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Thread: Synthesizers (and other pro audio stuff)

  1. #1
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France

    Synthesizers (and other pro audio stuff)

    Hello.

    Since I'm summering in TTLG land, I thought I'd see if anyone else on here is into this stuff, since it's what takes up most of my free time these days.
    Here's a list of gear I own and have owned, in order of when I owned it (items I still own denoted with an asterisk):

    Casio VL tone*
    Yamaha CS-01
    Roland XP-60
    Roland D-50
    Korg DW-8000
    Novation Nova*
    Access Virus C
    Roland JP-8000
    Korg Triton
    Access Virus TI desktop*
    Sequential Prophet 6*
    Behring Neutron*
    Arturia Minibrute 2S*
    Arturia Rackbrute 6U*
    Mutable Instruments Clouds clone*

    As you may be able to tell from the end there, I've just decided to make the jump into modular, which probably means I'll never write a meaningful piece of music again (I kid, but a mild worry, it's a rabbit hole).
    I've owned synths for years, and only recently made the effort to actually learn how to program them, having spend years just tweaking presets to make them sound slightly different. It's become a bit of an obsession. Anyone else here? I know demagogue will likely be down.

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2001
    Location: Somewhere
    I am absolutely into this, but my budget prevents me from being a gear hound, so i just use vst's, which while not as satisfying as having actual analog stuff, still scratched the itch. Really tempted to get one of the new moog subphattys though.
    A drummer friend of mine plays in a duo and he does left handed bass on the moog while drums on right hand, sounds boss.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2002
    Location: Edmonton
    So much time and energy spent thinking about this stuff.

    My list includes a Korg MS20-Mini and Minilogue, Nord Electro 3, Yamaha Reface DX, Volca Sample, Make Noise 0-Coast/0-Ctrl, and 6U/~96HP of Eurorack with a little bit of DIY. Highlights of my modular include an Intellijel Shapeshifter and a Make Noise Morphagene and Mimeophon.

    Eurorack is definitely a rabbit hole in the sense that it's really hard to stop thinking about what else your rack needs even when you've just finally bought whatever it is you've been dreaming about. It can be instantly gratifying, but it also rewards being patient and methodical. For productivity's sake I try to split my modular time between "making sounds/fooling around" and "actually working with intent" although the two certainly overlap sometimes. It's ridiculous and expensive and I've definitely thought about selling it, but it's also just so much fun to play with and invent new sounds. All that being said, in the end I think I've been more productive with the Eurorack overall because I tend to record my output more often, and I keep all these snippets around that eventually sometimes inspire me to develop them. I mostly make ambient music, though, and I treat the modular as an instrument, not a complete production tool. I think it's better suited to that.

  4. #4
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I have a Yamaha Mox8, which has more synth capability than it gets credit for, but most of the things I do are with soft synths. I've made I don't know how many 100s of voices in Absynth and I make patches on VCV Rack. Some of the stuff I've recorded is on my Soundcloud page.

    I've even messed with generating my own voices directly from code in Python, but that was a bit extreme (although really educational!), and now that interest has morphed into plans to make some of my own custom VCV Rack modules. In particular, I want to use some machine language algorithms. The idea I like is a module that randomizes the module selection from your library and a feature to randomize a working patch from the selection you have (using a "synth grammar" and deconstructing elements into the grammar, waves, filter settings, envelope, effects, sequence, etc.). What's really cool about that idea is you can input a tune, or a set of tunes, and it'll get the modules and make a patch that best-fits it or the collective sound of it. And then I want to have some set styles that it patches to as landmarks, a NIN/industrial-sound, New Wave, dark ambient, etc., and then a dial that you can mix between styles and add increasing randomness.

    But I've got ideas for some smaller modules for things like a ML-driven sequencer and a delay. And if one of them really works well, I have a kind of vision to actually make a Eurorack module out of it just to see if I can do it.

