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Synth Recommendations?


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#1 Scrab Cakes

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Posted 15 May 2019 - 04:03 PM

Shizzies! I have one or two albums worth of original instrumental music written that I'm looking to record and start performing live (playing the leads solo to backing tracks), but I am in need of new keyboards. I guess the best overall description is probably city pop or future funk, although I have a tendency to incorporate elements from a lot of different genres. Here's what I'm aiming for...

  • Good preset library - Mostly looking for "iconic" 80s and j-fusion sounds (❤️ FM synths), but I don't particularly need or want to be able to create my own sounds from scratch
  • Pitchbend/mod wheels and MIDI in/out - Planning on recording every part live, so flexibility with performance embellishment is important
  • Lightness and portability - Still need decent ranges (49-76 keys maybe), but part of the reason my current setup isn't ideal is because my Yamaha MO8 alone weights ~50 lbs.
  • Something modern? - Looking for retro sounds but a good interface; not necessarily on actual vintage gear (I'm open to it, but I've also run into some technical issues in the past)
  • All onboard sounds - Don't really want a controller or VST; for the purposes of ease and simplicity, ideally I'd prefer self-contained workstations

I've heard that Roland's newer models also include the patch libraries from their vintage keyboards, but I haven't had much personal experience with them. I've got a Yamaha Reface DX but it's very small (both in key size and range), plus it doesn't have a mod wheel and the octave switch is bad too. I also have Super Audio Cart and a few other Kontakt libraries that I could probably use for the accompaniment and backing tracks, but I'd rather not rely on a laptop for anything live except for maybe playback (still figuring out the best way to do that, so certainly open to advice). I just don't want software crashing, as it often does, on stage. I also like the idea of having a kind of unified sound, so everything in the songs coming from like, maybe two good synthesizers that I also use live.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

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#2 MYRONE

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Posted 15 May 2019 - 04:45 PM

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...m-8/?lang=en-US


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#3 Robby V

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Posted 15 May 2019 - 05:34 PM

I’ve got a DX7-II and I love it. It’s easy to find huge banks of sysx files for it. Loading thru midi is a little bit of a pain but once you get one or two good banks you’re all set. The keys play so quick, too.
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#4 Beef-Clef

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Posted 15 May 2019 - 08:39 PM

DX7-II is a great choice, but it's kind of a bitch to program compared to most modern synths. If you wanna go more modern there ain't nothing wrong with hunting around for a used Roland Vsynth, you can do anything with one of those, they sound fantastic.

 

Also for what it's worth even though they feel extremely similar I have had much better luck with Roland keys (vintage and modern) than with Yamaha. I've had a few Yamaha synths ranging from 1989-2004 and they've all ended up with at least one broken key, Roland has yet to fail me in that regard.


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#5 Robby V

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 08:49 AM

^thats something worth noting about the DX7-II. It’s built like a tank, but the keys are harder to re-set than a normal DX7 since it doesn’t have a hinged top. Tho I haven’t had to reset any other than the 2 that we’re jammed when I got it, which is why I got it for super cheap.
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#6 norg

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 10:33 AM

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.


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#7 Scrab Cakes

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 01:13 PM

 

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.

 

This looks and sounds awesome, but honestly I come from more of a piano playing background, and the level of sound customization and number of controls for this style of synth is kind of daunting to me. I'm still potentially open to going this route, I just don't know where to even start as far as learning to use all these knobs and sliders. Composition and arrangement has always been more of a strength of mine than production or effects...so I guess my gut instinct is to go more from something "simpler" that just lets me save preferred patches into easy to access buttons? I don't know if the type of sounds I'm looking for exist on that sort of rig, but I'm really not much of a gearhead and I worry my productivity would be decimated by the rabbit hole of options the more complicated synthesizers offer.


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#8 ErichWK

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 01:36 PM

 

 

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.

