Workstations

Roland FA08

Synth Workstation

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Roland have condensed their considerable synthesizer workstation expertise into a single, affordable instrument.

Casio Privia PX5S

Stage Piano & Synthesizer

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The PX5S isn't just a stage piano — it's an instrument that might force you to rethink everything you know about Casio.

Elektron Analog Keys

Analogue Synthesizer

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Elektron have followed up their Analog Four with a fully fledged analogue keyboard.

Kurzweil Artis

Stage Piano

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Kurzweil instruments are often more complex than they initially appear, and that's certainly the case with the Artis...

Roland RD800

Stage Piano

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There's more to Roland's latest digital piano than meets the eye. We put it to the test.

Arturia MicroBrute

Analogue Synthesizer

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Arturia’s new Brute is even smaller than the last and, quite frankly, very cheap indeed. What’s not to like?

Clavia Nord Lead 4

Virtual Analogue Synthesizer

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Nearly 20 years after the original, Clavia's Nord Lead has become a studio synth staple. Can its latest incarnation keep the flame alive?

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 12

Polyphonic Synthesizer

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A new Prophet is always an exciting prospect, but the name certainly carries a weight of expectation. Can the latest model live up to its illustrious ancestry?

Yamaha MX49

Synthesizer

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Fruit continues to fall from Yamaha's Motif tree and the latest and cheapest example is the MX range...

Kiwi Technics Kiwi 3P

Synthesizer Upgrade

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Occasionally, a synth slips through the net and recedes into obscurity while lesser instruments achieve cult status. 

Novation Bass Station 2

Analogue Synthesizer

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In the 20 years since its launch, the Bass Station has become something of a classic — and with analogue monosynths enjoying their biggest revival since the early '80s, what better time for a sequel?

Kurzweil PC3K8

Workstation Synthesizer

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Kurzweil's latest workstation introduces enhancements — but doesn't mess with that Kurzweil sound.

Korg MS20 Mini

Analogue Synthesizer

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For the best part of 20 years, musicians have been asking certain Japanese manufacturers for recreations of their classic synths, and finally one of them has been brave enough to do it. How does Korg’s reborn MS20 compare to its illustrious ancestor?

Clavia Nord Electro 4

Performance Keyboards

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Clavia’s updated Electro range prove that if you need top-quality staple keyboard sounds, playability and simplicity, Nords still lead.

Korg KingKorg

Virtual Analogue Modelling Synthesizer

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It’s named in honour of everyone’s favourite giant ape, but will Korg’s new keyboard scale the heights or be shot down in flames? Find out in our exclusive review...

Vintage Vibe 64 Piano

Electro-mechanical Piano

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Rhodes restoration specialists Vintage Vibe have turned their expertise to manufacturing. So how does their creation compare to the classics?

Studiologic Sledge

Virtual Analogue Synthesizer

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Studiologic’s new Waldorf-powered polysynth is here and it’s very yellow indeed. Put your sunglasses on and meet the Sledge...

Novation Mininova

Synthesizer

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Novation go back to their portable synth roots with a compact gem that reworks the Ultranova synth engine and adds a few extras...

Clavia Nord C2D

Digital Combo, Tonewheel & Pipe Organ

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The Nord C2D expands on the success of its predecessor with an improved Hammond emulation and the addition, for the first time, of real drawbars.

Roland Jupiter 50

Performance Synthesizer

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Roland’s Jupiter 80 has gained a little brother in the shape of the Jupiter 50. Does this slimmed-down synth offer the same Supernatural sound?

John Bowen Synth Design Solaris

Synthesizer

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Years in the making, John Bowen’s Solaris is finally with us. So is this hugely ambitious synthesizer everything we hoped it would be?

Analogue Solutions Leipzig S

Analogue Synthesizer

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Analogue Solutions make a bid for your cash with a retro-styled synth offering big, fat Moog-style sounds and a built-in sequencer. Could this be their best synth yet?

Moog Minitaur

Analogue Bass Synthesizer

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The Minitaur may look like a simple beast, but there’s much more to Moog’s most affordable synth than meets the eye...

Vermona Perfourmer 2

Analogue Synthesizer

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Vermona have beefed up their four-voice synth and the result is an analogue monster with the emphasis firmly on performance.

Casio Privia PX3

Stage Piano

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An 88-note hammer-action stage piano as affordable as this seems far too good to be true. Is there a catch?

Spotlight

Keyboard Synthesizers

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Self-contained keyboard synths have an immediacy that is seldom matched by synth modules or software instruments. There's a great variety of them available at the moment, but how do you know which one is right for you? Here’s a selection of the models we've looked at over the last couple of years, with links to the SOS reviews, to help you decide.

Arturia MiniBrute

Analogue Monosynth

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Arturia have broken away from their soft-synth roots with the MiniBrute, a 100 percent analogue monosynth. We put it to the test in our world-exclusive review.

Korg Monotron Delay & Duo

Analogue Synthesizers

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Korg’s analogue tribe has two new members, both with little more than pocket‑money prices. Resistance may be futile...

Teenage Engineering OP1

Portable Synthesizer

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The toy‑like exterior of Teenage Engineering’s OP1 belies the versatile synth, sequencer, sampler and recorder hidden within. We retreat to our bedroom and put it though its paces...

ArturiaAnalog Experience

The Laboratory

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The latest addition to Arturia’s Analog Experience series takes their hybrid software/hardware synth concept even further.

Clavia Nord Stage 2 HA88

Performance Keyboard

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Synth, organ, piano: the Nord Stage 2 does it all, and now even lets you load and play your own samples. Is this the best Stage yet?

Roland Jupiter 80

Performance Synthesizer

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The Jupiter 8 looms large in synthesizer history, and any synth bearing the name has a lot to live up to. Is the Jupiter 80 destined for the same legendary status? Find out in our world‑exclusive review...

Roland RD700NX

Digital Piano

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Roland are hardly new to the digital piano game, and with years of experience to draw on, their new stage piano should be something rather special. Let's find out...

Roland V-Piano Evolution

Modelled Piano

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Rolands deluxe V-Piano has evolved, courtesy of a free software update...

