Fire up the retro rockets
January 29, 2015 9:39 PM   Subscribe

NAMM , the big music equipment show in Los Angeles, featured a remarkable retro trend in synthesizers this year. The legendary synth company Sequential Circuits is back with a Prophet 6! Oberheim is back. Korg is making updated versions of the ultra-cool ARP Odyssey synth from the 70s. In fact, because the ARP designs are effectively public domain, anyone can make an Odyssey, so Behringer is also talking about making their own cheaper version. The really big news though was is that Moog is restarting production of their massive modular synthesizers from the early 70s albeit at matchingly massive prices.
posted by w0mbat (68 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bah! I knew I should have gone! I live in LA. All my friends went and talked about how great it was.

But it's a really exciting thought that there could be a $500 Odyssey in the future.
posted by teponaztli at 9:49 PM on January 29, 2015


Honestly, and while I know that this post is about retro stuff, the things I'm most interested in out of this are the new Electribe EMX2 It looks really really nice.

And Teenage Engineering's new Pocket Operators. 59 fucking dollars for little ... well... you know.
posted by symbioid at 9:53 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


Don't forget the non-NAMM DIY version of the ARP 2600, the TTSH. If I had the scratch to buy any of these that's what I'd get instead.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:53 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Though I must say - that HPF on the Prophet 6 is so smooth.
posted by symbioid at 10:02 PM on January 29, 2015


It's interesting that they're true analog synthesizers. I wonder if they've applied newer silicon tech to deal with thermal drift (when the pitch changes with transistor temperature), or if they tried to stay true to the original. Not to mention how whisper quiet we can make power supplies. In my experience, analog synths sound amazing when played alone, but are frustrating to stabilize in a mix. I absolutely cannot wait to open up a Prophet-6 and find out.

As far as the Moog goes, I feel like its time has passed. A DIY modular kit could easily match the sound and spirit of an original Moog system, without the monstrous patching nightmare or out-of-reach price.
posted by Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra at 10:05 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a YT video with Dave Smith talking about the new Prophet 6 and he says that the new synth has a solution for thermal drift. In fact there is a way to detune the synth if you want to do that.
posted by gen at 10:08 PM on January 29, 2015


I can't be the only one thinking of "Giorgio By Moroder," can I?

And I said, "Wait a second, I know the synthesizer. Why don't I use the synthesizer, which is the sound of the future?"
And I didn't have any idea what to do but I knew I needed a click
So we put a click on the 24 track which then was synced to the Moog modular.
I knew that it could be a sound of the future
But I didn't realize how much impact it would be.

posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:13 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


DX7 or GTFO. I have some power soul ballads to record.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:20 PM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I ordered one of the Teenage Engineering PO-12 drum machines a few days ago. It looks like so much fun, for just $59.
posted by jjwiseman at 10:20 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


The new rane rotary is also getting a shit load of drooling from all the DJs I know. While also being baffled at the lack of a record out, but rane has this thing where SOMETHING has to be wrong with all of their mixers, and if it's going to be that, so be it.
posted by flaterik at 10:21 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


A DIY modular kit could easily match the sound and spirit of an original Moog system, without the monstrous patching nightmare or out-of-reach price.

Moog isn't just renowned for the brand and legacy. Their synthesizers, especially those classic modulars from that era, sound very, very good. They've apparently recreated them with obsessive attention to detail, right down to hand-stuffing and hand-soldering the circuits and using traditional wiring methods. Just getting a hold of the original circuitry, of which there's a limited amount, is an achievement in itself. A friend in the modular synth business said: "This is the equivalent of Aston Martin reintroducing the DB5 as a custom order, built to exactly the same specifications as the original, built from the frame up at once just like the original." I mean, it's forbiddingly expensive and will probably only be bought by collectors and Deadmau5 and not actually used on any records I care about, which is a shame. But. It's a cool thing they're doing, and Moog aren't just venerated because we're all chumps. Let's hope they get into making individual modules; I'd be OK with using Moog for the most important components and building the rest of my modular rig with third-party stuff, Make Noise, Pittsburgh, etc.

And Teenage Engineering's new Pocket Operators.

