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Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

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Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

Postby BigRedX » Wed Jan 08, 2020 11:23 am

The last time I bought a synth was about 20 years ago so I am massively out of touch with what is available now.

I play Bass VI in a post-punk influenced band and I have a need for a small synth (3 octave keyboard will be fine and I could probably even cope with mini keys). Sound is subjective so I'm open to trying anything to see if I can can get the sorts of sounds I like (generally analog-ish).

What is important:

Small and light. I'm sure that there are plenty of "workstations" that will do what I want, but I don't want to have another large item to carry along with my bass and rig, and often when we play live there is limited room on stage.

Built-in sequencing. At least 4 tracks multi-timbral and for the sequences to be retained when the synth is switched off.

Plenty of controls. For the synthesis side of things. The sequencer can be menu driven, but the synth should have an actual knob or slider for all the main parameters.

Ideally some sort of sample playback capability. I can live without this one if the synthesis side is versatile enough, but it's inclusion would be useful. It doesn't have to massive amounts of sample memory, but it must be possible load samples from an external source and for them to be retained when the synth is switched off.

It would be nice if the synth didn't have an external wall-wart PSU, but this is a compromise I'm prepared to make to get all the other features.

Also I'm sure that there are all sorts of computer and tablet-based solutions, but as someone who already uses a computer system with the other band I play in, I need something simpler for this band. A single device that I can take out of it's case, plug into the mains and PA and be ready to go.

I'm currently using a Yamaha Tenori-On which does most of what I need with a little bit of lateral thinking. It looks great live, but nothing is retained when I switch it off and loading all the samples and sequences from the SD card is tricky and time-consuming, and there are times when a keyboard would be better than remembering which button in the grid to push.

Also we have a keyboard player in the band who uses a Nord Wave and Behringer Deep Mind, so something that compliments these sonically would be useful.

Budget? Under £1000.

What should I be looking at?
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Re: Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

Postby BillB » Sun Jan 12, 2020 11:51 pm

Sequencing: accepting the minimum 4-Part multi-timbral part, do you want workstation type sequencing (polyphonic, full tracks) or monophonic 16-64 notes?

I don’t have any ideas yet, but this question will probably have a strong bearing on what you need.
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Re: Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

Postby BigRedX » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:43 am

BillB wrote:Sequencing: accepting the minimum 4-Part multi-timbral part, do you want workstation type sequencing (polyphonic, full tracks) or monophonic 16-64 notes?

I don’t have any ideas yet, but this question will probably have a strong bearing on what you need.

Thanks.

I think either would be acceptable. Polyphonic and full tracks would be nice, but I have been making do with the Tenori-On which has seven 16 note parts arranged in 16 "blocks" or sequences. I rarely use more than 3 of these 7 parts, and currently only 3 different blocks.
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Re: Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

Postby fatbenelton » Mon Jan 13, 2020 12:04 pm

I can't think of many that hit the spot - especially 37 note. Most are mono timbral or occasionally bi. That aside, some that might work:
- Elektron Analog Keys (used only)
- Elektron Digitone Keys
- Sequential Pro 2 (too expensive?)
- Roland Jupiter XM (glorified arp might stand in for a step sequencer but not song)
- Moog Grandmother - mono but can store 3 x 256 note sequences (might be able to output to other gear?)
Korg Wavestate?
Novation Circuit

Other than that, it's 61 note workstations......
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Re: Looking for a small synth with sequencing and sample playback capabilities

Postby BillB » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:33 pm

Yes, it's a difficult brief to put all of that together in one box
I was wondering about the Elektrons too, but I don't really know them. Reviews on SOS...

One way would be to split the problem, maybe a small sequencer (Akai MPC500's come up quite often and relatively cheap, £150-250) with a synth of your choice. Knobby multi-timbral ones include Novation VA's like the KS4 (4-part).

Or this, just announced
https://www.arturia.com/products/hybrid ... o/overview
with a synth module of your choice.

Or... one of the Roland MC-sequencers (303, 505, 909) plus a controller keyboard.
Or... the Yamaha equivalents, RM1X and RS-7000, the latter being pretty bulky, plus a controller keyboard.
Or.. the new Roland MC-101 or 707, but I have to say I don't understand / have not read into their specs as regards sequencing power and multi-timbrality.

Or Korg EMX2 https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/korg-electribe plus a controller keyboard.
"With 16 parts and 24 notes of polyphony to share amongst them, the Electribe 2 can rightfully claim to be a ‘Music Production Workstation’."

You probably need to decide what you really need as regards sequencing e.g. 'groove station' - more repetitive shorter sequences, probably with limited track count; or 'workstation' DAW type replacements, for full arrangements. Then see what works around that.
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