which synth to buy / keep?

  • Keep: Korg Wavestation EX (c. 1993)
    or, sell and
    buy: Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver
    or,
    buy: Alesis Andromeda A6

    ???

    I have a Prophet 600 and a Wavestation. I am going to keep the Prophet. What about the Wavestation? Should I sell it?

    Some principles I've developed:

    I have decided that my computer is already a digital synthesizer -- why have an old outboard one?

    I have decided that new (outboard) synth gear, for me, will be analog. I am not interested in outboard analog modeling (nord, etc.). I have decided that I am not going to go modular. I am hankering for one of the new analogs.

    More questions:

    Is it just gear lust? Should I keep my old WS and not worry about these new-fangled analogs? Should I keep it AND buy a new analog?

    Does the wavetable-style synthesis of the ES 2 in my Logic Express DAW approximate the WS enough not to worry about its loss? Or, if I sell it, should I buy the Korg legacy collection as a software replacement?

    Should I sell it to help towards buying one of the newer analogs? If so, which one? Poly Evolver or Andromeda? How do they compare?

    I've looked around the net / forums about this question: but I wanted to pose it to the monome community because, frankly, I just trust you guys more (and a lot of folks out there have unhelpful opinions about gear).

    Opinions? Advice? Experiences? Hope?

    Thanks for the help and advice in advance, monome community.

  • P.S. - Here is a link to a blog post where I love on my prophet 600 a little bit:

    http://tetramorph.blogspot.com/2008/12/loving-prophet.html

  • I've heard, and read, some really good things about the Korg Legacy collection. I read Computer Music and Future Music every month, and they have some very good reviews on every new product that comes down the line. Wavetable synthesis was a revolutionary technology when it came out, but there are many ways of getting that sound nowadays, from expensive to free. Even Malstrom in Reason is a wavetable synth.

    I really like Dave Smith's stuff. Both the Poly Evolver and the Prophet 08 scored very highly. He's also working on a new LinnDrum with Roger Linn that will include an analog synth section. He's released at least one new desktop synth that is very affordable under DSI.

    I think I read a review about the Andromeda, but I can't remember the outcome. In general, many of the newer products in the past couple of years are excellent, no matter the manufacturer. Korg has had a ton of great stuff developed, a lot of it within the past 2 years.

    I respect your decisions about your gear philosophy. I know that the lines delineating software/hardware and real/synthesized are becoming much blurrier all the time. In fact, Arturia just recently released the Origin, which is a hardware synth that runs the software emulations of old analog synths that Arturia first released as plugins. The upshot is that you can combine, say, the filter from a Moog with the oscillator of an ARP.

    I guess the point is that you can't go wrong with a new analog by one of the established developers. Many of them go a long way with respect to the past, while including many new and innovative features.

    There are also a few boutique companies that specialize in very straightfoward, brand-new analog designs.

  • hi there,

    your ws could be replaced by the virtual one from korg legacy.

    Good to keep your prophet.

    The andromeda is great synth, i like the fact that you can tune the Oscillators without steps, this is wicked alone.

    aside that i tried the DSI PolyEvolver and was really impressed. I just played it for one hour or so but i really fell in love with it, i´d buy if i could.

    Maybe you want to have a look at the Jomox Sunsyn, should be great tooand in a similar pricerange.

    From my own use i can recommend the Elektron Monomachine, it´s great but obviously only mono.

    Whatever, i´d dale the WS in a second a head for anothe synth.

  • korg legacy is supposed to sound great, tho the legacy ms20 controller is supposed to suck. and i hear the ms20 synth is great but still different from the original (which i absolutely adore, btw). so that'll likely replace yr wavestation, first off.

    second, you're right. why buy a nord lead or other VA when you have a computer? unless you plan on gigging with the sounds or using them in a band setting where computers get cumbersome, etc. i've followed this adage recently and my hardware synths are all real-deal analog (except the microkorg but that's cheap and fun anyway).

    third, i don't see why you're interested in the poly evo. especially since you have a prophet 600 which will cover the analog/poly side of the evo pretty closely. unless you really want the extra mod options (which are fun), sequencing, limited fx and the digi osc's in it, i don't see the reasoning. i like the evo and p08 but i find the dco's dsi uses to be less lively than something like moog's or vintage analogs.

    i guess, mainly, it would help to know exactly what sound you're looking for in another synth. analog or digi (not VA; fm, wavetable, etc)? with or without fx? polyphony necessary? what about sequencing/arpeggiators? do you care if it's vintage or do you want newer? if vintage is ok, is lack of midi? is lack of memory?

