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The Power Synth.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear  
Author The Power Synth.
Rex Coil 7
The "power synth" (sometimes also known as the "slab synth") is something many of us use, and wish to use. The lineage goes back to the Polymoog, DX-1, GX-1, OBX, CS-80, MemoryMoog, Andromeda, Roland JD800, as well as some others that are clearly escaping me at the moment.

Then there are the ~romplers~. While sortof "power synths", those were more about presets ... and lots of them. I'm also leaving out synths that qualify as "workstations" simply because by and large those are designed for multi track sequencing and arranging rather than providing full command over the sound AND the sequence in real time. I mean, four assignable knobs and a pair of wheels does not a power synth make, for example. The romplers and workstations (many times those are one and the same) are really designed for a different purpose than the power synth.

Today's choices are really excellent. We can chose from 100% digital, sample-based hybrids, analog based synths, and even some of the hybrids (eg; although not very polyphonic, the DSI Pro 2 is one dangerous hybrid). Dave Smith, Nord, Kurzweil PC3 series (primarily the "A6") to name a few ... there are a number of deeply potent polyphonic machines which provide lots of controls, that are live performance oriented and very capable.

I will even dare to call the Alesis Micron a "power synth" with the caveat of requiring a really well made 5 octave keybed controller with additional controls to really unlock the little beasty ... but once done, that little monster can run with (or even outrun) synths costing 10x the munnay. Too bad it's not offered as a rack unit.

So, the purpose of this conversation is to ask (and discuss) what power synth others prefer, and why they made those selections. VA/digital tech, full-on analog tech, hybrid tech ... all of those work. What say you?

seriously, i just don't get it
dopefiend
Long time ago I realized that, as you state above, a synth with more complexity and power should be the center of my little man cave studio. I love the Andromeda, but the fear of the chips that are essential components being now discontinued convinced me to sell it. Nowadays the market is so saturated with different brands and flavors of, well, analog, that the race among the manufacturers to outsell each other is leading to corners being cut, and the results are, in my book, just cheapo me-too thingies that are less than satisfying to play. That’s why I decided to save my nickels and dimes and get something really, really powerful. That’s how I ended up with a CS80, a Wave and a Schmidt. I have friends that have Teslas and Porsches in their garages....I have a small and modest older-model BMW, but keep these monsters in my reinforced little pigeon hole. Prophets, Korgs, Behringers and Modals abound, but the power of my arsenal has sated my craving for any of them. I still have an itch for a Rev 2, though, and am seriously considering the Waldorf Quantum, but otherwise I cannot think of anything that the beasts in my dungeon would not be able to do.
Panason
Quote:
CS80, a Wave and a Schmidt


OK. Thread killer! lol
dopefiend
Panason wrote:
Quote:
CS80, a Wave and a Schmidt


OK. Thread killer! lol


lol lol
Well, dude!! Really! Why pile on a bunch of Minilogues and Behringers that feel like playing Mattel organs? Go big or go home, I says.
Panason
Yeah I am not impressed by Korg synths since the Wavestation.

A Virus TI and an OB-6 is as much power synth as I can dream of affording.
RickKleffel
Panason wrote:
Yeah I am not impressed by Korg synths since the Wavestation.

A Virus TI and an OB-6 is as much power synth as I can dream of affording.


I might resemble that remark, and agree. For me, at least, both of these sit well in a mix without effects. They include, allow and indeed encourage sound design that obviates the need for effects. The Virus is super dependable. My G1 TI Polar is old enough to drive, works like a charm, and snarls like a mean dog if I prod it right. OB-6 (DT), well, one need say no more. At least for my purposes, which are to say the least, unusual.
calaveras
dopefiend wrote:
Long time ago I realized that, as you state above, a synth with more complexity and power should be the center of my little man cave studio.
Agree. I'm not a major professional musician or anything. But I got fed up with toy equipment a while back.
It is possible to get decent sounds out of cheap gear. But it's also really great to have MIDI in/out/thru. The ability to change midi channels easily. And most importantly, just being able to design sounds without too much menu diving. Sadly, many such flagship synths have an excess of menu dive for pretty common settings.
Panason
I have a somewhat beaten up Virus B I got on ebay. There are rusty screws inside and the filter cutoff knob has seen abuse by previous owners, it wobbles like crazy.. but still everything works perfectly. They are really well made!