Clavia Nord Piano 88

Stage Piano

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Clavia have directed all their keyboard-making know-how into a single, lightweight stage piano — so it ought to be good...

Formanta Polivoks Synthesizer

The Story Of The Polivoks

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The fall of the Iron Curtain revealed a surprise for Western musicians: a flourishing Soviet synthesizer industry. Its flagship instrument was crude, cheaply made, horrible to play — and sounded like nothing else...

Formanta Polivoks Synthesizer | Audio Files

Hear For Yourself

The Formanta Polivoks is becoming an increasingly familiar sound to Western ears — it is, for example, all over Franz Ferdinand’s most recent album Tonight. But for those who haven’t heard this mighty Russian beast in action, Sam Inglis created a few examples to accompany Gordon Reid’s Retrozone feature.

Yamaha CP1

Stage Piano

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Yamahas new flagship stage piano is unashamedly specialist and expensive. How does it rank alongside the best sampled and modelled alternatives, or indeed the original instruments it strives to emulate?

Akai Miniak

Analogue Modelling Synthesizer

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This versatile compact synth takes the essence of its close cousin, the Alesis Micron, and adds a twist...

Clavia Nord C2

Digital Combo, Tonewheel & Pipe Organ

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The Nord C2 takes the Hammond, Farfisa and Vox emulations of its C1 predecessor and plunges headlong into the Baroque with a very impressive pipe organ.

Korg SV1

‘Stage Vintage’ Keyboard

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The brand new Korg SV1 rejoices in a collection of retro keyboard sounds and lovingly sampled acoustic pianos. Read all about it in our world exclusive review!

Manikin Electronic Memotron

Digital Keyboard

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Have you ever longed for the sound and style of a Mellotron without the impracticality, unreliability and team of men required to move it? If so, you need yearn no more — thanks to the Memotron...

Logan String Melody II

Keyboard Retrospec

Until the ‘70s, the only way to reproduce the lush sound of an orchestral string section on stage was with the somewhat unwieldy Mellotron. And then something wonderful happened...

Korg Microkorg XL

Synthesizer & Vocoder

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The hugely popular Microkorg — the worlds best-selling synth for the past few years, according to its makers — has gained what Korg describe as a big brother. Will it repeat the success of its sibling?

Clavia Nord Electro 3

Virtual Electromechanical Keyboard

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You cant please all of the people all of the time, Abraham Lincoln once said — but Clavia aim to prove him wrong with their new Nord Electro 3 keyboard.

Roland V-Piano

Modelled Piano

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Creating a digitally modelled piano is a fantastically difficult thing to do, but that hasnt deterred Roland... Introducing the V-Piano — the worlds first hardware modelling piano.

Kurzweil SP3X

Stage piano

Thumbnail for article: Kurzweil SP3XIn November 2007 we reviewed Kurzweil’s SP2X stage piano, and it underwent a typically rigorous and unforgiving examination in the process. So how will their latest version, the SP3X, perform?

Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard

Digital Synthesizer

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Waldorf build on the success of their Blofeld synth by adding not only a keyboard, but also sample RAM.

Moog Voyager Old School

Analogue Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Moog Voyager Old SchoolThe Voyager Old School sees Moog returning to their roots, but is there a place for an all-analogue, 1970s-style synth in the 21st century?

Arturia Analog Factory Experience

Software Synth & Hardware Controller

Arturia's 'hybrid instrument' teams a custom keyboard with their massive synth patch library plug-in. Is this the way forward for hardware/software integration?

Waldorf Blofeld

Digital Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Waldorf BlofeldIn 2004 it looked like game over for Waldorf, but the German company are back, and with a hardware synth that more than lives up to their former reputation...

Clavia Nord Wave

Performance Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Clavia Nord WaveClavia are as well known for their instruments' red livery as they are for the quality of their virtual analogue synths. The new Nord Wave has definitely got the colour scheme, but can it live up to the sonic reputation of its forebears?

Clavia Nord C1

Digital Combo & Tonewheel Organ

Thumbnail for article: Clavia Nord C1With the demand for (and prices of) old combo and tonewheel organs rising all the time, a keyboard that emulates both at a reasonable cost seems like an excellent idea - but can the Nord C1 cut it when compared to its ancestors?

Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 08

Analogue Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 08The reputation of Sequential Circuits is up there with the likes of Moog and ARP, but is the first Prophet in 20 years a worthy addition to that heritage or a cash-in on former glories?

Roland V-Synth GT

Variphrase Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Roland V-Synth GTIn 2003 the original V-Synth represented a bold leap forward in synthesizer technology. Can Roland take the concept further with the new V-Synth GT? Read on...

Streetly Mellotron M4000

Tape-based Keyboard

Thumbnail for article: Streetly Mellotron M4000It's over 40 years since its inception, but the Mellotron has proved to be surprisingly enduring. We meet the men who resurrected the original sampler and review the most technologically sophisticated Mellotron ever, the brand-new M4000.

Korg R3 Synth/Vocoder

Synthesizer & Vocoder Keyboard

Korg's new synth may be small, but there's much more to it than meets the eye...

Roland VP550

Vocal & Ensemble Keyboard

Roland already have one of the best-loved vocoding keyboard instruments to their name, in the shape of the vintage VP330 Vocoder Plus. Is their 2007 take on the same concept destined for similar classic status?

Eminent 310 String Synthesizer

Retrozone

The world's first commercially available string synthesizer, the Eminent 310, came from an unlikely source, a Dutch home organ manufacturer. It was further advanced through an even more unlikely partnership, with the legendary American synth makers ARP...

Roland SH201

Analogue Modelling Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Roland SH201The SH201 - a versatile new modelling synth from Roland or a cash-in on past glories? Let's find out...

The Story Of The Clavioline

Retrozone

The first electronic instrument to reach a mass market, the Selmer Clavioline pioneered many of the basic concepts of synthesis, along with a few features that are still remarkable today.

Novation Xiosynth

Synthesizer & Audio Interface

Thumbnail for article: Novation XiosynthSynthesizer, USB audio interface, MIDI controller — Novation's Xiosynth does it all, and at a very reasonable price...

