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Is there really a big difference between synths?
Old 12th February 2019
  #211
Gear Guru
 
Muser's Avatar
if you're mostly concerned with pads and saw leads, I wouldn't worry too much about your range of choices.
Old 13th February 2019
  #212
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
To clarify my original post - I’m new to synths and have been shopping a bit and bought a few. But what strikes me - strongly - is that I’ve played a bunch of synths (including soft synths) and the pads sound like pads, the saw leads sound like saw leads, and the plucky basses sounds like plucky basses, and the synths I’ve tried vary greatly in features and workflow but vary negligiblely - in my opinion - in sound. I am no stranger to GAS and gear obsession, but the strong opinions and emotions around one synth sound versus another I am not yet personally able to understand. From an audio point of view. I will point out that very few responses have produced audio-based evidence that synths really do have big sonic differences. And I think that goes a long way to answering the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.
What ones did you buy? Very curious! You probably wont be able to get the pad sound from the Front 242 ‎– 06:21:03:11 Up Evil album (listen to the very first song "Crapage"). Aptly named. I played with the Korg 05R/W for years, and then the Korg TR Rack which has amazing pads. In fact I really have no idea how they did that at all. Except I guess they did some magic with the Korg Wavestation somehow. Oh well. Of course, of course they ALL sound the same!
Old 13th February 2019
  #213
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Praxisaxis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
To clarify my original post - I’m new to synths and have been shopping a bit and bought a few. But what strikes me - strongly - is that I’ve played a bunch of synths (including soft synths) and the pads sound like pads, the saw leads sound like saw leads, and the plucky basses sounds like plucky basses, and the synths I’ve tried vary greatly in features and workflow but vary negligiblely - in my opinion - in sound. I am no stranger to GAS and gear obsession, but the strong opinions and emotions around one synth sound versus another I am not yet personally able to understand. From an audio point of view. I will point out that very few responses have produced audio-based evidence that synths really do have big sonic differences. And I think that goes a long way to answering the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.
As I have said a couple of times now, differences don’t have to be “big” to be important. But you only learn this as you gain expertise. The same point can be made in many skilled fields, where novices typically don’t notice the nuances. The Dunning-Kruger effect applies here - look that term up.

This is not the same as saying “you can only make music with [insert specific synth].” Nor is it the same as saying “you need expensive gear to make music”. Both of these claims are false. Your claim, which is quite different, is almost like a needlessly elaborate strawman. I suspect you really just want to say something much less controversial, like “I don’t need many synths to make good music.”
Old 16th February 2019
  #214
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
But what strikes me - strongly - is that I’ve played a bunch of synths (including soft synths) and the pads sound like pads, the saw leads sound like saw leads, and the plucky basses sounds like plucky basses,
Factory banks are designed to appeal to a specific sound. You are why. You want something familiar, you do not want to program. That's fine, but the generic nature of patches is by design.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
and the synths I’ve tried vary greatly in features and workflow but vary negligiblely - in my opinion - in sound.

I am no stranger to GAS and gear obsession, but the strong opinions and emotions around one synth sound versus another I am not yet personally able to understand. From an audio point of view. I will point out that very few responses have produced audio-based evidence that synths really do have big sonic differences. And I think that goes a long way to answering the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.
You come off as trolling here because you're belligerent and trying to get into some sort of a slapfest instead of asking interesting, educated, and most importantly curious questions.

"PROVE IT TO ME"

if you want people to grovel and go out of their way to waste time talking to someone hostile and uninterested, at least pay them.
Old 16th February 2019
  #215
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maisonvague's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
To clarify my original post - I’m new to synths and have been shopping a bit and bought a few. But what strikes me - strongly - is that I’ve played a bunch of synths (including soft synths) and the pads sound like pads, the saw leads sound like saw leads, and the plucky basses sounds like plucky basses, and the synths I’ve tried vary greatly in features and workflow but vary negligiblely - in my opinion - in sound. I am no stranger to GAS and gear obsession, but the strong opinions and emotions around one synth sound versus another I am not yet personally able to understand. From an audio point of view. I will point out that very few responses have produced audio-based evidence that synths really do have big sonic differences. And I think that goes a long way to answering the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.
Good! Then you can safely get back to work with the understanding that synths don't really sound all that different--at least, not to a degree that would matter to you.

