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Recommended synths
Old 8th July 2016
Here for the gear
Melciah's Avatar

Recommended synths

I'm considering adding some hardware synths to my home studio and would love your thoughts on recommended devices for first synthesizers. I could spend a few thousand, but am presently drawn to Korg's Minilogue and Novation's Bass Station II. Novation's Circuit looks pretty cool too for getting ideas started.

My thinking at the moment is that digital synths aren't differentiated enough from soft synths so I've been mostly researching analogue synths. I'm not aware of anywhere in my area (northern Colorado) where I can try these and other synths before buying them so I've been spending hours watching video reviews of various devices.

I've been listening to a lot of Radiohead, Mogwai, Trifonic, and Prefuse 73 lately if that gives you some ballpark of the sort of music I'm looking to produce.

It's an honor having you here and thanks for doing this Q&A!
Old 9th July 2016
Gear Head
RichardDevine's Avatar
Hi thanks for the message, there are lots of different synths I would recommend, here below is a few of my favorites.

1. Nord Lead 4, although not analogue still absolutely beautiful and capable of creating incredibly beautiful bass, lead, pad, and percussion sounds. The sound engine is basically a subtractive synthesizer with 2 oscillators per voice. All the classic waveforms are present, Saw, Square, Sine, Triangle, Pulse and PWM. You also have a wavetable function for oscillator 1 that offers even more timbres.

2. Access Virus TI 2, another gorgeous sounding machine, Scott Herren (Prefuse73) originally turned me on to the Virus synths back in the day. He has been a big user of the Virus B, and other classics. Lots of flexibility with this machine, once again not analog but worth taking a look at.

3. Dave Smith Prophet-6, now something truly analog, and one of my favorite analog polys to come out recently. The sound is warm, smooth, and unique. Highly recommended.

4. Korg Minilogue, you mentioned this in the comment, and I absolutely love what they did on this synth. The polyphonic sequencer is really gold, and the built in effects are great. I have two of them, and run the sync out to the input of another to get double sequences happening. Great synth for the money.

5. Yamaha Reface DX and CS not analog but sound just too good not to mentioned, these two little keyboards really surprised me recently. The sound quality is incredible, and incredibly flexible for making a wide variety of sounds. I have been using the DX pretty much every day since I got it. 100 times better sounding then my old DX-100 which I still love, but these new Reface synths have this beautiful sparkle and shine that is unmistakable.

6. Moog Sub 37 Tribute Edition Analog Synthesizer - Absolutely love this keyboard, the sequencer and modulation section is incredible. What I love is that its so easy to get something going on this box, in a matter of seconds. The sound is as you know super warm, big and fat!

7. Moog Mother-32 Semi-modular Eurorack-format Analog Synthesizer and Step Sequencer. I have 4 of these guys here at the studio, and I absolutely love them. The sequencer is incredibly deep and powerful, and it interfaces both with MIDI and Modular stuff perfectly. I was really impressed with how these turned out. Lots of bang for you buck with this one.

8. This last one might sound ridiculous but I would have a look at U-He's Diva synth (VST/AU), I am constantly blown away by how good this sounds up against my analog synths here. Incredibly rich and seems to sit in a mix so nicely no matter what I throw at it. I keep coming back to it constantly which must mean something, :-)
Old 11th July 2016 | Show parent
Here for the gear
Melciah's Avatar

Thank you for the generous and lengthy reply! Of course, your response sent me deep into the rabbit hole that is gear reviews. I hadn't previously realized the extent of the Sub 37's modulation capabilities so it helped having you tell me to take another look. I'm pulling the trigger on the Moog Sub 37, the Yamaha Reface DX and CS, the Korg Minilogue, the U-He Diva synth, and the Novation Bass Station II. That should keep me plenty busy for a while! I may circle back around to the P6 at some point.

I know you didn't comment on the Bass Station II but Mogwai used it extensively on their 2014 Rave Tapes album and I love the growly menacing sounds they got out of it. For the curious, their track 'Remurdered' is pretty close to perfection to my ear, particularly the arpeggio at 3:00 and the drop at 3:17 – it still give me chills!
Old 12th July 2016
Gear Maniac
Valvalval's Avatar
HW Reface DX over Operator or FM8 ?

Hello Richard,

On this thread :
You advise the Reface DX to Melciah, and I was wondering if it was because the question was about hardware synths only and you wanted to recommand FM synthesis, or that these Refaces sounds really good.

Because that's digital, a softsynth should be similar, sound similar, but you mentioned an "incredible sound quality". As the OP said, digital synths aren't differentiated enough from soft synths
But there's 3 digital synths in your (very nice and relevant) list.

Could you elaborate on that ?

Thank you

< mderator message - threads merged >

Last edited by Reptil; 12th July 2016 at 03:25 PM.. Reason: -
Old 16th August 2016
Gear Head
RichardDevine's Avatar
@ Valvalval I put the Yamaha Reface DX in there not necessarily because the sound quality would be better then using something like NI's FM8 for example, but because of its simplistic interface and immediate control. You can program something in a matter of seconds on the DX, very similar to how fast and quick the DX-100 was to program. Its obviously not as deep as FM8 or some of the others but for most of my FM based applications does a very nice job. So it comes down to how fast you can dial something in, and get great quality results at the same time :-)
Old 16th August 2016
Gear Maniac
Valvalval's Avatar
Ok, it's a matter of workflow and interface.

Thank you for taking your time to answer all our questions
Have a nice day

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