DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

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DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby mootbooxle » Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:59 pm

Looking to add another piece to my studio.
I've been on a big 80s kick lately, setting up a second studio built around strictly hardware and tape, mostly vintage and/or analog gear.

Of all the synths I currently have, none have aftertouch, and I'm really starting to miss it.
Not wanting to spend a fortune either.
Choices:

Ensoniq SQ-80: Could be good since I don't have a wavetable synth currently, and the ESQ1 was lots of fun.

Yamaha DX7-IIFD: I let all my DXs go a few years ago except for my DX100, and I really miss that now.

Nord Lead 3: most versatile, most expensive, but possibly too vanilla? Could potentially replace the Nord Lead 2X as half of my live rig though.

Thoughts?
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby commodorejohn » Thu Apr 24, 2014 6:30 pm

The DX7-II and the SQ-80 are both great, but if you want one keyboard for '80s sounds, the SQ-80 is probably the better choice - it can do the kind of "FM bells" sounds that the DX7 is best-known for, big analog sounds, and a lot of other interesting noises.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby Sensory » Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:00 pm

I had a Nord Lead 2, DX7-IIFD, and ESQ-1 all at the same time so I guess I'll bite.
The Yamaha is an amazing synth that can excel at bass and unconventional sounds but it takes some time to learn. You would probably want to use a patch editor because the work flow is a bit slow and redundant.
The Ensoniq sound has those musical filters that come alive with sweeps and pads. Finally, if the Nord Lead 3 is anything close to 2 it would be a great workhorse.
I think you will get more 80's vibes from the DX7 and SQ-80.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby Rezisehtnys » Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:32 pm

Another alternative to the DX7-IIFD would be to get a SY77, as it's everything the DX7 is and more. It's a very professional sounding unit, then again it was their flagship, and even some of the sampled parts have use to this day. Ignoring that aspect it's the most advanced FM keyboard synthesizer, so if you want FM it's the one to get. It can load DX7 patches and all that jive as well. As far as editing goes it seems easier than the DX7 just for the fact you have a fairly large LCD that and there's a lot of buttons to get quick access to just about everything.

No 80's rig is complete without FM. :P
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby mootbooxle » Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:59 pm

Thank you guys for the insight. It's helpful!

@sensory: I'm not daunted at all by the DX7-II workflow...That was the synth I started with when I was 12. Anything less brain-straining than FM is a cakewalk!

@rezisehtnyS: Thank you for suggesting the SY! I have spent maybe an hour with one, and that was years ago. Nice to hear a recommendation from someone who owns one. I was toying with that idea and sorta dismissed it as my initial impression of the SY77 was kinda 'eh'. Chick Corea sure got a lot of nice sounds out of it though.

You guys all addressed perhaps what my conundrum is: As much as I miss my DX/TX synths, they are in certain ways one trick ponies. Half the time my current DX ends up handling bass (Solid!) or marimba/bell type stuff. I'm a sucker for that FM marimba sound.
Getting something that does more than one type of sound would serve me best.

So between the DX, SQ, and Nord, the answer may be: SY77. lol!
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby Rezisehtnys » Fri Apr 25, 2014 12:25 am

The SY77 is really quite the unit, it can do some of your 80's D50-esque sounds and halfway decent analogue emulation just as much as any other ROMpler could pull off. They're not too terribly expensive either. Certainly get a lot for your money with it, though I solely use mine for FM as I have the other bases covered elsewhere. Looking at what you have you seem to have ROMpler and analogue sounds covered for the most part. The only thing the SQ would give are the wavetables, and they're nifty and all but most of the time it just sounds like a cheesy 80's ROMpler. If you want cheap wavetables the VFX would be one option, makes for a good controller too. Currently using mine to control my Micro Q, which has virtual analogue along with the wavetables. Quite a powerful unit itself.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:13 am

Rezisehtnys wrote:The only thing the SQ would give are the wavetables, and they're nifty and all but most of the time it just sounds like a cheesy 80's ROMpler.

The advantage the SQ-80 would have in this scenario is simply that it has actual analog subtractive filters, so in addition to doing some basic FM-like digital sounds it can do some decent analog polysynth sounds, which are just as important to '80s-type music. As much as I like FM, it just plain can't sound analog - it always sounds like an FM recreation of the basic type of sound and never like an actual analog synth. The SQ-80 doesn't have that problem.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby Rezisehtnys » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:25 am

He already has a Nord Lead which covers all of that already. The SY77 will offer more new sounds to him.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby synthypoo » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:37 am

commodorejohn wrote:
Rezisehtnys wrote:The only thing the SQ would give are the wavetables, and they're nifty and all but most of the time it just sounds like a cheesy 80's ROMpler.

