What Hardware Do You Use/rate?

okay i know theres been a couple of threads about this already… however… im considering saving up some cash by selling off a bunch of my old vinyl record collection to put towards a synth/hardware investment of some kind. so i was wondering if anybody has used these which i’ve been looking at or has something else they would recommend?

some ive been looking at:

Future Retro XS - this appeals to me from the fact its analogue and therefore has sonic advantages to stuff i could do with vsts and seems pretty hands on with a lot of versatility within the paradigm of what it does, which is something i would like. Being able to tweak stuff “hands on” and come up with weird and interesting sounds would be a motivating factor to get something like this, and since i’d mainly be looking for something which can create nice smooth deep basses and blippy sounds perhaps this is a good choice? i also like the idea that its potentially expandable, but doesnt cost what a full on modular would cost in terms of cash or space, although its obviously not cheap either… i’d also like to be able to do tb-303-type stuff, which i think this would do, although im not too worried about it sounding identical to a real 303, but id like a analogue type sound of that ilk. and i presume renoise would be good for sending midi information to control this? but could i get TB-303-like slides and accents or would i need to be looking at something closers to the TB-303 control interface to do that?

Virus TI Snow - seems like a pretty hardcore synth for the money and pretty versatile, plus i imagine it intergrates more straightforwardly with a computer controlled setup than the XS which wont have presets etc. perhaps a virus is a good “one synth” to have, if you are only going to have one hardware synth? Or, would i be better off looking at something like a Virus B rack which i could get much cheaper? But does this really offer much advantage over VST given its stripped of all the controls the TI Polar has so its mostly software controlled anyway? I can’t afford a Polar any time soon…

Nord Lead 2x - again seems like it might be a good all-round synth which also does the analogue stuff i want?

Korg Legacy collection with the MS20 controller

So to summarise, what i would like from it is:

  • hands on experimentation of analogue-type sounds
  • fun to use and will have me playing around for hours upon end
  • good range of useable sounds “out the box”, but also highly tweakable for making new sounds and modulating them with filters, LFOs etc.
  • something i can go straight to with any track to get a nice bass sound
  • being able to make nice analogue-type drums would be an advantage but not the primary function
  • clean, deep, ace sounds
  • possibility to input samples and alter/modulate/filter etc.

what im not too bothered about

  • acoustic instrument modelling type stuff.
  • cliched sounds of current dance music trends
  • multi-instrument appregiation type functions
  • high tech pads, high tech basslines i couldnt design myself from scratch

what kind of music/sounds i want to make

  • jungle type bass and sounds circa metalheads platinum breakz vol.1 + 2
  • glitchy, breakcorey, idm type nonsense
  • electroacoustic

oh and i was also wondering if a hardware sampler would be worthwhile for getting those 97 type d&b sounds, or should i just look at kontakt for that?

okay thats quite a long post :unsure: any pointers or anecdotes on what you use or rate appreciated! or perhaps i should just go back and look at VSTs like reaktor more?? :wacko:

ever considered a second hand nord modular ? (fisrt generation) verry versatile workhorse , a second hand sampler (yamaha A series …doesn´t cost anything these days and has some good filters…but then again why use a hardware sampler …except for the multisampling stuff …my yammie is gathering dust …cause most of the sampling stuff is done inside renoise and shortcircuit =freeware and fuckin awesome !
hope this helps

yeah im beginning to think a hardware sampler is probably a waste of time, especially since i have no interest in multisampling stuff. although if i saw one cheaply id probably grab one anyway to play around with… but accepting i don’t need one. i have some old atari STs kicking around and id quite like to try sequencing some hardware that way at some point just for fun.

looking at the nord modular looks like it might definitely be worth considering… although i suppose once we’re into the realm of analogue modelling controlled by software, the benefits of having hardware are perhaps less tangible unless it really is more fun to use. this is kind of why i was looking at the future retro; it seems if im going to bother with hardware there might as well be some definite advantage to doing so i.e. actually analogue synthesis…

I use a Waldorf’s Blofeld, and while I had some doubt at the beginning about it fitting my need, it’s now perfectly suiting my works.

