Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

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Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Hi all,

I write film music which is mostly comprised of orchestral instruments (vsts in a daw) but am frequently including either synth plugins or sounds from my Korg Wavestate. I'm really interested in getting into hardware analogue/semi-modular synths (in addition to what I'm doing already).

Please could anyone recommend a unique sounding hardware synth under £300-ish that my Korg Wavestate can't already do? Even its a one trick pony synth is fine, just looking for something different...

Thanks in advance
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

Secondhand, Alesis Micron, or Akai Miniak, ignore the presets, they’ve got amazing potential.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Thanks, I'll certainly check out those. I forgot to mention that I was thinking about these (so far)...

Behringer Neutron
Korg Volca Modular
Korg NTS-1
Bastl Kastle 1.5
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by resistorman »

Beware the modular trap… I was just going to get a couple cheap modules and am into a couple grand :sos::wtf::beamup:
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

Djberwick wrote: Wed Oct 13, 2021 12:54 pm Thanks, I'll certainly check out those. I forgot to mention that I was thinking about these (so far)...

Behringer Neutron
Korg Volca Modular
Korg NTS-1
Bastl Kastle 1.5

Interesting selection, can you be a bit more pacific about your requirements?
Are you worried about polyphony? the potential for abstract sounds?
Korg NTS-1 because it has great effects, could be useful, Neutron is cool, very versatile, the Kastle too, great sound, their stuff is very unique, I’ve got a Microgranny, that’s an album in itself!
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Apologies for my vagueness, I guess I am not totally sure myself (but will know when I hear it!).

Polyphony: not worried about this at all as will be part of a much bigger arrangement.
Abstract sounds: absolutely interested in this.

I like the look of the Microgranny but I think I could probably already get those type of sounds out of the Wavestate (I think....)

I was also looking at the Make Noise O-Coast but that's a bit out of my price range...
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by nathanscribe »

Nobody mentioned the Arturia Microfreak yet..?
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

The Microgranny has a great bit crusher, very controllable, once you get into it it’s addictive.
I had an O Coast, it didn’t grab me, but it depends, have you checked out the Strega?, but as you say, expensive.
If it were me I’d get an analogue mono synth, Arturia Brutes are cool, and team it up with a couple of nice pedals, something like a Zoom CD-R-70, and a decent distortion pedal.

nathanscribe wrote: Wed Oct 13, 2021 2:28 pm Nobody mentioned the Arturia Microfreak yet..?

Yes, not bad, a sort of junior Music Easel, good synth, but again, I couldn’t get on with it, keyboard, and polyphony, not as immediate as the Brutes.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

I like the look of the MicroFreak - in my price range as well....
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

...the demos sound great for the MicroFreak but all sound like what I could already pretty much do on the Wavestate. Unless I am missing something?
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by IAA »

It’s a good package for the money, the keyboard (which takes some getting used to if like me you’re a piano player!) is very expressive and the vocoder and sequencer are great things really. I like it but find the little screen pretty hard to follow. If you’re a youngster or blessed with 20/20 vision you’ll be ok. I rarely use it in paraphonic mode though.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

Djberwick wrote: Wed Oct 13, 2021 4:29 pm ...the demos sound great for the MicroFreak but all sound like what I could already pretty much do on the Wavestate. Unless I am missing something?

I had a MicroFreak for a few weeks, it just didn’t have that special something, something unique.
My Alesis Micron does, I can’t get certain sounds I’ve made for it on anything else, I had one for years, sold it, and then bought another one because I missed those sounds so much.
Trouble is as always, you’ve got to try it out, that’s why sometimes we have to buy stuff, and take a gamble.
But think about it, modular is viable on your budget, get a cheap secondhand case, a Mutable Rings, that’s lots of things in one module, a Maths, that’s a cool little set up, use a Volca to sequence it, if needed. Alternatively, look at the Behringer System 100 modules.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OZvBYbVe7co
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

As much as I would love that setup with Maths and Rings once I add a midi expander to hook up to my daw it's around £700... I think I'll either go for a Neutron or see if there's a nice modular rack ready to go second hand :)
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by t-sun »

I'd definitely say that if you want modular specifically, the Neutron shouldn't disappoint and can be a start to building a setup if you decide to go the eurorack route. The Behringer desktop monosynths and the MS-1 keyboard, plus the Korg Volca range are the only things in your price range that come to mind, and the Neutron is the best of those options given what you've mentioned so far.

The Alesis Micron is one that's love/hate, lot of people swear by it but many didn't like the menus so you may want something more hands on. It's also long out of production, but there were a lot of them so they're in your price range used.

I have an Arturia Microbrute, for the price it's a great start as a semi-modular monosynth. Also out of production, but in your price range second-hand. Possibly a better option than the MS-1.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

Just get the Neutron, it’s a one box solution, maybe investigate modular later, you can always incorporate the Neutron into that, also, secondhand is the only way to go with modular, and it’s so simple to make your own cases.

PS.

I just checked out the Neutron, it’s basically a two oscillator mono synth, in the traditional sense, with a patch bay, personally, I’d go for something a bit more West Coast, dual oscillators like the Make Noise DPO (just an example) are far more versatile, when it comes to far out sounds, I know we can use our imaginations, but if we’re talking about versatility especially for the more abstract sounds, and bang for buck I'd go for the O Coast instead, the Neutron is a safe alternative, cosy, familiar, but that’s not what we want, is it?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VA7UdNzBlbU

:D:D:D
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Yeah, the Neutron does look very good value for money and quite flexible but like you say not pretty middle of the road for what I want. It's a bit more than I would have like but maybe the O-Coast might be better....