  • i own an andromeda, have done for about 4 months, and i'll be honest i'm finding it hard to warm to it. it has a staggering array of features and possibilities but the sound has never leapt out at me the way pretty much every other analogue i've ever owned has. i finally revived my long dead chroma not long after the A6 arrived and the difference in 'instant good vibes' between the sound of the two machines was quite apparent.

    however, this is an oft debated topic amongst A6 owners and there are plenty of people who love them, so i'd really urge you to go play one and if possible A/B against some other analogue gear.

  • yes - listen. i'm sure you have more experience than me. but i do know that whatever the analog gear is you are considering, comparing the sounds of the filters alone (let alone the rest of the package) with your own ears would be helpful in making a regret-free decision.

    FWIW (and you're probably already aware) the polyevolver has two wavetable-based digital oscillators in addition to the two digitally-controlled analog ones for each of its four voices. also, no analog sine wave - that combined with the sound of the filter was enough to make me start a modular which may someday replace it.

  • Thanks, all, for the helpful replies.

    @archetype303: thanks for affirming the gear philosophy!

    @herrreinholt: thanks for pointing out those other synths. I had run into them before, in internet research. The sunsyn is no longer produced (I would like to buy new) and the other one did not appear to be entirely analog. Thanks.

    @jmelnyk: good questions. Thanks for making me clarify: First of all, a question (stupid) what is "VA"? No, I've got wavetable on the computer, so I probably don't need the PE. Yes, I'm excited about old school sequencing and arpeggiation - but both the PE and the A6 have that (so, again, which one?). I've already got my vintage Prophet 600, I would really like to buy new.

    @Matt KU: Bummer about your A6! That is very discouraging, b/c the other posts make we want to lean that direction.

    @goiks: None of the music stores in town are interested in having an A6 or a PE sitting around at their store for me to test out before buying. I am going to have to buy cold (or go to a bigger town). So you got tired of the PE and decided to go modular? But I've decided not to go modular (too "late" in life) so would you recommend that I go A6?

    Thanks, community. Looking forward to further discussion.

  • VA = Virtual Analog

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analog_modeling_synthesizer

  • i can understand your descision.
    i would sell the wavestation right away,
    and buy a real analog synthesizer.
    why don´t buy a moog little phatty?
    this would be my first choice..

    and do you have ever looked at those?:
    http://www.mfberlin.de/Produkte/Musikelektronik/musikelektronik.html

    not so elegant like a moog, but not expensive and symphatic!

  • Thanks, corporation, for the clarification on the alphabet soup. Okay, then, back to jmelnyk's questions: no, I don't want VA. Right now I don't feel like acquiring any more VA than I already have with Logic. Certainly not outboard (like Virus, etc.).

    And what I am figuring out about myself from the discussion (thanks again) is that I want polyphony. I love monophonic stuff, but I would rather have a poly, the oscillators of which I could stack, than to be stuck with something monophonic and then find myself suddenly wishing I could lay out a pad but I've only got one voice.

    @evs: pretty adamant that I'm not going modular right now. Thanks.

    I am hearing strong encouragement to go ahead and sell my (beloved old friend, but all things must come to an end) WS. That confirms my initial feelings. Thanks for the conversation. Looking forward to more insight!

  • so i don't needlessly dissuade you i'll clarify -

    i like analogue for it's 'poke' and interface, and to my mind the A6 can't match my existing analogue gear for this (korg monopoly and the king of my studio, the ems vcs3).

    however if i switch off my expectations and simply play the instrument in front of me the A6 is an incredibly versatile synthesizer. there's not really much else out there to touch it for features, and if you are happy regularly diving into menus (there's just too much going on to do everything from the front panel, even one with 80-odd knobs) the possibilities are endless.

    and to put my point in perspective, i guess that unless you're in the price range to pick up a cs-80 / jupiter 8 / chroma / memory moog etc then what else is there to compete with the A6?

