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Polysynth Battle Royale
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Author Polysynth Battle Royale
hotstepper
Ive been thinking of adding a small polysynth to my eurorack setup for playing pads and I figured it would be useful to have an updated list of pros and cons for some of the newer synths out now.

I think the best choices for (in no order) a more budget-friendly poly synth are:

Volca FM
SH-01a
Juno-06a
Minilogue/Minilogue XD

Personally, Im leaning more towards an SH-01a, but it would be helpful to know anyone elses opinions on which synth they prefer and why
whyfarer
do you need it to have a controller surface built in? otherwise it opens up more possibilities like the micromonsta
GuyaGuy
Those Rolands are pretty plain IMO. That might be what you want but I'd find them limiting. I have no experience with the Volca FM but otherwise I'd go for the Minilogue for the waveshaper, motion sequencer, ring mod, and cool lo-fi fx.
acidbob
What kind of pads?
Prunesquallor
Take a look at the Yamaha Reface CS.
BenA718
Does it have to be a newer synth?
lisa
Minilogue is the best analogue (non modular) synth I’ve ever used (and I have used most of the classics). So powerful and yet easy to use. It also has a soft, humble sound that I like. I recommend it dearly.
acidbob
What about a digitone?
Estes
Novation Circuit is always overlooked. Personally I like the design of Novations new synth much more than those of roland and ypu also get knobs big enough.
Fog Door
I've got a few of those little Roland Boutique synths, I use them and I enjoy using them, but be warned - the controls are really fiddly. Can be quite tricky to dial in the perfect sound on the JP-08. Like GuyaGuy says, they are a bit limited, certainly compared to something like the Minilogue. The JU-06 was the most limited in the last batch too, although I read the JU-06a is much improved. Nothing against the Volca range, but Volca FM or Minilogue XD? hmmmm hmmm..... smile
hotstepper
Fog Door wrote:
I've got a few of those little Roland Boutique synths, I use them and I enjoy using them, but be warned - the controls are really fiddly. Can be quite tricky to dial in the perfect sound on the JP-08. Like GuyaGuy says, they are a bit limited, certainly compared to something like the Minilogue. The JU-06 was the most limited in the last batch too, although I read the JU-06a is much improved. Nothing against the Volca range, but Volca FM or Minilogue XD? hmmmm hmmm..... smile


Im comparing totally different synths in this thread for sure hihi I was just trying to see what I could get for chords/pads in the cheapest price. I do most of my music on my modular system so Im not looking for anything very complicated. I was looking for something thats got a control surface because I really dont want to start using MIDI again.

Out of the Roland boutique range I definitely find the Ju-06a lacking after watching more videos. I think the SH-01a sounds really good for its price and its probably the best out of the whole range.
SteeVtheRipper
My vote goes to the Minilogue XD. I think it’s a fantastic package all things considered. Really flexible sound sculpting. Built well, very portable, sounds great. You can use it as a controller if needed. It plays well with euro. I love the user oscillator, sometimes I just use that solo. It can sound huge or humble and everything in between. For the price and feature set plus portability you really can’t beat it. If you don’t care for the digital stuff or the CV the Og ML is great as well.
hotstepper
Prunesquallor wrote:
Take a look at the Yamaha Reface CS.


This does look really good. Only downside for me however is the lack of a sequencer on it. If im not mistaken the ones I mentioned in the list are all capable of polyphonic sequencing. I think its important because it would fit more with my style of how I like to jam
nostalghia
hotstepper wrote:
Prunesquallor wrote:
Take a look at the Yamaha Reface CS.


This does look really good. Only downside for me however is the lack of a sequencer on it. If im not mistaken the ones I mentioned in the list are all capable of polyphonic sequencing. I think its important because it would fit more with my style of how I like to jam

The Reface CS doesn't have a conventional sequencer, however it has a "phrase looper" that might be of interest. From an online review:

"Phrase Looper – the CS includes a powerful looper, capable of recording up to 2,000 notes or about 10 minutes of music. You can easily record loops, overdub additional notes and then play over the loop. If you’ve got a Reface DX, they can sync automatically via MIDI. The Phrase Looper is designed primarily to be a performance tool – loops are not saved when you power off."

Also, if you're looking around the Minilogue XD price range, maybe consider the Behringer Deep Mind 6 as well (unless you're in the "anti-Behringer" camp). Not sure if it's sequencer is poly, but 6 note polyphonic vs 4 note, and has some pretty nice sounds and a good interface. The 12 voice version goes for similar prices used (check Reverb) and has an extra octave of keys.
Mind Flayer
The Minilogue XD is awesome. But you say you want something to play pads; the minilogue and the other synths you identified are all 4-voice or less, which can be limiting for pads. You can definitely get away with 4 voices, depending on what you're doing, but I find 6-voice is better for pads.

If you want to consider 6-voice options, I'd consider the Yamaha Reface CS, or the Roland Boutique D-05.

