|GEAR ///////////////STUDIO 2 6 4 4|
Gear research and collecting and whoring and a huge amount of gearlust (specifically synth gear lust) have consumed me for almost 20 years now. What i have learned and forgotten could probably fill volumes of books that no one but me would care to read. i have found only one thing true throughout this quest: gearlust is an incurable disease that will consume you if you let it- and i have. from my simple beginnings with a roland d-5 synth-- which led to needing a sequencer (yamaha qy-10) which led to the need to back it up (alesis datadisk) which begat XXXX which led to YYYY which led to ZZZZZ--- i have always been a victim of this. my old way of cruising every pawnshop and buying/reselling has evolved into surfing craigslist/ebay maniacally. for every expensive synth (or piece of gear in general) you will find hundreds of people who love it and hundreds more who hate it (but find it necessary to list their credentials) take, for example, the Alesis Andromeda (own) which is technically the most sophisticated analog polysynth of all time. likewise, there are similar circumstances surrounding every cheap piece of gear on the market. an interesting phenomena goes with this case where an "industry pro" with "decades of experience" used a radio shack reverb on a snare that sounded "a hundred times better than my thousands of dollars FX unit"
mathematically speaking, i have probably owned "most synthesizers" (well over two hundred and fifty??) and have even used them once in awhile on some tracks. at the end of the day, i have found that i keep synths based on the balance between its form and function (or its sound vs. its usability). take, for example, the kurzweil k2000 series of synths. mathematically, 1 new sound per second for the next 400 years or something like that was the catchphrase. it was near impossible to program, yet the results could be astonishing and complex. for me and my music, it has to be inspiring somehow. if a synth inspires you to play with it and keep playing with it, thats a great plus in its "keeper" column. if not, then its off to ebay with ya!
i am always shocked and awed by songs from people with less gear than i have and yet that sounds way better than me. the fact is, as much as i despise it, that when you have less, it forces you to be more creative. when you have more, you get lazier. people make entire records with a laptop and some plugins! most of my favorite records were made with fewer synths than i have now. which reminds me: i should go make some music!!!
but seriously, you cant rely on the internet for anything other than hundreds of opinions. and like i said before, you will find opinions that say whatever you want, and will pursuade you that its the "best xxxx for yyyy duties"--- which its not, because clearly zzzz is you id10t! it seems to me that people forget to talk about perspective: the best synth for bass isnt a minimoog if you want that classic seinfeld theme snap bass. the best strings dont come from a jupiter if you want orchestral strings. the best arps arent from a synth that you cant program arps on!
my music and the songs that i make come from about 98% hardware. sometime i use plugins as effects after recording something, but most of what you hear comes from a piece sitting in a rack or on a stand. this is probably because i only seem to make music with things i can touch, ie not plugins. usually, my sounds have a voltage running through them.
euro modular: totally addicting. first i had 6u, then 9u, then went whole hog with a lexington case, 2.5 times bigger. if you start, you won't stop, and the tone you can get out of this is amazing. be aware that if you have the budget, you will make dumb purchases "just to see" what something does. do your research, and if you can, make a dry demo video.
octave cat srm: perhaps the most flexible and powerful sounding vintage mono synth of all time. 2 oscillators, each with a sub, dual vco FM, and a filter that shreds ears if youre not careful. envelopes are snappy. and a breeze to use. the first one i had i wanted to provide background music for stuart to do his spokenword essays to.
arp odyssey / avatar: great layout, powerful sound. filter is great and resonance doesn't suck the life out of the oscillators. tracks well, stays in tune. downside is theres no octave shift buttons. but my avatar has been modded with the filter enhancement, snappy envelops, and an lfo led. initially i was turned off to these because of the cheap build and sliders. but with some warm water (and soap) you can get these back to working.
moog minimoog / midimoog: wow. this is a bass machine. it should be used on the low low lows. for some reason, this synth goes under everything else. its great on overdrive. all of those old capacitors really make it squeal. the filter is amazing of course, and the envelopes are snappy and the vca's punchy. bass bass bass.
kurzweil k2600: great sound (and the first synth with 1000 presets!) and the best feeling fatar action possibly ever made. you can hit it with a hammer (or hot, sugary coffee in my case) and it will be fine. and i have thousands of sounds for it! should last me a few hundred more records. and oh yeah, its how i met my boyfriend eric. this will go to jason legler in my will. because he can actually play.
access virus ti: build quality is A+, its german, and steel. great punchy sound. 4 filter models. effects on every channel (first to do this!) and they are top notch effects like chorus, reverb, tempo delay, and lots of different distortion modellers. tons of polyphony. it will also turn into a "midi only" controller which is really helpful for softsynths, and because it works as a high quality soundcard, the softsynths sounds actually come out of the 1/4" outputs. can sound analog or digital. maybe the only synth i have that will do this. i will buy one for eric when he stops being a little bitch.
dave smith mopho x4 keyboard: amazing amazing. built well (weighted keys with the metal under them) and proper pots instead of the cheaper rotary encoders that wear out after "warranty+1". this keyboard also has two sub oscillators, and sounds huge. its very clean in the osc section but can be tricked to feed back. also works stereo on the output, although its a mono timbral (with panning!) very inspiring to play and save sounds. perhaps the best "new" synth there is.