    I am thinking to get some gear. Right now I'm debating between the ASM Hydrasynth and the Novation Summit. Probably the Summit first, and the Hydrasynth someday; I'm curious if they'll come out with a follow-up that has another 2 octaves or so and multi-timbrality (play at least two different voices at the same time, so e.g., you could have another voice on that nice strip controller). There's other things that look interesting like the Moog32, DFAM, & Subharmonic trio would be cool to have. I'm very keyboard-based performance oriented though, so if it's hardware, I'll want a keyboard. I do like the puzzles and logic of patching modules, but playing with those ideas in VCV Rack is usually enough for me. Well I can use a keyboard as a controller, so I'm not counting out getting a modular set up.
    Last edited by demagogue; 30th Jun 2020 at 21:18.

  5. #5
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    I was really tempted by Hydrasynth and had the cash saved to get one, but something held me back.
    I love the idea of it, but every time I watch videos of it, I don't enjoy how it sounds, even though I know I could probably make my own patches which I would love.
    I think also, I have my wavetable + oodles of modulation needs more than covered by the Virus plus increasingly good VSTs (Ableton's Wavetable, Arturia's Pigments, NI's Massive X to name a few).
    I absolutely adore the Prophet for just firing up and using as an instrument, and many tracks I have written lately have it as the signature sound of the track, simply because it's such a good workflow to sequence a melody or some chords and then just noodle on the P6 until it sounds perfect.
    I'm really looking forward to getting more into eurorack. I went ahead and ordered a Disting Mk4 today as well, as that seems to be a ridiculous amount of functionality in a small footprint, and will probably help inform what my future module purchases will be.
    I gave a tentative rack build planned out here, but this will likely change as time moves on and I learn what I need from a modular setup.

    Aja - I am really loving that track you linked above. Dema, where's your soundcloud?

  6. #6
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Quote Originally Posted by PigLick View Post
    I am absolutely into this, but my budget prevents me from being a gear hound, so i just use vst's, which while not as satisfying as having actual analog stuff, still scratched the itch. Really tempted to get one of the new moog subphattys though.
    A drummer friend of mine plays in a duo and he does left handed bass on the moog while drums on right hand, sounds boss.
    I've been seeing a lot of slim phatties on reverb.com of late. Was tempted a few times.

  7. #7
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Quote Originally Posted by faetal View Post
    Dema, where's your soundcloud?
    Here it is --> https://soundcloud.com/user9513654

    ------
    Edit.
    I know what you mean about really getting to understand the scene only recently, even after years of knob fiddling.

    I remember watching I Dream of Wires like around late 2018 or so and thinking wow that's the most obscure scene, and not really understanding what the modules were actually doing or why you had to wire them to each other. On Absynth, I used to always just hit "randomize patch" until I got lucky, and then I'd tweak a few things. And to me that was "synthing", but I didn't understand a thing.

    But something happened in the last year or so, and it feels like the scene is exploding out of nowhere. And I don't know if that's just my perception, just getting into the scene and following the forums recently, or if it's a bona fide movement happening. But it seems like now there are tutorials everywhere, a new synth coming out every 2 weeks, there's VCV Rack. And I feel like I've learned how it really works for the first time.

    Since maybe the end of last year, I started making Absynth patches from scratch, setting every parameter how I want it, with an actual plan not just random dial turning, and developing my own sound. (It's interesting how much it's like visual art, where you can start to hear the author in a patch.) And of course with VCV Rack, like Eurorack, you have to literally wire it up to even get a sound, nevermind you have to think about what you're doing to get a good sound. You can't get away without understanding at least something about what you're doing. Now even when I twist things randomly, at least I have an idea what it's doing.

    Oh the other thing I'd never really done. I have had my Mox8 like 6 years now, and I just realized really recently that I could set the knobs to the filter cutoff and resonance. And for the first time ever, I'm actually dialing those knobs while I'm performing as part of the performance.

    One nice thing about the scene is, it's almost always the same basic elements--oscillators, filters, LFOs, envelopes, effects, sequences--so once you learn it for one system, the same ideas will basically apply to every other system. But each one will handle it a little differently, or it'll have a different sound (like the Mox8 filter cutoff can have quite steppy aliasing, which I hated at first, but now I kind of like it because it has a lowfi early '90s vibe). It means you can pick up new gear and know what to do out of the box, but you also have to re-think the old ideas in new ways to get the most out of each new gizmo. I gather that's where the GAS, the gear acquisition syndrome, comes from.


