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Better musical results from buying one or two big ticket synths or a variety of smaller cool ones?
Old 20th September 2020
  #1
Better musical results from buying one or two big ticket synths or a variety of smaller cool ones?

Hi, I am a relatively new music producer and composer with professional aspirations. I can afford to invest about $300-$500 a month into music-related things, including synthesizers, and I can wait a while to make my first purchases.
I produce a wide range of music from soundtracks to pop to EDM, and want to have a wide arsenal of sounds.
My studio space is somewhat limited. I work out of Ableton Live, which I am happy and comfortable with. My keyboard skills are mediocre but probably good enough. I will not be performing on stage.
I want to invest in some synthesizer equipment that can make distinctive, fresh, sounds for productions that will stand out. I have no bias against using soft synths, but I've noticed that some of my producer peers are getting noticeably awesome sounds from hardware.
So I'm looking to by one or more hardware synths that are strong in areas where soft synths typically fall short.
I want to be able to completely control the synths from Ableton, and be able to capture what I do on the synth in Ableton.
I'm not sure if I should save up money and get something expensive like a Hydrasynth, which sounds great to me, a Matrixbrute, which also sounds great in a different way and seems like would be a fun basis for a modular army, or if I should start with some more affordable equipment like a Neutron and start adding things like a Volca Modular, Microfreak Vocoder and maybe some Eurorack gear and whatever catches my fancy to my system, learning more about my needs as I go?
Or should I get a mainstream choice like a Prophet?
One thing I'd like to avoid is studio cluttered with discarded expensive toys. In 20 years I'd love to have a room full highly valued, amazing gear that has been well loved and productive.
What would you do in my situation?
Old 20th September 2020
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
...
Or should I get a mainstream choice like a Prophet?
...
"If there's anyone out there who still thinks of Arturia as a quirky little manufacturer of soft synths and low-cost hardware, it's time to stop doing so."

- Gordon Reid, (2020) SOS. https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/arturia-polybrute
Old 20th September 2020
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
one or more hardware synths that are strong in areas where soft synths typically fall short.
Where do you think your software synths fall short? What are you actually seeking? Is it the tools or your lack of experience preventing you getting the results you want?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
I want to be able to completely control the synths from Ableton, and be able to capture what I do on the synth in Ableton.
Nothing beats soft synths for this level of control, integration, recall, audio capture quality, flexibility, versatility, affordability, simplicity or portability.

If you want an 'arsenal of a wide range of sounds' then software is unbeatable for the money.

Now, don't get me wrong, hardware is a nice luxury to have. The right hardware can inspire, provide a nice UI, sound great - but I think the best way to find the right hardware is to use software until you zero in on the sounds and interfaces you find yourself using constantly at which point you will know exactly what you do (and do not) want.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
start with some more affordable equipment like a Neutron
I often have a Neutron as the sole hardware synth attached to my DAW. I can send MIDI via USB and get audio back from a single input on my interface. Also, it doesn't take up a lot of space.

It does saturated analog sounds well. It has a certain sound. It wants to be fuzzy, distorted, wooly.

Note that you cannot control much of the Neutron from the DAW (though I did see this the other day if you have Max for Live). You cannot save patches either - which I like since it means no two sounds are ever quite the same.

Realistically, its main advantages are experimentation via the patch points along with its perform-ability. I will often record a bassline whilst subtly tweaking knobs throughout the track for the sake of evolution and movement. So, really, a USB MIDI controller could do the same thing. Or most other knob-per-function synths.
Old 20th September 2020
  #4
Lives for gear
 
🎧 5 years
3 big hardware synths (2 polys, 1 mono).
Few payware VSTis.
Some 20 to 50 of the best freeware VSTis.
1 good sampler VSTi.
Old 20th September 2020
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Persemone's Avatar
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
You get better musical results from better music. Choose something that makes your creativity happen, the rest comes naturally
Old 20th September 2020
  #6
Moderator
 
Reptil's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Invest first in good monitors and acoustic treatment of the room. (we have a whole forum for that here) This will make your (home) studio soooo much nicer to work in. You won't notice what you can't hear.

