Which Synth matches this description?

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Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:54 pm

I've already asked this in two popular synth forums and got no further than my original post.

3rd time lucky?


It absolutely has to be:

- polyphonic (3 the absolute minimum, anything from 6 ideal)
- small (if keyboard than not bigger than 2 octaves, preferably a desktop or rack)
- fully analogue (this includes VCO's)
- 500 of your nation's credits should be the around the upper limit of the budget for the average used example (this is flexible but excludes Prophet 08, Xpander & Sunsyn as they are too far beyond that price)
- knobs or sliders to control live parameters (only having one or two which you can assign will not do, the device has to be live-friendly, needing only a midi-keyboard to play)
- basic midi-in (retrofit ok)


What is not important:

- display screen
- patch-saving
- age


A nice but unnecessary bonus would be:

- advanced midi functions (like midi-out and knob-recording)
- onboard arpeggiator
- audio input


An acceptable exception to all of the above would be:

- DCO's in place of VCO's, but otherwise the synth should be mostly analogue in nature


What will not be considered:

- synth modules that require a second device to control the sound parameters (like a BCR2000) or where they have a display which requires lots of button-clicking to access basic parameters like ADSR and LFO speed (like a Matrix 6R or Roland MKS)



Now we know many dozens such synths exist in monophone...but are there any polyphonic synths that match this description?

I know of only one true candidate, and one exception candidate:

Watch on youtube.com


Watch on youtube.com



Is that really all there is?
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby meatballfulton » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:12 pm

The basic problems in your requests are MIDI and price :?

MIDI arrived just as the first wave of analog polysynths started disappearing. So when looking at vintage synths, you won't find polysynth racks with knobs and you won't find knobby polysynths with small keyboards.

Racks didn't come along until after MIDI and the earliest analog poly racks were all knobless. Roland did make the compromise of offering programming interfaces for osme of their racks but today these will often cost more than the rack they work with! On the used market you might be able to find a Roland MKS-30 with PG-200 programmer, MKS-50 with PG-300 programmer in your price range or MKS-70 with PG-800 programmer in your price range if you are patient.

So the Perfourmer and Tetra may in fact be the only analog polysynths that meet your needs...and the Tetra just barely that because of the limited control interface. I've owned the Perfourmer and while it can be used as a 4-voice analog polysynth that is not it's strength...having individual knobs for each voice is a royal PITA if tweaking knobs during performance is what you're after.

Good luck.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby ninja6485 » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:26 pm

did you check out the synth finder section of the main site, and then search for stuff on ebay to get an idea of what it costs? also, isn't there a thread going on right now about the best cheap synth? check it out. good info in that thread. i'm having a hard time imagining a situation where a given instrument would only be good enough if it had exactly all of those criteria, unless this is just like a fun hypothetical thing. ideally, you would probably be the most satisfied with a good virtual analog. i've never wished that my virtual analogs were analog. otherwise, meatball futon's got the right idea 8-)
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:27 pm

Good reply, meatballfulton, cheers.

Yeah, I think from what I've heard and read it's not so easy to use the Perfourmer for polyphonic drone/pad/strings type stuff. I liked the Youtube guy's drone demo...he did a good job there. The only sound-issue I might have is that so far every demo I've heard it sounds a bit thin and insubstantial.

So you sold your Perfourmer? You still have any audio demos online?

And what do you mean by:

meatballfulton wrote:I've owned the Perfourmer and while it can be used as a 4-voice analog polysynth that is not it's strength...having individual knobs for each voice is a royal PITA if tweaking knobs during performance is what you're after.


I thought that would be great for live to have so much individual per-knob control.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:42 pm

ninja6485 wrote:did you check out the synth finder section of the main site, and then search for stuff on ebay to get an idea of what it costs? also, isn't there a thread going on right now about the best cheap synth? check it out. good info in that thread. i'm having a hard time imagining a situation where a given instrument would only be good enough if it had exactly all of those criteria, unless this is just like a fun hypothetical thing. ideally, you would probably be the most satisfied with a good virtual analog. i've never wished that my virtual analogs were analog. otherwise, meatball futon's got the right idea 8-)



Hi Ninja.

Yes, it's the VSE database I have to thank for finding out about the Perfourmer and Tetra :D

I already listed the specifics I'm looking for, so I don't need suggestions that fall too far outside that.

I have my Virus KB and Nord Modular Rack (and Supernova too)...so way too many VA's already. Will sell or trade at least one of them at some point.

I can appreciate the sonic differences between analogue and VA (even between VCO's and DCO's), and after using many knobless DCO synths (Microwave, Wavestation, Matrix, DW-8000, JX-3P, DX7) I've decided to stop messing about with them as using them was more hassle than it was worth. I like to play with synthesis, not program it.


Example of differences in sonic characteristics (mood, flavour, tone and other subjective impressions) between real VCO analogue and virtual analogue:

Korg Polysix:



Access Virus KB:




Clearly the Virus has a cleaner, brighter, more efficient sound. Both are great synths, but together for my droney soundtrack-type stuff they don't fit so well (to my ears anyway). Hence the search for VCO poly-partner to my Polysix. I might end up admitting defeat and get me the Prophet-600 (big minus is that it's another big keyboard...but everything else about it is a plus).

