back to article Synths of the father: Making some noise at NAMM 2015

If you want to get an idea of how pop music will be sounding in 2015, then this year's exhibition of the National Association of Music Merchants, better known as the NAMM Show, that took place in California last week was the place to be – think of it as CES for musos. ARP Odyssey Korg reissue Original synth? Korg'a take on …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cor!

    How nicely surprised was I to see this on El Reg.

    Anyhow - you didn't mention the MS-20m kit release, which is pretty ground breaking beacuse it isn't just a clone(well, as much as possible) like the mini or kit, it actually has improvements and extra features.

    Or the SQ-1 which I have on pre-order...finally a CV sequencer other that the Doepfer Dark Time (Which is still looks fantastic btw), and it also handles V/HZ as standard. Well, obviously, it is a Korg. But the BEST thing is it is only £89!

    The scary thing is, I was only wishing Korg would re-make the SQ-10 the other week...I must have powers.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Korg ARP Odyssey or the KARP as it's been called is smaller than the original. Korg seems to do this to their reissues, by making them 86% of the original (including size reductions the keyboard) they keep the original desirable by them being more playable.

    As for Sequential going back to discrete components, that's also incorrect given they always used SSM or CEM voice and filter chips. The prophet 6 is the first time they've designed a VCO.

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Electronic instruments

    Wonderful when used properly...

    Homage to the Doctor

    And, wot, no Hammond?

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Electronic instruments

      For a minute there I was thinking of a different Doctor and synths:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H_o6ncUz3g

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Moog Modular

    "But does anyone really want to fight with that much spaghetti any more?"

    Yes. For all their cuteness, dragging virtual banana leads around on a pokey little 2D screen with a mouse just isn't the same. The modular architecture also encourages experimentation.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: Moog Modular

      I used to be keyboard roadie to a lunatic who used a Roland System 700 (look it up) on the road, hours of "fun" setting that bugger up, along with Prophet 5, MiniMoog, various ARPs, Yamaha portable baby grand piano and a host of other crap.

      He then bought the Moog from Tangerine Dream and mashed it to the 700 but by then he'd stopped touring - thankfully.

      Happy days, well they might have been, can't remember a lot of it to be honest.

    2. Someone Else Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Moog Modular

      Oh, you bet!

      My original issue 1976-vintage Moog 35 (which still works...an occasional flaky switch here or there, but other than that...) is definitely a bear to set up. But nothing sounds like it. And just fiddling with patches can get you some real interesting sounds that you would otherwise never have the opportunity to generate. Fooling around with it one day I found a right nice simulation of a ring modulator on acid...and the 35 doesn't have a ring mod on board.

      Only problem with them is that they are a bit...temperamental WRT temperature (temperatureamental?) The go noticeably sharp when the ambient temperature goes above about 92 degrees F...as I found out one summer's day playing it outside.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Moog Modular

        The 901 VCOs are more than a bit crap for tuning. The 921s are a lot better.

        For a while I worked in the studio of Someone Famous who had a big Moog on one wall. The tuning would go into orbit around 5pm when everyone started putting the dinner on and the mains voltage dropped a few percent.

        1. SineWave242

          Re: Moog Modular

          Someone who can afford a Moog modular can certainly afford a Furman power conditioner so that the voltage is constant and clean? ;)

  5. Elmer Phud

    But I'm skint!

    Not having the space or funds for somemore wonderful noise makers I've been using VST's of Odyssey, Wasp, Prophet and a superb Mini-Moog amongst others.

    Many VST's of the older synths include patchbays but it's not quite the same as physically messing about with leads.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But I'm skint!

      True...but then you can do a lot with a Waldorf Rocket/Monotribe (Or Dark Energey if you are flusher) and the new SQ-1 (Or Dark time if you are flusher) which don't take up a lot of space and you just really can't beat twiddly knobs.