Dave Smith MEK

Analogue & Digital Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Dave Smith MEKPushing at the boundaries of synthesis, as ever, Dave Smith's Evolver range continues to, er, evolve...

Korg Micro X

Synthesizer

They say that good things come in small packages — but just how much synthesizer can Korg cram into the tiny Micro X?

The Story Of The Davolisint

Retrozone

It lacked most of the features we'd expect from even a basic synth, but this rare Italian keyboard had a charm all of its own.

Little Phatty by Bob Moog

Programmable Monophonic Analogue Synthesizer

Bob Moog's final project carries his visionary synthesizer design into the future.

Korg Radias

Synthesizer & Vocoder

Thumbnail for article: Korg RadiasThe Radias is described by Korg as a synth and vocoder, but that's somewhat modest — it manages to cram analogue modelling, S&S, FM and formant synthesis into its stylish frame, plus a host of sound-shaping and triggering facilities. Plus that vocoder...

M-Audio Prokeys 88

88-note Stage Piano

Thumbnail for article: M-Audio Prokeys 88M-Audio have applied the same economies of scale to this digital piano that they have to their controller keyboards, with the result that the Prokeys 88 retails for well under £500, with the cut-down Prokeys 88SX costing far less.

Dave Smith PolyEvolver Keyboard

Four-voice Analogue & Digital Synth

Thumbnail for article: Dave Smith PolyEvolver KeyboardThe Evolver began as a mono desktop unit, then became polyphonic, and now there's a polyphonic keyboard version. It's almost as if Dave Smith's latest synth is steadily evolving back into his earlier Prophet 5... We check it out.

Clavia Nord Stage 88

Keyboard

Thumbnail for article: Clavia Nord Stage 88Combining several types of sound generation in one instrument, Clavia's Nord Stage harks back to the multi-keyboards of the 1970s. Is it a funky revivalist, or should it be considered a thing of the past?

Creamware Minimax ASB

Modelled Analogue Synth

Creamware's Minimax is certainly not the first digital emulation of a Minimoog to be released — nor even Creamware's first. But it bucks the recent trend for software recreations of vintage synths — by being hardware. Can it replace the real deal?

Access Virus TI

Modelled Analogue Synth

Thumbnail for article: Access Virus TIThe Virus TI promises to bridge the divide between hardware and software instruments, and create a world of Total Integration, while still offering the classic Virus sound. Is it a hard reality, or have Access gone totally soft?

Kawai MP8

Digital Stage Piano

Kawai's last few digital pianos have been finely wrought things of beauty: solidly built keyboards with an amazingly realistic playing action and beautifully sampled piano timbres. But their latest claims to surpass all of those. Can it possibly be true?

Ta Horng iSmart

Rubber Fold-away USB MIDI Keyboard

Note: this is a genuine product, not an April Fool hoax!

NI Xpress Keyboards

Software Synths

Hammond XK3/XLK3 & Leslie 2121/2101

Modelled Tonewheel Organ & Rotary Speaker System

Hammond‘s new B3 was the best-ever digital emulation of an electromechanical organ, but at over £15,000 it didn't come cheap. Fortunately, the XK3 puts the New B3's sound engine into a much more affordable package...

Korg Kontrol 49

USB MIDI Controller Keyboard

Korg's Microkontrol was a highly versatile, yet compact MIDI controller — but perhaps, with its three octaves of miniature keys, it was too compact. With its four-octave, full-size keyboard, the Kontrol 49 looks set to put that right...

Fatar Studiologic VMK188

88-note Piano-action Controller Keyboard

No-one can doubt Fatar's long-established record for making quality MIDI controller keyboards, but that market has become highly competitive over the past couple of years. Can the new VMK188 hold its own against all the budget alternatives?

Roland Juno-D

Sample-based Synthesizer

Giving a modern instrument the same name as a line of vintage analogues that have an assured place in the synth hall of fame invites comparisons. So is the Juno-D the rightful heir to the Juno throne or more of a young pretender?

Alesis Micron

Modelled Analogue Synthesizer

Less really is more — the 'smaller' name suggests a cut-down follow-up to 2003's Ion synth, but in fact the Micron includes most of the spec of its predecessor, and has added effects and a built-in sequencer too.

Access Virus TI

PREVIEW: Virtual Analogue Synthesizer

It's back! And it's deadlier than ever! We get a first look preview of the next-generation Virus...

Voyager By Bob Moog

Version 2 OS Updates • Anniversary Edition • VX351 • CP251

Since the release of the Voyager analogue monosynth last year, Bob Moog's company have been busy producing OS updates, special-edition versions, and accessories. We bring you up to date with a look at the lot.

Clavia Nord Modular G2

Software-controlled Modular Synth

The Nord Modular offered a classic blend of flexible software and well-designed hardware in 1998. But can the improved G2 keep up with the soft synths of 2004?

Clavia Nord Lead 2X

Virtual Analogue Performance Synth

The follow-up to Clavia's Nord Lead 3 is not the Nord Lead 4 (well, not yet), but a beefed-up version of the Nord Lead 2! We find out why, and how it improves on the original.

Yamaha Motif ES

Music Production Synthesizer

Two and a half years after the launch of Yamaha's impressive Motif workstation synth, the range has been further enhanced and upgraded. How much better can it get? We find out...

Yamaha S90

Weighted-action Keyboard Synth

Yamaha have taken a weighted keyboard from their latest digital pianos, added high-quality piano samples and Motif sounds, and thrown in a playback sequencer and arpeggiator, and master-keyboard facilities. Left to simmer, the S90 is the result...

Roland VR760

Performance Keyboard

This impressive-looking instrument provides modelled classic organ, piano and supporting timbres, and is designed to appeal to keyboard players looking for an all-round stage tool — though it could easily form the centrepiece of a home setup too.

Access Virus Indigo 2 Redback

Modelled Analogue Synthesizer • Virus OS 6 Update

This limited edition collectable synth comes complete with the advantages of new features in the latest Virus OS — and these features can also be added to previous Virus synths via a free update.