I'll still wait to hear more Perfourmer demos...waiting to be convinced it can do a thicker sound than what I've heard so far.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby Psy_Free » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:10 pm

dhollmusik wrote:after using many knobless DCO synths (Microwave, Wavestation, Matrix, DW-8000, JX-3P, DX7


Ah yes, those well known DCO synths, Microwave, Wavestation, DW-8000 & DX7 :?
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:48 pm

Psy_Free wrote:Ah yes, those well known DCO synths, Microwave, Wavestation, DW-8000 & DX7 :?


Aaaaah...ok...fair enough. I'm basically referring to all the knobless wonders I've tried using.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby Stab Frenzy » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:12 pm

So... you don't know what DCOs are but you're against them? :?
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Mon Jul 04, 2011 11:58 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:So... you don't know what DCOs are but you're against them? :?


I hope this is not the point of the thread where people chime in with useless remarks.

I know what DCO's are. I meant to just say The Matrix and JX-3P but in a whirl of writing ended up listing all the other knobless wonders I've tried out.


Further: and where did I say I was against them? I even made clear that the one exception I would consider would be a synth with DCO's instead of VCO's (like the Tetra).

If you have anything relevant to contribute to the discussion I'll look forward to reading it ;)


PS - read the quote in your sig...it appears to say: "You ask the human an annoying question it gets annoyed."
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby Stab Frenzy » Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:07 pm

Sorry I was just going from what you'd written, which said that you thought those synths had DCOs and that you thought DCOs weren't analogue. I'm not a mind reader, all I can go off is the words that you put down in your post. :thumbright:

Anyway, the tetra fails these tests:

- knobs or sliders to control live parameters (only having one or two which you can assign will not do, the device has to be live-friendly, needing only a midi-keyboard to play)...

...What will not be considered:

- synth modules that require a second device to control the sound parameters (like a BCR2000) or where they have a display which requires lots of button-clicking to access basic parameters like ADSR and LFO speed (like a Matrix 6R or Roland MKS)


I know this because I own one. The Tetra sounds really good but you've got eight parameters available to you and if you want to tweak anything else you need to reassign one of the four assignable encoders to it via scrolling another encoder, and then once you've done that you need to scroll again to get it back to where it was before. If you're using a midi controller with assignable controls you can get a few more out of it, but you specified no external devices for controlling. It's also well over $500.

The perfourmer isn't so much a polysynth as four monosynths which can be assigned to play together polyphonically. For it to work like a polysynth you'd need to have all four voices set up exactly the same and then you wouldn't be able to tweak the knobs unless you could tweak all four the exact same amount at the exact same time. The filter cutoff can be tweaked via midi but what's the point in having all those knobs if you can't use them.

If you wanted to use the perfourmer as four monosynths or one monosynth that you tweaked and a three-voice polysynth that you didn't then I'd choose that, but as a tweakable polysynth it won't do the job. Also I doubt you'll find one for under $500, under $1000 would be lucky.

So basically you end up with zero candidates. The closest thing I can think of would be a cut-down Juno 106 with the keyboard removed, I've seen them a couple of times in the past but I'm not sure if that would come in under your $500 limit. To find something which matches your criteria you're going to have to change them a bit, either more expensive, bigger, digital or with less control. I imagine the reason you haven't gotten any responses on the other sites you've tried is because you're asking the impossible.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Tue Jul 05, 2011 12:50 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:The Tetra sounds really good but you've got eight parameters available to you and if you want to tweak anything else you need to reassign one of the four assignable encoders to it via scrolling another encoder, and then once you've done that you need to scroll again to get it back to where it was before. If you're using a midi controller with assignable controls you can get a few more out of it, but you specified no external devices for controlling. It's also well over $500.


Aye...the Tetra sounds really nice and chunky on the audio demos I've listened to. But good point about the interface, that would probably frustrate me in the long run. Here in Germany you can get a used Tetra for less than €500 so it's within the specified price range. I'm sure in USA you can also get a used one for around $500. Any ideas why Dave Smith (or DSI) isn't listed in Prepal?

http://www.prepal.com/manufacturers.htm



Stab Frenzy wrote:The perfourmer isn't so much a polysynth as four monosynths which can be assigned to play together polyphonically. For it to work like a polysynth you'd need to have all four voices set up exactly the same and then you wouldn't be able to tweak the knobs unless you could tweak all four the exact same amount at the exact same time. The filter cutoff can be tweaked via midi but what's the point in having all those knobs if you can't use them.

If you wanted to use the perfourmer as four monosynths or one monosynth that you tweaked and a three-voice polysynth that you didn't then I'd choose that, but as a tweakable polysynth it won't do the job. Also I doubt you'll find one for under $500, under $1000 would be lucky.