roland juno 106 / juno 60: i prefer the 106 for look, feel, and sound. and midi. built well too.
roland jupiter-6 with europa mod: amazing synth, amazing upgrade with the chip. sounds great, built well, stable and punchy. maybe better (or at least more flexible) than the jupiter-8.
roland sh-101, mc-202. nothing in the world does the s+h clocked filter like the 101. nothing.
alesis ion / micron: curse alesis for making the smaller/cheaper one BETTER (drums, effects) this may be the best sounding virtual analog out there aside from the virus.
oberheim ob-mx: or obm-x: well no, it wasnt the ober-moog from trent reznors beta test, but i loved the sound. if i could only get mark to sell me his! it was really flexible, had multiple filters, and overdrived (overdrove??) like mad. really aggressive.
e-mu emax: im convinced this actually IS JUST AS GOOD as an sp-1200, which i have had. they sounded the same to me at least. same engine. same sample rate (or close). same nasty transpose. same filter (adjustable!) and way more programmable. BEST BUY OF MY SYNTH LIFE for $30 in a pawnshop.
casio cz series. great fm-lite sounds. amazing synth capabilities. not a typical layout, and a ridiculous 2 line lcd, but what those numbers spit out, holy cow.
yamaha cs-20 and cs-40: really well built, no cv/gate, but good interface (nice slant to the panel) and smooth sound. of all my "fond old memories" this sticks out as being a very organic sound. it sounded like an instrument, smooth and NOT tough or aggressive. the filter was cool too. not much interface capability though.
oberheim matrix-12: ok there. i said it. in 1994 i had one and had to sell it. and regretted it. 10 years later, i got another one. and then after two weeks i hated it. so i sold it. and didnt regret it. i have to admit, it was a status symbol when i got my first one (expensive for 1994!) but its not as flexible as the reviews say. fm, for example, is only triangle wave and can only go one way. envelopes are sloppy and slow. if there was a patch randomizer for it maybe i would have kept it. but honestly, the andromeda is better!
ems synthi aks: no sound without pins! doesnt track nicely! how to you play it with external gear! really awesome at making insect noises and sound fx, but not musical and certainly not worth the thousands people are paying for them.
roland jx-8p: sterile. cold. wide. un-tite. smooth. watery. chilly. might be your thing, but not mine.
roland mks-80: impulse buy, "just because" i replaced the jupiter-6 with this. well at least this had proper midi velocity to cutoff. admittedly sounded better than the matrix-12 i compared it with. no idea if the rev 4 or 5 is better, so dont ask.
moog memorymoog: eww. out of tune. wont tune. and doesnt stay in tune. hot.hot.heat. big. heavy. knobs feel cheap. keyboard is weird. not even close to a polyphonic minimoog. ick.
korg polysix: i used it for its unison drone sound. and thats all. i have bought and sold three or four of these, and fixed the keyboards on all of them. kinda cheaply made for some reason. i think its just the keyboard that kills the whole thing.
korg mono-poly: yes, i sure hate korgs! this synth just wasnt big and powerful, nor was it punchy. the fxm was cool but a little bit of a gimmick, as it wasnt very usable. i thought this would be more flexible, but it seemed to be a mono synth for lead lines with 4 oscillators.
arp2600: so cheap feeling. and for the money, you can get a cwejman s1 mk2 which is better sounding, has dual filters, midi, and is more flexible.
korg ms-20: ok, i didnt HATE this but i didnt love it. its not even fully modular (no osc outputs? no real modular inputs? how are you supposed to cv/gate it??) i have the filter in euro (sy-02) so i dont really miss it. besides, i can always steal mine back from jorge!
yamaha dx-7: it wasnt because it was impossible to program. it was because i hated the sound. and because this was the antithesis to analog synths. hard to use, crap interface, buttons were cheap, and sounded silly. it sounded (and still sounds to my ears) like a toy. and ive had a tx-816 (although not lately)
1. OCTAVE CAT SRM
2. EURO FORMAT MODULAR, OBVIOUSLY NOT FINISHED
3. DOMINATOR, FATSO, RNC/RNLA, KORG GR-1, ALESIS DEQ, SPECK EQ16, SPECK XTRAMIX CXI, API 500 WITH BURL AUDIO B1D, PURPLE AUDIO TAV, ALTA MODEA AM-10, JOE MEEK SIXQ, PATCHBAY, TC FINALIZER, RME FIREFACE 800, PIONEER SPEC-1 PREAMP
4. NORD MOD G2, DSI PROPHET08, ALESIS DMPRO, PROTEUS 2000, ROLAND FANTOM XR, KURZWEIL K2500R // MOOG VOYAGER, MIDIMAN 8X8, CWEJMAN S1 MK2, PATCHBAY, KORG TUNER, IBANEZ DM1100, LINE6 DELAY PRO, TECH 21 SANSAMP, BOSS GL-100
5. VIRUS TI POLAR
6. ARP AVATAR WITH MODS, ALESIS ANDROMEDA, KURZWEIL K2500, MOOG MIDIMOOG, DSI MOPHO KEYBOARD, ROLAND SH-1, OCTAVE CAT
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