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Boring synth stuff

Digital Synthesizers

Let’s have a talk.

About digital synthesizers. The whole ‘Analog vs Digital’ debate comes up pretty often, though maybe not as often as ‘hardware vs software’. Usually, it’s fueled by ridiculous, pretentious purists and sadly, a lot of marketing. Kind of in the same way that people go on an on about ‘VINTAGE TUBE WARMTH’ and plugin companies rave about their ‘UBER RETRO TAPE EMULATION’ and all this. Most of it is pretty ridiculous, but personally, I don’t really like most digital synths these days.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, you sort of sound like one of those ridiculous analog purists, now…” but I’m not. I don’t really care if a synth is hard or soft, or soft in a hard shell. There might be a certain ‘sound’ to whatever synth, but for the most part, they can all pretty much make the same noises. Actually, digital technology is a great thing; it’s way more stable, there are some cooler things you can do with it, and it’s cheaper. This last point is what annoys me about digital synths these days. Not that I’m unhappy that they’re inexpensive, but eventually manufacturers started corners to make them even cheaper, usually in the interface.

Using a synthesizer is about twiddling knobs and making silly noises. Yes, the end result is important, but not as important as having fun while you’re twiddling, I’d say. There are a lot of people who like to use hardware synthesizers, samplers and whatever else instead of software because they spend hours at their crappy job staring at a computer screen, clicking with a mouse. That’s fine, and great, but I’m a young guy, I’ve grown up on a computer, staring a screen clicking things is not a problem for me. Most software synths these days are based on vintage analog synths of the days past, especially the user interfaces. Every function on a softsynth has its own little knob that does nothing except control the parameter that’s printed beneath it.

Digital synths (or at least some of them) however, don’t have to have a knob for everything. Real knobs are expensive. Seriously, look at this. So, to cut down on costs, people started making synths with either huge-arse tiny LCD menus, or only 4 knobs that control different things depending on a bunch of buttons you press or a big knob you turn. Does that sound like fun? Not to me, especially when these digital synths are pretty much just VST’s in a special box, that are less fun to use than VST’s (if you can get past the mousiness).

 Not all digital synths are like this, however. A lot of ye olde 90’s synthesizers are pretty freaking cheap second-hand, and a lot of them have impressive knobbage. Someday, I think I’m going to buy a Roland JP-8080, or a Korg MS2000R. I’ve been thinking that someday I might buy an Access Virus, but they’re so expensive and popular, I’d feel like a whore.

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3 Responses to “Digital Synthesizers”

  1. Your page looks pretty.
    Good post. A lot of the things I learnt to do with my MicroKorg, I learnt from some MS2000R tutorials. That thing has butt-kicking arpegiator. But yeah, I actually agree with you about the whole digital vs. analog thing. Because I’ve been impressed with some of the stuff that Thor lets you do, and after you showed me how to layer sounds on that sampler, I was pretty excited. I pretty much bought my MicroKorg mostly for the Vocoder, which sounds retarded but I ended up being really happy with the rest of it and it made me learn a ton about synth that I otherwise never would have learnt.

    Hah, my Korg is totally a Knob cop-out though. But I guess I don’t care as much about having lots of knobs as you do. Once you learn how to use it, it’s not that bothersome. But I suppose this is my first synth.

    But yeah, purists are annoying sometimes. Unless it has to do with organs. It’s hard to emmulate organs.

    • I feel like the MicroKorg is set up so badly to be the first synth people get, which it is for a lot of people. Underneath all the matrix editing and all that, the signal path might not be completely obvious, like it is with a ‘traditional’ synth where the oscillators are on the left, etc.
      They made a Korg MicroSampler, or something like that, along the same lines.

  2. My school has the Roland JP-8080 by the way. But I haven’t really used it to be honest. I should get in some time on that before the year ends.


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