    ------
    Edit2.

    Shit, now I remember what I wanted to ask. I had this idea before for Team TTLG, after I learned there were a couple of us that did this, and I almost made a thread about it. But would anyone be interested in having a kind of ... well I guess you could call it a contest. Somebody comes up with a theme, like a genre (best 80s New Wave patch) or an instrument (best steel guitar sound) or even a context (best tension sound in a horror movie), give ourselves like 2 weeks or so, and everybody that wants tries to make a cool sound that fits the theme on whatever system they want, record it, put up a soundcloud link or Youtube video of it (if they make a video recording of it being performed all the better), maybe a few notes about how they made it (the settings for the different parameters) for everyone's education, and then just for kicks people can vote on them to make it a bit of competition.

    Does that sound like something fun we could do? I thought about it because I was making all these random patches anyway. It'd be a bit more interesting if I was asked to make a patch that sounded like something specific, which would force me to expand my horizons a bit.
    Last edited by demagogue; 1st Jul 2020 at 01:31.

  8. #8
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Hey Dema. I'd be up for that. I'm off work next week too, so potentially a good time too. Not sure if that's maybe too short notice.

  9. #9
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Paging Jason Moyer.

    I don't own, play, or know anything about synths, but I'm also loving this synth jam/contest idea and will gladly listen and vote if y'all go through with it.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: The Plateaux Of Mirror
    I don't like synths, they're coarse and rough and irritating and get everywhere.

  11. #11
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    *buzzer*
    What is faetal's wife.

  12. #12
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    Just so everyone knows what we're talking about.

    There's lots of different kinds of synths, but there's gotta be a special place for the modular set ups that look like the controls to a NASA space shuttle.


  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Lockdown... if only
    I think it's a great idea.

    Might even get me to buy an analog synth. I've got zero musical talent, but I'm an electrical engineer by education so I've always been attracted by the idea of doodling around with waveforms.

  14. #14
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    If you wanted to get started, you could try any of the following:

    Mono / duophonic synths (single voice - think basses and leads rather than strings / chords):

    Korg monologue
    Novation bass station II
    Arturia minibrute / microbrute (or the minibrute 2 if you are feeling flush)
    Moog sub phatty (bit more expensive, but you get that classic sound)
    Korg volca bass (cheap and cheerful, but don't expect wonders)

    Polyphonic synths (Multi voice - so can do chords, strings, pads etc)

    Korg minilogue (or minilogue XD if you're feeling fancy)
    Korg volca keys (cheap and cheerful)
    Behringer deep mind 6 (or 12 voice version if you have more to spend)

    Recomend checking out reviews, then you can find countless youtube videos to teach the ins and outs of making patches for the instrument you choose.
    I'd say you don't even need to be that musical to enjoy sound design anyway (it just gives you mroe things to use the sounds for).

    [EDIT] There are also plenty of modular synth nerds out there who don't even make music, but derive huge joy from setting up complex logic engines which output bleeps and bloops at interesting intervals due to have they've routed rhythms through various attenuators, multipliers, clock dividers, turing machines etc...

  15. #15
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Quote Originally Posted by faetal View Post
    Roland JP-8000
    Ooops, I do believe I just soiled myself there. I toyed around with one of those, and my head was filled with all sorts of possibilities. I just couldn't afford it at the time.

    This is my latest toy, the Roland JU-06a.

    I used to have the actual proper Juno-60, but gave that away to my brother, the actual musician. But this will suffice as a replacement, and it saves me dragging the big honking original across the ocean, it can stay in his studio where it's lived for the last 12 years.

  16. #16
    Member
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Lockdown... if only
    I had a chance to play with the Korg Minilogue for a little while at a store when I was buying an arranger keyboard for my kids last xmas. I had fun and was tempted to buy it, but just couldn't justify another toy that I'd no doubt under-utilize. I'm still interested though. There's an immediate and accessible fun factor to playing with an analog synth that isn't there with software IMHO.