Reface CS Pros & Cons:
Pros:
- great feeling mini keys;
- simple, intuitive interface with zero menu diving
- sounds great
- phrase looper, lets you record really long passages
Cons:
- can't save patches on the unit itself, you need to connect it to something to do that
- no proper sequencer; for shorter loops, it can be difficult to get the timing down.

D-05 Pros and Cons:
Pros:
- sounds just like a D-50! (I guess that could be a con if you don't like the sounds of a D-50);
- tiny, super portable;
- on-board sequencer;
- can load the zillions of D-50 patches you can find on the net;
Cons:
- difficult to program; requires menu diving and has a different architecture from a traditional analog synth;
- needs a controller; i think you maybe can play notes with the ribbon control on the left, but it's lame, so you either need to hook up a midi keyboard or get the mini roland boutique keyboard;
- plastic power switch on back is kind of flimsy;
- 1/8'' output jacks

I have a D-50, and while I initially was frustrated with the weird programming, once I started loading in some presets I found online, I grew to love it. I'm not great at programming patches from scratch with it, but I am fluent enough with it that I can load up something that's in the ballpark and then adjust to taste. The D-05 is basically a complete clone of the D-50. There's also a patchbase ipad programming app that you can use to program and get a better feel for the architecture.

But if you're looking for something intuitive and more along the lines of traditional subtractive synthesis, I'd go with the Reface CS.
gruebleengourd
the minilogue XD sounds great, but for not much more and not too much greater size you can get an 8 voice prologue. I think that would suit you better for pads.
Gribs
I sort of want a Minilogue XD module. I like that Korg put it in a module. It could use a couple more LFOs, but I think I can live with the limitations and use the CV ins.

If you don’t need a KB there are the AudioThingies MicroMonsta, Mordor NF-1M, Waldorf Blofeld, Hydrasynth module (when it is released), and others.

Honestly the Novation Ultranova is still a decent synth if you want keys.
Fog Door
Quote:
I sort of want a Minilogue XD module


Yeah looks really cool
flashheart
gruebleengourd wrote:
the minilogue XD sounds great, but for not much more and not too much greater size you can get an 8 voice prologue. I think that would suit you better for pads.

I often see this in threads, the 'for not much more' phrase. 'Not much more' in this case means £700 more, or more than double the price...

I won't argue with the 8 voice vs 4 voice argument for pads though. I guess with 3 oscs and some careful programming even with only 4 voices you could create some big sounds. I had a brief play with one at Superbooth and was very impressed.
Fog Door
Quote:
Not much more' in this case means £700 more, or more than double the price


Yes and the OP is actually considering a Volca FM because he is only shopping for a bit part player in his wider modular set up! Although the 'for not much more' logic is something I worryingly deploy against myself when "considering" rash gear purchases lol
acidbob
What about the modor ?
Or a Matrix 1000?
One of my all time cheap allrounders is the Blofeld.

There are so many different synths on the marked, both new and used.

If you could tell us what kind of music you make or what you would like to archive I think this would help a lot.

Those old casio CZ can be had for a bargain and sounds stunning.

I personally like the Juno best out of all the boutiques, but that is a matter of taste, it's just instantly good sounding, also for bass. I only have an older SH101 and not tried the poly mode of the new ones, but I guess it sounds fantastic. The JP was too small for me so I traded it for a JX.

Recently I got a Nordrack 2X and I simply finding it sounding fantastic, is multitimbral like the Blofeld, so that is also something to consider, I mean multis.







But as said before, right now the digitone and also the Novation peak is my main synths, digitone for FM basses and pads, peak for lead and pads.
Fog Door
If you can find a Blofeld cheap, I would second that suggestion, deep and very versatile, a great option to have knocking around your studio. My only caveat would be that it sounds a bit "icy" to my ears, even running through a tube pre. Probably not everybody's cup of tea.
acidbob
Fog Door wrote:
If you can find a Blofeld cheap, I would second that suggestion, deep and very versatile, a great option to have knocking around your studio. My only caveat would be that it sounds a bit "icy" to my ears, even running through a tube pre. Probably not everybody's cup of tea.


Agreed, the NR2X is better in that respect, I run it through a TAL chorus and that seems to help a lot. But on the other hand, I find it nice to have something that is so clean at times, especially for "space" sounds and some basses. The demo shows how versatile it can be
Fog Door
Quote:
But on the other hand, I find it nice to have something that is so clean at times, especially for "space" sounds and some basses


Yes, that is exactly why I bought one, I had a surfeit of warm fuzzy synths and I needed some crisp, clean, iciness lol I love the Blofeld, great synth, really good value for money
RickKleffel
Modal Skulpt is available for $200-$300 and is quite a nice 4-voice VA. A few knobs help a lot, and a lovely, playable membrane keyboard. Battery/USB power, USB MIDI, real MIDI...mostly, it is a nice sounding synth that is fun to play. A handy sequencer. Gets a lot of use for the size and portability. Not a toy.
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