Alesis Ion

Modelled Analogue Synthesizer

The Ion might be a latecomer to the world of analogue modelling, but this has afforded Alesis the opportunity of learning from all the virtual analogues already on the market. Free and radical, or negative particle? We find out...

Korg BX3 Organ

Dual-manual Modelled Combo Organ

Korg's CX3 digitally modelled combo organ went down a storm when we reviewed it some two years ago. Now it's time to find out if the dual-manual BX3 is twice as good.

Hartmann Neuron

Neuronal Resynthesizing Keyboard

What if an instrument could combine the realism of a sampler with the complete control over its sounds that only a true synth can offer? That's what the long-awaited Hartmann Neuron claims to do. We put it to the test...

Hammond B3

Modelled Electromechanical Tonewheel Organ

Synthesized, sampled, or modelled, the Hammond B3 tonewheel organ has inspired many imitations over the years. Now, for 15 thousand pounds, you can own Hammond's attempt at recreating the original. How close have they come? We consider this year's Model...

Voyager By Bob Moog

Analogue Performance Monosynth

Ever since production of the original Minimoog ended in 1981, there have been regular attempts to create a product that would capture the hearts of keyboard players and synth fanatics everywhere in the same way. At last, the man behind the Mini has brought us the Voyager — an updated version of the original Minimoog for the 21st century. How does it compare to the original, how does it sound, and how does it play? Read this specially extended 10-page review and find out.

Kawai MP9500

Professional Stage Piano

Every pianist dreams of owning a grand piano, but is it really possible to combine the feel of a grand into a stage piano and combine it with great sounds and master-keyboard functionality?

Korg Microkorg

Modelled Analogue Synthesizer & Vocoder

Korg's Electribe grooveboxes presented their analogue-modelling technology in an affordable, dance-friendly format and were a smash success. Now, using the MS2000 virtual analogue synth as a starting point, they're hoping for similar budget triumph with the fun-sized Microkorg...

Analogue Solutions Vostok

Analogue Solutions Vostok Analogue Pin-matrix Synth

Pin-matrix synths, like EMS's legendary VCS3 and Synthi A(KS), are fairly scarce these days, but Analogue Solutions' Vostok revisits the concept in more affordable form. Is it a vintage-inspired classic, or is it just history?

Yamaha SO8

Yamaha S08 88-note Weighted-action Synth

Finding an affordable keyboard with a good weighted action and a healthy selection of sounds suitable for studio and live use isn't as easy as you might think. Could Yamaha's S08 be the Holy Grail?

Viscount DB3

Viscount DB3 Digital Drawbar Organ

Years after releasing their successful OB series of digital drawbar organs under the Oberheim brand, Viscount have updated their take on organ modelling with the new DB series. But the march of progress seems to have executed an abrupt about-turn...

40 Years Of Korg Gear

The History Of Korg - Part 1

Over the 40 years of their existence, Korg have produced a huge variety of groundbreaking music gear, from electronic percussion to industry-standard synths, and from guitar tuners to digital recording workstations. This month, we look back at how it all started...

ACCESS VIRUS INDIGO 2

Access Virus Indigo 2 Modelled Analogue Synthesizer

Hot on the heels of the recent Virus C comes the Virus Indigo 2, now upgraded to include the new Virus C synth engine. And what a difference it makes!

ROLAND VK8

Virtual Tonewheel Organ

The VK8 is Roland's latest addition to their long-established VK series of tonewheel organ emulations. But due to the current popularity of the tonewheel sound, there are now plenty of other Hammond imitators around. Can the new VK stand its ground?

REBIRTH OF THE COOL: Mellotron

The Mellotron MkVI (retro)

The Mellotron has had a chequered history, from '60s 'must-have' to '80s has-been, but it's survived bankruptcy and technological progress, and now it's back, in a brand-new, reworked form. We relate the story of this classic instrument, and see how the new version compares to the old.

A TALE OF TWO STRING SYNTHS

Roland RS202 & Multivox MX202 (retro)

The Roland RS202 and Multivox MS202 are two classic string synthesizers that seem to share more than a passing physical and sonic resemblance. We investigate the machines and the myths, and solve the mystery once and for all.

THE RETURN OF THE AX-MAN

Akai AX80 (Retro)

Prior to taking over the sampling world, Akai launched a hybrid analogue/digital synth with a unique interface.

FOUR IN ONE

The ARP Quadra Part 2 (Retro)

Last month we finished with the question, 'What is the Quadra? Is it a turkey of the first order, or a misunderstood and overlooked masterpiece?' This month, we'll take a closer look at the instrument itself to find the answer.

FOUR IN ONE

ARP Quadra - Part 1 (Retro)

Combining strings, a monosynth, a bass synth, and a polyphonic synthesizer, did ARP create the keyboard equivalent of 'Wash and Go', or a jack of all trades and master of none?

NOVATION K-STATION

Modelled Performance Synth

Novation seem to be on a roll. Scarcely had the monotimbral A-Station made the cover of our December 2001 issue, when news broke of a £500 keyboard version. We look at one of the first UK production models.

OBERHEIM OB12

v1.5 Analogue Modelling Synth

The Oberheim/Viscount OB12 was already a well-specified virtual analogue synth when it was launched in 2000, but it failed to gain much of a following. Now, after an OS upgrade and a cut in price, it's seriously good value for money...

FRENCH CONNECTION

Analogue Systems French Connection Analogue Keyboard Controller

The Ondes Martenot was one of the earliest 20th-century electronic musical instruments, and found favour with composers of avant-garde orchestral works for many years. Now, thanks to Cornish company Analogue Systems, it's getting a new lease of life...

CLAVIA NORD ELECTRO

Clavia Nord Electro Virtual Electromechanical Keyboard

Electromechanical keyboards - electric organs, electric pianos, and so on - are popular at the moment, and there's no shortage of software plug-ins modelling them. Clavia's Nord Electro attempts exactly the same thing in hardware - but how successfully?

PROG SPAWN!