Also, you could think that having a DSP controlled synth would have very few benefit if you already have a lot VSTi but it’s really not the case. Sure having a real analogue piece can be cool, but will it really suits your need? Analogue synths are pretty limited compared to what a synth like the Virus can offer.

But once again, it only depends on what you want to do, and suiting your taste, the best bet is once again to try everything and choose what appears the best to you.

But if I had to choose between a TI or a XS it would be the TI without hesitation.


a review of the TI btw.

mmm… none of this is making me not want a TI… or an XS.

how good are the analogue-type sounds from the TI though? could i get similar sounds to the XS (with fully routable LFOs to any of the parameters etc.). if i can get similar sounds from the TI as i could from the XS or nord modular (albeit not actually analogue) then that’d probably be the clincher. the TI does look more like something i’d use all the time, perhaps more so than the XS.

i wonder if it’d be worth saving for abit longer to get the rack version over the snow though, for those extra dials. the TI rack seems to go for only slightly more than the snow 2nd hand.

I’ve got quite a lot of hardware, and my favourite synth overall is probably the Korg Z1, but it takes quite a bit of work to get really good with.

It sounds as good as the Virus/Nord - a bit smoother and less upfront - but you’ve got all these different oscillator models: Standard, VPM, Ring, Resonance, etc. as well as Organ, String, Wind, etc. physical models.

So you can create really complex instruments, like a Reed model controlling an FM synth, and then you can assign all the key parameters to the user control knobs on the front… it’s like building your instruments more than just creating presets…

As for Metalheadz type bass sounds.

No synth can really do them on its own. That was the sound of Z-plane filters on pretty basic monosynth sounds on the whole; with lots of distortion.

The Emu E6400 and E4k were (still are) the most popular. You can start with a really basic sample, like a saw or square wave, and distort the hell out of it internally, with the gain and the filters.

I don’t know what Emu does but it works magic on bass sounds and breaks. The Peak Shelving morph filter is the one to use. You set up a low filter setting and a high filter setting - you might have a low pass filter at 80hz morphing into a high shelf at 3000hz, and then you assign the morph (/cut off) parameter to the mod wheel or a controller, and you can do all those Optical/Matrix/Dillinja basses.

Wormhole was all about the Korg Z1, SCI Pro One and Emu E4k (I think.)

A Virus would be a good choice though. Very deep synth. You can do pretty good Metalheadz-style basses on it too. It’ll distort internally and you can use the low pass filter to make sounds warp. But there’s still something about a Pro One (or just some Pro One or Moog samples) going through an Emu sampler that you don’t get anywhere else.

Dillinja bass can be done just sampling an 808 and turning the gain up on an Emu. (People spend years trying to get that sound with plug-ins.)

thanks for the tips. i think i want a TI. so now i just have to scrape the pennies together and figure out if im better off with the snow or one of the other ones…

I’ve got two nord modulars actually. A micro modular (which was dirt, dirt cheap) and a Modular G2. The micro modular really sold me on the concept but it’s just a major, major bitch to program. No usb, and it needs two dedicated midi ports for the programming software, which in some cases means you’ll need more than one midi interface if you plan to be playing it at the same time. The G2 is just pure joy though, although it does have a very “impersonal” sound. Very science-guy matter of factly sound. You’ll be working a lot to add character to your patches.

Also i have a Korg R3 which i’ve used less since i got the G2 but it’s still an amazing unit for its price range. I guess a good comparison is as a next-level Microkorg without the shitty keyboard, a better vocoder and a more mature synthesis engine. It’s also got really powerful effects so you can make that piggy squeal like you wouldn’t believe.

In that same range (cheapo, plasticy, still good sound) i’ve been looking at the Roland SH-201, mostly because of the programmable arpeggiator and that every single function has a knob or slider on the front panel. It’s just damn nice to be able to touch every control whenever you want to. Additionally Roland are doing this fun thing where the fucker will run as a vsti in your sequencer and pipe audio straight through usb. Very convenient.