The menu diving for some stuff, and the small screen, stops me from doing much deep synthesis on it though.
dopefiend
Panason wrote:
I have a somewhat beaten up Virus B I got on ebay. There are rusty screws inside and the filter cutoff knob has seen abuse by previous owners, it wobbles like crazy.. but still everything works perfectly. They are really well made!

The menu diving for some stuff, and the small screen, stops me from doing much deep synthesis on it though.


I actually love these things. They can be had for cheap on the ‘Bay, and they are sturdy and dependable. And sound awesome!!!
Panason
Yeah I know why the previous guys jacked off wiggling that knob so much. It is juicy.
Shrigg
I am rediscovering my original Nord Lead keyboard, the first synth I ever bought brand new. Thank goodness back in the day I was smart enough to pop for the 12 voice expanded version. Who else likes these?
Panason
I'm no kb player but I have a Nord Rack 3 and it has the most perfect synth user interface design... and some nice sounds to go with that. It takes some work to avoid nasty digital screeching noises with the FM stuff and I can see why it wasn't so popular.
euxine
I want a matrix 12. I think that would be the end for me. I too am wondering about the quantum, but none of the demos have coaxed any personality from it yet.
dopefiend
euxine wrote:
I want a matrix 12. I think that would be the end for me. I too am wondering about the quantum, but none of the demos have coaxed any personality from it yet.


MATRIX 12! Another monster. Fuck yeah! Way fatter and more expressive than the overrated (IMHO) Jupiter 8.
Shrigg
dopefiend wrote:
euxine wrote:
I want a matrix 12. I think that would be the end for me. I too am wondering about the quantum, but none of the demos have coaxed any personality from it yet.


MATRIX 12! Another monster. Fuck yeah! Way fatter and more expressive than the overrated (IMHO) Jupiter 8.


I need to break out my Xpander...
dopefiend
euxine wrote:
I want a matrix 12. I think that would be the end for me. I too am wondering about the quantum, but none of the demos have coaxed any personality from it yet.


MATRIX 12! Another monster. Fuck yeah! Way fatter and more expressive than the overrated (IMHO) Jupiter 8.
J3RK
It would have to be this one:

GuyaGuy
Rex Coil 7 wrote:

So, the purpose of this conversation is to ask (and discuss) what power synth others prefer, and why they made those selections. VA/digital tech, full-on analog tech, hybrid tech ... all of those work. What say you?

seriously, i just don't get it

I suppose my DSI Prophet Rev 2 is my "power synth." I mostly gravitate to analog tones, which it covers not only in terms of vintage-y ones but also more out there ones. But the real selling points to me are the polyphony, sequencer, and mod matrix. The Prophet/MoPho/Evovler line have sequencers that just kill and are vastly underrated for making evolving patches, drum rhythms on one patch, wave shaping, and all sorts of other things that usually require modular or lots of DAW automation. The PolyEvolver's sequencer is even more advanced and is probably the main thing I miss about it (especially seq clock modulation), but I usually find other ways of doing the same thing.
Dave Peck
Behold the Nord Modular G2X, with double DSP, five octave keyboard and extra mod wheels:



I have something almost as awesome, a standard 3-octave Nord G2 Modular with double DSP, usually controlled from a separate 5 octave keyboard.
Rex Coil 7
AH!! Those Nord Modulars friggin ROOL!!!! I've had the Ver1 Modular (with the keyboard), a number of Micro Modulars as well.

I also had a Nord Lead 2R, and a Lead 3 right after it came out.

I've landed on an unlikely candidate ... that being the Kurzweil PC3A6. It has samples (yawn) but the VA waveforms rock ass! And it has plenty of controllers to qualify it as a Live Performance machine.

Supper's up .... more in a bit ... thumbs up
obscurerobot
Novation Supernova II Keyboard.

