right there. functional density. every module seems to do a multitude of things. the modcan is like that as well. lot's of possibilities in a small system.

wiard is another one that is pricey but each module has so many uses and does so many things.. the 300 series anyway. $600-$1000 per module but each module is really 2-3 modules in one and every demo i've heard is amazing.

droooool

the wiard synthesizer company
Old 7th August 2008
  #10
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bleepbleep's Avatar
 

aside from manufacturing costs - the other factor is research and development of ideas through to the final product.
in some cases, companies can drop massive amounts of cash on a product that will eventually cost very little to manufacture but this will have to be factored in to the final price.

Last edited by bleepbleep; 7th August 2008 at 08:06 PM.. Reason: elaborating
Old 8th August 2008
  #11
I don't think there has been any new Serge modules for several years.
I doubt R&D comes into the pricing.
Old 8th August 2008
  #12
Gear Nut
 
cebec's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I don't think there has been any new Serge modules for several years.
I doubt R&D comes into the pricing.
The entire new Serge M-Class line has numerous redesigns and improvements.

I know that Rex spent the last couple of years sourcing even better parts, upgrading/paying for CAD licenses, switching to a new plate manufacturer/process, testing several major enhancements to the NTO, PCO, VCFQ, and Mixers, and developing at least one entirely new module, the TGO (TimeGenOscillator), whose right side is a completely new design with a voicing that's different from the other oscillators.

Check 'em out here:

shop panels

The Audio Interface M-odule was released this morning and has not been posted to this page, yet.
Old 8th August 2008
  #13
Lives for gear
 

if you parse out a panel into how many modules it is and then add the price of a case and the power supply they are only a little more expensive (or in the same ball park actually) than similar systems like modcan/cyndustries/wiard

if you check the price list for modcan A series modules and then factor in a powersupply and case you'll see that serge is right in the same price range.

the eurorack stuff and frac rac and dotcom are the only "bargains' to be had in modular land and that's not always the case depending on the module.
Old 8th August 2008
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by cebec View Post
The entire new Serge M-Class line has numerous redesigns and improvements.

I know that Rex spent the last couple of years sourcing even better parts, upgrading/paying for CAD licenses, switching to a new plate manufacturer/process, testing several major enhancements to the NTO, PCO, VCFQ, and Mixers

He used to tell me everything was military spec, super hi-fi and the best parts you could get 10 years ago.
So it actually wasn't then, but now is?
The stuff is beautifully made, and not overly overpriced IMO, but I take some of the hype with a large grain of salt.
Old 8th August 2008
  #15
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Heathfinnie's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
He used to tell me everything was military spec, super hi-fi and the best parts you could get 10 years ago.
So it actually wasn't then, but now is?
Parts are always improving. What was the best 10 years ago may no longer be the best.
Old 8th August 2008
  #16
Not so much parts in analogue synths.
The technology is essentially old.
Wiring I guess could improve, but by how much?
Power supplies? Yes, but how much do you really think wiring and PSU's have changed since the 90's.
I'm not saying Rex hasn't improved his stuff, I'm just saying the line about it being better built and hi-fi quality was the same over ten years ago. In the meantime, ModCan, MOTM and similar makers haven't made the same claims.
I have both. My ModCan modules seem as well built, sound as good and have stood up to use equally as well as my Serge panels.
Likewise, ModCan and similar makers have introduced far more new modules in ten years than STS, but they don't mention R&D in their pricing structure.
Rex has introduced two new modules (both logic) since I bought my first panel, over ten years ago.
Old 9th August 2008
  #17
Gear Addict
 
carbon111's Avatar
FWIW, Both the TGO and TGC are new modules. The entire M-class has required new chassis, etching templates, PS2a and unique power distribution panel. Many of the electronic refinements of familiar function blocks are clearly audible as well.

Carbon111's M-Class Page

I think Serge is worth the price of admission for the quality of the modules, the functional density and the novel functionality I only find in the Serge. For better or worse, Serge is a botique manufacturer and has to increase their price in lieu of volume sales. Plus, my cat approves



I think the new format will help make the Serge slightly more affordable with many of the M-odules running $1.5K

I found the Creature to be very surprising in the amount of functionality packed into a 7" x 7" square. heh

Carbon111's Creature Overview

Many of the WAV examples on the above webpage will give some indication of just how flexible the Serge paradigm can really be. I love it! :D

Old 12th January 2013
  #18
Wow! I also have a Lambda in great shape. Unfortunately mine is in need of a soldering job...
Old 13th January 2013
  #19
Gear Nut
 
Benny Hill's Avatar
 

To each their own but I think Serge smokes most of the competition. But that is completely subjective. I have an Animoo, Animate, TKB combo and it just rips! Its powerful yet gentle if you choose so. I've heard a lot of eurorack stuff. And while I do like some eurorack format brands, and might someday buy some, I haven't heard anything that compares to Serge or Buchla. Are they over priced??? Maybe a little. But IMO you are still getting more for your money in sound.