      For those that don't know, the Monotribe has CV./Gate in with no mods with V2.11 of the OS. WHich you load with a sound file...:D

    2. A Ghost

      Re: But I'm skint!

      I've got the G-Force Oddity 2 which adds polyphony amongst other things. It's absolutely incredibly good! I've got their version of the Oscar too - impOSCar, and that is in a class of its own as well.

      I know they do an emulation of the Moog as well. But I haven't tried that. Not really a moog fan.

      Even though the Oddity is the best emulation, the one included with Elektrostudio is pretty fun and it's free. http://www.elektrostudio.ovh.org/index.php?lang=en

      There is an 'emulation' of the moog and the pro-1 there too. It's a great little package of synths for free. I use it now and again, but I've got so many VSTs I'm drowning in them. All paid for and legit.

      As for virtual patch cables, it doesn't bother me. I had an MS-20 for a bit and it's an incredible machine, but the emulation included in the Korg Legacy pack is pretty spot on. Plus you get a Wavesation (with new resonant filter the original didn't have), the 8-part Multi-timbral M1 with all the expansion cards (thousands of sounds), MonoPoly which is another classic, plus the PolySix. In the Legacy Cell you get a kind of container program that can utilise a PolySix and MS-20, or two of each one, all put through an MDE-X multi Fx processor. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the sounds it can come up with are mind blowing. You can get the all those synths in one package for 99 dollars or about 60 odd quid. You need to buy a Nanokey or some other controller first to qualify for the discount, but they only cost about 30 quid, so say a oner for the whole package with a keyboard thrown in. You can use the MDE-X FX as an insert in your DAW as a normal FX unit too.

      The amazing thing about the Oddity 2 is that is can almost sound like an Oberheim or Jupiter. It's great for those monophonic and duophonic bass and lead sounds, but it can create some amazing FX sounds too with the sample and hold. It's gritty and warm with bite, but can be incredibly ethereal and lush too. I wish I had the money for the Korg version, but I don't have the space to put it anywhere anyway.

  6. Norgatron

    What's your source for the KromaSynth story? There doesn't seem to be anything on the KromaLaser site and no-one else is mentioning it (e.g. MatrixSynth)

    1. Frobo

      You are right. I started building the KromaSynth but when it was almost ended I stopped the development, thinking that there would be not great interest in another digital/analog synth. But the prototype is still on my desk :)

  7. clanger9

    I love this stuff

    Please can someone buy me an EDP Wasp for Christmas?

    Cheap, nasty and punk. Shame so few of them are still around...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I love this stuff

      Seriously, consider a Monotribe instead. They are so much fun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkvpSkzcYWU

  8. Martin Maloney
    Trollface

    Regarding the headline...

    Repent, and synth no more!

  9. jimhex

    The thing about analog is not so much the patch cords, but the live controls. Everything hinges, I guess, on whether you're thinking "keyboard instrument" or "abstract, non-tonal, continuously morphing instrument". Back in the 70's, doing improvisation classes at the Boston School of Electronic Music, the first requirement I established was disconnecting all the keyboards.

    I guess there are things happening today in synth controllers. Wish the article had talked more about that.

    1. A Ghost

      There's loads of things happening in controller land. I wish I had the money to grab quite a few things, but the best thing I've recently acquired was the Novation LaunchKey. I got the 49 key version which is about a 120 quid I think. Lots of knobs and sliders that map quickly to whatever midi you throw at it.

