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What synth can/should I get?

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What synth can/should I get?

Postby AndyClarke » Tue May 29, 2012 8:03 am

Hello

I'm after some advice (as per usual)

After gathering and saving some cash together for new gear I've ended up with a bit leftover £120 to be exact. Now I thought seeing as I have that I would maybe get a Korg Monotron; Nice simple and fun. I borrowed one off a friend and really liked it and used it on a track on my last album.

However I don't think I would get much use out of it. It's great for making those bleeps and bloops etc but I was after something more versatile. If it had a midi in that would allow me to play it with an external midi keyboard it would be perfect.

So I thought maybe the Monotribe as I had somehow got the impression that this did have a midi in but after looking into it I found it doesn't.

So I was after some advice as to what I could get for that kind of money that I can either control with a keyboard or has a full size keyboard of its own. I already have a xiosynth but don't like the menu based editing on that and really would prefer something that has all its controls to be physical switches and knobs like the little korg units and are just a nice and simple. Also it would be used for industrial music like nine inch nails and other similar bands.

So the budget is £120 plus maybe another £20 that I could add to that at the most. I'm already thinking that I'm asking the impossible with that budget.

Thanks
Andy
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby BJG145 » Tue May 29, 2012 8:22 am

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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby Richie Royale » Tue May 29, 2012 9:11 am

The Monotron is fun but limited. If you want something a bit more usable, the Monotribe looks like it is good fun as it can be synced using pulses from a DAW. It doesn't have MIDI, but has an internal sequencer.

Otherwise there are many softsynths you can try that fall into your price range, including the very good free offerings from Tal http://kunz.corrupt.ch/
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby AndyClarke » Tue May 29, 2012 11:42 am

Thanks for the tips

BJG145: thanks for pointing out that Korg, I'm now watching that on eBay. I forgot to mention in my original post that I fancied a software synth that had a hardware controller like that. If I fail to get that Korg what similar options are there? I remember looking at a Virus TI which I believe works the same way but is well above my budget. Am I correct in thinking M-Audio do something similar?

I already have a controller keyboard (a carillon control 25) but I have such a hard time configuring it to control my synth plugins. It has eight knobs that I'd intended to use for my synth plugins but they just seem to want to control the mixer faders and compete with my Behringer BF2000. So a sift synth that has it's own tailored controller would be perfect.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby nathanscribe » Tue May 29, 2012 1:46 pm

On a budget of £120, and if you weren't too fussed about what you could get for the money, and definitely wanted hardware, I'd be looking at a few things:

1) FM synths like the Yamaha DX series (some are cheap, others rising, but you could score one for your budget). Upsides: attainable, common, good for metallic and bass patches, as well as other stuff if you know your onions. Downsides: often touted as difficult to program, but mainly because FM is not immediately intuitive like knobs and sliders. You will be dealing with a screen and a data slider arrangement, but depending on which synth you find, it can be pretty easy to navigate. Also, plenty of patches available online for free to get you started (presets are mostly awful).

2) Forgotten hybrids and out-of-fashion has-beens like the Korg DW-6000 (the 8000 is better but prob out of your budget), Akai AX-73, Korg Poly 800 (crummy, but might be useful), Roland D series (110, etc), EMU Proteus, and others. Upsides: can be had for stupid cheap (you could even get two or three old ROMplers for your budget, if that tickled your fancy) but certain things might be more limited than others. The Roland U-110, for example, can be had for the price of a takeaway, DVD and bottle of wine (that's not an offer...) but editing is minimal. It does a decent fake mellotron if you bung a detuned and layered choir and strings though a phaser and cheap compressor, mind.

3) Old hardware samplers, such as the Akai stuff (S-3000XL I had was well under your budget), EMU, Ensoniq - upsides, they're mostly bewilderingly cheap these days considering their flexibility, you can put whatever sounds you like in there, including making your own - get a sampler with resonant filters and sample in some basic synth waves and hey presto. Downsides: editing can be fiddly compared to less complex things, and you might need to source obsolete disk formats.

4) You can still get real knobby analogue for that money, but be prepared to be lucky to achieve it. I sometimes get broken things and fix them up, and sometimes trade up for things. You might find a cheap Yamaha CS-5 or something (maybe a CS-01 too, though I think the 5 is better), or some random thing from Crumar etc., and if you were up for it you could get some mileage from an old organ/stringer/electronic piano, though they're more limited sonically. Just depends what kind of noises you want.

5) DIY. You can learn to make noise-making circuits by following simple instructions, buying a few cheap parts from places like Maplin, and being prepared to blow a couple of things up. Guitar pedals are plentiful, weird noise generators (a bit like the Monotron I suppose) are too, and even simple drum synths can be made for little outlay. The money lies in nice cases, knobs, switches, power supplies, etc. but if you're OK with batteries and plastic tubs, the world's your shellfish.

Hope that helps. That'll be 2p, please! 8-)
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby Richie Royale » Tue May 29, 2012 2:15 pm

Good post.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby Martin Walker » Wed May 30, 2012 4:03 pm

(by nathanscribe)

Yes I agree - a very good post! 8-)


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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby BillB » Wed May 30, 2012 4:43 pm

Hi Andy

It is good to know what your options are, for around the £120 mark, but don't you think you should maybe try to decide first what you are trying to do and how you would like to do it?

You want a synth, but:
- mono or polyphonic?
- mono- or multi-timbral?
- hands-on knobby control or not?
- related to the above, analog (or virtual-analog) or sample-based 'realism'?
- hardware (take it anywhere) or software (tied to a PC/laptop)?