The Rise And Fall Of Rocky Mount Instruments (Retro) Gordon Reid

The keyboard instruments created by American manufacturer RMI may be deeply obscure now, but without them, '70s progressive rock could have a very different sonic signature.

Sequential Prophet VS

Vector Synthesizer (retro)

Boasting one of the most intuitive methods of sound creation ever devised, 1986's Prophet VS was meant to be US synth giant Sequential's commercial saviour. Sadly, it didn't succeed - but it did earn itself the status of American Classic...

SX CRIME!

Teisco SX400 Analogue Synthesizer (retro)

Not every old analogue synth can be a classic. Gordon Reid reflects on one that is not desirable, probably won't appreciate and, in many analogue enthusiasts' opinions, does not deserve to be hunted down - except, perhaps, to be put out of its misery!

SOUNDS OF THE '80S

Sounds of the '80s Part 2: The Yamaha DX1 & Its Successors (Retro)

In the second instalment of this two-part retro, Gordon Reid recalls FM's finest hour, and describes the heyday of what was perhaps the most successful family of synthesizers ever developed.

Yamaha GS1 & DX1

Part 1: The Birth, Rise and Further Rise of FM Synthesis (Retro)

Although FM synthesis has its roots in the sixties, the instruments that popularised it were to dominate the synth scene of the eighties. Gordon Reid uncovers the origins of FM and charts its rise to fame from its unlikely beginings in academic research in the USA.

SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT

Crumar Spirit Analogue Monosynth (retro)

If the Crumar Spirit is one of the best analogue monosynths the world has ever known, how come you've never heard of it? Gordon Reid explains...

Clavia Nord Lead 3

Advanced Subtractive Performance Synthesizer

Clavia's new third-generation Nord Lead synthesizer augments its familiar virtual analogue modelling with enhanced FM synthesis capabilities, and introduces a striking new visual twist to the usual controller-rich Nord user interface. Simon Trask trips the light fantastic with Clavia's new Lead...

MOOD INDIGO

Access Virus Indigo/Virus OS v4

Originally planned as a limited edition, the 37-note Virus Indigo virtual analogue keyboard synth surprised even its makers - demand ran so high that it became a separate product. Gordon Reid considers the newest strain of this retro Virus, and the latest v4 OS software revision.

Roland RS9

64-voice Synthesizer

Roland's new entry-level performance synth is a full-length yet lightweight synth-action keyboard with ready-to-go sounds derived from recent JV and XV expansion boards. Nick Magnus investigates the RS9's family tree.

Korg KARMA

Music Workstation

Korg's new music workstation combines the synthesis, multi-effects and sequencing capabilities of the Triton with a new performance-based interactive music generation system — one that goes way beyond traditional arpeggiators and auto-accompaniment sections for sophistication and versatility. Simon Trask is SOS's KARMA policeman...

Alesis A6 Andromeda

16-voice Analogue Synth

Looking like a star cruiser, or something from the film 2001 (rather than just the year), Alesis' Andromeda is the first analogue polysynth that approaches the complexity of a digital workstation. But does analogue necessarily equate to quality? Gordon Reid cuts through the hype and investigates for SOS.

Yamaha Motif

Workstation Synthesizer

Rumours of a new Yamaha synth were circulating at January's NAMM show, but nothing was confirmed until a few weeks later, when SOS were invited to Yamaha's London R&D Centre. Matt Bell meets the Motif...

Roland XV88

Synthesizer

The XV88 is the first of Roland's new XV range of synths to sport a keyboard, and also adds all manner of real-time control facilities. Gordon Reid checks it out with two of the new SRX-format sound expansion boards.

Korg CX3

Modelling Tonewheel Organ

The name may be the same as their old 1980 model, but the new Korg CX3 now employs physical modelling techniques in the eternal quest for the classic Hammond/Leslie sound. Gordon Reid finds out if it measures up to the real thing.

Yamaha DJX II

Dance Music Workstation

Looking like a 23rd-century Minimoog pumped full of anabolic steroids, Yamaha's sequel to the hugely successful DJX offers more of the same sampling, sequencing and performance features. Paul Farrer doesn't want to rock, DJX — but it's making him feel so nice...

All About EMS, Part 2

Exploration

In the final part of our two-part Retrozone, Gordon Reid charts EMS's further achievements, the reasons for their decline in the '70s and the company's phoenix-like rebirth in the '90s.

Novation Supernova II

Modelling Workstation

The Supernova modelling workstation earned a pile of accolades for its excellent 'analogue' sounds, superb multitimbral effects, and its user-friendly, knobular interface. But Novation have now withdrawn the original and replaced it with the Supernova II. Can something so good get better still? Paul Ward finds out...

All About EMS, Part 1

Exploration

In the first part of a two-part series, Gordon Reid charts the rise of EMS and their creation of the world's first self-contained portable synthesizer, the VCS3, and its velocity-sensitive keyboard, the DK1.

Emu Systems Emulator II

8-bit Sampling Keyboard, Part 2 (Retro)

Paul Wiffen continues his homage to the first 'musical' sampling keyboard, which brought sampling out of the dark ages of simple trigger playback and into the realm of filters, envelopes and performance controls which we take for granted on all modern samplers. The Emulator II was, as he explains, also responsible for other major innovations like on-board hard drives and CD-ROM libraries...

Oberheim/Viscount OB12

Analogue Modelling Synth

Legend has it that Sir Alec Guiness's character in Star Wars was named after Oberheim's original OB1 synthesizer; and, like that character, the OB-series has now overcome death to reappear in virtual form. Gordon Reid finds the new OB12 more powerful than he could possibly have imagined - at the price, at least...

Roland VA7

Arranger Keyboard

Roland's impressive range of 'next generation' instruments have seen the company share a number of new technologies across a wide range of products. The latest of these is the VA7, an arranger keyboard which incorporates their revolutionary Variphrase technology. Paul Farrer makes arrangements...

Emu Systems Emulator II, Part 1 (Retro)

8-bit Sampling Keboard

Unil the EII came along, Paul Wiffen had no time for sampling as a musical tool. But when he found all the filtering and enveloping he was used to from analogue synthesis, plus a sound fidelity which he hadn't heard before, he was a convert...

