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Is there really a big difference between synths?
Old 29th January 2019
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
ralphNYC's Avatar
Is there really a big difference between synths?

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.
Old 29th January 2019
  #2
Lives for gear
 
xanderbeanz's Avatar
Nah.
Old 29th January 2019
  #3
Lives for gear
If you tried all these synths like you said you did then you should at least understand the basic fact, that different synths have different specs. If you played on a Minimoog and then a P6 for instance then you'd obviously notice that they don't have the same amounts of oscillators, polyphony and oscillators don't even have the same shape.

If a ear can tell between 2 different voices, or 2 different notes, why would anybody assume the ear can't tell between 2 synthesizers?

I do not believe anybody who played on synths from that many different brands would ask this kind of question to begin with. The answer is obvious.
Old 29th January 2019
  #4
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flat's Avatar
Yes.

All synths sound the same... with the volume knob turned right down.

Turning it up results in all sorts of 'arguments', 'ideas' and 'opinions'



Take my advise .... run while you can!
Old 29th January 2019
  #5
Lives for gear
 

The only limitations a synth instrument has is in its programming. How that translates into a noticeable difference in sounds is purely subjective and likely less significant that some make it to be.

Some characteristics, like FM/PD or wavetable synthesis, are very distinctive and difficult/not possible with synths not explicitly designed to operate in that manner. But most, especially subtractive analog, overlap to the point that it is almost impossible to differentiate one from another.
Old 29th January 2019
  #6
Deleted d9d8020
Guest
Ah yes, Wine Theory: it's all the same. (at least as saw waves are concerned.)

And that's not fundamentally wrong! But it is a crazy thing to say in a roof full of enthusiasts.

So I can only wonder what you want out of this thread. Attention? Negative attention? Fun points?
Old 29th January 2019
  #7
Most synths have their own unique flavors just like fine vintage wines. It takes time to sample them all and to appreciate them for what they are.
Old 29th January 2019
  #8
Lives for gear
 

booking my seat early for this one
Old 29th January 2019
  #9
Gear Guru
 
fiddlestickz's Avatar
there are small differences basically, not nowhere near as some here will have you think though. Different filters combinated with different oscillators and VCAs will provide slightly difference sounds to other combinations, and I assume were strickly talking about analog synths and Virtual analog synths leaving aside ROMplers etc.
Old 29th January 2019
  #10
Gear Guru
 
Jamie munro's Avatar
 

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.
most sound different mate , if you didn't hear the difference between the aforementioned synths then do yourself a favour and simply stick to the softsynths you like, you'll save thousands

Old 29th January 2019
  #11
Gear Guru
 
Jamie munro's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddlestickz View Post
there are small differences basically, not nowhere near as some here will have you think though. Different filters combinated with different oscillators and VCAs will provide slightly difference sounds to other combinations, and I assume were strickly talking about analog synths and Virtual analog synths leaving aside ROMplers etc.
Old 29th January 2019
  #12
Speaking in layman's terms, synths can have different features as well as different "intended" sound qualities. For example, a digital synth using samples or wavetables is capable of sounding drastically different from an analog synth, but can often be programmed to sound similar too. If you just listen to presets in a store, they often include familiar sounds heard on famous songs because that's what sells gear to a lot of people.

But most people (the general public, streaming mp3s on their phone) would not be able to tell much difference between synths that have similar features and synthesis concepts - two analog polys for example, no matter what company makes them. But on this forum you'll find plenty of people who can hear differences. It boils down to personal taste though, and if it sounds good to you, then it is good.
Old 29th January 2019
  #13
Lives for gear
Types of Synthesis

Here's just a starter on the many varied techniques used to synthesize sound.

The Basics of Sound Synthesis — Pro Audio Files

You can be quite sure that all these techniques weren't invented simply because somebody wanted to do the same thing again.
Old 29th January 2019
  #14
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fiddlestickz View Post
there are small differences basically, not nowhere near as some here will have you think though. Different filters combinated with different oscillators and VCAs will provide slightly difference sounds to other combinations, and I assume were strickly talking about analog synths and Virtual analog synths leaving aside ROMplers etc.
no offense, but there must be something wrong with you, if you really think a dx7, memorymoog and a prophet 2000 only sound slightly different
Old 29th January 2019
  #15
Deleted efd8500
Guest
But they all just go WWWWWWrrrrrrroooooUUUUURRRRRRR right ????
Old 29th January 2019
  #16
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drxcm's Avatar
 

Whilst many similarities exist, there is no question there are differences in sound.

Saying all synths sound the same is like saying all coffee tastes the same.
Old 30th January 2019
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanderbeanz View Post
Nah.
Is there really a big difference between synths?-heretic.jpg
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Old 30th January 2019
  #18
Lives for gear
 

I’ll take a stab (synth pun) at this.

Watch a demo video for a Moog Model D.

Then, watch a demo video for a Novation Supernova.

Hear the differences there? One is a big fat, 1 note at a time monster and the other is a multi-voice, multi part spacey, lush, chord machine. One can’t imitate the other very well. Both are important for different reasons.

I can understand not having a trained ear and not understanding the difference between 2 plain square waves from different synths but maybe what you’re missing is the difference in architecture. Mono vs poly. Subtractive vs FM. Etc.

There are some sounds you’ll want to make that you just can’t get on certain synths. Playing a moving, evolving pad on a Virus is the type of thing you just can’t do on a Korg Volca keys.