      And it's got the launch buttons for Ableton Clips or the FLStudio equivalent, whatever they call them. It's also a very nice playable keyboard and quite light. Usb powered. The knobs and sliders are a bit flimsy though, but for the money if you didn't have anything else, it is compact and cheap and works well. I love it, and I've got a few controllers around the place.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tired of the whole analogue thing

    Yes there's a *very* slightly different sound to analogue synths compared to virtual analogue modelling the same waveforms and filters, in the same way theres a *very* slightly different sound to a CD compared to a live performance (I won't even mention vinyl) , but you have to have golden ears to tell the difference between the two. Similarly with analogue vs virtual analogue synths and once the synth is buried in a mix I'd defy anyone to spot the difference golden ears or not.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Tired of the whole analogue thing

      theres a *very* slightly different sound to a CD compared to a live performance

      Oh.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tired of the whole analogue thing

      Probably right. By that same logic any electric guitar is the same after you have stuck it through an effects processor and so why have all these variations and everyone should just use a Telecaster.

      Analogues, for me at least, they are just immense fun to play. The more you play around, the more you discover things that you can then use. It isn't *just* about the sound, it is about the entire creativity for the person doing the creating.

      If you don't like it, that is great. I wouldn't knock you for processing everything via a DAW and a few controllers and a library of awesome plugins.

    3. Slap

      Re: Tired of the whole analogue thing

      I agree. I do everything ITB these days, and while it's not so immediate when designing patches, it more than pays for itself with the other aspects of music production. Space is also at a premium so to have virtual copies of analog synths right on my machine to pull up anytime I choose without having to go through a rats nest of cabling is a god send.

      I've many times been tempted by a MiniBrute or an MS20 mini, but everytime I'm about to pull the trigger I ask myself "am I really going to use it" and the answer is always "no, probably not".

      That said I do think it's good that Korg and others are actually making these classics again as I can understand that for some the tactile feel of the controls is very much part of the production process for them, and I'm not going to disagree.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @boltar

      Ok, thanks. Your tiredness is noted. I'm guessing there might be some people who'd disagree with every word you just wrote. But, whatever. Doesn't matter. We don't want to tire you even more.

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Hmmm

    I quite like some analog kit myself, but digital is definitely more convenient and repeatable. Having said that, repeatability is something you don't want for some playing styles, so it's all moot really.

    What I found rather disappointing was that NAMM was almost entirely re-hashes (or at least that's what we're hearing about).

  12. Inspector71
    Boffin

    I'm the operator of my Pocket....

    Highlight of this year's NAMM for me was Teenage Engineering's ( makers of the the quirky OP-1 synth) proper launch of their Pocket Operator Range. Drum machine, bass synth and lead synth. Basic, yes but looks like a lot of fun.

  13. vogon00

    Hey, Camera guy!

    I don't suppose the videorapher that supplied that excellent footage enjoys the nickname of 'Snake', by any chance?

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Ah thanks

    I built a few analogue synths as a youth, midi'ed up the odd piano and spent many happy hours making noises that would attract blue whales and bowls of petunias. But much as I love the smell of (now illegal) flux in the morning I've always been able to bend digital to my will and having £50,000 worth of synth in a laptop has always been quite attractive.

    You really ought to see what you can do with a £50 graphics card, csound and a few mouse clicks. I hope someone develops a multi-touch standard for controlling these things cos you can get a lot from a 10" android tab.

    Not as much fun as spinning rheostats and pluggin patchleads though so I might need to make a Pi controller...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm feeling old!

    Had an Odyssey and a Wasp, and a Yamaha DX100 as my sound effects machines in theatres in the early eighties, with an alessi (?) fx/reverb. Together with the BBC sound effects records, it was standard set up in rep theatres.

    Loved the Arp, wonderfully built, proper keys mine was orange and black with leather side panels, the Wasp was cheap and cheerful and the Yamaha with the tiny keyboard gave me midi and access to the sounds of the bigger DX 7 family Yamahas. Miss them all ... Especially those BBC records ....

    1. A Ghost

      Re: I'm feeling old!

      I had the DX100 as well. The four operator version of the DX7 which was six operator iirc. I programmed that thing black and blue. Pretty difficult programming structure, but I had nothing else. Most of the time it was just a case of 'change that parameter see what it does'.