Evolution MK125 Dance Station

MIDI Keyboard Controller

With full-sized velocity-sensitive keys and versatile control capabilities, Evolution's diminutive MK125 could find many uses as a MIDI remote keyboard. Martin Walker tries one out for size.

Korg Mono/poly

Analogue Synthesizer (Retro)

Derek Johnson collects £200 as he passes 'Go' on his tour of one of Korg's more obscure vintage boards.

Roland MRS2 Promars

Analogue Synthesizer (Retro)

The Roland Promars helped to usher in a new era of microprocessor-controlled analogue synthesizer, but has subsequently been all but forgotten. Gordon Reid remembers the world's only 'Compuphonic' monosynth.

Korg MS2000

Analogue Modelling Synthesizer

Korg have been at the forefront of analogue modelling technology, but the new MS2000 is their first instrument to mimic the style as well as the sound of their analogue classics, right down to its incorporation of a virtual patching system. Derek Johnson powers it up.

Waldorf Microwave XTK

Wavetable Synthesizer

Until now, the only implementation of Waldorf's wavetable synthesis with a built in keyboard was their pricey Wave megasynth. Now, however, they've repackaged their more affordable Microwave XT in an attractive keyboard unit. Paul Nagle tries it out.

Yamaha GX1 Synthesizer, Part 2 (retro)

Exploration

Last month, Gordon Reid told us how he found one of the world's rarest synthesizers in Australia, and of the trouble he went to to get it home. This month, he explains what it is about the Yamaha GX1 that made it all worthwhile...

Access Virus B

Modelled Analogue Synth Module, KB Keyboard & v3.0 Software

It is said that the next 100 years will see the rise of Superbugs, but Access's mutant virus is already here. The killer Virus modelled analogue synth has had a hardware upgrade to complement its ever-evolving software feature set, and is now available in a keyboard version. Paul Nagle allows the improved version to infect his studio and become delirious with delight...

Yamaha GX1 Synthesizer, Part 1

Exploration

In the first part of a special two-part feature, Gordon Reid tells the amazing story of Yamaha's ultra-rare GX1 analogue megasynth — and how it ended up in his living room...

Yamaha MOX6

Synthesizer Workstation

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Yamaha’s MOX range offers unusually tight integration with your DAW. Is this the way forward for synthesizer workstations?

Korg Kronos

Keyboard Workstation

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Korg really know what they're doing when it comes to workstations, and their new one has been eagerly anticipated. Meet the Kronos in our world exclusive review...

Arturia Origin Keyboard

Synthesizer Workstation

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Arturia have taken their Origin concept further with the addition of a keyboard and new modules. So is it now the only synthesizer you'll ever need?

Kurzweil PC3LE7

Keyboard Workstation

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Kurzweil's new workstation maintains the company's reputation for solid reliability, and does so at a lower cost than you might expect...

Korg Microstation

Keyboard Workstation

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Korgs latest keyboard blurs the boundaries between their affordable Micro range and their pro workstations.

Korg M3 Xpanded

Sampling Workstation

Thumbnail for article: Korg M3 XpandedThe M3 workstation, already a powerful beast, has gained impressive new features and an ‘Xpanded’ name tag. Is it now top of its class?

Roland Fantom G

Keyboard Workstation

Thumbnail for article: Roland Fantom GRoland's Fantom workstation reaches its fourth generation with the 'G' series. So just how great is the Fantom family's great-grandchild?

Korg M50

Synthesizer Workstation

Thumbnail for article: Korg M50Is there still a place for the workstation in the computer dominated studio of 2008? Korg certainly think so, and they're making a compelling case with their brand-new, touchscreen-equipped M50, offering much of the power of the acclaimed M3 for around half the price. Our world exclusive review digs deeper...

Yamaha Motif XS7

Workstation Synthesizer

Thumbnail for article: Yamaha Motif XS7The new Motif XS range is top of the pile when it comes to Yamaha synth workstation technology, and thus will be going head-to-head with flagship contenders from other big-name manufacturers. Does the XS have what it takes?

Korg M3 Synth/Sampler

Workstation & Sampler

Thumbnail for article: Korg M3 Synth/SamplerKeyboard workstations have always been something of a Korg speciality, ever since they created the concept almost 20 years ago with the M1. Does their latest offering, the M3, live up to its pedigree?

Roland Juno G

Keyboard Workstation

As Roland revisit the Juno name once again, we look at whether their latest offering is a serious contender, or merely a bantamweight Fantom.

Korg TR88

Keyboard Workstation

Thumbnail for article: Korg TR88Korg's Triton LE series has evolved into the TR range, but does it deliver any more than a new paint-job?

Korg STR1 & OASYS v1.1

Plucked String Synthesizer Expansion & Software Upgrade

An amazing new string-modelling synth is added to Korg's flagship workstation.

Yamaha M06

Workstation Synth

Thumbnail for article: Yamaha M06Looking to create a more affordable keyboard version of their Motif range of workstations, Yamaha have pared back the spec of the Motif ES a little — though not much — to create the M06 and M08.

Alesis Fusion

Synth Workstation

Thumbnail for article: Alesis FusionIn these days of fast, flexible computers and powerful virtual instruments, has the hardware workstation synth had its day? Alesis's Fusion mounts the case for the defence, offering four synthesis types, sampling, sequencing and hard disk recording — for under £900.

Korg OASYS: Part 2

Workstation Synth

Thumbnail for article: Korg OASYS: Part 2PART 2: We finish our examination of Korg's new mega-workstation, taking in the remaining synth engines, the sampler, the KARMA algorithms and the onboard sequencer, and draw our conclusions about it...

Korg OASYS: Part 1

Workstation Synth

Thumbnail for article: Korg OASYS: Part 1For over 15 years, Korg have produced the world's most successful workstation synths, and the OASYS is their new £5400 flagship, their attempt to take the concept to the next level. In the first instalment of our two-part in-depth test, we assess how they have fared...