    final final point - i've used the A6 on a couple of recent releases so i clearly don't have that much of a problem with it. i just don't love it :)

  • well if you've gotta have poly and it's gotta be recent, the options are:
    alesis andromeda, dsi poly evo, dsi prophet 08 and vermona perfourmer. i'd personally tend towards the perfourmer but mainly because i like the lack of menus and rotary encoders you have to guess the settings for. the all knob interface encourages from-scratch programming rather than preset tweaking, too.

    i haven't tried the andromeda tho i hear it's kind of an unwieldy beast that is not without its advantages. i've owned a mek but not a pek. i like the sound in general but i always ended up using the same sorts of sounds; might just be me tho. the p08 is a great board but i became frustrated with lpf only as well as with the encoders.

    dsi does this thing with their encoders where you have to turn them just a bit to see what they're assigned to. for example, the lfo source and destination. when you turn it, it changes. but you want to know what it's assigned to, right? in order to get that displayed on the screen, you have to turn the knob a bit, but not too much or it'll change its value. that's very frustrating to me. they should do like the moog voyager and display the stored (preset) value on the screen along with the current value.

    not sure if this rambling is helpful. just trying to give you some things to consider...

  • @Matt KU: you have an EMS. Hmm. Okay, I'm not jealous. Anyway, no, I've got to stick to my principle here (just so that there are some parameters!) and say: I've got my vintage synth, I want something new. Furthermore, with regards to diving into menus: isn't that when you are getting to the more "modular" aspects of the A6. For straightforward "real time" tweaking and basic programming, it's still relatively straightforward, right?

    @jmelnyk: thanks for the tip on the vermona perfourmer. Wow! Cool. And relatively inexpensive when compared to the PE or the A6. However, if I sell my WS I'll be without a keyboard midi controller (prophet has no aftertouch/velocity, etc.). So I feel like I am stuck with buying something that can also double as my midi keyboard. My space is limited too, so doubling up on functionality is a good idea for me.

    But I do hate encoders rather than straightforward pots. So the A6 (I should have guessed - must have been living a dream) has encoders as well? Bummer. Does anyone know if it also has the problem that jmelnyk describes above about the PE - that you've got to slightly move an encoder in order to find out a preset's numeric setting?

  • menus - they're both a strength and a weakness on the A6. i'd say that i found myself hitting the menus more than i expected e.g. the multi-stage envelopes aren't wildly intuitive to be honest - add to that the problem that the physical position of the envelope's encoders typically don't reflect the current setting and you're on your way back to the menu again...

    same goes for most modulation routings, anything to do with velocity. my first inkling that the A6 and i weren't a match made in heaven came when i realized i couldn't really 'zero' a patch without a LOT of mystified peering at the menu to locate hidden modulation routings. the process could take minutes and still leave me scratching my head about unexplained delayed vibratos or similar.

    this is a definite drawback of the A6 and many classic polysynths of course, the front panel doesn't reflect the settings of the preset you've just loaded up. on the plus side when you want to see the current setting of a parameter you can simply hit a little button that can be found in all the sections of the front panel and it switches the menu to show the settings for the current filter/lfo/envelope etc.

    i'm not at the studio but as far as i recall the A6 is one of those synths that only changes the current parameter as you move the encoder past the point the parameter was set to (if you know what i mean).

  • yea all synths with memory have this issue. it's frustrating. i think some of the better solutions are what clavia did with the nord lead 3 and modular g2 (led rings around endless encoders) and what korg did with the microKorg/alesis did with the a6 (values don't change until you move past them/position the knob to the true value). the mK also blinks the current value before it's changed; very helpful. similar to the moog voyager approach; better, actually.

    if space is at a premium you definitely want a keyboard then. dsi boards feel and play great, with aftertouch too (a6 also has, i believe). the encoder issue is mainly an annoyance. you can certainly live with it; it's just a bit frustrating when you're trying to figure out what the hell a patch is doing. the dsi pek and p08 are pretty much without menus, fwiw. there's a couple but they're mainly for global settings. you are pretty much tied to reading the values in that display tho, so you can see what's happening.

