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My Synthesizer Wishlist

Pete Brown - 28 April 2011

I noodle around with synthesizers a lot. I like to create sounds, tweak a bit, pretend I have some talent etc. :) My influences are Tomita, Jean Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, the C64 Remix Community, the Dr. Who Remix Community, the Myst Soundtrack by Robyn Miller, Daft Punk, Moonove, Juno Reactor, Carbon Based Lifeforms, Pitch Black, Synaesthesia, Kraftwerk, Wizzy Noise, Vangelis, Peter Gabriel, and more.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I worked at a music store, so I got to play with a lot of old synths that people brought in and "traded up" to the newer digital models. While we never had a Jupiter 8 or OBX wander into that store while I was there, many of the other classic analogs made their way on to the racks.

Just before I started working there, I bought a Juno 106 (actually an HS-60, a slightly uglier Juno 106 with built-in speakers, but all the same guts) as my first real synth. It was that purchase that got me in front of store management and eventually got me the job in any case. I also managed to borrow a Siel expander from my high school music department, as well as a Yamaha DX100 for the summer. During the school year, I played with the DX-7, hooking it up to the one Mac (an original Mac) in the school so I could experiment with early sequencing. That said, I hated the sounds from FM synthesis. I'm still not a fan of them today.

After that, I traded in my Juno for an Alpha Juno 2. I didn't appreciate it at the time, so it didn't stay long with me.

A bit later, I traded the Alpha Juno in for a Korg DW-8000, another awesome synth - one of the only Korgs I ever really liked. I really wish I would have kept them both, but I didn't have the funds to do that at the time. When I moved away, the DW moved with me, but eventually it died, and I picked up a Yamaha EX-5. The EX-5 never really inspired me, so I dropped noodling and playing for quite some time. A couple years ago, I picked up a Roland SH-32. I loved the sound (except the very steppy filters), but absolutely loathed the programming model. Seriously, programming that thing was not enjoyable, despite (or due to) all the controls on the surface, and their multiple states, bad LED display etc.) I sold that last year. Also last year, I dug the EX-5 back out, and finally made the decision to sell it off and get something fun. Since then, I've experimented more with VSTs and some other synths.

A true monster synth. If it fell, it could kill you for sure

My current setup includes:

  • Access Virus A (this is a bit meh, and is nowhere near as thick and interesting as the TI, C or even the B. I'll likely sell it if I get some of the others on my wishlist)
  • Roland M-VS1 Vintage Synth expansion (purchased for a real bargain)
  • E-MU Morpheus with a third-party sound set (interesting z-plane pads and odd sounds)
  • Novation X-Station 25 (synth that also serves as my sound interface to my computer. It sounds like this)
  • Novation Remote 49 MK2 Keyboard Controller
  • Midibox SID SammichSID (under construction - it's a kit that uses two Commodore 64 SID chips for sound. Excellent)
  • Dave Smith Tetra four voice analog synth module (arriving today!). This can be thought of as four Mophos or 1/2 a Prophet 08
  • Spectrasonics Omnisphere 1.5 VST (amazing pads and lush cinematic sounds. One of the few ballsy soft synths)

Here's my wishlist of reasonably obtainable modules and synths I'd like to gather over time

These are on my "maybe" list, which means that I'm unlikely to get them unless I find an amazing deal

  • Korg EX-8000 Module
  • Roland MKS-70 Super JX Module (a rackmount JX-10)
  • Roland V-Synth XT
  • Studio Electronics SE-1 (may not be useful if I have another moog)
  • Spectral Audio Neptune II - cool modern analog, no patch storage
  • SuperNova II ProX. This still command more than I think they're worth, but it's a nice synth. I waffle on this because Omnisphere can do a lot of what this synth can.
  • Vermona Perfourmer - another interesting analog, 4 voice. A bit overpriced and pretty ugly, though.
  • Moog Source. I've seen these come up on ebay from time to time. Lovely sound. Since it lacks knobs, it's not as popular so it's more reasonably priced.
  • New Oberheim SEM with MIDI to CV Converter (demo) (sweet new version of the old module)