Which instrument? That's really too general a question to ask, for something so specific. It really varies per person.
Some instruments occupy the "midrange", not the top dog workstation but enough to make complete songs with, explore making your own sounds. Some examples the Korg Prologue, Monologue and Wavestate, Elektron Analog Four MKII, Sequential Pro 3, Roland System 8, Modal Argon8x, Behringer Deepmind, Moog subsequent25, Novation Peak, and also the Hydrasynth. Did I forget something? Probably. Oh and there's also modular synths. All of these sell here for south of 2000 euros, new.
That's what I would get, when starting out. Which one depends on the workflow and character of the sounds it will produce. Then get to know that synth and combine with some soft synths, drum machines, and samples.
Oh and do check out if you can find a secondhand machine. We have a classifieds section right here on GS but that's a bit of a seperate topic.
Good luck and lots of fun, with the search
Old 20th September 2020
  #7
Lives for gear
 
chaocrator's Avatar
of course, the following is spoken by my professional deformation, but anyway:

„one big ticket synth“ is a single point of failure.

having some smaller cool ones is just more reliable.
Old 20th September 2020
  #8
Save up for the "good stuff."
Old 20th September 2020
  #9
Deleted e26361f
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
I want to be able to completely control the synths from Ableton
There are different extents of 'control'.

The majority of synths [except for some modular and some very old gear] will have MIDI and you should usually be able to trigger notes and possibly the velocity of those notes.

Within that group, some will also allows MIDI CC control - this adds deeper control of parameters - like filter cutoff etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
Neutron; Volca Modular; Eurorack gear
These won't have CC control, so you cannot 'completely control them from Ableton'.

>>>>

I think a big question is do you want to generate/control several sounds simultaneously?

Reasons WHY you might want to do that:

* Live performance

* It's nice to record several synths at the same time and simultaneously tweak a couple of filter cutoffs - you can move them in together / in response to one another, easily.

... If you want several sounds to be fluid/changeable at the same time, it's nice to have multiple synths.

... Whereas if you are happy to commit a synth part to an audio recording and only after that to begin composing and tweaking the next part, then you can get away with just one synth.

My advice would be to start with a Korg Minilogue and a Behringer MS1... Both have a good and easy to understand layout that's immediately fun to use. This will give you one poly and one mono. See how you go from there.
But them used and then if you don't get along with them you can always resell them at the same price you paid.
Old 20th September 2020
  #10
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Get a top of the line softsynth like Omnisphere. I don't think many people can argue it lacks anything a hardware synth has (did I just call a holy war on myself?). Then get lower end modules like Behringers, I suggest the Model D, just to see the difference. The difference is playing with knobs. It makes you learn more about how to design sounds. Get bored of that module, sell it and buy a step up, like a Hydrasynth or whatever takes your fancy at that time. You'll keep doing 80% of your music with softsynths but enjoy sound designing the one or two layers with hardware. Keep working up and learning more. You don't know which high end synth would be best for your sound now. You will after a number of years of learning both hardware and software. They reinforce each other.

Or like most people here, after a few years it wont be about 'this is exactly what I need to be the most productive'. it is 'I lust after that and shall have it'. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people like cars, some people like collectable action figures. We like synths.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted 43e8601 ➡️
These 2 statements are contradictory. You won't know what you need or do not need until you start buying synthesizers or try them on. Nobody can make that experiment for you. This is why I drove to a shop filled with synths once in order to try a few dozens in one afternoon and made me realize that most of that cheap gear is almost worthless and sound quality certainly came at a price when it comes to hardware. Making a random list of gear to buy based on internet hearsay is the best way to end up with useless toys though.
Thanks. I wish there were a shop of synths near me, I'm in Malaysia :-)
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by moodbrute ➡️
"If there's anyone out there who still thinks of Arturia as a quirky little manufacturer of soft synths and low-cost hardware, it's time to stop doing so."

