Advices On Buying Analogue Hardware ?


As I’ve begun to be sometimes bored to do my music with a mouse and a PC keyboard (I also have a midi one but for the moment I’m not enough good at keys to record live), I’ve decided to buy an analogue hardware synth (and my choice will be the very original ( :ph34r: ) Roland TR-606 !!).

The fact is I don’t really know how to proceed : I think I’ll buy it on e-bay, but I lack of experience with this site, and with analogue stuff anyway (this will be my first electronic instrument).

I wonder if some of you have advices, some tricks to identify good and bad offers on e-bay. Or everything else that could help e-bay-noobs like me to make the right choice at the right moment.


I would personally not buy a second handed machine like that from ebay. I bought many (many) cds from ebay but when it comes to stuff that that expensive (, heavy, breakable, etc) I wouldn’t order it unless its from a well known store. I don’t know if you were planning to make an international order, that would make a difference for me too. Just sharing my thoughts about this since I want to buy an analog synth too but I don’t want to buy it from an online store.

Just buy it. eBay/PayPal have some very good buyer protection schemes in place if the worst comes to the worst, which it probably won’t. They hold your payment in a sort of pseudo-escrow until you give the seller some feedback (or make a complaint that it didn’t arrive, was dead on arrival, or whatever).

And for a TR-606, eBay’s the least stressful means of getting hold of one - excepting buying from a personal friend. No well known store, in the PLC/LTD/franchise sense of the term, sells TR-606s anyway. Sure you could get one by spending inordinate amounts of spare time lurking on the SoundOnSound reader ad pages for a classified ad to come up, but that’s MUCH riskier than buying over eBay - no protection or comeback whatsoever. As well as the payment mechanisms, eBay transactions mean the seller has a reputation to lose if they fuck up, and eBay are very good at holding grudges (even if rogue sellers register new accounts).

But if you want some really general advice on buying analogue hardware, here it is: don’t! Well, don’t buy an analogue drum machine, anyway. They’re preposterously overpriced, despite being sampled to within an inch of their lives in very high quality for use in more capable sequencers. Specious claims about the fortuitous nuances of their internal sync are probably apocryphal, and if you just want a nice analogue piece, you’ll have tonnes more fun with something like an SH-101 for around £300 (on a good day). Okay, my advice has turned rather subjective at the last minute; I have an SH-101 and love it to bits. But you can control it with CV/Gate (I do it through my Novation Bass Station, also a nice analogue monosynth) and make some roomshaking drum sounds with it.

My own little steps when thinking about getting new hardware:

  • Decide what sound you’re after (a particular song using a particular synth or machine, some personal reference or anything)
  • Get to know the synth/machine (you obviously need to know what the synth/machine is that you’re after [sound wise])
  • Check availability (simply go through ebay/your own online web auction/flea markets [kinda random, but you might get lucky], music forums or anything)
  • Check pricing (same as above)
  • Decide the amount of money you’re willing to spend according to the synth’s/machine’s overall pricing (you really need to define the price yourself, because relying on e.g. Vintage Synth Explorer is not recommended for its outdatedness)
  • Hunt one down!

For example: I wanted a synth that is capable of making 80’s synthetic, rubbery-like sounds, leads, pads, basses and all that basic stuff. After doing some research I ended up buying a Juno-106 and it fit my need perfectly.

I personally like ebay the best, because it’s usually cheap enough and reliable, especially when paying with paypal. I’ve never had any troubles with ebay and so far I’ve bought Roland Juno-106, Korg MS2000r and Alesis Ion from ebay (and actually neither of these was paid with paypal, but through an international bank transfer [which is not entirely recommended, unless you’re dealing with a very trustworthy seller]).
It’s always wise to ask for more pictures of the machine you’re looking for and ask for all the possible little flaws involved, make sure you fully understand what is included in the bid etc.

All classic analog hardware is more or less expensive, so get ready to pay big bucks for acquiring those.

eBay is perfectly fine as long as you check out the seller’s feedback and use a bit of common sense.

I wouldn’t bother getting a 606 though, they sound lovely but aren’t versatile at all.
Get a proper programmable synth instead (sh101, juno106)

sh101 is TEH ROXXOR! I would suggest against getting a drummachine too, as your first piece of gear. A synth is indeed more versatile. To my experience, you sample your drummachine once or twice, before it starts collecting dust. :P

Thanks for replying

I thought about it a while before deciding to buy a TR-606. I first wanted a MC-202 (well, i really first wanted a 303 but i can’t even dream about it because of its price - anyway I’m ok with Phoscyon for the moment). But as i just bought a Midi control surface (Behringer BFC-2000 - I should receive it in the week !), I don’t have enough money for the 202. Anyway spending something like 400/500 € on e-Bay for a cheap plastic and rough electronic gear kind of intimidates me for my first purchase.