  17. #17
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2010
    Location: A Former Forest
    My 1st synth was a Mini-Korg (Univox) 700, similar to what "The Cars" used for "Just What I Needed".

    I still have my Yamaha CS-15 from 1981. Super cool mono-synth, that can be made into a duo. Fat sound. It can even be modified to use midi.

    All the other stuff is virtual, or silly things like Casio horns (DH-100), a CTK-750, and other assorted whatnot.
    Last edited by bjack; 3rd Jul 2020 at 01:56.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2010
    Location: A Former Forest
    Quote Originally Posted by Gray View Post
    ...
    I used to have the actual proper Juno-60...
    Gray, you may want to try out a Juno-106. Almost the same unit, but better in my opinion. Still a lot of analog control. I think the 106 had more voices. I borrowed one for a few years back in the mid-80s and loved it.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: The Plateaux Of Mirror
    I think people generally consider the sound of the 60 (and 6) to be superior to the 106 for some reason that I don't remember, possibly the chorus being voiced differently or something. Instead of paying the vintage analog tax and having to inevitably (if not immediately) fix a 106 you could get a DeepMind for like the half the money which at its core is a clone of the 106 with piles of extra stuff added, plus it's new and benefits from 25 years of miniaturization and manufacturing improvements.


  20. #20
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    I am perenially interested in a deepmind 12D, but keep hesitating for some reason.
    I think I just don't need another analogue poly. I have enough synths really (probably too many for what I do), and I just branched out into modular, so should calm my tits for a bit.

  21. #21
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    Quote Originally Posted by bjack View Post
    Gray, you may want to try out a Juno-106.
    Back in the 80s, I was in a band, and my bandmate had a 106. I toyed with it extensively. It was the main reason I bought my Juno-60. The 106 was, at the time, a bit too expensive since it had MIDI and the 60 did not, but I got a DCB-to-MIDI converter for that.

    But the JU-06a does both, pretty much. There's a switch on it to either emulate the 60 or the 106. Audio professionals have tested it with oscilloscopes and found minor discrepancies, but to my ears, the 60 sounds like the 60, and the 106 sounds like the 106. Filter cutoffs, resonance, the whole shebang, and yes, even I can tell the difference.

    [Edit]

    My first synth was a Roland Alpha Juno-1. It was pretty darn good and could do a lot of things, but not very immediate to program. My bandmate had a 106, and his was cooler. I always wanted one. And now, only 35 years later, I sort of do with the JU-06a.

    Over time, I bought two more Alpha Junos because I had figured out how to make them sound good. I even wrote a MIDI controller program for them, to save sounds to a PC. Sitting beside me right now is the MKS-50, the module version of it, but in all honesty I've barely used it since moving to Scotland 9 years ago, perhaps mainly since I didn't have a keyboard controller. Which I now do. So I'm out of excuses. I've not yet read the manual to the JU-06a, and whether or not I can control the filter through key velocity, which I know how to do through MIDI on the Alpha. It's something I'm itching to get back to.
    Last edited by Gray; 3rd Jul 2020 at 05:47.

  22. #22
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: The Plateaux Of Mirror
    Looking at the manuals, the JU-06A's engine can only map velocity to the amp. You can use MIDI CC #74 to control the VCF cutoff, but you'd need to be able to map the velocity of your midi controller to send CC in order to do that.

  23. #23
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    I think mine can do that, I just need to be arsed to make it work. But that's good news, thank you. The Alpha does not have a velocity sensitive keyboard, but the sounds respond to velocity, so I'm used to programming and controlling filter effects that I want. But that was back in the 80s/90s, and I haven't yet learned how to do that in my new software/hardware.

  24. #24
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I had a Casio growing up in the mid-80s. Actually my parents bought it for my older brother, but I was the one that actually played it so he eventually gave it to me. It's been so long ago I don't even remember which model it is. I've been trying to track it down just from my memory of the voice selection and color scheme but it's a needle in a haystack kind of search. There was nothing particularly great about it; I think it could only play like 6 voices at a time, and the quality was low. But I'm fantastically nostalgic for those wonky voices.