My impression is that you're thinking in terms of orchestration: you'd like a pad sound here, a saw lead here, and then a plucky bass.

So you can take any competent synth, call-up a pad, saw lead, plucky bass etc, and you're done. Mission accomplished.

There's nothing wrong with this approach to synthesizers.

It's when you take it to the next level (as in "I believe the differences are exaggerated. I am enlightened. Everyone else is crazy.") that such an approach becomes controversial. What you'd be up against would be a vast amount of personal experience that contradicts the notion that all synths sound the same.

For example, I have 30+ years of experience making electronic music, 40+ different synthesizers in my studio, etc. I firmly believe there are meaningful sonic differences between (many of) them. At the same time, my experience also tells me that often these differences aren't all that important, so long as the music is adequately served by ones choice of instruments.
Old 16th February 2019
  #216
RalphNYC

Here is the link to the JD990 thread. Read through and be enlightened.
The cult of Roland JD-990

Yes, there is agreement (and even disagreement! LOL!) on slight sonic differences. Let those with ears to hear hear, and those without ears won't.

To make this statement "all pianos sound the same" would come off as kind of ridiculous, and it comes off the same way your statement that all synths sound the same. There, 'nuff said! There is a reason why some of them are hugely expensive and it usually has to do with minute sound differences that make all the world of difference. For instance I found two analog units, and the only difference in the name is the letter "X", they sound the "same" but the one thats $500-1000 more sounds just like what I want, and I discovered (through listening) that they are different units. Just buy a CS1x and CS2x, transmit your sysex from the CS1x to the CS2x and listen carefully. They sound essentially the same but the CS2x is a little brighter and I know it's hilarious but I only compose sound on the CS1x because it's got that lower-fi warmer quality about it that I like. Or (or more highly recommended) buy both the JD990 and the 1080 and listen to the same exact sounds on each and then come back to us!!!
Old 16th February 2019
  #217
Gear Nut
 

Anyway the importance of sound "quality" (in its widest sense: not as in good or bad, but as in warm, bright, rich, dull, full, thin, etc.) depends on usage. Some synths which have a very rich sound are badly suited to background uses (just like backing vocals often don't work if they have too much character), so a synth with a duller sound actually is better for the job. Sometimes you have a very sparse mix with synths front and centre, and there you'd probably like a more characterised sound. If you're doing modern-sounding stuff, you might want a brighter synth, if you're doing aggressive leads you want a synth that can scream, etc. and that's staying within the realm of bread-and-butter sounds. You can achieve all these sounds with one synth only, of course (let's say two, a mono and a poly synth, if only because poly synths tend to be somewhat simpler in structure, or a very capable polysynth). Some synths can't actually even make certain sounds (my Polivoks has no pitch bend or modulation wheels, so it is impractical to make certain sounds, on the other hand the sounds it does do, when you push the filter, are unique, also owing to the weird oscs). If you don't care too much about character (and there is a definite argument for that: lots of that character is lost in the mix or to the listener's ears anyway) then you may want to buy the most capable polysynth there is (eg. a good VA with lots of oscs, envelopes, LFOs, dual filters, etc.) so that you can actually make all the sounds you want with some patience and maybe post-processing, for example the Blofeld (and its softsynth counterpart, Largo) is a very good synth for this and it's cheap too.