And i think that’s easier to jam in the living room with my roommate or friends with a drumbox rather than with a synth. That’s my point for now : getting a gear that i can easily carry on me, and that can use not only in my compositions. I think it’s easier to jam with people with some rhythms than with some synthesized melodies, especially when these people don’t really like synthesized sounds.

Anyway, I consider that choice as a first step in the analogue hardware, and I know that i’ll purchase more “multi-purpose” gears in the future.

But if you have other counter-arguments on that choice, please tell me, I really don’t want to make the wrong one. Also, if you think that another synth or drumbox could suits with what i’m looking for, share your ideas. Actually the Roland 101 202 303 etc… gears are the only ones from which i can (approximatively) identify the sounds when listening to some songs, and the vintage-way to edit the rhythms and notes attracts me. I like the idea of editing patterns LIVE, with your own hands, and without needing the knowledge of playing keys (I want to learn that, but not for the moment).

Well, this is turning into a debate… Some other points ?

I’ve never physically touched one, but I can’t imagine the TR-606 to be the best choice for the kind of jamming you’re talking about. An MC-303 or a Korg Electribe ES-1 can be bought for between £100 and £150, they both have nice effects and tweak-knobs, and while they’re not actually synthesising the sounds, they’re arguably much more flexible than the TR-606.

The TR-606 is a lovely object, but I’d 1) feel uncomfortable carrying a relatively fragile but very expensive piece of vintage hardware around with me and 2) worry that every time I hit one of those plastic buttons in a lively and enthusiastic jam session, I was further degrading the button contact and damaging my investment…

On the other hand, I’ve toured the UK twice playing live with my SH-101 (yes, keytar style with the stupidly rare/expensive mod-grip!) so I’d never advocate not buying something from fear of degrading it or - even worse - buying something and then not using it. That’s a crime for any instrument.

Er, back to my alternative suggestions: MC-303 is mega fun but not too flexible, as you’re stuck with the built-in sounds. Those built-in sounds include samples from all of Roland’s vintage gear, though, including some nice TB-303 sounds. The ES-1 is tremendous fun, with some great, idiosyncratic effects and good rubbery buttons that are pleasant to bash when jamming on some samples you’ve loaded in (Smart Media cards).

Honestly, it sounds like you want a groovebox more than you want an analogue synth, so I recommend buying a cheap groovebox, saving some money, and putting that cash towards a better, more versatile analogue synth in the future :)

It’s better than the 303, imho… yes, I’ve used both. :)

Alesis Andromeda A6

:yeah: :yeah: :yeah: :yeah: :yeah:

I got my cs-30 from ebay, international shipping from Japan. Worked out just fine, I even told the guy a fib that one of the sliders was a bit scratchy, and he sent an original yamaha replacement (It just sits there, in case i wear one out :)) This was two years ago and I haven’t regretted it… if anything its gone up in value.


You are all making me change my mind ! I’m happy to ask my questions on this forum because I really thought that the 606 was the thing corresponding to my wishes and I’m just realizing that it’s not. Not for now.

In the short term, my goal is too get a piece of hardware that allows me to think my music more in terms of live (because for the moment my music is 0.999999999999 step by step composition and 0.000000000001 live), and in the long term, I want to have a set of hardware boxes that help me to compose (or anyway start) songs without being channeled and slowed down by a mouse and a keyboard (i don’t criticize computer music, which I actually love, but I’d like to discover some other ways to make electronic music. Or even not electronic actually).

I think that the Korg Electribe ES-1 could really suits me. Loading personally synthesized or pre-processed samples in it, and just jamming… I’m going to continue my searches around this box.

Thanks all for your advices, they are really helpful !


PS : i’ve looked to the x0b0x site too. I didn’t know that they send it in a kit that you have to assemble yourself ! Nice concept.

By the way, what did you find better in it than in the 303 ?

Well, considering the 303 has aged over the years and the xoxbox is freshly assembled… often knobs are loose or broken, or it sounds a bit TOO vintage… ;) It’s considered to be the best clone, but it still doesn’t sound 100% like a 303, I thought it was a lot harsher in sound, but could be the way the xoxbox was put together and perhaps the age of the 303 in question. They’re both a lot of fun, but personally I think you end up making acid with 'em everytime you touch it…

There’s a fair few mods available from the x0b0x to change the character of its sound one way or another that may suit you more. Not personally used one but seen a couple a work colleague has built and they seem pretty nice units. Think he was pretty happy with it anyway.

i have both 606 and 202…i had a 505, but IMO it’s shit, and i sold it…i paid £210 for the 202 and £140 for the 606 with collectors edition black bag(I KNOW!!)
i’ve never looked back…i love both those pieces of electronic history.
Alot of people here have said that they’re sampled and there’s no need.
I’m building up to having an analogue band, and writing songs with live arrangement. That is the attraction…to do it LIVE…
I would heartily recommend you get yourself a 606, but dont stop there…

Hi Kaneel! \ : D /

Moss - I’m not saying there’s no need generally, I’m just specifically thinking about Ant’s situation and requirements… My violin is worth round about as much as the flat I live in, and I’d never sample it off as opposed to playing it live, nor could I drop down to using a cheaper, crappier violin…but that’s entirely subjective and comes from a combination of sentiment, dogmatism, cognitive bias and also a certain amount of technical value-judgement (still subjective, but less so). I own it; I’m predisposed towards defending my choice to own it (or to refrain from selling it) and the pride derived from my personal pleasure in owning and playing it would make me advise anyone else to also get a really nice violin. Even if it’s not precisely what they need.