Eurorack enthusiasts might say this is all BS and that they can mimic Serge with Eurorack modules. I've heard people say this and heard their demos and have yet to be convinced of this.

BTW, do not ask this question at Muffwiggler unless you want to get a lot of hostile responses. Just saying. ;-)
Old 13th January 2013
  #20
I own, have owned, all three and disagree.
Old 13th January 2013
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Heh, what an interesting thread to dig up. Didn't Intellijel go on to manufacture his own line of eurorack modules? I'd be curious to get his perspective on things now, 5 years later.
Old 13th January 2013
  #22
Gear Nut
 
Benny Hill's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisso View Post
I own, have owned, all three and disagree.
Thats cool. Could you explain why you disagree? If you've found a eurorack company or combo that can have the same sound quality as a Buchla or Serge then I'd love to know what it is and if you have any demos. I'm not trying to be a smart ass either. If you have some demos or links I'd like to see them. I'd love to be proven wrong.
Old 13th January 2013
  #23
Lives for gear
 

At this time last year I owned four panels, now I'm down to one. The CV and sequencing stuff can be duplicated (and surpassed) for far cheaper in other formats now so I sold my TKB and some CV m-panels and use a mix of blacet, euro and modcan A/cyndustries for the duties they did and much, much more. Most of what I liked about the TKB has been duplicated and slimmed down in the v2 Bugbrand CTL1 which I use much more than I ever used the TKB and at a tenth of its price.

The only panel I still own and will forever is a STS modified custom blue voice that replaces the second PVCO with a second filter (variable slope). So in 4U I can have two completely independant synth voices (2x osc, mix, filter, vca) along with ring mod and the magical wave mults. Of course I still have to send CV from external sources but it's a lot of power in a tiny space. I paid 3k for it used, to me it is worth every penny.

As time goes on, history is less kind to Serge stuff. When there was less modular available the hype and cost was far more justified. Now other than the Q filter and NTO everything else has been duplicated in other modular for far less money. Mostly in the form of CGS boards licensed from Serge Tcherpenin which is allowing DIYers and other manufacturers to make their own stuff at the fraction of the cost. And those people are discovering that a lot of the modules are quite simple and easy to make.

By licensing these to CGS most of what Serge is has become public domain at this point. Which was apparently the intention the whole time.
Old 13th January 2013
  #24
Gear Nut
 
Benny Hill's Avatar
 

I'm cool with Bugbrand but it's hard to buy his stuff. I've been in a few lotteries he's done and not won so no Bugbrand for me.

So what did you find that can duplicate the DTG for example? And do all the modules that you found to replace Serge track as well as Serge does?

The only thing that makes me hesitant to believe all this is that I always read people saying that Serge can be duplicated and this and that. But every time I've went to listen to a demo it doesn't come close. I have not owned a eurorack system and the time I've spent on a system is fairly minimal considering how long it takes to really know a system well. But I've seen hundreds of youtube demos and tons of other demos and I just haven't heard what people claim. Sure I've heard great sounding eurorack demos. But they're definitely not pulling off the sound quality of a Serge system.

So Plikestechno, keep your Eurorack stuff in great shape. Cuz in a few years when you sell them to fund buying back the Serge stuff you sold you can get more money for them.

Or if I win the lottery I'll just buy them back for you.
Old 13th January 2013
  #25
Lives for gear
 

What doesn't duplicate the DTG these days? That's been one of the easiest ones to replicate. Maths, Envelators, Double Andores not only duplicate but surpass their capabilities. Modcan A's Dual LFO is a very close dedication/imitation of it. There are probably a couple of dozen slope generators similar to the DTG out now between the modular formats. Serge was the innovator, set the table for what's come since. A lot of this has happened not only to Serge but classic and 200e Buchla as well. As people duplicate classic Buchla and Serge, as they build them for themselves, the shine and mystery comes off a lot of their stuff as well. Which is fine as it pushes these synths more to be applauded on their innovations as opposed to status symbols.

It's important to understand that these are formats, designs, inventions, not brands. And the best inventions in modular history have been heavily duplicated and imitated over the past 5 years. Price paid does not equal quality of format. I've only been buying blacet and frac stuff for a few months and it is tremendous quality and value for the money. Especially on the used market where it's kind of been cast aside (although Bugbrand has helped some people get back into Frac again).