I can't be spending any big money right now; those are the things that had me squeeing more than anything else on the floor. (Well, the Prophet 6, but I'm thrilled with my Prophet 12 and actually think it has more experimental capabilities and weird digital-analog hybrid possibilities. I'm no analog purist.) I bought all three of the Pocket Operators for a total of $180. Fucking sweet. I love those primitive, almost SID-like sounds. They have instant character and fun factor. And the parameter locks actually allow for deep sound design. Not to mention they're cheaper than anything else out there. We can talk about $30,000 synths none of us will buy or hear, but these little cheap babies are the success of the show, far as I'm concerned.
posted by naju at 10:31 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


it's forbiddingly expensive and will probably only be bought by collectors and Deadmau5

and Billy Corgan
posted by thelonius at 11:04 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've been listening to nothing but Tangerine Dream the past few days and I feel like making some very expensive purchases.
posted by hellojed at 11:04 PM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was always a fan of the Moog, I had a Thomas parlor organ that had one in it.
I met Bob Moog at the NAMM show several years go several months before he passed away, he said the way they did the books on the organ made it look like they were raking in the bucks so the were able to get financing on the Mini Moog I believe. This trend started several years ago and has been plugging along for at least 8 years since I started noticing reproductions being offered. Big Briar has been there for years with Theremins in the past.

I was in this "band" Destroy Ape Technology where we used an Arp Oddessy. I was really into analog and built some really impossible to play instruments.
posted by boilermonster at 11:15 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was in this "band" Destroy Ape Technology

I have no idea what is happening in this video and I love it
posted by naju at 11:23 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


this video demo of the moog model 15 is A+++ in case anyone else wants some more gear hotness.
posted by raihan_ at 11:31 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's interesting that they're true analog synthesizers. I wonder if they've applied newer silicon tech to deal with thermal drift (when the pitch changes with transistor temperature), or if they tried to stay true to the original. Not to mention how whisper quiet we can make power supplies. In my experience, analog synths sound amazing when played alone, but are frustrating to stabilize in a mix. I absolutely cannot wait to open up a Prophet-6 and find out.

It has temperature sensors fed into a microcontroller that continuously adjusts control voltage to stabilize tuning. I'm pretty sure some of the old polys try to do this but it's a lot more effective with contemporary electronics. It's an interesting topic because one of the same properties that makes analog synths sound cool inherently also makes them a pain to use. That's why this one's got a knob that's supposed to tighten or relax the tuning control - otherwise it would probably be "too clean" despite being a discreet VCO.

As you might gather from that it's not really 100% analog circuitry, it's 100% analog audio signal path. I'm guessing even digital envelopes but - a.) all the old post-midi/patch memory analog synth had lots of digital elements on the control side anyway and b.) CPUs are so much faster now I'd be really surprised if they don't handily outperform analog for stuff like that.

I'm all in the box and I'm probably not going to get a Prophet 6 but I think it's really a much bigger deal than the Moog modulars. They're quoting $2800 for an analog polysynth keyboard - that might *sound* high but it's a historically fantastic price if you account for inflation. Even if you don't, actually.
posted by atoxyl at 11:41 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cut to footage of Aphex Twin fumbling for his chequebook.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:25 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also over on the budget side, I've been having lots of fun with a Korg Volca beats!
posted by yoHighness at 1:23 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


They've apparently recreated them with obsessive attention to detail, right down to hand-stuffing and hand-soldering the circuits and using traditional wiring methods.

We've had this craziness for years with electric guitars. Moog will clean up (maybe not at 35 grand but slightly less) in the same way Gibson sells 'vintage spec' reproductions of vintage guitars to middle-aged failed rock stars like me. I still think it's cool tho, don't get me wrong.
posted by colie at 2:27 AM on January 30, 2015


The DIY Korg MS-20M + SQ-1 kit seems pretty nifty.
posted by bouvin at 5:33 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm excited about the tiny wah pedals announced at NAMM.
posted by drezdn at 5:45 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also over on the budget side (really budget, i.e. free), I've been having lots of fun with Auxy.

So simple; even an ape probably could handle the technology.
posted by LeLiLo at 6:11 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I ordered a PO-12 too. They just seem like too much fun not to.