On top of that i’ve got some toys like theremins, nintendo with midines, nintendo ds with korg ds-10 (i do like my korgs)

But all that new jazz ain’t shit compared to the old stuff really. I’m still trying to find a Z1 in good condition for an okay price. Or… Christ… An Oberheim Ob-12. Drool.

is there much difference between the original nord modular and the G2? it does look quite cool. i think im prepared to sacrifice analogue authenticity for flexibility and something which works and has the conveinience of these USB interfaces, so long as it has plenty dials. hence if i get a virus its going to probably have to be the desktop not the snow. but the modular appeals because im quite interested in getting weird analogue type sounds like you hear on some Explore Toi or Hangars Liquides type stuff.

i did look at the SH-201, but my concern is that at that price its not going to be up to par - the last synth i owned was an roland MC-505, which was pretty fun to use but you couldnt really get into the sounds with any depth. i was expecting it to be able to do proper 303 type sounds, but really it was just some 303-like presets. it was fun but felt more like a toy or something a band could use to add a couple of beats here and there rather than a serious instrument. anyway that cost £450 at the time so im kinda looking to spend more on something which is going to really kick ass. not that i have the money right now anyway, but when i do… im selling load of junk on ebay the moment to raise some cash ^_^

apparently the MS-20 thing on the DS is pretty sweet. i havent tried it yet but a friend of mine has it who doesnt usually make music that much and he says he’s pretty hooked on it. i want to try out nanoloop and LSDj too at some point when i can get hold of a cart reader.

I really do much sounds on the Korg Radias, after the news I could convert my MS2000 (which was my baby) this was a must have for me.

the Novation X-station is, in my eyes, the most underestimated piece of hardware. it’s a nice synth, a great midi controller and soundcard in one handy box.

the Korg analogue stuff is indeed really great but be sure to set ‘auto suspend’ of in renoise to avoid stuttering.

alesis andromeda a6 :yeah:

true analog signal path :yeah:

although, bit xpensive, but still :yeah: hell yeah!!!

There is a difference for sure. The G2 is more powerful for one, with more DSPs. The software and modules you can use is also quite different.

I have to admit i haven’t used the micro more than setting up a couple of vocoder patches, because it really is tough to set up for convenient use, a problem you’d have with the “proper” Modular too. The G2 is pretty dreamy.

As for wether the SH-201 is a toy or not, i think it’s important to remember that what defines a synth isn’t the presets, but how much freedom and convenience it gives you. I always look at the specifications first and then look for users who program their own patches before i even care about what it sounds like out of the box. Preset patches are, 9/10 times, a complete waste of everybody’s time. The short while i’ve had with the 201 (in stores obviously) it’s just been a lot of fun to actually program on. It gets that vintage what-if-i-do-this feel that i miss from a lot of the more OS-centric synths.

The 303 is a HILARIOUSLY simple synth for instance. You can reproduce the 303 sound on basically any synth out there right now that gives you a saw or pulse oscillator and a resonant filter you can affect with an envelope. Pretty much all proper synths let you do this, even the really cheap stuff. From what i know the MC-505 is a ROMpler based “synth”, which renders it pretty invalid as a synthesizer if you ask me. I think synthesizers should synthesize to earn that brand :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Synths are beautiful things. For a straight up recommendation for beginners i’d point at the Korg R3. It’s just massive for that price, like a mini-RADIAS with a pretty okay vocoder to boot.

I recommend you look for a V-Synth secondhand. It is awesome at experimental sounds, do very good VA (in my ears, anyway - the Virus is probably several notches better though). It also has fantastic controllers. You can probably get find it used for the same price as the Virus TI Snow.

From what I understand, the VA section of the V-Synth is capable of doing everything the sh-201 can, and probably more.
Believe me, this is a kick-a** synth.
And use the spare money for Reaktor 5 - it is a must ;) :D

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