As far as sound quality goes, Serge voices and filters do have a certain sound and that's the only panel I've kept. The one panel I've kept as I've said has been worth it for me.

My system is one Serge panel, about 25 Modcan A/Cyndustries modules, 21 DIY banana modular modules I bought in a case (my first modular), 3U of euro (sequencing/trigger tools, drum modules and a Z-DSP) and a little more than 6U of Blacet/Bugbrand/Frac.

I will be buying 9U more of blacet/bug/frac and/or euro in the future to fill up the rest of my open rack space. Probably another Modcan A module or two to finish its final case and then I'm done with modular. I have everything I need. There can be a finish line in modular and I see it. New or used I won't be buying anymore Serge/STS ever unless it's someone's DIY CGS stuff in Frac/Euro format.

The selling off euro for Serge thing I've already done. At one point I had over 30U of euro and sold it ALL off to buy that first Serge panel and other things about 3 years ago. There were many things I hated about the euro format and it took a long time to forgive and come back. Albeit this time I own and will own far less. Euro this time is meant to fill gaps and complement everything else.
Old 13th January 2013
  #26
Gear Nut
 
Benny Hill's Avatar
 

Do you mix the banana and euros or do you have a few different systems that function separately? I also have Modcan B which I love but I'm wondering if I should sell to get Modcan A. I don't mind having two completely different systems but sometimes I wonder if Im being stupid by not selling the B and get an A. I could get a Formay Jumbler I guess.

Someday I'm sure I'll get some Eurorack. But I would like some Bugbrand damnit!

Thanks for your informative post. I'm going to open up to Eurorack a little more.
Old 13th January 2013
  #27
Lives for gear
 

I have a Modcan 25a that has been modded with a row of 1/8" jacks. So it has a row each of 1/4", 1/8" and banana jacks in it. That's kind of the main portal. A format jumbler would be fine as well.

I would keep the Modcan B. I think it has far more of a future with Bruce than A does and will interface with other things easier. Banana is great but you can close yourself into a box with it as well. You can buy from Rex or make cables that have a banana plug on one end and a 1/8 or 1/4 jack on the other end. I think Rex uses Mogami and charges like 25 bucks a piece for 10 footers but some other DIYer can probably make some for you for far cheaper. I have 10 of Rex's that I got when I bought a couple of Serge CV panels one time. I can just plug and play all my banana gear with my Tetra Maps or anything else in the studio.
Old 13th January 2013
  #28
Serge is very good. So is Buchla. I prefer older Buchla.
No, I don't find the sounds vastly superior to Eurorack.
There is a difference in functions, size (of course) and sometimes build quality.
The key to Euro is the innovation (for me).
Out of the three we are talking about, the most adventurous designs are in Euro IMO.
I had three panels of Serge for about ten years. The last panel I sold contained a DUSG, Wave Multipliers and Resonant EQ. All superb Serge modules.
I have vintage Buchla and added a few 200e modules, but I found I wasn't interested in the mini-computer aspect, the midi, or the patch memory. So I sold them, keeping my vintage 200 and modern 3rd party.
I love the sound of my Buchla, but it doesn't sound better than Euro, just different.
I wouldn't own and use Euro if I thought it was a sonic compromise, for people who can't afford Serge or Buchla.
That's not the case at all.
Serge, Buchla and Euro are three valid modular formats with much to offer. Each system probably offering different positives.
Old 3rd March 2018
  #29
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lineofcontrol's Avatar
 

I have the opportunity to buy some Serge.

Don't know too much about it other than what I've read here and on Muffs and videos from YouTube...

Is it the closest to the 5U sound in Eurorack? Is it overpriced and over hyped?

What is the Serge mysticism?

Mods if this could be moved to the modular forum? @Reptil @Donsolaris
Old 11th March 2018
  #30
It's something special. I owned a Creature and a Wavemult/folder&filterbank panel, plus a recent DIY one.
The STS Serge panels are very well made, the old stuff from the seventies was made by DIY-ers in workshops (the paper front ones) so they're less reliable, but have historic value (collectors I suppose).
Anyway.. it has a special sound and the workflow is even less linear than eurorack or even Buchla. Feedbackloops of audio and CV are particularly cool.
I think a Creature is worth the 1400 euros I paid for it, but everyone has to decide that for themselves.

if you're in a tight spot about money, consider building a panel yourself. they're available in groupbuys and now at DIY online shops.
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