The Vo Wand seems really cool too, as someone who struggles to use an eBow on a bass.
posted by Foosnark at 6:13 AM on January 30, 2015


Analog has clearly jumped the shark. Meanwhile, massive FM synths can be had at a relative discount.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:20 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Behringer is also talking about making their own cheaper version. Their business model: steal the designs of any popular electronics, backwards engineer it, if possible, produce it cheaply. Fuck over people like Mackie and others who've broken their back, taken all the risks and attempted to produce a product the "American way."

It's like supporting the Koch brothers.
posted by uraniumwilly at 6:25 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, only rich people should be able to buy Arp Odyssey clones! 'MURICA!
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:28 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somewhat related, this was another interesting piece out of NAMM: Korg and Noritake have introduced new vacuum tube technology.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:45 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


A new Electribe! Pocket Operators for those of us too poor or too stingy to buy Teenage Engineering's lustworthy OP-1! A rotary mixer with no effects for the price of a used Saab! It really looks like an amazing show. Even Gemini has a new media player out that looks, well, it looks damned good for a Gemini that costs under $400.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:48 AM on January 30, 2015


Back when I was a poor student, I spent loads of hard-earned cash on semi-unobtanium CEM chips from Wine Country (where "email for price" suggested "if you have to ask....") to fix my Sequential Circuits synths. I suspect the new gear will be even less user-repairable and -modifiable. Not to say that some of the repairs weren't necessitated by my modification attempts.
posted by exogenous at 7:02 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


As an analog synth fan, I'm in love with the resurgence of analog. Everyone was so eager to ditch it for digital in the 80's, but the reality is that there is so much more left to explore. Especially in hybridizing between the two.

Now, that said I am pissed that all my favorite synths are now 80 bazillion kong-bucks, but that arturia microbrute is a freaking steal.

/me looks lovingly at her Model II Arp Odyssey, pets her and lets her know that they will always love each other, even if the new model looks a little sexier and tighter and can toggle through all three filter modes.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:22 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a 70's ARP owner, I admit I keep eyeing that Odyssey. That Prophet 6 is likely out of my price range anytime soon, however I will have that SQ-1 as soon as I can get my hands on one.

I confess I am intrigued with Roland's new offerings, and that JD-Xi may have just diverted me from my planned Electribe purchase. I am intrigued to see what Behringer keeps teasing about.
posted by sourwookie at 7:29 AM on January 30, 2015


FM synths are strangely uninteresting. Eno loved the DX7, but even that didn't help. I lpved my CZ-101, but that was because it was dirt cheap: I wouldn't really want another. Unlike the Jupiter 6, which I will never be able to afford again.
posted by Devonian at 7:52 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been peripherally involved with this scene for three decades now - and there's a dirty little secret, though one that is not the fault of the industry (which does a pretty good job).

It's that most of these fancy instruments that are purchased basically gather dust, and are purchased by rich people to enhance their perception of themselves as musicians.

Heck, I'm a pretty active musician, but most of my gear gathers dust because, well, I was using it 20 years ago, I love it, and I can't see getting rid of it.

I knew this long before this specific anecdote... I was visiting a rich kid's house, and he had an expensive MIDI guitar (with some other gear). I asked, "Can I try it?" then I plugged a MIDI cable out of the guitar into a synth, checked they were both on channel 1 (they were both on channel 1, patch 1, in fact), and strummed a few chords on a marimba sound.

"Wow! How did you do that?" I realized that he had never actually tried the main feature of that guitar, which he had had for months - without the MIDI, it was just a lame-ass electric.

I was clued into this secret by an industry professional a long time ago. He pointed out that it was basically a good thing, because the dilettantes keep the prices down for everyone else by keeping the manufacturing levels much higher.

That said, those Moog instruments aren't really that expensive, considering what you're getting for that price - which at the top end is a complete, state-of-the-art electronic music studio except for mics, cables and a recording device.

As for the resurgence of analog, it's sort of a scam - the digital reproductions are so good that I'd defy 95% of you to tell the difference in a double-blind listening test, I'm fairly sure I'd fail that test. (This is NOT true of the Moog stuff where you can literally patch any point to any other point - which means things like patching audio signals into control voltages and such craziness.)