I just took a look at the SOS Xiosynth review and it looks like a pretty good unit. Perhaps you could press your Behringer BCF2000 into service to give you access to parameters which are otherwise buried in the xiosynth menus? Let's face it, the Monotribe only has 5 actual twiddly knobs - that's 3 less than the xiosynth!

I recently bought a BCR2000 precisely to get better access to my knob-challenged but otherwise lovely Yamaha AN1x, and also my VSTs. There are plenty of capable soft-synths you could control with your BCF, well within budget. There is even Reason Essentials to consider, at around £85, if you would like a rack full of soft-synths!

It all depends.... but ooh, it's fun choosing :D
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby BillB » Wed May 30, 2012 6:09 pm

Ooops sorry, just re-read the xiosynth review - 14 knobs!
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby Richie Royale » Wed May 30, 2012 6:29 pm

Very basic options but something like a Freebass or Deep Bass Nine can be found on eBay for around £100-£200. Maybe a Basstation, rack or keyboard, but the latter tends to be more expensive.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby nathanscribe » Wed May 30, 2012 8:15 pm

Thanks for the compliments on my post, chaps.

I'll add that I've heard positive things about the Yamaha TG-33 for the kind of music the OP mentions - AFAIK it's a desktop module version of the SY-22 (and retains the joystick), so perhaps one of those would also do. Both should be within budget.

I should also clarify that when I said "electronic piano" I meant those cheap and cheesy things from the 70s, with four presets and a chorus - models by Crumar, Elka, etc. - used intelligently, they can be interesting.

In terms of the OP's stated preference for simplicity, I'd also add that there are different kinds of simple - the simple that looks like a Juno 6 or something, with all its controls visible and accessible, but might faze a beginner - and the simple that comes from having one thing and knowing it inside out. Even my TX-81Z, which I've had for 18 years, and looks like no fun at all with its up/down yes/no interface for 90 parameters per patch - even that, once you draw up a patch sheet and spend a little time tinkering, is actually logical and straightforward. Grabbing something, using it a lot, and seeing what the heck you can make it do (especially at the boundaries of its intended potential) is a great way to get interesting results. So don't be put off by the lack of sliders/knobs.

And if you are put off by that, something like the Behringer controller mentioned above would add a degree of immediacy to proceedings.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby AndyClarke » Wed May 30, 2012 8:39 pm

BillB wrote:Hi Andy

It is good to know what your options are, for around the £120 mark, but don't you think you should maybe try to decide first what you are trying to do and how you would like to do it?

You want a synth, but:
- mono or polyphonic?
- mono- or multi-timbral?
- hands-on knobby control or not?
- related to the above, analog (or virtual-analog) or sample-based 'realism'?
- hardware (take it anywhere) or software (tied to a PC/laptop)?

I just took a look at the SOS Xiosynth review and it looks like a pretty good unit. Perhaps you could press your Behringer BCF2000 into service to give you access to parameters which are otherwise buried in the xiosynth menus? Let's face it, the Monotribe only has 5 actual twiddly knobs - that's 3 less than the xiosynth!

I recently bought a BCR2000 precisely to get better access to my knob-challenged but otherwise lovely Yamaha AN1x, and also my VSTs. There are plenty of capable soft-synths you could control with your BCF, well within budget. There is even Reason Essentials to consider, at around £85, if you would like a rack full of soft-synths!

It all depends.... but ooh, it's fun choosing :D

Well, this is what it all comes down to. The whole purpose was to get something that was proper hands-on knobby control as you put it. I've always been a fan of soft synths and bought the Carillon Control 25 to give me knobby control of my soft synths but the knobs are completely un-cooperative when comes to assigning them to anything other than mixer control. I have the Xiosynth for live purposes and I just cannot get on with the menu based editing.

To give you an idea of where I'm coming from I started with the Wasp synth in Fruity Loops with really nice simple two osc setup. Nice and easy to get head round. I then used a friends Yamaha CS-5 on a long term loan. The soft synths I tend to go for are emulations of classic analogue synths such as Moogs and ARPs. Things that have all the controls on view and working with the Xiosynth with so much hidden in menus just feels completely wrong to me. I want to have all the controls available to me all the time with out have to scroll through options on a tiny little screen.

But anyway that's all beside the point, what I was originally after was a way to physically control my soft synths which at first I thought was going to be hard to get after my experience with the Carillon which was the reason I thought new hardware synth. However it seems that was all down to that specific keyboard. I have now made a decision and I've picked up an M-Audio Axiom 25 used on eBay. For all accounts it does just what I want and has the "Instrument Mode" function which allows you to switch from transport and fader functions to plugin and soft synth functions so I will see how I get on with that.

Thanks for all the tips and advice.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby johnny h » Thu May 31, 2012 1:23 am

BJG145 wrote:Yamaha CS1X...?

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Yamaha-CS1x-Classic-Synthesizer-/270986979433?pt=UK_Musical_Instruments_Pro_Audio_Synthesisers_CV&hash=item3f18152869#ht_862wt_1095

<a href="/sos/1996_articles/aug96/yamahacsx1.html" target="_blank">http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/1996_articles/aug96/yamahacsx1.html</a>

Be careful the cs1 is a big piece of crap.
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Re: What synth can/should I get?

Postby Richie Royale » Thu May 31, 2012 7:42 am

I have the AAS Tassman modular softsynth which has the benefit of being able to learn any MIDI link. This makes syncing with any external controller very easy. Building a synth from scratch isn't simple, but it comes with loads of set ups which are easily tweaked into something beyond a preset. It is currently $199.
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