Roland Fantom Xa

Workstation Synth

At £1099, the Xa is the most affordable keyboard in the Fantom range. But, inevitably, features have been removed to make it such a bargain. Have Roland thrown out the works from the workstation?

Korg OASYS (Preview)

Keyboard Workstation

Long before its debut this Spring, the new keyboard workstation from Korg was already the subject of much speculation. We find out what's really going on inside the OASYS's sleek metal case.

Open Labs Open Synth Neko 64

Computer-based Keyboard Workstation

It's a great concept — a keyboard synth that can run computer plug-ins. Open Labs have created one by putting an entire PC inside a keyboard. But is it a recording revolution, or an overpriced processor in a fancy case?

Roland Fantom X

Synth Workstation

Roland's original Fantom workstation wasn't really much competition for Korg's Triton, so it was no shock to see it revamped last year as the hugely improved Fantom S. But surprisingly, Roland have done it again. What's new this time around?

Korg Triton Extreme

Synth Workstation

Korg have redefined the workstation synth many times, and each time it has become harder to see how they could better their previous achievements. The Triton Extreme is a bold new colour, but does the rest of it measure up?

Kurzweil K2661

Synth Workstation

Kurzweil's high-quality K-series workstations have always commanded a premium price tag in the UK, but it's been a while since the range's underlying technology has been updated. Is their latest offering still competitive in 2004?

Elektron Monomachine

Multiple-Synthesis Keyboard & Sequencer

Elektron maintain their reputation for producing unusual, innovative instruments with the bizarrely shaped Monomachine; it features six types of synthesis engine, a versatile sequencer, and effects. Is it refreshingly original, or a step too far?

Roland Fantom S & Fantom S88

Synth Workstations

Despite the synth-spangled history of the company, it's been many years since a Roland product ruled the high-end keyboard roost, and 2001's Fantom workstation failed to change this. However, there's much more to the new Fantom S than one extra letter...

Creamware Noah

Instrument-modelling Hardware Synthesizer

Software instruments are flexible, upgradeable, and frequently offer better user interfaces, while hardware offers better tactile feedback and is easier to use live. But what if you could combine the plus points of both? Enter the Noah...

Alesis QS6.2 & QS8.2

Expandable 64-voice Sample-based Synths

Alesis' QS6.2 and QS8.2 may induce a feeling of déjà vu — they look remarkably similar to 1995's QS6 and QS8. But eight years on, surely the spec has been significantly upgraded to reflect the passage of time...?

Roland V-Synth

Variphrase Synthesizer

The V-Synth is a classic case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. None of its impressive features are new — they've all been seen on previous Roland products — but nevertheless, it's the best new synth in years. We explain why...

GEM Promega 3

Performance Keyboard

GEM have made all kinds of keyboards, from organs to home keyboards to synth workstations. Their latest incorporates physical-modelling technology, samples of famous instruments, effects, and plenty of real-time control options to form a 320-note polyphonic monster.

Novation KS4 & KS5

Modelling Synth Workstations

The monotimbral K-Station offered keyboard players an affordable Novation -- but now, for a bit more money, the company have released the KS4 and KS5, which add plenty of new features, better keyboards and multitimbrality. The perfect marriage at the perfect price? We find out.

Korg Triton Studio

Production Workstation

Korg's Trinity and Triton have led the workstation market for so long that updating the concept can't have been easy - after all, how do you improve the best? So what's new in the Triton Studio, and will it keep Korg comfortably ahead?

ROLAND FANTOM

Roland Fantom FA76 Keyboard Workstation

Korg's Triton has dominated the workstation synth market for several years, but the past 12 months have seen challenges to this position firstly from Yamaha, with their Motif, and now from Roland. Does the new Fantom have what it takes?

Korg M1

Digital Synth Workstation (Retro)

The all-time best-selling synthesizer, Korg's M1 laid the groundwork for synths that followed. We go behind the scenes to reveal the secrets of its success.

Korg Triton LE

Keyboard Workstation

Korg have dominated the top-end workstation market for several years with their Triton range, but apart from the rack version, there have been no lower-priced spin-offs. The Triton Le keyboard changes that, offering many of the Triton's powerful features at a more affordable price.

LEADING MOTIF?

Yamaha Motif 7 Music Production Synth Workstation

In these days of virtual instruments and fully featured software sequencers, why should you even consider spending £2000 on a cumbersome hardware synth workstation? If the workstation is as well thought-out as Yamaha's new Motif, perhaps you should. Derek Johnson & Debbie Poyser are suitably impressed...

Kurzweil K2600X

Keyboard Workstation

Kurzweil's latest workstation is very much the product of evolution, rather than revolution. Paul Ward finds out whether it's keeping pace with the rest of the synth world...

Kurzweil 1000/1200-series

Workstations (Retro)

Kurzweil have always enjoyed a reputation for manufacturing high-quality workstations — their latest, the K2600, is reviewed this month. But back in the late '80s, this reputation was founded only on their impossibly expensive K250. David Etheridge explains how the 1000-series put them on the map...

Yamaha S80

Workstation Synthesizer

With their latest workstation, Yamaha have clearly taken the view that the difference between a 'dance' instrument and a general-purpose one is more to do with control facilities than sounds. Nick Magnus tries out the S80.

Korg Triton

Music Workstation

Korg's Trinity workstation has, like their earlier instruments, become virtually an industry standard — but far from resting on their laurels, the company have upped the ante still further with the new Triton. Derek Johnson and Debbie Poyser provide an exclusive hands-on review.

Generalmusic Equinox

Keyboard Workstation

Italian firm Generalmusic have made their reputation in the home keyboard market, but their new Equinox is an extremely well-specified professional workstation. Paul Nagle is suitably impressed.

Fairlight Computer

Musical Instrument (Retro)

Norm Leete waxes lyrical about the mega-synth that introduced sampling to the world back in 1980 and went on to appear on innumerable hit singles and albums.

Kurzweil K250

Workstation Keyboard (Retro)

Philip Meehan fondly remembers his first love Ñ a keyboard with the voice of an angel, the mind of a genius and the body of a heavyweight boxer in a big black coat.