What people like is the intuitive, hands-on controls and the Blinkenlights. I have a personal fondness for this stuff - the first synth I worked on was this one - but I'm not blind to the fact that for most purposes, I can get thisclose to the analog with a plug-in that costs 10% of the price and 0% of the world's resources.

At this point, the only really distinguishing feature of analog is that many DAWs still go through 7-bit world (MIDI world) for their controllers - Ableton is particularly bad in this respect, their handling of controllers and program changes has been critically broken for almost a decade now and there's no evidence that they'll ever change.

-----

It's a strange time in electronic music, since we won the war - the same techniques that we were made fun of for liking in the 70s are used to make almost all music on the radio today.

These days, we have the great gear, and yet most people sound exactly like most other people. Concerts are generally dull to go see, because the performers for the most part stand motionless in front of a bunch of gear. Good shows these days involve live video synthesis, not a compelling performer.

It's bitter-sweet for me. And I don't quite see what the musicians are getting out of it. Turning knobs soulfully has a little amusement for me but it soon pales - I want an actual instrument where I can do tactile, kinetic things, so I always gravitate to this baby. Don't players get bored and want to mix things up - grab a keyboard or some drum pads and go crazy?

(Don't get me wrong, I can name a dozen counter-examples without even thinking... I'm just summarizing what I see when I go to the clubs and galleries...)

-----

> FM synths are strangely uninteresting.

I beg to differ - you just have to learn how to program them. In particular, attaching the C:M (carrier to modulation) ratio to a controller can make for marvellously expressive sounds for performance.

Do remember that FM was the first great digital synthesis technology - synthesis as in making new sounds as opposed to sampling or processing. And unlike any other technology I've seen in the biz since, we first got the Chowning paper and then the programmable synth a few years later.

It was the first digital synthesis technology that wasn't some variation on "sine waves" - the first that could naturally produce sounds containing enharmonic partials to generate sounds like drums or metal.

The Chowning paper above is a Good Read, not really too hard if you are somewhat technically literate, and you'd better believe that we read it over and over again and tried our little 8-bit programming chops on this technique before the DX-7 came out.

Today it's just "one string on our bow" but it's important to remember our roots.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:13 AM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


These days, we have the great gear, and yet most people sound exactly like most other people. I agree.

The cure is unplug from the shit hole that is pop music and listen to college radio stations like KALX (I am not affiliated in any way.). It streams on the net.

There is hope.
posted by uraniumwilly at 8:28 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


most of these fancy instruments that are purchased basically gather dust

Being a 'collector' of beautiful instruments is not such a bad thing. I've got a few guitars on the wall in my small Man Cave, I don't perform in a band or anything, but they enhance my life and that of plenty of people who've come round and had a strum. Fascinating to see the Moog stuff with walnut cases coming into fashion: you just can't love a MacBook Pro in that way.

Occasionally I sell guitars on eBay and a younger, more active musician walks off with a nice guitar for half the retail price.
posted by colie at 8:35 AM on January 30, 2015


I pulled every string I could and managed to finagle my way into NAMM this year. It's really just overwhelming...so much to play with, so little time. (My highlight was meeting Paul Barker from Ministry, who was there with his company Malekko Heavy Industry.)
posted by malocchio at 8:42 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


The trouble with the DX7 - FM synthesis as a technology was and is interesting - is that it was an absolute pig to program. Even if you wanted to get down and dirty with the noises, that interface would defeat you. And in the early days of FM synthesis the DX series were just about it, so the world got filled with all those parpy, bright, just-this-side-of-uncanny-valley string and wind presets. The cause of FM wasn't helped by the DX7's relative affordability, so those sounds got everywhere just as the whole digital/MIDI scene got going, so it became something a cliche associated with really not very adventurous 80s music churned out by not very exciting bands in large amounts.

The wave of analogue synths that came before all have stand-out albums that showcase their sounds. There's no stand-out showcase DX7 album.
posted by Devonian at 8:44 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


> The cure is unplug from the shit hole that is pop music and listen to college radio stations like KALX (I am not affiliated in any way.). It streams on the net.

Amen! Or you can listen to the stream from my desktop... or if you're in a major metropolitan area, there will be people doing this live every weekend....
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:09 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Behringer is also talking about making their own cheaper version.

