Choosing a Synth … Part 3

Has it already been almost two years since I wrote the second entry about looking at a possible synth?! Well things never stand still, and even since that last entry many new synths have come along, and a few have dropped off or been replaced with updated models.

Subtractions

  • DSI Prophet REV2 – This was a hard choice, but ultimately this isn’t what I’m looking for in a synth. It’s too big for my needs, and I still think its sound is thin compared to the far more expensive Prophet 6 and OB-6. With the expensive and now-discontinued Pro2, I’m disappointed DSI doesn’t have a smaller synth available.
  • Korg Minilogue – As seen below, Korg has released a newer version.
  • Nord Lead A1 – I’ve concluded this just doesn’t have the programmability I want in a synth, and I’m frustrated that Nord is STILL ignoring their synth line!
  • Moog Sub 37 – Moog has replaced the Sub with the Subsequent. The latter didn’t make this list, due to price and frankly overkill interface.
  • Novation Bass Station II – This modern synth has had its time in the spotlight and quite honestly could use a successor.

Additions

Behringer VC340

Behringer has been an absolute monster in the synth world since the debut of the Deepmind. Even more popular than that was the release of their Model D clone. Seriously, if I already had a keyboard I’d be considering that. An upcoming release that’s caught my eye, however, is the VC340. An analog string and voice synthesizer (the latter doesn’t interest me as much, especially the vocoder) with my preferred 37 keys, this synthesizer would make an excellent choice for ambient and Vangelis-like arrangements. At $600 this is an excellent contender, but as it’s still unreleased I will need to wait on some reviews.

Moog Grandmother

In my previous posts I didn’t include the Mother-32, primarily due to the fact that it didn’t have a keyboard. Well Moog has remedied that with the Grandmother, a pared-down Sub-style synthesizer featuring what I consider to be the superior-sounding oscillator and filter (compared to the Subs). Yes it looks a bit wacky and retro, but for the sound alone and Moog’s stellar build quality and support this is a serious contender. At $900 this will take some thinking and budgeting. It’s too bad I don’t spend another grand and get the even larger Matriarch! Rawr!

Korg minilogue XD

Since my last entry Korg has released the minilogue XD, and for not much more than the original minilogue there’s a few notable changes and improvements that make this a serious contender. This adds a digital “multi-engine” and the full 16 buttons for the sequencer. At $619 I feel this will be in the top 3 synths I’ll make a final choice from.

Korg MS-20 Mini

In my past entries I’m surprised I didn’t include the Korg MS-20 mini, or at least give a reason for why it wasn’t included. While it has a few negatives such as its build quality and potentially unruly sounds, the fact is from what I’ve heard it may just have the perfect sound that I really want. My favorite examples come from Michal Patulski’s YouTube channel, especially his Classic 70’s lead video; I mean listen to it! Like any classic analog synth there’s no patch storage, but if you create something worth keeping you can jot it down on a patch sheet (my favorite is from reddit’s edge11), and that’s so charmingly retro that it’s actually a point in this synth’s favor. At $460 it will take a bit of thinking but it may edge out the minilogue XD. There’s no doubt, in my final choice one or more contenders will certainly be a Korg!

Waldorf STVC

This is a last-minute addition, as I didn’t know this thing even existed! While I removed the Waldorf Blofeld in the previous post, I know they make quality hardware. Like the VC340 the STVC is a string and vocoder synth, this one based on the streichfett module, adding the keys, patch storage, additional interface components, and more. At $900 it’s not terribly more than the VC340, but I don’t know if I could choose it over the Grandmother (the latter can offer far more sounds). This is also an unreleased synth, so like the VC340 I’ll need to wait for some reviews to judge it better.

Yamaha Reface CP

Like the Korg MS-20 Mini I’m not sure why I’ve never listed any of the Yamaha Reface series synthesizers, as they’re a perfect first instrument (and one of the few to include speakers!) with mini albeit usable keys. While I initially liked the CS for potential ambient and Vangelis-style sounds, it’s actually the Reface CP I’ve decided to put on the list. I’m a huge fan of the electric piano’s sound, especially as heard on the Firewatch soundtrack. I also prefer the CP’s interface of knobs rather than the CS’s sliders, and I think long-term the CP will hold up better. At $360 this is almost an impulse-purchase, but I will need to decide if its non-synth sounds is not gonna bug me (I know I can always add on a synth module later on).