MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index
 FAQ & Terms of UseFAQ & Terms Of Use   Wiggler RadioMW Radio   Muff Wiggler TwitterTwitter   Support the site @ PatreonPatreon 
 SearchSearch   RegisterSign up   Log inLog in 
WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

2 generations later..... still no rival to the Easel?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next [all]
Author 2 generations later..... still no rival to the Easel?
boxxgrooved
So here we are in 2018 about 2 generations after the incarnation of the Buchla Music Easel and with all these great west coast style modular companies surrounding us and we still find ourselves with no other patchable monosynth with keyboard and FX in a west coast style to rival the Easel?

I think there is a lot to be said for the grand vision of Buchla's idea of an electronic instrument. The Easel really does give you a bit of everything to furnish a complete electronic voice. A musical instrument by definition provides you with the ability to easily sound different pitches, and with the Easel Buchla provided a simple touch keyboard. There is nothing easier than a keyboard to instantly sound a specific pitch. Keeping true to the spirit of modular he also provided a sequencer and other ways to manipulate the sound. I imagine Buchla also realized how dry electronic sounds are without FX and so implemented a simple form of reverberation. All these ingredients add up to produce the perfect broth - a complete electronic voice that is easy to play and remains totally patchable. The amount of music and albums that have spawned from this simple setup speaks for itself and continues to do so today. Why don't other manufacturers want to produce such an instrument?

There are plenty of modular companies producing west coast stuff nowadays and some even offering 'complete systems' but literally nothing out there with a keyboard. It seems ironic to me that the Moog Grandmother (east coast) is the only all-analogue patchable synth with FX on the market right now to rival the Easel, and the success of that speaks for itself. The Arturia stuff I do not count in this group as it is not all analogue.

There are lots of analogue knobby synths with all manner of programmability and preset storage but there is not a single all-analogue patchable synth with FX and waveshaping like the Easel. I think its about time modular manufacturers start producing more self contained 'instruments', surely then we might see something to rival the Easel in the next 25 years?

(Note to the mods: I have posted this in this forum as I think it appeals more to general west coast synthesis and therefore relates to a lot of modular gear but do with it as you see fit)
lisa
Does it have to be a piano style, chromatic keyboard? If not then the Make Noise systems has everything you’re asking for and much, much more.
cptnal
I hear there's a Berhinger clone in the pipeline.
Fallen_lassen
Imo the TE OP-1 is the new digital easel .
joesdeals
Easel is one of a kind bruh.... it's from Mars.
SOFTWIRE


2019
ersatzplanet
The problem for the maker of systems like this is that, unlike modulars, in a fixed topology like the Easel, the maker has to anticipate the module sections to incorporate in the design.

In a "East Coast" system this is pretty easy. The design is tailored for the more mainstream use of melody or lead musical use and the classic voice layout will always work. The variations come from the number of VCOs, the types of Filters, and the number of stages on the EGs. The extras thrown in are Ring modulators and S/H or sequencers and modulation and patching switch setups. If you look at classic "East Coast" synth designs (mini Moog, Arp 2600, Arp Odyssey, Synhi's etc), they are quite similar.

The "West Coast" design is much less common a design and less common musical use that *typically* is more abstract. Figuring out what the user may want in a fixed "West Coast" design is much harder. This has lead "West Coast" designs to tend towards modular layouts where the user can swap out the components they don't want. I'm sure there are sections of the Easel that some users use less or wish were designed differently. The only true variation on the Easel is whether you want to spend extra for the Easel-K. This means that for the maker, it is much more of a financial risk fixing on one design that is not changeable by the user. That is why, in my opinion, the only new "West Coast" design synthesizers out there are basically modular ones.
starthief
Madrona Labs Aalto is very clearly inspired by the Easel, but a modern take with TZFM and a waveguide delay. Of course it's software, not a self contained hardware instrument.

With as many designs essentially copying Moog, you'd think someone else could build a synth based on a complex oscillator, LPG, a few simple modulators, BBD or soring reverb or DSP effects, and a keyboard.

Noise Engineering could definitely do something exciting here. Pittsburgh or Make Noise certainly could and nearly have. Verbos would really excite people...
mritenburg
The Easel is definitely a special instrument. I'm an easel owner and I love the little beast. That said, you can build something far more flexible and expressive and creative with Euro modules for the same price. Really the main reason for owning is an Easel is that you dig Don Buchla's vision for discovering new sounds.