Behringer is making a cheap ripoff of someone else's tech? GTFO!
Imagine if they did this to pedals!
posted by eclectist at 9:11 AM on January 30, 2015


lupus_yonderboy: " so I always gravitate to this baby."

I didn't know Klingon's made Death-MIDI-instruments.

If you want to go unique, why not the Eigenharp?
posted by symbioid at 9:26 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Imagine if they did this to pedals!

Imagine if they fucked over a small mom and pop shop!

http://homerecording.com/bbs/equipment-forums/rack/behringer-again-48497/
posted by uraniumwilly at 9:29 AM on January 30, 2015


Years go at NAMM someone was selling effects pedals that used old video tubes like triodes and the like. I liked how you lost the sound entirely if you moved a knob just the wrong way, then another twist and something unexplainable and weird would come out of the speaker. Im not sure how one would use this in music ,but that never stopped me from trying.
Here is a quick demo of a "instrument" we used in the "band" ,behold the Rabbit add an effects pedal and it basically explodes.
I just like the depth and organic feel of analog stuff.
posted by boilermonster at 10:08 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


> If you want to go unique, why not the Eigenharp?

I own an Eigenharp Picoharp, actually - but, well, there are several issues with it for me.

The number one issue is that I've played the wind instrument for twenty five years - so on anything else I feel like a retarded child. :-) Now, the work you put into smoothness and repeatability (the ability to do exactly the same thing twice) transfers to any instrument, but I still have this great facility with it.

I find the ergonomics of the pH a little uncomfortable - but see "retarded child" above. My hands are also not what they used to be - I don't notice it on the wind instrument but I do on the pH.

But, well, if the software integrated well with other software I might be bringing it out more. I never figured out how to get the output from this into my DAW.

And they went to a subscription model and I never paid - so I don't get updates. There's an open source version of the software I am going to check out, but, well... I didn't. So it gathers dust (see above).

But really, it's a pretty amazing instrument. The sensitivity is out of this world. And it's not "sensitivity" as in "jumps around a lot" - it's sensitivity where if you are a good player I'll bet you can get hundreds of repeatable levels of velocity/impact on the unit, perhaps somewhat less with the pressure (which is still very repeatable). I spent a couple of dozen hours max on the instrument and I could already get very cool interlocked patterns a la minimalist school, slow fades and swells or dramatic volume changes just by tapping - lots of little showy segments that impressed visitors - if there were some friendly way to move scales with a sequence I'd have been all over it.

I was hoping to use it with a footpedal to get actual harplike capability. But, well, couldn't get past the technology as an early adopter. I expect to pick it back up one of this years and see where it all is. I expect that if you put in a couple of hundred hours practice in, you could get some awesome results out of it.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:09 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Somehow I failed to link to Paul Wiffen's NAMM article which covers all kinds of weird stuff in the later pages including a laser harp and a russian doll theremin.
posted by w0mbat at 10:18 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seconding "Moog should sell individual modules."
posted by luckynerd at 10:19 AM on January 30, 2015


Seconding "Moog should sell individual modules."

I suppose you could incorporate the Moog low pass filter Moogerfooger module into a modular setup. It's got the CV inputs and you can rack mount it with a kit.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Moog make a few modern Euro rack modules too in the future. It wouldn't be hard, right?

I love the way they are making the Animoog virtual synth, the rebooted Minimoog Voyager, new modern analog synths like the Sub37, and exact reproductions of the old modular line. That's quite a broad span of products for a small company.
posted by w0mbat at 10:53 AM on January 30, 2015


JoeZydeco: “Somewhat related, this was another interesting piece out of NAMM: Korg and Noritake have introduced new vacuum tube technology.”
I thought this was just about the most exciting news to come out of NAMM in a while. I can't wait to see equipment built with these.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:22 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding the difficulty of FM: The idea of someone releasing an FM synth with a tactile knobby interface is a bizarrely emotional topic in the synth community--with many people oddly adamant that such a thing should never exist. I disagree. While most setting combinations in FM do result in unpleasant noise, I think a good knobby interface would invite exploration and quicker understanding.

I think a hardware implentation of this app, FM4, would be just the ticket.
posted by sourwookie at 12:21 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought this was just about the most exciting news to come out of NAMM in a while. I can't wait to see equipment built with these.