- Gordon Reid, (2020) SOS. https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/arturia-polybrute
Yes, that Matrixbrute looks amazing to me.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #13
Quote:
Originally Posted by ambiguous signal ➡️
I think the best way to find the right hardware is to use software until you zero in on the sounds and interfaces you find yourself using constantly at which point you will know exactly what you do (and do not) want.
Thanks that sounds like good advice.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sach ➡️
Get a top of the line softsynth like Omnisphere. I don't think many people can argue it lacks anything a hardware synth has (did I just call a holy war on myself?). Then get lower end modules like Behringers, I suggest the Model D, just to see the difference. The difference is playing with knobs.
Thanks for the advice.
Old 20th September 2020
  #15
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
I pretty much did what the op is wanting to do. Over the past 24 years I have accumulated pretty much all of the synths I’ve wanted to explore. During that process I also managed to get some really nice synths for silly money. I used to watch eBay like a hawk but I don’t buy from eBay any more. My last purchase was the wavestate even though I have a wavestation. I’m retiring in the next 5 years and my plan is to spend my retirement nights in my synth room getting lost. I may never leave the house. Here’s my list. I have a taste for digital so almost no analogue

3 Roland varios’s. 2 with vc-1 cards and one with the vC-2 card plus a pg-1000
2 muse receptors with my licensed copy of alchemy and Hartmann neuron vs
1 Roland integra 7
1 fantom XR
1 Yamaha Cs6r with 2 pig-150 an cards
2 eventide eclipses
1 Kawai k5000 rack
1 emu e6400 with Rfx-32 card
2 korg triton racks. One has all expansions filled and both have moss cards
1 Yamaha tg77
1 culture vulture
1 Sherman filterbank 2x2
2roland mv8000s
1 elektron analog 4
1 elektron rytm
1 elektron machinedrum mkii
1 elektron momomachine
2 ensoniq dp pro
1 overstayer ID4
1 overstayer vaca compressor with side chaining
1 red iron buffer
1 spl transient designer
1 spl vitaliser tube
1 hydra synth
1 wavestate
1 korg radians
1 ex5r completely maxed out
1 novation supernova 2 with the voice expansion
1 emu E 5000 ultra with Rfx-32 card
1 Nord rack 2x
1 access virus b
1 Roland v- synth still
1 radical spectral is mk1
1 Akai e4 sampler with digital outs
1 Nord lead 1 keyboard
3 kawai k5000s
2 kawai k5000w
1 blofeld keys with sample expansion
1 ensoniq fizmo
1 access virus indigo 2
2 Alesis ions
2 Alesis microns
1 arturiia 88 key weighted controller
1 Arturia keylab mk2 61
1 roli seaboard rise 48
1 roli seaboard rise 25
1 Roland mc-909
1 Waldorf pulse
2 Waldorf blofeld desktops both with the sampling expansion
1 Roland system-1
1 Roland tb-03
1 mod or no-1m
1 micromonsta
1 preefm2
1 Yamaha Fs1r


There’s a few others in there but I can’t remember it all. My advice is to listen to opinions on gearslutz but trust your ears. Only buy something you would like to fix when it’s broken because everything breaks. I also haven’t mentioned patchbays midi patchbays and oh yea I track into a vs2480 and I’m currently fixing up a ver-880 which I got for silly money on eBay. I know I lied about not buying on eBay but wtf. Do your thing. Follow you own curiosity and direction. It will take you where you are meant to go.