    While I'm posting, I may as well post one of the dogmas of the synth life.


  25. #25
    SShock2.com
    Member

    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: The land of ever sideways rain
    I'm quoting myself here from another thread, sorry about that:

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray View Post
    The hardware I already own or have owned, but is mostly in another country, is as follows:

    Roland Alpha Juno-1, I have two of those, and the MKS-50, the rack version. So three. I like that sound. One Juno is with my brother the actual musician, the MKS is here with me but I don't think I've even powered it up yet since I took it here 4-5 years ago. It's needs a keyboard controller and MIDI cables, and I've been too lazy to deal with that. One Juno is in a box.
    Roland Juno-60, awesome bass, but no MIDI, but I got a converter for that. My brother the actual musician has borrowed that for the last 10 years. [Edit: now donated to him]
    Korg Poly-800. It was cheap, but it does some stuff pretty well. Again, brother has it.
    Roland D-110, rack. Annoyingly tedious to program, but I've used it on so many tracks and tried to bend it to my will, and make it do what it isn't supposed to. Sometimes you just find the limits of your hardware, and I certainly found them on this. In a box far away.
    Yamaha TG-55 rack. Fairly decent thing that I used lots, but it took ages to program. In a box.
    Yamaha TG-77. The cooler more versatile version, which I haven't actually used much yet. In a box. Better than the 55 because it has so many FM options I've not yet explored.
    Akai S-700 sampler. Decent machine, but terrible storage media, 2.8" floppies, I spent more money trying to track down this obsolete floppy format than I did on the machine itself. Turned out it was only used by this machine and old word processors. If at least it had only been 3.5", they were everywhere. Gave it away when I moved to Scotland. And all the floppies. Hundreds of samples. Maybe the guy I gave it to can never again find more 2.8", but at least he now has a vast library of drum machines and noises. I was very thorough back when I had a brain.
    Akai X-7000. Keyboard version of the same sampler. Same problem. Same solution. Gave it away.
    Nord Micro Modular. Probably the coolest bit of gear that I own. Got it with me here, but I haven't used it lately for the same reason as the MKS, need cables and a controller.
    A four octave controller keyboard I can't even remember the name of now, but with 8 assignable knobs that I could map to important settings on my Nord, the two of them made a great pair. In a box. It might be the next thing I bring with me to Scotland. No onboard synthesis at all, but lovely knobs. That is not a sex joke, it just sounds like a Carry On double entendre.
    Zoom RhythmTrak RT-123 drum machine. Pretty good for quickly getting things down, but terrible for syncopation. Got it less than two feet away just now.
    Yamaha CS1x virtual analogue, given to me for free by one of my Scottish friends. It is so far my only current main controller keyboard, and I haven't fiddled around too much with the onboard synthesis just yet, I've only had it what, four years..? It's 5 octaves and a bit too big and clunky to move easily, but it helps me to get chords and melodies down. [Edit: replaced now by a smaller, more convenient 2 octave, see below]

    So you see, it's mostly 80s/90s digital crap, with a few exceptions. No wonder so many of them are in boxes in a country far, far away.

    The thing I've used recently is an Android app called Caustic. It lets me do several things fairly easily, but is also quite limited in other ways, hence my urge to buy new hardware.
    Since then I've bought another cheap electric guitar to replace the one I gave away to my niece, a small 2 octave keyboard controller (Alesis Q25), and the aforementioned JU-06a. Oh yeah, and a microphone and small mixing desk to utilise the very cool vocoder patches on the Nord Micro Modular.

    I'm still a talentless hack, but I do enjoy making noise.



    [Edit]

    For those of you considering the Alesis Q25, I can recommend it, but it does not come with a power adaptor. A very helpful shop assistant at Guitar Guitar Glasgow helped me find one that they didn't even sell. Thank you, Andy! The Q25 even neatly hooks up to my tablet via USB and I can play the app Caustic through it. Just to test, it even hooks up to Caustic on my phone. Very neat.
    Last edited by Gray; 3rd Jul 2020 at 18:59.

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