All of the VA that you could ever need, plus some digital artifacting if you push it hard enough. But the real magic is in the envelopes. Loopable envelopes with faders rather than knobs. Faders that are extremely playable for all sorts of droning purposes.

Second best is a MiniBrute 2s. Also loopable fader envelopes, but a less complex synth engine. Plenty, though.
Rex Coil 7
obscurerobot wrote:
Novation Supernova II Keyboard.

All of the VA that you could ever need, plus some digital artifacting if you push it hard enough. But the real magic is in the envelopes. Loopable envelopes with faders rather than knobs. Faders that are extremely playable for all sorts of droning purposes.

Second best is a MiniBrute 2s. Also loopable fader envelopes, but a less complex synth engine. Plenty, though.
I don't think I would qualify a mono-synth as a "power synth", myself. I mean, if we're going to go there, many MANY mono-synths will outrun the HELL out of a MiniBRUTE (1, 2S, whichever). Many monosynths have looping envelopes. I've owned 2 MiniBRUTEs and 4 MicroBRUTES. Not even in the same league as synths known as power synths. Hmmm .. MiniBRUTE 2s compared with (let's say) an Alesis Andromeda, or Yamaha CS-80. Nope ... not even on the same planet.

The Super Nova II ... oh yea baby ... totally different game ... now there's a power synth. Absolutely. I came ~just that close~ to buying a Supernova II several years ago.

MATRIX 12 (Oberheim) was mentioned previously in this thread ... that thing is a monster for sure. Go a bit farther back to the Oberheim 8 Voice .... I always think of Styx "Grand Illusion" album when the 8 Voice comes up. Some of those atomic portamento slides Dennis DeYoung did on a few songs in that album are just blindingly powerful. Can you imagine the hassle tuning that beast? 8 dual VCO SEMS all stacked up.

ARP tried to get into that game .... I think the first swat at it from them was the Quadra. First time I heard it used on an album was Kansas "Audio Visions" (or was it "Monolith"?). I am willing to say that when Steve Walsh combined the ARP Omni II with the ARP Pro DGX it certainly sounded like a power synth! Especially on the double live "Two For The Show" album. That sound was simply MASSIVELY GIGANTIC!

As far as Roland goes, to me, the JD-800 runs circles around the Jupiter when it comes to power synths. I'd hunt one of those down if it weren't for the maintenance of ALL THOSE SLIDERS, and of course the dreaded Roland Key Glue problem that holds the keyboard key weights under each key. There's a fix for it, but you have to soak each single key in a solution of shit that will melt your face off. Gloves, eye protection, and a vapor mask are highly suggested!

Here's Tom (Noddy's Puncture) with a short video of the process. It involves Liquid Plumber and some other stuff.




But is it worth the trouble? Take a listen, then decide!! (If I recall correctly, the slap bass sound on "Seinfeld" was done with the JD-800). Tom of Noddy's Puncture uses one live on stage to do quite a few "Emersonian" sounds ... he gets some really great GX-1 type sounds from it.



Also, can't leave the PPG Wave out of the party here! So many things done with it in the Miami Vice TV series!

And honorable mention goes to a VST. It's called the "OPX Pro II" by Sonic Projects. It's probably the single best Oberheim OBX emulation ever done. For that matter, best Power Synth emulator ever done. I have that VST .... it sounds so good that I built up a rack mounted computer with only that program on it (other than Windows ... I mean the computer needs an operating system after all). It's actually undiscernable from the real deal hardware Oberheim. It also covers the Jupiter 8, Matrix 12, Xpander, SEM, and the OB-8 (utterly stunning at how close the OPX Pro II is to any of those synths, right down to the Nth degree in attention to the smallest of details). The polyphonic portamento in this thing is absolutely astounding.




This is a review video done by none other than "The Sound Test Room".




Yup ... power synths are THE shiznot!

(unsubscribed - not mad or having a hissy fit - just trying to keep my number of subscribed threads under better control - if you wish to correspond please feel totally free to send me a PM - thanks!)

thumbs up
Panason
Arturia and Novation cannot enter this elite party, sorry. cool
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