  • final A6 grumble i promise - the front panel transmits MIDI data when you move the encoders (hurray!) but it instead of MIDI ccs it uses NRPN (huge booooooo!). not recognized by some sequencers (e.g. Live) and virtually non-editable on all sequencers.

    missed opportunity.

  • @Matt KU: so are you saying that I can't, say, sequence a filter sweep for an A6 using Logic? That would be a HUGE bummer to me. If I CAN program something like that using MIDI CCs with the PE, then I think I may have my question answered.

  • the good news - there is a simple way of assigning cc controllers to pretty much any parameter. there is a limit to the number of simultaneous assignments though, about 10 or so.

    the bad news - you can't generate those ccs from the obvious first choice, the dedicated front panel knobs. so if you want to work with editable filter sweeps on the A6 you have to use another MIDI controller box to generate them or draw the data in your sequencer. you can't simply turn the A6's cutoff knob.

  • If you are really into the WaveStation - then you already know why
    you need to keep it. It does things that other synths still can't do.
    I am a little biased as this is my first real synth - and
    still have the EX and the rack mount.

    The plug-in version is that - a plug in version.

    Do you have extra cycles on you CPU?

    I purchases a Mac Mini as a very capable synthesizer engine.
    Very good digital system.

  • @flyingdisc: I am really into the sounds of the WS. I am really not into the programming of it (not the way that I am for analog synths). What a cool first real synth to have. My first real synth was my Prophet 600, so that is what I go for: knobs, switches, faders, gears and latches. Not a big fan of (too much) paging through endless menus.

    I've got a mac powerbook 2.4 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 2 GB 677 MHz DDR2 SDRAM running OS 10.5.6. If I shut everything else down and get off the net, couldn't my machine handle the Korg Legacy plug-in, Logic Express, MAX Runtime and Monomeserial?

  • more @flyingdisc: yeah, there is stuff I would miss. I would miss the joystick. I would miss the performance layering of patches, mapping them to the joystick for the "vector" stuff.

    Anyone: could I get something like that out of the ES 2, mapping the X and Y to the monome 64 tilt? or to a joystick rigged for MIDI?

    But the wavesequencing: so cool conceptually: so cool to hear: so beyond my skill / strength of will to pursue.

  • I've had a mono Evolver for a while and recently got a good deal on a second hand poly key, which I bought. Don't know the Andromeda so can't compare, but anyway:

    + : all parameters are there for me to tweak, though I need to switch between the 4 parts. I didn't realize how nice the polyphony would be to have, even if it's only 4 voices. And it's expandable with other evolvers, so I can use my MEK for an extra voice, and if I buy a poly rack I can add 4 voices.

    - : there is some issue with the knobs that occasionally makes a value increase slowly or (worse) take a bigger leap than I intended. This is a second hand unit and I aim to get it fixed, but still. Other than that I feel the way it's been implemented is pretty ok - I don't like static pots that snap to the value.

    Besides this I already knew that I love the sound that it makes, but (without knowing a whole lot about other synths) I feel that there are a large but limited amount of tricks that I'm drawn towards (distortion, tuned feedback, some filter and oscillator tricks, etc). One thing that I was annoyed at but knew about is that oscillator glide doesn't work with the sequencers.

    /Stefan

  • Many thanks to all of you who commented on this thread and helped me to discern what I was looking for.

    Easter Monday (a week ago) my new A6 arrived.

    http://tetramorph.blogspot.com/2009/04/intergalactic-arrival.html

    Still busy learning it (along with everything else, for that matter) but having lots of fun. I will be selling the WS, but I've got the legacy plug in and (as long as they continue to support it for the foreseeable future) I will not have to leave that old friend behind entirely.

    Peace

  • Nice! I've been lusting after an A6 since they first came out.

    This (long) thread at VSE has some interesting bits on the history of the A6, much of which is from some of the former Alesis engineers who created the beast:

    http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=28215

  • Nice, thanks for the link. I am having fun reading through. History always deepens the experience of something.

    I must admit (am I ashamed or not?) knowing that Nick Rhodes uses the A6 helped persuade me. But finding out that it takes the place of his old (sadly, broken beyond repair) Jupiter 8 just confirmed something for me: As soon as I had a chance to peruse the pads and especially the eighties brass stuff I said to my wife: I've had a Prophet (600) for a while, now I've finally got my Jupiter!

    Peace