JohnLRice
Maybe an Endorphin Shuttle with some sort of external controller?


Maybe a Future Retro 512 controller?


Just a thought, I've never owned any of these discussed Buchla or Endorphin items or the Future Retro 512.
boxxgrooved
lisa wrote:
Does it have to be a piano style, chromatic keyboard? If not then the Make Noise systems has everything you’re asking for and much, much more.


I understand what you are saying, Make Noise is one of the few companies who has really paid any attention to designing a complete synth to buy off the shelf and their offerings are admirable. However neither of their systems have a piano style keyboard and I still hold that there is nothing easier than a keyboard to locate and sound a specific pitch. This is probably one of the reasons the Easel remains so popular to this day, it is very simple to get up and running yet has enough depth and complexity to satisfy experimentalists.The 0-Coast is an inspired design and a great west-coast voice in its own right but it lacks any kind of control input or FX. I would love to see a Key-Coast with some analogue FX.

I suppose yeah I'm interested in seeing another west coast keyboard synth that can give the Easel a run for its money.
boxxgrooved
SOFTWIRE wrote:


2019


2019? What is this?
boxxgrooved
ersatzplanet wrote:
The problem for the maker of systems like this is that, unlike modulars, in a fixed topology like the Easel, the maker has to anticipate the module sections to incorporate in the design.

In a "East Coast" system this is pretty easy. The design is tailored for the more mainstream use of melody or lead musical use and the classic voice layout will always work. The variations come from the number of VCOs, the types of Filters, and the number of stages on the EGs. The extras thrown in are Ring modulators and S/H or sequencers and modulation and patching switch setups. If you look at classic "East Coast" synth designs (mini Moog, Arp 2600, Arp Odyssey, Synhi's etc), they are quite similar.

The "West Coast" design is much less common a design and less common musical use that *typically* is more abstract. Figuring out what the user may want in a fixed "West Coast" design is much harder. This has lead "West Coast" designs to tend towards modular layouts where the user can swap out the components they don't want. I'm sure there are sections of the Easel that some users use less or wish were designed differently. The only true variation on the Easel is whether you want to spend extra for the Easel-K. This means that for the maker, it is much more of a financial risk fixing on one design that is not changeable by the user. That is why, in my opinion, the only new "West Coast" design synthesizers out there are basically modular ones.


You have some valid points but I'm sure there are many features on a Dave Smith synth that don't get used by some people for example. There is always an element of risk in designing a closed system but if you keep it simple and provide the basic elements of a west coast voice like the 0-Coast, then there really can't be that much that doesn't get used. The 0-Coast is simple enough to get up and running for the melody and lead people but also has a great level of complexity to entertain the west coast heads. Throw a CV keyboard on the 0-Coast, and maybe a clockable delay and/or reverb and you are getting into Easel territory.
Umcorps
The answer to the original question lies in what Don Buchla said about the easel in 1974

Quote:
"Our goal
was to create an instrument for performance. One
with a vocabulary that was varied, accessible,
and not presumptive. We weren’t particularly in-
terested in imitating any extant instruments,
either functionally or acoustically. We did want
the potential for expressive, real-time perform-
er-instrument interaction."


Thats the point of the Easel. I think the Shuttle system, for example, is a fantastic beast and in terms of technical content is light years ahead of the Easel offering. But that carries a weight penalty.

The key thing about the Easel is that it is incredibly nimble. You can start in once place and patch, repatch and morph your way to somewhere entirely different as a performance. Because of its (perceived) limitations, once you understand its conventions its easy and quick to read. I can stand in front of the Easel and see immediately what is going on in a patch. The grouping of the patch points keeps the 208 mostly clear. The use of sliders rather than pots gives instant visual feedback.

And these are the things that make it special still. There are countless synths out there that are way, way "better" than the Easel. But I've never seen anything more playable.