Last edited by cixelsyd; 20th September 2020 at 10:46 AM.. Reason: Forgot the fs1r
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #16
Ahh, thank you for carefully reading the original post, understanding a force is making me just need to buy a synth, and giving a practical suggestion that recognizes that need.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by cixelsyd ➡️
Here’s my list.
That is awesome and inspirational!
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
Ahh, thank you for carefully reading the original post, understanding a force is making me just need to buy a synth, and giving a practical suggestion that recognizes that need.
Only buy stuff you’ll never sell. I haven’t sold anything in the last 15 years.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
That is awesome and inspirational!
It has its down sides. There are times when I think about selling it all and using logic. Cables can be expensive. My wife understands me loves me anyway. Friends all think I’m in a permanent mid life crisis. I don’t care I’m doing me.
Old 20th September 2020
  #20
Deleted 72b6a74
Guest
MC 707 and attach a midi keyboard is all you need for instant musical results. It has 8 tracks of all the sounds you need and they work beautifully together.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sach ➡️
Get a top of the line softsynth like Omnisphere..
Sach - If I buy Omnisphere, will I be able to tweak all the controls on my Push 2 or Launchkey as if playing a hard synth? I've Googled this and can't seem to get a conclusive answer -- the Spectrasonic website unhelpfully talks about how to map individual parameters, which sounds like a buzzkill chore.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hawke ➡️
Sach - If I buy Omnisphere, will I be able to tweak all the controls on my Push 2 or Launchkey as if playing a hard synth? I've Googled this and can't seem to get a conclusive answer -- the Spectrasonic website unhelpfully talks about how to map individual parameters, which sounds like a buzzkill chore.
Just buy a keyboard with integration; for example Native instruments keyboards have premapped paramaters of many products as long as you install the correct software; here is a list: https://www.native-instruments.com/e.../nks-products/
Arturia, Nektar and M-audio/Akai/Alesis have something similar I think (Arturia's is just for their products).

And these softsynths have way more parameters than you have faders, knobs, buttons etc, so forget about being able to "tweak all the controls".

I wouldn't recommend actually getting Omnisphere considering that you can get during sales Komplete for slightly more money (it has way more and varied sound content over different vsts than Omnisphere).

About hardware collecting - most of the time your toys will only gather dust or only inflate your electricity bill, so my advice is if you buy hardware, get like 1 good analogue or 1 digital polysynth/workstation and that's it. You will be way more productive with such setup + you will learn its strengths and limitations.
Old 20th September 2020
  #23
Lives for gear
 
grumphh's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Timbre wolf.
You cannot be a professional producer if you don't have at least one of those - analogue and hardware in one box. It's that amazing!

It also makes sounds software cannot even aspire to make.
Probably the noticeably awesome sounds you hear on your hardware using producer peers recordings.
Old 20th September 2020
  #24
One thing to keep in mind is every synth has its own sound. Like a box of unique crayons that will color your overall sound. This may sound obvious but when I hear people say synth X can cover the same sounds as synth Y & Z it’s not necessarily true in the sense that each has its own different hues of colors. I don’t know if this makes sense but to me there is a lot of exploring to find the right fit for the sound I like. I guess I’m just trying to say that there is more to it then what the machine is capable of, it’s how it sounds to you while it’s doing it. These machines will dictate the overall *sound* of your music. In that regard your original question to me is a very personal one. Maybe 1 flagship synth has a sound you REALLY vibe with so it covers mono and poly duties for you and you are satisfied. Maybe like most people here once you pop you can’t stop. Good luck, hopefully my ramble is readable
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #25
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cixelsyd ➡️
I pretty much did what the op is wanting to do. Over the past 24 years I have accumulated pretty much all of the synths I’ve wanted to explore. During that process I also managed to get some really nice synths for silly money. I used to watch eBay like a hawk but I don’t buy from eBay any more. My last purchase was the wavestate even though I have a wavestation. I’m retiring in the next 5 years and my plan is to spend my retirement nights in my synth room getting lost. I may never leave the house. Here’s my list. I have a taste for digital so almost no analogue

3 Roland varios’s. 2 with vc-1 cards and one with the vC-2 card plus a pg-1000
2 muse receptors with my licensed copy of alchemy and Hartmann neuron vs
1 Roland integra 7
1 fantom XR
1 Yamaha Cs6r with 2 pig-150 an cards
2 eventide eclipses
1 Kawai k5000 rack
1 emu e6400 with Rfx-32 card
2 korg triton racks. One has all expansions filled and both have moss cards
1 Yamaha tg77
1 culture vulture
1 Sherman filterbank 2x2
2roland mv8000s
1 elektron analog 4
1 elektron rytm
1 elektron machinedrum mkii
1 elektron momomachine
2 ensoniq dp pro
1 overstayer ID4
1 overstayer vaca compressor with side chaining
1 red iron buffer
1 spl transient designer
1 spl vitaliser tube
1 hydra synth
1 wavestate
1 korg radians
1 ex5r completely maxed out
1 novation supernova 2 with the voice expansion
1 emu E 5000 ultra with Rfx-32 card
1 Nord rack 2x
1 access virus b
1 Roland v- synth still
1 radical spectral is mk1
1 Akai e4 sampler with digital outs
1 Nord lead 1 keyboard
3 kawai k5000s
2 kawai k5000w
1 blofeld keys with sample expansion
1 ensoniq fizmo
1 access virus indigo 2
2 Alesis ions
2 Alesis microns
1 arturiia 88 key weighted controller
1 Arturia keylab mk2 61
1 roli seaboard rise 48
1 roli seaboard rise 25
1 Roland mc-909
1 Waldorf pulse
2 Waldorf blofeld desktops both with the sampling expansion
1 Roland system-1
1 Roland tb-03
1 mod or no-1m
1 micromonsta
1 preefm2
1 Yamaha Fs1r

