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Simple but good quality synth?


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Hi guys,

thinking of branching out into the world of synths for a few songs. Covering quite a lot of 80’s stuff nowadays and pedals can only cover so much…

 

Don’t want to spend a fortune, but want to look into something decent allowing for a few saved presets. Also, don’t want anything super complicated! What’s recommended?

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Posted (edited)

80's... Howz about a Keytar?

Saw one in a recent look in Cack Converters in Tunbridge Wells...

Had 4 Basses in there... All Left Paw...

might of all came from the same person, or more likely just a reflection of the strange lot in TW. 😉

Edited by PaulThePlug
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2 minutes ago, PaulThePlug said:

Keytar? Saw one in a recent look in Cack Converters in Tunbridge Wells...

Had 4 Basses in there... All Left Paw...

might of all came from the same person, or more likely just a reflection of the strange lot in TW. 😉


I really couldn’t bring myself to take that to rehearsals, let alone gigs…

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I started with a Roland Gaia. They’re a bit over-priced new but used ones are better value. Nice and simple to operate, I found it a great tool for learning how to program a synth.

 

It’s been out forever so loads of used ones. Some look down their noses at it but as a simple but powerful first synth I think it’s hard to beat. 
 

I’ve now moved mine on and got a Korg Krome because I wanted a decent arpeggiator and loads of presets (the Roland Juno DS and Korg Kross do a similar job) but I often wish I’d kept hold of the little Gaia for its flexibility and ease of use.

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Posted (edited)

If you are going to want to program your own sounds, then something with as many dedicated controls on the front panel is a must, or one with an excellent computer-based programming app. A few things you will want to consider:

 

1. The two octave keyboard on both the Bass Station and the Monologue might be too limiting for some bass lines (especially 80s ones with lots of octaves unless you are prepared to transpose the keyboard to bring all the notes you want within the range of the available keys (if so check that the synth has a transpose function).

 

2. The envelope generator on the Monologue doesn't appear to be a standard ADSR one and there's only one (unless there are more hidden away in parameter access). For duplicating as many 80s synth sounds as possible you will really want two full ADSR envelope generators so that you can assign one to the filter (tone) and another to the amplifier (volume).

 

3. They are both mono synths. That means they can only play one note at a time, and no chords at all. For bass lines this probably won't be a problem, but you may occasionally struggle to replicate the feel of a baseline that has been played on a polysynth where the release of one note overlaps the attack of the next.

Edited by BigRedX
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Posted (edited)

Another thing to bear in mind is that analog synths (or rather synths with analog oscillators), while being very trendy these days, often need to be powered on for a while before their tuning is stable and some will continue to drift or fail to track properly over a few octaves even then, which might not be convenient in a gigging situation. I had an Arturia minibrute 2S for a while, but got rid because I found the tuning a nightmare, and the sonic sweetspots few and far between.

 

I have owned a fair few synths over the years, including models from Novation, Nord, Dave Smith Instruments, Audiothingies, Erica Synths and Arturia, and the only hardware synth I have kept, and have no plans to get rid of, is a humble Microkorg. These are a bit marmite, with some hating the "toylike" feel, the matrix user interface and the minikeys, but it is actually a very powerful little machine, capable of a huge range of sounds, almost all very usable. You get up to 4 note polyphony, so simple chords or legato basslines are no problem. The minikeys are not the best, but they are velocity sensitive and you get a full 3 octaves in a very compact and lightweight body. I find programming it to be quite straightforward once you get the hang of it, and there is no real menu diving - almost everything is available right from the front panel. The fact that you can still buy them new 20 years after they were first released says a lot. There are plenty around 2nd hand - I picked mine up for under £200.  Not for everyone, but definitely worth considering.

 

There is a huge choice of synths at very reasonable prices these days - I'd say one of the very best of the newer ones is the Arturia Microfreak, if you can live with the weird "touch capacitance (?)" keyboard (not sure I could - maybe not ideal for gigging with). 

 

Given the huge variety out there, you might want to try buying 2nd hand, so that you can move one on and try another till you find the one you gell with. Good luck with your search, and have fun!

Edited by Earbrass
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I have say, that despite having owned a lot of synths with analogue VCOs since the early 80s I've never found any of them to have tuning instabilities and all have come up to tune within a couple of minutes of being powered on. 

 

On the other hand, having owned an EDP Wasp, while I would hope that touch capacitance keyboards have become more reliable in the last 40 years, I wouldn't have another synth with one for live use.

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I play bass in an 80s electronic covers band and I have a couple of synths I use with them. One is a Waldorf Streichfett for string synth sounds but my main one is a Novation Xio49 virtual analogue 4 octave synth with 200 presets and on board FX to cover everything else (mainly bass) 

I had two but let one go which I now regret and I’m keeping my eyes out for another)

I really like the sounds from the Xio.

Sounds way better than anything else I’ve come across for anything near to the price (I picked up both my Xio49 synths for under £100)

64FA78E1-CBAA-4073-B126-74EB07E6183E.thumb.jpeg.969a428e09760131987c9f6b36f73fe7.jpeg

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6 hours ago, Earbrass said:

Another thing to bear in mind is that analog synths (or rather synths with analog oscillators), while being very trendy these days, often need to be powered on for a while before their tuning is stable and some will continue to drift or fail to track properly over a few octaves even then, which might not be convenient in a gigging situation. I had an Arturia minibrute 2S for a while, but got rid because I found the tuning a nightmare, and the sonic sweetspots few and far between.

 

I have owned a fair few synths over the years, including models from Novation, Nord, Dave Smith Instruments, Audiothingies, Erica Synths and Arturia, and the only hardware synth I have kept, and have no plans to get rid of, is a humble Microkorg. These are a bit marmite, with some hating the "toylike" feel, the matrix user interface and the minikeys, but it is actually a very powerful little machine, capable of a huge range of sounds, almost all very usable. You get up to 4 note polyphony, so simple chords or legato basslines are no problem. The minikeys are not the best, but they are velocity sensitive and you get a full 3 octaves in a very compact and lightweight body. I find programming it to be quite straightforward once you get the hang of it, and there is no real menu diving - almost everything is available right from the front panel. The fact that you can still buy them new 20 years after they were first released says a lot. There are plenty around 2nd hand - I picked mine up for under £200.  Not for everyone, but definitely worth considering.

 

There is a huge choice of synths at very reasonable prices these days - I'd say one of the very best of the newer ones is the Arturia Microfreak, if you can live with the weird "touch capacitance (?)" keyboard (not sure I could - maybe not ideal for gigging with). 

 

Given the huge variety out there, you might want to try buying 2nd hand, so that you can move one one and try another till you find the one you gell with. Good luck with your search, and have fun!

Was going to say, Microkorg was a consideration. Seems a slightly more beginner-user-friendly interface.

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