Defo looking at modular in the future but I think I'd like to get the taste via one of those semi-modulars for now.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by The Elf »

Neutron is a fine little synth, but don't go flying away on this 'unique' idea - synths run to basic underlying principles, no matter what they are. Beyond that they are all 'unique' in one sense or another.

If you can run to it a Behringer 2600 would get you into the modular-ish world without having to enter the modular-ish-ish world. ;)
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Ah, too much choice! :crazy:
Behringer 2600 looks awesome - will check it out, but probably beyond my (realistic) budget...
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Arpangel »

Given the OP's budget, and uses, I think maybe we have to look at things like the O Coast, there’s a trend today, and I’m all for it, for small, cheap-ish very capable synths, that can do many things, as good as the Behringer stuff is, it doesn’t have so many twists in the tale like the O Coast, the real strong point of stuff like this is that you can go very far out without using external bits and pieces, just the one, very small box. There are other competing devices, but if you get along with the O Coast, it’s a hard act to follow, on size, price, and versatility.
I’m already recording just using my Microgranny, CDR70, handy recorder, if I added an O Coast, it would be a self contained small, very powerful recording, and gigging rig, that fits in a computer bag.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by The Elf »

Djberwick wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 10:03 am Ah, too much choice! :crazy:
Behringer 2600 looks awesome - will check it out, but probably beyond my (realistic) budget...

...but well worth saving up for. It's as open-ended as you're going to get for the money.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

This also came up in my search for unusual sounds: Moog Theremini!

Bit off topic but is certainly different (albeit a bit limited). Sounds like it can do more than just the 1950s sci-fi sound...
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by The Elf »

Djberwick wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 11:19 am This also came up in my search for unusual sounds: Moog Theremini!

Bit off topic but is certainly different (albeit a bit limited). Sounds like it can do more than just the 1950s sci-fi sound...

Everyone loves 'em, nobody uses 'em...
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

You are probably right - sounds good but I think is basically a fancy midi controller limited to 31 non-editable patches
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Ben Asaro »

I guess it depends on what you're looking for.

At that price point it cuts most of my recommendations out. Can you afford to wait and/or double that budget?

At <300, the only two things that stick out to me are the Moog Werkstat and a used Arturia MiniBrute 1.

If you're serious about getting into modular, it will be a very deep, very expensive dive.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

I could at a pinch go up to £500 - for that it seems that the main contenders would be Make Noise O-Coast and the Behringer 2600?...
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Ben Asaro »

I will not recommend Behringer for personal reasons: I think Uli and his company are mercenary and unethical.

The 0-coast is fantastic and you can create a 0-series ecosystem based off of it.

A used Mother-32 or perhaps Subharmonicon should be on your audition list, depending on how experimental you want to get.

In the head-to-head semi modular shootout, the contenders will be the M32, 0-Coast, and SubH, in my opinion. I can't speak to the Neutron.

I personally think that the SubH gives the most bang for the buck: 2-6 oscillators, dedicated audio outputs for each, MIDI and analogue sync, fantastic sound, and an architecture that invites exploration. You can use it as a simple 2-voice synth or something far more experimental.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Djberwick »

Just checked out the SubH and that's defo out of my budget unfortunately. However, I found this demo of the Mother-32:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF3lhhiknfY

Assuming this is just the synth doing this (excluding the reverb) I am absolutely blown-away. I haven't heard the O-Coast doing anything like this in the demos - maybe it can though.
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Ben Asaro »

They are very different synths with different aesthetics and architecture. My original goal when I got my M32 was to get three of them. I fell down the modular rabbit hole instead (I have approximately a 10-voice eurorack system) and ended up with a SubH at the tail end.

If I were to start all over again, I would probably stick with my original plan!
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Eddy Deegan »

Djberwick wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 1:44 pm Just checked out the SubH and that's defo out of my budget unfortunately. However, I found this demo of the Mother-32:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NF3lhhiknfY

I've not seen that one before - it's an excellent demo! It's not quite a self-generating patch though; it's a repeating 32-note sequence played with random timing changes.

The Mother-32 is a surprisingly capable synth but it's sometimes not the easiest box of tricks to use, in part due to the various combinations of button presses required to effectively use the sequencer.

It has a single oscillator but there are patch outputs for sawtooth and pulse from that oscillator that can be accessed simultaneously, plus you can sort-of get the filter to track pitch as well.

It's definitely a synth that rewards persistence and time spent learning how to use it, it can sound fantastic and it plays very well with other semi-modular and euro-rack kit also.

I love mine, and have it in a 3-tier rack with a SubHarmonicon and a DFAM alongside it.

The Sound On Sound review of the Mother-32 is here:
https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/moog-mother-32
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Re: Unusual hardware synth recommendation...

Post by Ben Asaro »

Ha, Eddy took the words right out of my mouth!

I was going to say: if you want sounds that are uniquely your own, you're looking in the right direction. But it's at the cost of time and effort, and quite a bit of both (you can check out my synth challenges for more detailed look at the singing highs and crushing lows of this pursuit).

The only other thing I will add is that if you are looking for absolute rock solid tuning, stay far away from modular and semi modular!
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