That list is absurd and is just going to be a distraction if you actually want to make music rather than just be a collector of things. I encourage you to slim down to just a few good ones if you want to be musically productive.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by orangecaruption ➡️
That list is absurd and is just going to be a distraction if you actually want to make music rather than just be a collector of things. I encourage you to slim down to just a few good ones if you want to be musically productive.
Thanks for the unsolicited advice. You do you. I’m happy and I spend about an hour and a half in that room almost every night. I’m not hurting anyone and it brings me joy.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Addict
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cixelsyd ➡️
Thanks for the unsolicited advice. You do you. I’m happy and I spend about an hour and a half in that room almost every night. I’m not hurting anyone and it brings me joy.
Back to what the OP says who started the thread. He has "professional aspirations" so buying every music making device on planet earth is not going to get him there. If he wants to make a living doing it, he'll want to focus on the craft instead.
Old 20th September 2020
  #28
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
If it's not specifically the experience of working ITB that has you drawn towards hardware synths then continue making music the way you do and investigate and identify whatever inspiring sounds you hear in other peoples music that you want to be able to make or approximate or work with and consider purchasing those synths if they still seem like they could make that difference for you after checking them out further.
This can also help with getting your own «sound», which can be exciting and inspiring in itself, without falling off your path or hurting your productivity too much.
Going for the full OTB experience where you're able to make complete tracks without the computer can get really expensive real fast, unless you're the neat and tidy pragmatic type, and is likely to suck a lot of time and energy away from actually making music. For years easily.
There are options though, that have been available a few years, that makes the OTB route much less like I described it IF you're able to focus more on being productive than impulse buying synths and outboard effects, so be aware of that before jumping all in, as it can save you a lot of time and money. Good luck on your journey!

Last edited by HUBA; 20th September 2020 at 04:41 PM..
Old 20th September 2020
  #29
Lives for gear
 
PuggaMahone's Avatar
 
If you're comfortable making tracks with Ableton, Push and Launchkey, and what you want is "distinctive, fresh sounds that will stand out"... modular? You could keep the same song workflow, but using samples from (or sequencing and multitracking) your modular. That's probably the most likely source for the greatest abundance of distinctive, fresh sounds that will stand out, but it might be too distinctive for what you want. It's very open ended, so you'd have to design a system that does what you want. Many people seem to use them mainly for bleeps and bloops. It requires a time an money investment that might be more efficiently spent elsewhere. Just thought I'd mention the option.

If you're really looking for a workflow change-up, it's tough for strangers to guess what paradigm would be best for you.
Old 20th September 2020 | Show parent
  #30
Deleted cda76ca
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by orangecaruption ➡️
That list is absurd and is just going to be a distraction if you actually want to make music rather than just be a collector of things. I encourage you to slim down to just a few good ones if you want to be musically productive.
You’re never shy about bringing misery to a thread.

People can be both. I have a f*cktonne of synths and I’m making music every day, hoping to put my next release out early next year and am prepping some tracks for a YouTube channel.

But that said, if I was forced to use a Casio to do all my tracks, I’d make it work.

If you’re a good musician you can use barely nothing and can get a result, you can be dwarfed by options and still pick a productive and focussed path.

My mind is burning with music 24/7.
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