I did the same thing with the SH-101 earlier in the thread, by the way, and warring console owners do it all day long: “the PS3 is better because…er…it’s the one I bought and now I’m stuck with it. But it’s the best, so YOU should get one too!”. Ask a broke-ass motherfucker like me whether you can get away with high-quality multisamples taken from vintage Roland drum machines and I’ll say “yeah, go for it”; ask me if you can get away with the same for an SH-101 and I’ll say “Hell no, get on eBay and buy one - even if you don’t need it!”. But that’s because I’m a bad influence and as untrustworthy a character as anybody you’re likely to bump into on the internet.

I’ve struck out on a tangent here, but I suppose my point is that it’s probably best for Ant to avoid the relativistic ‘quality’ debates and spend his budget on what’s most useful. Oh, and to further discredit my specious argument, I should point out that I inherited the violin - I could never have afforded it ;)

The-Ant: I have an ES-1 that I rarely use…I’ve tried to sell it in the past, but for some reason I can’t bear to part with it! If you do end up hanging around on eBay looking for one of these, take your time and try not to pay more than about £120. There’s a useful Yahoo group devoted to the Electribe series too, including some instructions for making a battery-pack from RC car batts, for train-borne, lap-bound, pseudo-masturbatory jam-fun!

Moss - ah, but I think I basically misread your post anyway. Ashamed of self.

I now suspect you meant sampled for use in software, rather than sampled for use in hardware (as with the MC-303), and that you were propounding the vintage kit as a means of Ant’s achieving the live jam feel he’s after. So probably my last post is now redundant, but shall remain as a document of my cretinousness!

lots and lots of long words! :panic:

EDIT: me and a friend wrote this last year…it’s a live jam using 202/606 a korg ms2000 and a dictaphone (plus various pedals)…
…well worth it.

I can throw in my 2 cents in the event that it may help you. Before buying gear I spent a good amount of time renting gear for a few days and making something with it to see how it sounded. I can’t even remember all the gear that I rented. (Among it though a Virus C, Roland June D (I think), a yamaha workstation, I can’t remember what else.

Eventually I went and bought an Alesis Ion (the little cousin of the Andromeda) without ever having tried one. This was a mistake. I did this because it was quite affordable and got tons of great reviews - especially for the money. Unfortunately when I got it home I went through every preset and couldn’t believe how useless this thing was for me. I mean, it was almost totally and completely useless for composing the types of music I wanted. It had no range. The poliphony was limited to something like 8 voices. I know it wasn’t a power synth, but it was really made for bloopy analog sounds, which was very limiting considering it was going to be my only hardware.

I wanted something that could do many different styles of music becuase I tend to skip all over the place. I was also thinking that it’s easy to come across bases, kicks, snares, etc. All this stuff has been sampled to death. But to get insanely textured, moving pads and strings and things like that were much harder to get out of current soft synths and defintely not from sampling.

When I went back to the store I tried a Korg M3 and was sold in like 15 seconds. Every patch I tried sounded better than the last. Plus, it has piano, violion, horns - real instruments in addition to synth sounds that can be difficult or impossible for pure analog synths to reproduce. You can also get the Radias card to add in another synth.

The other thing it has is Karma, which is quite a complicated music making tool that I really haven’t even begun to wrap my head around. In it’s most basic “turn it on” form though it can help with ideas, and create accompaniment with what you are playing.

I certainly wouldn’t assume the M3 or something like it is the right choice for you, but if you just go with a synth where you twist knobs for pure analog sounds you may be limiting yourself. Especially because you asked about something tha would help you compose, Karma is also something that you may be looking for. Final note, getting something with pads that will let you program in chords into each pad trigger can be helpful if you can’t play well. (I can’t and I use them quite a bit). Anyways, just a bit of food for thought!

Moss - yeah, I’m a dick. Can’t help it :( Enjoyed your live jam piece lots, by the way!

The-Ant - be sure to let us know what you do in the end! Whatever you decide to go for, I’m sure it’ll be cool. Oh, and my sad little contribution for the day is that when I tried to play with my ES-1 last night, I discovered that the power supply has a dodgy lead and it won’t power on :( Looks like it’s solder o’clock…