      Now I have the excellent and far superior version of it - the FM7 by Native Instruments. They don't sell it anymore, but they do an updated versio of it called the FM8. Lots of people like it but I wouldn't part with my FM7 for anything. They copied the front panel of the DX7 and for some reason totally changed it to something god awful with the FM8. I think there might have been some kind of 'cease and desist' from Yamaha. The FM7 actually sounds warm. Experts say that strictly speaking the DX7 wasn't true FM - Frequency Modulation, but rather Phase Modulation. Whatever.

      I have some real beasts that do FM in VST form now. Blue II by Rob Papen is a classic. Also Octopus by LinPlug is another. Sytrus by Image-Line. Plus a few more.

      Here is a very rare and never released version of the DX7 in VST form that can import the thousands of sysex patches on the net - http://black.winny.free.fr/MAO/VX7/

      It's six operator and can import SY77 as well. Not sure how good it is, but others say it's great.

      This one is pretty good too apparently - http://www.kvraudio.com/product/dexed-by-digital-suburban

      https://github.com/asb2m10/dexed

      http://black.winny.free.fr/MAO/Dexed/

      While you're there check out the AlgoMusic synths, they are pretty amazing as well. All free now.

      http://black.winny.free.fr/MAO/Algomusic/

      .....................

      The reverb you are referring to is the Alesis. I had one of them too. It was the only affordable digital reverb at the time and had a narrow band of usage without it going mettalic on you. Still, a very very nice reverb. I wish I still had it, but I'm spoilt in that dept. as well.

      For 30 quid you can get an excellent emulation of an old Lexicon from Audio Damage, called ADverb.

      http://www.audiodamage.com/effects/product.php?pid=AD012

      But the most versatile and mind blowing would be either the Valhalla Vintage Verb or Valhalla Room. VVV is an emulation of old Classic Lexicons. While Room is more an emulation of actual room space. It's all explained on their website: https://valhalladsp.com/

      If you like super long and lush reverbs, then check out their Shimmer. It's simply gorgeous. They even give away a free Delay FX there which is also stormingly excellent. They all cost about 30 quid. Can't remember. The valhalla reverbs are used by people that own the actual 5000 quid units. They are state of the art. Nothing matches them for the price. I won't use the term 'industry standard', coz I hate it.

      If you can't run to that and want some free ones, I highly reccomend either epicVerb by Bootsy - http://www.vstcafe.com/2009/03/epicverb-is-reverb-device-that-aims-at.html

      or any of the TAL reverbs/delays - http://kunz.corrupt.ch/products/tal-reverb

      Simply awesome for free, but perhaps you might like to donate even a beer to say thanks. They do some excellent free synths too based around rough Roland emulations.

      Talking of Roland emulations, there's a pretty good emulation of the TB-303 called Venom, kicking around somewhere as well. Free too. Why don't you couple that with probably the best free emulation of the TR-808 - Tromine GT http://marvinpavilion.ojaru.jp/en/sound/vst.html

      There you will find an emu of the TR-909, the CR-78 and even a Simmonds kit. Think there is a Casio Phase Modulation synth there too. Have a look.

      If you are really crazy for an 808 and don't want to splash any cash, then check out the TS-808 http://tactilesounds.blogspot.co.uk/p/tactile-synthesizers.html

      and the VR-08 http://www.vst4free.com/free_vst.php?id=1701

      Altogether those are the three best emus you will find of that classic drum machine. People that own the real thing swear by them, though they aren't totally perfect. But neither are the paid for versions. I'm a big fan of D-16 and I have their Drumazon which is a 909 emu. It's pretty spot on but costs about 80 quid.

      So for no cost at all you can get a couple of world class reverbs that blow away your old Microverb or whatever it was called. And a couple of excellent emulations of the DX7 with thousands and thousands of patches to play about with.