When you get one and really learn how it works, not just how it sounds, you’ll start to learn what it can and can’t do. When you get a 2nd, you’ll start to use one for certain jobs and the other for different applications in your music. Then you’ll hear the difference and start training your ears.
Old 30th January 2019
  #19
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted efd8500 View Post
But they all just go WWWWWWrrrrrrroooooUUUUURRRRRRR right ????
But only some do it really well.
Old 30th January 2019
  #20
Gear Guru
 
zerocrossing's Avatar
It’s like saying, “all cars are the same, right? I drove a few models and they all got me to work.”

Of course, in many situations, there’s overlap. Sometimes many small differences can add up. Whether it’s software or hardware, some designer made thousands of choices and the instrument is the result of all of them, though some are more important than others.
Old 30th January 2019
  #21
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adydub's Avatar
 

All tomatoes kind of taste the same. But once you’ve had that delicious, home grown vine ripened tomato right off the plant in the height of summer, you know something’s missing when you have that bland supermarket tomato in the depths of January.
Old 30th January 2019
  #22
I want to take this on a slightly different angle. Because the more I have gotten into synths the more I agree with the basic premis; most synths of a certain type sound roughly the same.

What I have noticed is the way a synth is laid out and the combination of 'extra bits' determines the type of sounds you create. That is what makes them different.

At least that is my justification for lusting after more then I currently own
Old 30th January 2019
  #23
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pr0gr4m's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
... I honestly can’t hear a difference.
Either you aren't listening or don't know what to listen for. That's OK though. As you get more familiar with things you'll start to hear the differences.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
Is it about listening to the raw oscillators...
No. God No! Few (if any) people make music using a raw oscillator. If you can't hear the difference between different synthesizers as a whole, you are less likely to hear a difference between two saw tooth wave forms.

Instead of listening to oscillators, listen to the filters. Some filters are very distinctive and in the filters is where you'll best be able to separate the sonic differences.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
...is it that some synths aren’t capable of modulating some parameters that others can?
Not really. Sure, modulation can affect sounds but modulation alone is not the difference regardless of the parameters being modulated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
I have been listening to synths since Pink Floyd and was a teenager in the 80s listening to all of that synth based music.
Then I'm not sure what to tell you. Maybe you just enjoy the music without caring too much about the sound. That's OK. But if you've been listening to music since the 80s, and still can't tell the difference, maybe its something you shouldn't worry about anymore.

EDIT: BTW, you don't need to be able to tell the difference. You only need to know which one you prefer, and if you can't tell the difference, use some other criteria to decide. If you can't hear a difference, then it doesn't matter.

Last edited by pr0gr4m; 30th January 2019 at 02:28 AM..
Old 30th January 2019
  #24
Lives for gear
 
Rufuss Sewell's Avatar
Compare synths with electric guitars.

Guitars almost all have the same features with only tiny differences in tone. And yet still people have massive collections to have access to those tiny variances.

In comparison synths are vastly more varied. Before we get to the minutia of tonal differences between oscillators, filters and amps, there are huge categories to choose from.

Analog vs digital. Knobby vs minimalist UI. Mono vs poly, hardware vs software, east coast vs west coast... Subtractive, FM, PM, AM, physical modeling, additive, granular, modular, sample based... each with an unending list of features and options.

I have over 20 hardware synths and around 100 soft synths and I still don’t have the 303 or CS-80 sound covered.

Synthesis is an endless pool of possibilities. Even if you limit yourself to mono analog hardware you will never find the end.
Old 30th January 2019
  #25
Gear Guru
 
fiddlestickz's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by superstupid View Post
no offense, but there must be something wrong with you, if you really think a dx7, memorymoog and a prophet 2000 only sound slightly different
yeah good onya clown I did specifically ask if we are talking about analog synths here, since when is a DX7 and a Prophet 2000 an analog synth..?
Old 30th January 2019
  #26
Gear Addict
 
Muied Lumens's Avatar
Maybe all violins are the same too, but not violinists. They are very different. That's really all that counts, in the end.
Old 30th January 2019
  #27
Gear Addict
 
Exe2479's Avatar
 

I like the thread somehow, honestly I'm sure the op is aware of the differences coming with different synthesis methods, but I think the quesion is more aimed at comparing f.e. one similar specced analog mono synth to another, or a VA. And the quesion obviously becomes actually reasonable the moment when economic decisions are involved.

"Really get that Sub37, or why not a Bass Station 2 for playing bass parts with my band?"

Sure, there are differences. In oscillators, filters and modulation options. But what is essential, what is the purpose, what does matter and what does not, etc when designing and playing with synth sounds? Quite fundamental questions, that are pretty much the foundation of many discussions on this board. And then there is always the elephant in the room: "What sounds good?"

But nevertheless I bring myself to say: yeah, all analog subtractive synths sound quite similar. And especially if live playing is involved, certain synthesis or performance features may be more important for me than raw oscillator sound, or sometimes even filter specs. - "Burn the witch!" Haha. And one's perfect instrument will never exist.
Old 30th January 2019
  #28
Gear Nut
 

I’m always inclined to say that they really didn’t have to keep coming up with new synths after the DX7.

But I would be trolling.
Old 30th January 2019
  #29
Gear Maniac
 
ralphNYC's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by superstupid View Post
no offense, but there must be something wrong with you, if you really think a dx7, memorymoog and a prophet 2000 only sound slightly different
I just grabbed the first 2 clips I found of Prophet 2000 and Memorymoog. Can you so easily tell which is which? 2 clips
Old 30th January 2019
  #30
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ralphNYC View Post
I just grabbed the first 2 clips I found of Prophet 2000 and Memorymoog. Can you so easily tell which is which? 2 clips
First one memorymoog second one prophet 2000.
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