The advantage the SQ-80 would have in this scenario is simply that it has actual analog subtractive filters, so in addition to doing some basic FM-like digital sounds it can do some decent analog polysynth sounds, which are just as important to '80s-type music. As much as I like FM, it just plain can't sound analog - it always sounds like an FM recreation of the basic type of sound and never like an actual analog synth. The SQ-80 doesn't have that problem.


+1 ... more or less.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby georgemarauder » Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:20 pm

I don't have much to add except to say that the SQ-80 is a wonderful synthesizer. Very versatile and sounds great. I had cartridges (I think they were cartridges, it was awhile ago and I don't remember fully) that had sounds on them that recreated classic analog sounds, and the sounds were so spot on it was incredible. It can recreate Moog and Arp sounds for sure, and do your basic analog stuff while also using different waveforms to create unusual sounding stuff. It's a breeze to program, too, and the sequencer is actually very useful and fun to use. Great synth, highly recommended.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby mootbooxle » Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:40 pm

Thanks again guys for the input.
This is a crazy turn of events...

So, I was leaning more toward the SQ-80 just because it was something new and different for me, but rezisehtnyS had me pretty much convinced to find a SY77...Which I may end up eventually getting, I dunno.
So I was looking on the local Craigslist for any good deals on any of the aforementioned synths, including any DX series. I didn't find any, but I did find a harpsichord for a very good price, and that's something I've always wanted.

Emailed the guy and he called last night, and turns out we know one another. I bought the harpsichord which needs very minimal work and it will be good to go. I'm ecstatic. Here's the crazy part. Before I left, he says "look what I've got in the closet, look at this old thing" and pulls out a case with a DX7 with E! board, in very good shape.
I told him the whole story to his amusement, and asked if he'd sell it, which he said he would...
Had to make an agreement on the money side of things, as I'm now in over my head, but this is too good to pass up.
I brought the DX home and it has corrupt internal memory and a dead battery. I guess that's an easy fix? I can just SysEx a new internal soundbank, no biggie...But I've never changed a battery in one of these before.

Anyway...Long story short, I guess I'm sitting tight for now!
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby commodorejohn » Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:20 pm

A DX7 and a freaking harpsichord? Oh, awesome. The battery change is a fairly basic soldering job, but if you've never done one before, some advice: get a proper desoldering iron (one with the rubber bulb connected to a pipe running down into the heating element/tip.) They're about $17 at Radio Shack and they make any such work a thousand times simpler. Also, bite the bullet and spend the extra couple bucks to get a 2032 coin-cell holder with leads attached - I've had to spend up to a half-hour miserably trying to solder leads onto a board-mount coin-cell holder (like they sell at Radio Shack) because those things never, ever have the right spacing to fit the way the batteries are soldered in on old synths.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby mootbooxle » Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:18 am

commodorejohn wrote:A DX7 and a freaking harpsichord? Oh, awesome. The battery change is a fairly basic soldering job, but if you've never done one before, some advice: get a proper desoldering iron (one with the rubber bulb connected to a pipe running down into the heating element/tip.) They're about $17 at Radio Shack and they make any such work a thousand times simpler. Also, bite the bullet and spend the extra couple bucks to get a 2032 coin-cell holder with leads attached - I've had to spend up to a half-hour miserably trying to solder leads onto a board-mount coin-cell holder (like they sell at Radio Shack) because those things never, ever have the right spacing to fit the way the batteries are soldered in on old synths.


Thanks commodorejohn for the info! I don't want to veer too far off the thread here as this is getting into territory for another section of the forum, but as my "question" has already been answered...Well here goes.

I found an instruction guide online for replacing the battery which scared the bejeezus out of me when it said that if you have E! installed it "requires extra procedures which I don't know". WTH? I don't want to ruin anything.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby commodorejohn » Sat Apr 26, 2014 2:09 am

The only procedure required for the E! is to perform a RAM clear/reset, since the settings come up as junk after a battery change. The instructions for that can be found in the E! manual, which you can get a PDF of here.
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Re: DX7-II, SQ-80, or Nord Lead 3?

Postby mootbooxle » Sat Apr 26, 2014 7:13 am

Man, I appreciate the info. I feel confident enough to do the replacement now, just need to make sure I get the right battery.
It actually came with the original manual and the E! manual, which I haven't cracked yet. Thanks for the download link though :)

Peace!
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