Here in Germany the Perfourmer can be had for €450 - €550, so again within the price range. Saying that you make some valid points about the likely limitations which might put me off it.


Stab Frenzy wrote:So basically you end up with zero candidates. The closest thing I can think of would be a cut-down Juno 106 with the keyboard removed, I've seen them a couple of times in the past but I'm not sure if that would come in under your $500 limit. To find something which matches your criteria you're going to have to change them a bit, either more expensive, bigger, digital or with less control. I imagine the reason you haven't gotten any responses on the other sites you've tried is because you're asking the impossible.



Yeah...do you think this is a gap in the market? Or is it a gap which can't be filled? I guess if Tetra had more knobs it would compete with its Poly Evolver Rack. The Perfourmer MK2 also doesn't add more polyphony so it doesn't look like this is a gap anyone is interested in filling.


Your responses were useful, cheers.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby Stab Frenzy » Tue Jul 05, 2011 1:14 pm

Dave Smith isn't in Prepal because the company didn't exist the last time Prepal was updated. Prepal hasn't been updated for around 8-10 years, it's not in any way accurate.

€≠$, so saying 500 of your local currency is gonna get you a whole lot of different responses from different parts of the world. You can't get much for ¥500 for example. If you meant Euros you should have just said so.

The reason the gap is there is because knobs cost money, analogue components cost money (which adds up quickly with polyphony) and most people don't know about or care to pay the difference between an analogue synth and a Microkorg. Considering there isn't even anything available second-hand for that price with those specs no company has any hope of doing it new and making any money from it. If you want something like that it costs what the P08 rack costs, it can't be done for less.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby dhollmusik » Tue Jul 05, 2011 2:06 pm

Stab Frenzy wrote:Dave Smith isn't in Prepal because the company didn't exist the last time Prepal was updated. Prepal hasn't been updated for around 8-10 years, it's not in any way accurate.


Oh right, haha! I'll delete Prepal from my bookmarks then.


Stab Frenzy wrote:€≠$, so saying 500 of your local currency is gonna get you a whole lot of different responses from different parts of the world. You can't get much for ¥500 for example. If you meant Euros you should have just said so.


You just love picking the smallest insignificant holes in my post, dont you? :lol:

Generally, English-language consumer gear forums are mostly populated by Europeans, Brits and those from the north-Americas. The typical currency then is Euro, Sterling and Dollar. Relatively-speaking, they are roughly the same (give or take 10-20% either way). Electronic Consumer gear is much cheaper in USA than it is in Europe, but their currency is much weaker, so to compensate we can accept that 500 of my nations's credits is around the same as 500 of your nation's credits. This is why I also stated the price is flexible, but something way beyond those prices (Xpander, Sunsyn) were too far out of the range.

Clearly, if you're Japanese you're not going to think I'm referring to 500 Yen, that would be incredibly stupid, wouldn't it?

Common sense, mate.

Funny that you bring this up, as it's normally the Americans who are guilty of disregarding other countries and currencies out there - just look at the Gear For Sale forum :lol:


Stab Frenzy wrote:The reason the gap is there is because knobs cost money, analogue components cost money (which adds up quickly with polyphony) and most people don't know about or care to pay the difference between an analogue synth and a Microkorg. Considering there isn't even anything available second-hand for that price with those specs no company has any hope of doing it new and making any money from it. If you want something like that it costs what the P08 rack costs, it can't be done for less.


There we go, this is where you post good stuff again :D Yes, I can understand that. I guess that explains why the likes of Xpander and Sunsyn will probably never drop much in value. Is it a safe assumption to make that knob-controls on a digital synth are far cheaper to manufacture than knob-controls (or sliders) on an analogue synth?

When you look at the many cheap digital synths with loads of knobs it does make me think this (Electribe, DJX, SH-32 etc). I already understand how much more expensive it is to develop poly on analogue synths, and of course the various synthesis innards like filters, OSC, Pitch, LFO, ADSR etc, so I guess by extension the outer control is also more expensive to develop.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby Scories » Thu Jul 07, 2011 4:38 pm

The smallest VCO poly I could think of is the AKAI VX600, but they are hard to find.
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Re: Which Synth matches this description?

Postby meatballfulton » Thu Jul 07, 2011 6:06 pm

dhollmusik wrote:So you sold your Perfourmer?


I needed the money to buy a bass guitar for a paying gig more than I needed the synth. Never replaced it because the price shot up due to currency fluctuations. I only paid $700 for mine, at $1200 it wasn't that appealing :?

And what do you mean by:
meatballfulton wrote:having individual knobs for each voice is a royal PITA if tweaking knobs during performance is what you're after.

I thought that would be great for live to have so much individual per-knob control.


OK, you're holding a chord and want to tweak filter cutoff. That's four knobs you have to turn. Ditto for any other tweakage.

The strength of the Perfourmer is that it can be configured in so many ways.

As far as "thin and insubstantial" it's a single VCO with no PWM option. If you like the sound of an SH-101 or a Juno, it's in that ballpark.
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