Yeah. I never thought serious tube stuff would go beyond $$ boutique. And it just seemed that there was this inevitable movement toward purely digital, so I'm happy to see this integration. Looks really interesting.
posted by uraniumwilly at 12:31 PM on January 30, 2015


sourwookie, let me introduce you to the Jellinghous DX-7 programmer
posted by exogenous at 12:34 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Weren't there like only 25 of those ever made?
posted by sourwookie at 12:45 PM on January 30, 2015


The Moog announcement about re-introducing modular was something I kind of expected, what with the Emerson renovation and the growing popularity of Eurorack.

What surprised me - and not in a good way - was that they're sticking with the same designs from back in the 1960s. It seems like they're not really trying to push music technology so much as they're trying to sell limited numbers of systems to collectors and museums.

I was really expecting something more like Dave Smith's Prophet 6 - like, modules that retained the original sound but also featured improvements based on the latest technology. All in all, the Moog modules seem like if, say, Dodge announced they were going to re-introduce their 1968 line of muscle cars - with no safety improvements, crappy gas mileage, non-functional dashboard clocks, and all.

I think the "tubes on a chip" are pretty cool, but my favorite thing at NAMM this year is the Linnstrument. I own one, so I'm biased. I don't care, it's really, really neat.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:51 PM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


FM is used pretty heavily in some genres these days. A lot of those growling synths from the last five years are either FM, additive, or wavetables based on FM and additive. It's just that there's no technical reason to implement FM in hardware, and not much interface reason in my opinion. A multipanel interface with a modulation matrix - like the one from the "standard issue" FM plugin, NI's FM8 - is infinitely superior to programming a DX7 but dependent on having a mouse and a lot of display space.

As for the resurgence of analog, it's sort of a scam - the digital reproductions are so good that I'd defy 95% of you to tell the difference in a double-blind listening test, I'm fairly sure I'd fail that test. (This is NOT true of the Moog stuff where you can literally patch any point to any other point - which means things like patching audio signals into control voltages and such craziness.)

The only truly interesting analog is the really messy stuff. I don't think I'm likely to invest in a real modular, but I might get one of the MS-20 reissues.
posted by atoxyl at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


SMT based analog stuff has made the world pretty interesting.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:04 PM on January 30, 2015


Actually I guess a non-DSP, all-CV-based FM synth could be interesting. Right now that's just, like, part of a modular.
posted by atoxyl at 2:40 PM on January 30, 2015


Would this fit the bill?
Oberheim Two Voice
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2015


(in that it HAS FM, not that it's FM-based)
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2015


One more thing: yes, I'm guilty of having a dusty instrument or two lying about. I can't speak for everyone, but for me it's not a ego thing. It's mostly a matter of having it, trying to work with it, and finding that I'm not quite bonding with it the way I thought I would be. Some people are very disciplined about selling equipment that isn't working out. I'm not. Instead I'm eternally optimistic that I'll one day sit down with it and it'll all come together.

A similar, thankfully cheaper phenomena happens with music software like iOS apps. There's a gawdawful lot of iOS synthesizers and processors and whatnot. And some of them have truly innovative interfaces. The question is: does that interface work for me? With a pricepoint of like $1-$5, I can afford to try out a lot of things. Some of them "speak" to me. Many of them don't.
posted by doctor tough love at 3:45 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


(in that it HAS FM, not that it's FM-based)

I feel like there are a number of classic synths that can apply audio-rate modulation to a single oscillator pitch or modulate one by another, no? I meant doing the DX7 sort of design (which I know is really implemented with phase modulation) with analog voltage controlled oscs. To hell with sine waves, make 'em all continuously variable triangle-saw-squares - oh yeah!
posted by atoxyl at 5:40 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's no stand-out showcase DX7 album.

Maybe it took a decade and a young genre for someone to realize its potential, but the first few albums by Mike Paradinas a.k.a. Mu-Ziq are pretty good showcase for the DX7. If you can believe what you read on the internet, he started out using only a DX7, a drum machine, and an Atari ST.
posted by mubba at 6:56 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, IP has certainly never stopped Behringer before, and them notifying the world of their intentions ahead of time is surprisingly aboveboard of them, as opposed to their usual tactic of blatantly cloning something and then standing around going, "Who, us?" Maybe their integration of the Midas folks has actually had an effect on their business practices.


