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Old synth rig for <$400

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, May 21, 2003.


  1. I'm gonna be starting a Stereotypical Indie Rock Band this fall (think '80s King Crimson having a threesome with The Sea and Cake and the Minutemen), with two guitarists. Since synths play a big role in this kind of music, I've been thinking about getting a synth rig for onstage use, a la what Tony Levin did with King Crimson in the '80s or what Eric Axelson does with the Dismemberment Plan. I'd mainly use it for playing keyboard bass parts (it's a distinctly different approach, I've found), and for guitarists to use for textural washes. I'm completely uninterested in realistic keyboard or acoustic instrument sounds; I just want something with good basses, leads, and pads. I doubt I'd need anything with more than 49 keys. I'd use my Clarus and a PA cabinet for amplification.

    Since they're so cheap on eBay, I've been looking at cheap, old polysynths like the Roland Junos. I've also been looking for used Novation Bass Stations. Anyone here have any suggestions that fit my budget? For recording and home use, I have a very nice Yamaha digital piano that has fairly usable vintage keyboard sounds as well, so I don't need anything special.
     
  2. oddentity

    oddentity

    Nov 20, 2000
    Philly
    Peter, I have a Sequential Circuits Pro-One. I love it.

    It's a US-made monophonic analog synth from the early 80s. It excels at fat synth bass, cutting lead tones and wacky noises (bubbles, "wind", etc). It has an external audio input so you can run other sounds through its filter section. Best of all, every parameter has a dedicated knob or switch on the front panel.

    The drawbacks: (1) Since it's monophonic, it won't do chords (but it has a drone switch). (2) The keyboard is often crap. (3) No patch memory. (4) No midi (though Kenton makes a good, cheap midi-to-CV converter).

    You can find them for $350-400 depending on the condition.

    If you would rather go the virtual-analog route, the Yamaha AN1x is an excellent choice. Iirc it is 10-voice polyphonic and it has a dozen knobs on the front panel. It can be had for $450 or so.

    I've used some of the Roland Junos and found them to be very cool. Stick to the 6, 60 or 106 and don't mess around with the Alpha Junos... IMO they sound brittle and thin compared to the others.

    Finally, I'm selling my Oberheim Matrix-6... It sounds great, but since it's very deep and has no knobs, it's a nightmare to program and near impossible to tweak on the fly. Consequently it's been gathering dust in the corner for he last year.
     
  3. Yeah, I've heard that the Sequential Circuits stuff is quality. Prophet-5s seem to have a huge following, along with the aforementioned Oberheim Matrix (although the Matrix-12 is the one everyone seems to love, IIRC).

    People love the Junos you mentioned. Are the 6, 60, and 106 preset synths? I'd like to have three or four different sounds on tap--a fast-resonance bass, a more even-sounding bass, a GR300-sounding lead, and a slightly chilly pad.
     
  4. oddentity

    oddentity

    Nov 20, 2000
    Philly
     
  5. Yeah, the GR300 is a guitar synth. Think Robert Fripp on King Crimson's "The Sheltering Sky," Andy Summers on the Police's "Walking in Your Footsteps," or Pat Metheny on virtually everything he's done since ~1984.
     
  6. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    How about a synclavier. ;)

    brad cook
     
  7. No.
     
  8. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    Oberheim Matrix 1000 rack unit. DCO, but very fat string sounds.

    Roland SH-101: the daddy of eighties bass synth. One OSC, and one sub-OSC, but that sub-OSC is the fattest sound you ever heard.
    There is also a bass synth cousin to the Roland TR808, but I can't remember the model.

    You may want to check out the Korg MS2000 modeling synth. Yes, it is not real analog, but does it does have a pretty good sound. (I even had a chance to compare it with a real Moog Mini-moog.) It holds up on it's own and is easily programmable. Plus it has a vocoder that takes mic or line level input. You should be able to find a used one on ebay for less than $500.
     
  9. That's a pretty good idea. I love the Korg sound that John Paul Jones got on In Through the Out Door. Not sure I'd do much with the vocoder, but it could be interesting with samples.

    EDIT: It looks way, way complicated, though. Or is that just poor layout design?
     
  10. DigMe

    DigMe

    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    Damn you.

    brad cook
     
  11. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    It is complicated in that there are so many parameters to tweak. It is simple in that all parameters are easily accessible via a knob. You do need to know someting about subtractive synthesis, like VCO, OSC, filters, gates, etc. The best part is that you just twist knobs until you get a sound you like and store it!