In the guitar world, you have Fenders (generally twangy and bright, with Teles being drier, Strats being a bit smoother and with middle-pickup sounds you can't get on a Tele, etc.), Gibsons (generally rounder, fuller and smoother), then all sorts of alternative designs (Ricks are chimey and jangly, Danos are thin and ringy, PRSs kind of a well-behaved Gibson-style guitar, etc.), and when you track, if you have many guitars at your disposal, you may want to try them out and switch between them according to song or part, or you may not (if your main guitar is a Dano, and you need lots of sustain for a certain part, there is no compression there to help you, it's an inherently "snappy" guitar, but OTOH, in a "rock" band or in any band with a "rock/punk" attitude, the band won't want to smooth out and polish their music and may just plug and play, and if Danos they play, Danos you record, also because their parts will fit to the instrument they play most of the time).

Music is an art after all.
Old 18th February 2019
  #218
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
Granted I’m relatively new to synths and new to this forum, but I’ve had the chance to play several hardware synths in person from Moog, Roland, DSI, Access, Korg, Arturia, Yamaha, Behringer, etc and several software synths as well and then of course I’ve listened to many well recorded YouTube videos of all kinds of synths both recent and from decades past, and many albums over the years. And I feel it’s almost a case of emperor’s new clothes where I honestly can’t hear a difference. Is it about listening to the raw oscillators or is it that some synths aren’t capable of modulating some parameters that others can? I have been listening to synths since Pink Floyd and was a teenager in the 80s listening to all of that synth based music.
There are considerable differences in older synth designs from the days when filters and oscillators were designed from scratch with discrete components. Original Moogs, Arps, Putneys, Oberheims, etc. Then in the early 80s the Curtis company introduced their oscillators and filters on a chip and a great many companies (notably Sequential Circuits and Moogs after the Minimoog, as well as many others) adopted them because they were cheaper, more stable, considerably cheaper, and simplified design. At that point a lot of synths started sounding the same because they were using the same key parts.

These days a lot of synths are digital, so they emulate the same sounds that are most popular, with some additions and variations, except for the few that are reissues or copies of classic analog designs.

This post is, by necessity, quite simplified - I've left a lot of stuff out, like the FM synthesis of the Dx7, etc.

Also, as you get deeper into it you'll come to recognize certain iconic sounds, like the fatness of the original RA Moog designs.

EDIT - Where the differences really start becoming clear is when you gert away for the banks of canned factory presets (which are there for keyboard players, not real synthesists) and start playing the knobs. Heck, the Putney VCS3 (the "Pink Floyd Synth") didn't even have a keyboard, let alone presets.

Last edited by John Eppstein; 18th February 2019 at 10:51 PM..
Old 19th February 2019
  #219
Gear Maniac
 
JPogo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
To clarify my original post - I’m new to synths and have been shopping a bit and --
(BIG SNIP)
-- the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.
Perhaps because I'm also new to synths, I sympathize; the market is big and complicated -- full of vague claims and occasionally amazing proofs. Often small differences are trumpeted as huge, and sometimes huge differences don't matter much. In my own experience, I found myself using an unimpressive keyboard in one band because it fit the mix better than its better brother.

And then there's GAS. I'm reminded of OMD's story -- buying a Korg from a catalog, via weekly payments; it was all they could afford. And you can still hear it today bleeping through "Messages", because that's what they had (love seeing Andy demonstrate how to do it, in the OMD documentary floating around YT). But if they'd had something else, they might have chosen a "Better" sound. And then THAT would have been the "Messages" sound. Or maybe not; because the song was built around that original sound ... another synth (even a better one) might not have provoked their ears toward that song.

So -- as several others have said here -- your own ear is the best judge, and what it hears will change the more you get into it. And so what? As long as you use sounds effectively, it's gonna be fine. Like actors in a scene, a certain kind of energy may be needed, but good actors bring their own wrinkle, while mediocre actors simply imitate what others invented. And sometimes that too fills a bill, just not as remarkably.
Old 21st February 2019
  #220
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string6theory's Avatar
It’s like saying all filters are the same, which clearly isn’t the case. If the oscillator is the heart, the filter is the soul of a synth.