If money was no object, I'd also get these

I'm sure there are others that are worth picking up. Definitely check out the ones on this list, though, if you're interested in classic analog sounds. Any recommendations on others to check out?

posted by Pete Brown on Thursday, April 28, 2011
filed under:    

17 comments for “My Synthesizer Wishlist”

  1. RussMartinezsays:
    A man after my own heart. However, I am somewhat of a reformed man. Looks like your still looking for your next fix. Current set up includes; access virus indigo 2, Minimoog Voyager, Nord Stage. Unfortunately my MB33 II (Roland TB-303 clone) is out of commission, I think an LFO is out of tune. And original Nord Lead needs a key replaced.
  2. Petesays:

    Completely forgot about my MT-32 and SC-33 sound canvas. I sold both of those a few months back as they were just sitting in storage. I purchased both of them new ages ago.

    I had a MPU-IPC (MPU 401 for PCs) midi interface as well. Best thing about the MT-32 and MPU: King's Quest

  3. Stonesays:
    Hi Pete,

    I love to play with synth-sounds, too. But until now I always played with software-synths.

    For example:I really LOVE "FruityLoops" - the plugins there (for example "Sytrus") are awesome!
    Up to now I haven't had the need to buy hardware - and I ask myself: Why?

    Maybe you use a mix of hard- and software-synths? It would be really interesting to know, what kind of software do you use to access your hardware or what is - in your opinion - the right way to set up hard- and software-synths.


  4. Petesays:

    I have FL Studio 10 (formerly fruity loops) that I got when they had a really great deal on facebook for something like $99 for top edition. It's nice, but has some significant annoyances, such as not properly passing through some MIDI information, and the need for hacks to handle the mod wheel (which is used heavily by some synths I have). I'm looking at other DAW software, but haven't made up my mind.

    I like both hardware and software. I've found most of the mid to low end software synths pretty lacking when it comes to sound quality. The one I have that I *do* like is Omnisphere. I'm also considering NI Komplete, which has several good synths in it.

    At the same time, I've found that some hardware just sounds better. Not all, mind you, but some.

    I do like the workflow of software synths better. Hardware synths require extra steps (except in the case of Access Virus TI) to get them into the mix.

    The best choice I made lately was to go with a dedicated controller keyboard. I have a Novation 49SSL MkII (I would have picked up the 61SL, but I don't have room for it at the moment). Eliminating the synth from the controller makes it much easier for me to work with the rack synths and the soft synths I use.

  5. Stonesays:
    @Pete: Thank you for your answer and the good information.
    Making music or just experimenting with different synths is a very intersting and creative part. And for myself it's a kind of relaxing and chilling hobby after hacking the whole day as a software-developer ;-)

    It is very interesting to see, that other software-developers (like you) also diving in this area (and much deeper!). I'm looking foward hopefully to see some other articles from you.

    Btw.: As I was searching the web for Omnisphere and I found this little crash course in "Arpeggiator history" - very interesting to see the hardware of '68 ;-)

    (P.S.: Sorry for my bad english - but I hope you understand what I was trying to say...)
  6. Petesays:

    Great video, thanks

    I've also been looking at DIY synth projects lately. This machine sure is inspiring:

  7. VoiceEncodersays:
    You're welcome! Jtlyk, Mr. Neil Young used the Sennheiser Vocoder VSM201 on 'Trans'; Soundwave was the Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus (Mk1 or Mk2?); The "Domination" video-game from 'Never Say Never Again' was the EMS Vocoder-System 3000; and the Roland SVC-350 Vocoder was the vocoder used by Midnight Star for their early-mid 80s hits including "Electricity", "No Parking On the Dance Floor", "Freak-a-Zoid", "Planetary Invasion", "Operator", "Scientific Love", and "Body Snatchers" among others.

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