Roland G1000

Arranger Workstation

Roland's latest high-end arranger is the company's first for three years, yet it looks strikingly similar to its predecessor. Does it have anything new to offer in an increasingly sophisticated market? Simon Trask arranges some time with the G1000...

Quasimidi Sirius

Dance Workstation

There's a new star in the current galaxy of groovy dance-oriented synths, but does it outshine the rest? Derek Johnson and Debbie Poyser investigate Quasimidi's most comprehensive dance music creation tool yet.

Roland JX305

Groovesynth

Roland have repackaged their techno-centric Groovebox, the MC505, adding a keyboard and removing some of the performance features. The result is the JX305. But have they thrown out the baby with the bathwater? Derek Johnson finds out...

Korg Trinity v3 DRS

Music Workstation

Korg have upgraded their well-established Trinity range of sample-based workstation synths with a new board offering the sonic capabilities of a Z1 polysynth. Simon Trask discovers if polyphony and additional physical models add new Z1ng to the Trinity concept.

Kurzweil K2000VP

Variable Architecture Synthesis Technology Workstation

It's certainly borrowed (for the purposes of this review), and it's unquestionably blue, but is it old or new? Paul Ward checks out Kurzweil's makeover of the legendary K2000 workstation to see whether it's a blushing bride or mutton dressed as lamb...

Yamaha DJX Super DJ

Sampling Keyboard

If you thought home keyboards were all about cheesy organ presets and bossanova backbeats the chances are you are just like Paul Farrer, but as he takes the wraps of Yamaha's new baby and rotates his baseball cap by 180 degrees he is astonished to find that he was completely and utterly wrong...

Emu Systems Emax II

Sampler (Retro)

The high quality converters and resonant filter imbue the 16-bit Emax II with a musicality and sonic character second to none, claims Janet Harniman Cook.

Yamaha EX5

Workstation Synthesizer

Yamaha's new flagship workstation mixes 'n' matches several of the company's existing synthesis technologies and throws in a new one for good measure. But have they over-extended themselves? Simon Trask spends some time with the EX5 to find out...

Technics KN5000

Auto-accompaniment Keyboard

Technics' new flagship keyboard is the company's most sophisticated offering yet — and the first keyboard to provide a full-blown colour LCD screen. But is it really an instrument for today's musician, or has the 'home' keyboard concept had its day? Simon Trask colours in the dots with the KN5000.

Korg S3

Rhythm Workstation (Retro)

The S3 was Korg's 1991 attempt to apply the M1 workstation approach to rhythm and sequencing, but it never attained anything like the success of its more famous keyboard sibling. Paul Nagle explains why.

Kawai K5000W

Advanced Additive Workstation

Ten years after the K5, Kawai return to the technology which gave them the most successful implementation of additive synthesis ever, and include something of everything else they've learnt in the meantime. Paul Wiffen wonders if it all adds up...

Roland XP80

Music Workstation

The latest and largest addition to Roland's XP family is a strapping workstation with a monster sequencer and masses of programming muscle. Paul Nagle puts it through a complete workout...

Emu E4K

Performance Sampling Keyboard

In recent years, samplers have become almost exclusively rackmount devices, widely used as production workhorses, but less so by the gigging musician. With the release of their first keyboard sampler in several years, Emu are hoping to change all that. Paul Wiffen heralds the return of the performer's sampler.

Kurzweil K2500/K2500X

Keyboard Production Station

With more zones than a one-day Travelcard and an impressive array of physical real-time control options, the keyboard version of Kurzweil's K2500 represents a new frontier in digital synthesis. Paul Ward heads for the border...

Kurzweil K2500

Keyboard Production Station (Preview)

The long-awaited keyboard version of Kurzweil's flagship synth is finally unleashed. Paul Ward nearly falls out of his P-RAM with excitement...

Korg Trinity Plus

Music Workstation

Part 2: Gordon Reid concludes his review of Korg's new family of workstations.

Yamaha QS300

Workstation Synthesizer

Some synth manufacturers seem to be hedging their bets lately, building home keyboard auto-accompaniment features into seemingly serious synths, to appeal to both types of keyboard buyer. Will the strategy pay off for Yamaha's QS300? Derek Johnson finds out in style...

Korg Trinity series

Music Workstation

Korg shook the hi-tech recording world in 1988 with the introduction of the M1 workstation. With their new Trinity range, Korg are attempting to update the workstation concept for the 1990s. In the first instalment of this two-part review, Gordon Reid assesses how they have fared.

Technics SX-WSA1

Acoustic Modelling Synthesizer

Technics' first foray into the pro synth market, the WSA1, catapults them to the front of the pack. Martin Russ discovers whether acoustic modelling synthesis really can create gold sounds from base metal.

Korg Trinity

Music Workstation (Preview)

Hot on the heels of their astonishing new Prophecy monophonic synthesizer, Korg are already near completing work on their next range of workstations, entitled Trinity. Gordon Reid was allowed a sneak preview of the next generation...

Roland JS30

Sample Workstation

The JS30 forsakes the familiar rackmount sampler format for desktop presentation, and aims for simplicity and immediacy of operation. Derek Johnson checks it out.

Roland XP50

Music Workstation

Roland's latest attempt to part you from your savings boasts no less than 1700 patches, a well-specified sequencer, comprehensive effects section and expandability via Roland's popular wave expansion boards. Julian Colebeck takes it for a spin.

Technics SX-WSA1

Acoustic Modelling Synthesizer (Preview)

With their background in home keyboards and high-quality electric pianos, it came as something of a surprise that Technics should enter the mainstream synth market with a physical modelling instrument. SOS attended the world preview.

Yamaha W7

Synthesizer Workstation

Yamaha's new Virtual Acoustics instruments provide the cutting edge of sophisticated synthesis technology — at a price. But what is the company doing for the mere mortal musician amongst us? Martin Russ assesses their answer, the new W-series workstations.

Ensoniq TS12

Keyboard

Following hot on the heels of the TS10, the weighted 76-note keyboard and improved features of the TS12 make it a hot contender for 'top workstation'. David Crombie passes judgement.

Keyboards

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