Sure, many synth makers have a used a ladder filter, which can bring that characteristic sound into (and be the soul of) another synth. Then, those two “ladder” synths are closer. If, for example, they both use Triangle core (or whatever) VCO’s with the same fixed wave shapes, they’ll be closer still. But, two “ladder” synths can also diverge quite drastically, especially when combined with a second filter.

So, while an Arturia MatrixBrute can get into Moogy Mini territory quite easily, it can also go into completely different sonic realms with the SVF and a deep modulation matrix. Same with the new Moog One, which in mono mode and through shaping can easily sound like a Mini or Voyager, but using both filters or just the SVF plus adding Ring Mod + FM (for example) it can sound unlike any other Moog.

Just within the Moog mono category, there are truly wonderful sonic differences between those derived from the Mini D, like the Voyager series, to the Sub and Phatty models like the 37 and Slim, to the Taurus based models like the Minitaur and Sirin.

I setup my Sub-37 as a controller for a Korg MS-20M that is positioned like a panel extension of the 37. No matter what panel settings I may apply to either synth, they ALWAYS sound very different and unique to me. A combination of the oscillators, mixers, filters, envelopes and amplifiers designs and implementation differences mostly. Other synth combos are even more disparate.

We’re currently in a synth renaissance, if you (that’s the general you) hasn’t noticed. This is not a “marketing” renaissance that has everyone fooled into buying the same synth from different manufacturers in different enclosures (although that certainly is a subset of the renaissance period synths, like the Mini D RI and the Boog). It’s about a celebration of sonic enlightenment, with active and spirited synth designer participation, circling back after decades of neglect and digital hegemony in the synth and electronic music world - where digital essentially replaced analog gearz. Except, that there’s also a digital synth renaissance happening, along with a digital control of analog synths renaissance. It’s just called, the synth renaissance.


If you start getting into the differences between analog and digital synths (and gearz) past and present, and you still hear no differences, you’ve just entered the grand, decades-long GS analog vs digital circle jerk-fest, you’ve picked a side (which is the wrong approach), and if you don’t take appropriate action quickly (that’s up to you to figure out), you’re basically doomed.
Old 27th April 2019
  #221
Gear Head
 

Smile

I agree that a lot of subtractive synths (either analog or virtual analog) can be made to sound very similar.
At a certain point I had had many synths, thought I had become quite a connaisseur, and thought there were big differences between the tone characters of different synths.

But my current personal (!) view is like this:
-Many subtractive synths can be made to have extremely similar sounds, although you shouldn’t expect that similar knob settings apply.
-There are many small differences that can make a difference in the total experience of playing an instrument; I think when hearing it played back (instead of playing yourself) these differences seem smaller.
-Even though there are differences to be heard in oscillators between synths, the main difference is in the filters usually, but what was surprising to me is that the differences only become apparant with higher resonance settings only.
-Doing some filter sweeps to compare various synth’s basic sounds is really helpful in understanding how big the differences are.
-As much as the basic sound character, the user interface influences what type of sounds you produce.
-EQ is one of the most powerful tools to get synths to sound slightly different. (Or vice versa, to make them sound very similar if you are comparing two synths.)

At least trying to do some objective comparisons was a great help to me to understand differences. Eg comparing your own synth to some famous synths on youtube.
It made me GAS less too!


Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
To clarify my original post - I’m new to synths and have been shopping a bit and bought a few. But what strikes me - strongly - is that I’ve played a bunch of synths (including soft synths) and the pads sound like pads, the saw leads sound like saw leads, and the plucky basses sounds like plucky basses, and the synths I’ve tried vary greatly in features and workflow but vary negligiblely - in my opinion - in sound. I am no stranger to GAS and gear obsession, but the strong opinions and emotions around one synth sound versus another I am not yet personally able to understand. From an audio point of view. I will point out that very few responses have produced audio-based evidence that synths really do have big sonic differences. And I think that goes a long way to answering the question I posed - which was not intended as trolling, rather I actually want to understand.

Last edited by pip-le-fou; 28th April 2019 at 04:54 AM..
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