Also, don't get fooled by the layout of the control surface. It might look like a keyboard but its certainly not limited to being just that. And, to be honest, its not the easiest thing to play in the style of a conventional keyboard. If you're used to playing standard black and white keys it doesn't sit comfortably under the hand. The K variant probably underlines that point (although I think its over specified given what the 208 is capable of).
joesdeals
arturia buchla easel v -

Great buchla VST i use it all the time

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RJH02DJ4Bo&t=327s
soundslikejoe
I'll second the comment about Make Noise Shared System. Even though it's just a collection of modular and not a "fixed architecture" design... It's the most "Easel like" of any instrument layout I've seen.

What's the complaint against it as being another "patchable monosynth with keyboard and FX in a west coast style to rival the Easel"?
lisa
boxxgrooved wrote:
However neither of their systems have a piano style keyboard and I still hold that there is nothing easier than a keyboard to locate and sound a specific pitch. This is probably one of the reasons the Easel remains so popular to this day [...]
I suppose yeah I'm interested in seeing another west coast keyboard synth that can give the Easel a run for its money.

Is a chromatic keyboard really very logical in a West Coast synth? The Music Easel seems like a a bit of a cop-out in this respekt to get some sales, imo. I’m not sure that the Music Easel is ”so popular”, as you say though. Anybody know how many units has been sold?
mritenburg
soundslikejoe wrote:
I'll second the comment about Make Noise Shared System. Even though it's just a collection of modular and not a "fixed architecture" design... It's the most "Easel like" of any instrument layout I've seen.

What's the complaint against it as being another "patchable monosynth with keyboard and FX in a west coast style to rival the Easel"?


I'd say the Pittsburgh Lifeforms SV-1 and KB-1 combo come the closest in terms of a self-contained mono synth that covers similar, but different sonic territory. The KB-1 has very similar functionality to the 218e including a programmable arpeggiator.
cretaceousear
Never used one, only seen one once..
FWIW it has its own aesthetic - for anything to make a comparable impact it must have its own self defined aesthetic.
That other suitcase synth has it too.
revtor
Its not "West Coast", but something close in terms of approachability and playability would be the 2600+3620 keyboard.
boxxgrooved
soundslikejoe wrote:
I'll second the comment about Make Noise Shared System. Even though it's just a collection of modular and not a "fixed architecture" design... It's the most "Easel like" of any instrument layout I've seen.

What's the complaint against it as being another "patchable monosynth with keyboard and FX in a west coast style to rival the Easel"?


I agree the MN systems are a great offering to buy a complete synth off the shelf but they are 'modular' synths, not fixed architecture like the Easel. It surprises me that we have come so far down the line without another fixed architecture west-coast keyboard synth. I suppose it is simply a case of the overiding popularity of east-coast/subtractive style synthesis for decades that has been responsible, but now that the west-coast approach is increasingly getting more exposure I think there is a definite niche in the market for a company to create a west-coast keyboard synth and make a profit - especially if they can knock them out cheaper than the Easel.
Umcorps
boxxgrooved wrote:

I agree the MN systems are a great offering to buy a complete synth off the shelf but they are 'modular' synths, not fixed architecture like the Easel.


The Easel is hardly fixed architecture.

The only fixed pathways are the audio routes from the oscillators to the gates and the output level controls. Everything else is patchable.

And the ease and speed which which you can do that is its USP.
boxxgrooved
Umcorps wrote:


The Easel is hardly fixed architecture.

The only fixed pathways are the audio routes from the oscillators to the gates and the output level controls. Everything else is patchable.

And the ease and speed which which you can do that is its USP.


I should have re-worded that better. I mean fixed as in you cannot swap out a module like a modular synth. The Easel is un-modifiable, a 'fixed' west-coast instrument with literally nothing out there to rival it
lisa
So if Make Noise added a chromatic keyboard and a single faceplate to the Shared System you’d agree that they’d blown the Music Easel out of the water?
soundslikejoe
boxxgrooved wrote:

I should have re-worded that better. I mean fixed as in you cannot swap out a module like a modular synth. The Easel is un-modifiable, a 'fixed' west-coast instrument with literally nothing out there to rival it


Just curious... what qualified as a "west-coast" instrument to you? The addition of the keyboard (as mentioned) is very Un "west-coast" in the eyes of many (Subotnik and maybe even Don himself at various points of his views on things)


Is it the use of Complex VCO? Wavefolding? Lack of filter? To me the Easel is probably the most blended east+west of all of the Buchla line.
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8  Next [all]
Page 1 of 8
Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group