Yeah. I never thought serious tube stuff would go beyond $$ boutique.

There are tons of "serious" guitar amps that use tubes that aren't $$ boutique prices . . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 7:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


thinking back to the pitch drift thing and other reliability issues....the guys who went out on the road with early 70's synths, like Emerson or Zawinul, had tech nightmares for sure. I think they ideally tried to have 3 of everything, and some kind of electronics ninja who could usually assemble a working one from whatever hadn't broken yet. Andy Summers drove the price of Echoplexes up by buying as many as he could find, back when the Police were big, for the same reason. They needed to have a working Echoplex, come hell or high water, at showtime.
posted by thelonius at 8:54 AM on January 31, 2015


For those of you into FM, and I congratulate you, because FM is still an amazingly deep and broad pool of sonic possibility, whereas most analogue is a farting noise squished through a mundane lowpass filter [IMHO, doy], there's still time to get yourself a PCB for a PreenFM2, and it's a lovely, lovely thing.

Hell, the Yamaha TG77/SY77/SY99 are still crazy cheap, as is the exceptional Kurzweil K2000 series, but those presuppose one's desire to dig deep into realms of the kind of unbelievable sound potential that was what was being sold to us back in the early days of modern electronic instruments. It's not great, working through the windows, alas, but then again, Julia Child could make glorious food in a toaster oven if she was motivated (heck, she cooked on an electric stove in all her early shows).

I started out in music manipulating tape and shortwave noises, graduated to electronic instruments, making unlistenable tapes on a Fostex, but when things started to go digital, so I could push actual waveforms through at least two configurable filters instead of the aforementioned farting noises through the same old lowpass, and then mix it all up with deep modulation matrices—that was me in my element.

Back in the day, I'd load fifteen hundred pounds of keyboards, racks, stands, cables, amps, and sundries into a beat-up old Citroën and drive to New Jersey to make gorgeous unlistenable music with my friends, but these days, I relish the fact that I can carry more modular synthesis potential and a control interface beyond anything anybody in the seventies or eighties could have possibly imagined in messenger bag. It lacks the boys-and-their-toys appeal of spaghetti junction, but whenever the old gearlove starts to tickle my backside, I remember that I can just pull up my editor, patch together a rendition of what I'm fancying, and save myself the expense.

Back in my college days, I used to scowl at the Csound junkies, with their fancy 100mhz Powerbooks and Nextstations and such, and now, boy, Csound is a bitch, but once you build it, there's something about having a backup copy of your synthesizers on a cloud drive in case of an utter disaster, and a bunch of MIDI knobs sending position to a tiny computer and a bunch of analogue knobs in a big wallopping boutique thingie achieve similar haptic goals.

Of course, that's why this is sort of a golden age for synthesis. There's the annoying nostalgic retro angle [whatever floats your boat, I guess] for the rich kids, there's amazing computer-based stuff for poor kids, amazing hand-held stuff for kids with iOS devices, and it's all pretty cheap and can be astonishingly capable.

And if you've got the money, Buchla has come out with a cheaper line for people who prefer West Coast synthesis to the Moog model.

Meanwhile, a physically mint Prophet 5 is leaning against the wall beside my bed in need of a going-over, but I'm too busy stringing virtual patch cords from Sweden.

It's a good time to be alive.
posted by sonascope at 3:47 PM on January 31, 2015 [10 favorites]


There's no stand-out showcase DX7 album.

Eno's The Shutov Assembly is a pretty good example of what FM can do. FM does drones and atmospheres like nothing else, particularly in the kind of huge reverberant spaces Eno loves.
posted by sonascope at 4:01 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wow, the first bit of this Jeff Porcaro instructional video that Potomac Avenue posted today is like a perfect anti-showcase for the DX7, in its ubiquitous and enraging thin and plinky mode.
posted by mubba at 4:14 PM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


In other good news, the new Raspberry Pi 2 seems perfect for a Csound/Pure Data project, and is cheeeeeap.
posted by sonascope at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here's a video of Suzanne Cianni beating up on a Model 55.

That sound - it's like, pure desire. Or, at least, breeds it.
posted by Twang at 10:08 AM on February 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


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