      If you don't have a DAW already to plug them into, then just buy any old keyboard controller - they usually come with a copy of Ableton Lite or wtf it's called. It's fully functioning if crippled, but it gives you the ability to save and work out how the program works. I think you get 8 audio tracks and the use of 3 VSTs or something. It changes as the program evolves, but you get the picture. Also check out Podium Free - that is about the most powerful and functional and non-crippled DAW you can get these days. I think it might not take advantage of multi-core.

      That and a copy of Computer Music mag for a fiver and you have a state of the art digital studio running in your (hopefully recent) computer. More cores the better as audio software really takes advantage of concurrent programming. Not sure how it's going to work out when we get past Octo-Core, what with scheduling and whatnot, but that's another argument for another day. For now. You have the equivalent of a studio costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, just a decade or two ago, for less than the cost of a couple of pints. One of the great things about being alive now in the digital age.

      If you don't want to buy a keyboard to get Ableton Lite, just put up a nice polite post at the market place forum on KVR asking if anyone has a spare license, and within a day or two some kind soul will just email you their serial and you have it for nothing! I've given away a good few copies of that to nice polite people there. Thanks was all I asked. If you are going to get a controller though, like I said a few posts up, check out the Novation LaunchKey, even the small cheap version is excellent and they all come with a copy of V-Station and Bass Station II - both awesome synths. I bought those before and gave away my old copies to other nice people along the way.

  16. A Ghost

    Some thoughts

    If I was super rich like deadmaus, apart from driving supercars and dating supermodels (I wouldn't bother actually), I would have walls and walls of patch cabled modular synths. I'd be a megalomaniac, in short.

    However, as that isn't very likely I'll have to settle for what I have. Do I feel deprived? Not at all.

    I love soft synths with a passion. I have a silly amount of them, all bought and paid for. I've gone without clothes and heating to be able to afford them. I've pretty much got everything I need now and certainly more than I'll ever be able to learn to use properly in a lifetime.

    What I feel is really lacking, is a proper controller keyboard for them. That is why I am happy to settle for my LaunchKey, coz it's cheap and cheerful and pretty much gets most of the job done. I would honestly spend 10 times more for a good controller, but they don't seem to exist. If you go on the main music tech forums this is an age old request and no one ever seems to hit the sweet spot for this. Say - 500 quid or so, with a nice keyboard, quality knobs and sliders, perhaps a ribbon controller thrown in. But with a nice clear display and most importantly of all software that can talk midi and remember what it said with recall available as an option. This is the holy grail. It doesn't exist. There are various implementations, but all fall short in some crucial area. I don't see this ever changing, though I don't see why it couldn't be achieved.

    All synth technology has plateaued sound wise. There are only so many frequencies the ear can hear. I know I'm not alone in only scratching the surface of my many VSTs, sonically, let alone utilitarily. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't stop searching for new forms of synthesis or doing emulations of classic hardware, it's just that this functional dysfunction is the great big elephant in the room. Touch screens are interesting, but fairly crap, tactile wise on the whole. I don't like the idea of dragging my fingers over glass. It's not sexy. I like the idea of rubber knobs with indentation to get a proper grip, variable feedback sliders etc. etc.

    I did some mock ups at uni for controllers about 15 years ago, and have faffed around with visualising them in 3D in my computer too. But what's the point? Who would ever build one?

    If you want to see a master at work though, check out http://www.synth-project.de/

    That is the kind of thing I'm talking about. I think a few of the things are concept stuff, taken from 3D renderings of the original 2D Guis. I do a few Guis for a few VST makers myself and would love to spend more time getting into it. But music comes first. There are only so many hours in a life.

    Namm is always overload, with the same confusion. Apart from the aforementioned Korg Arp Odyssey, it's pretty much meh.

  17. vee Hybrid

    Ones life is incomplete if you have not played/heard/indulged in Logos - Tangerine Dream.

    Masters of the synth.

  18. ForthIsNotDead

    Synclavier. Bring back the Synclavier. What a machine that was...

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