 

This looks and sounds awesome, but honestly I come from more of a piano playing background, and the level of sound customization and number of controls for this style of synth is kind of daunting to me. I'm still potentially open to going this route, I just don't know where to even start as far as learning to use all these knobs and sliders. Composition and arrangement has always been more of a strength of mine than production or effects...so I guess my gut instinct is to go more from something "simpler" that just lets me save preferred patches into easy to access buttons? I don't know if the type of sounds I'm looking for exist on that sort of rig, but I'm really not much of a gearhead and I worry my productivity would be decimated by the rabbit hole of options the more complicated synthesizers offer.

 

But maybe this is the next step for you! Imagine all the cool synth tones you can make that are very much "Ian Luck Style" tone and specific to you. It is daunting at first..but man it's so so so much fun once you dive into those waters.

 

Also this thing sounds great!

 


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#9 Papahoodwinker

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 01:46 PM

 

 

 

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.

 

This looks and sounds awesome, but honestly I come from more of a piano playing background, and the level of sound customization and number of controls for this style of synth is kind of daunting to me. I'm still potentially open to going this route, I just don't know where to even start as far as learning to use all these knobs and sliders. Composition and arrangement has always been more of a strength of mine than production or effects...so I guess my gut instinct is to go more from something "simpler" that just lets me save preferred patches into easy to access buttons? I don't know if the type of sounds I'm looking for exist on that sort of rig, but I'm really not much of a gearhead and I worry my productivity would be decimated by the rabbit hole of options the more complicated synthesizers offer.

 

But maybe this is the next step for you! Imagine all the cool synth tones you can make that are very much "Ian Luck Style" tone and specific to you. It is daunting at first..but man it's so so so much fun once you dive into those waters.

 

I'm going to be one more voice in favor on the System 8 for your needs list. Plus, they pop up on Craigslist quite a bit, so you can find one pretty easily. 


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#10 angry_polar_bear

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 02:22 PM

I am not a gear head at all and I think my requirements from a keyboard have typically been similar to yours. I like my Yamaha MOXF8 a lot, which I got after chatting to you about your MO8. The newer iteration (MODX) comes in a smaller 76-key variety and seems to have oodles of presets. The glowing green thing everyone talks about above looks similarly amazing/intimidating to me. Ultimately the best way to choose is to find a store that’ll let you play on all the options you’re considering, or find friends that own them and are willing to lend.

Or get them all and build a keyfort.
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#11 Warrior Bob

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 03:12 PM

As a fan of synths I recommend buying: every synth


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#12 Beef-Clef

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Posted 16 May 2019 - 06:37 PM

 

 

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.

 

This looks and sounds awesome, but honestly I come from more of a piano playing background, and the level of sound customization and number of controls for this style of synth is kind of daunting to me. I'm still potentially open to going this route, I just don't know where to even start as far as learning to use all these knobs and sliders. Composition and arrangement has always been more of a strength of mine than production or effects...so I guess my gut instinct is to go more from something "simpler" that just lets me save preferred patches into easy to access buttons? I don't know if the type of sounds I'm looking for exist on that sort of rig, but I'm really not much of a gearhead and I worry my productivity would be decimated by the rabbit hole of options the more complicated synthesizers offer.

 

 

Well it sounds like you want a rompler, but romplers generally don't have onboard FM synths ( the ones that do will typically set you back multiple thousands of dollars). Romplers do, however, tend to have lots of sampled synth sounds from iconic synths and they generally sound really nice, not as nice as the actual synths they've sampled, but nice enough if your goal is to perform and record, as they're intended to streamline live performance a bit.

In that scenario I'd recommend mid-level stuff from Korg, Roland and Yamaha:

https://www.sweetwat...nthesizer-black

https://www.sweetwat...key-synthesizer

https://www.sweetwat...zer-workstation

I haven't tried any of these, but the Korg looks pretty excellent. Anyway go into a Guitar Center and try these out.
 

 

Unfortunately with your criteria you're left with either getting analog synths you do have to program extensively or with way costly workstations like Korg Kronos which would take care of everything for you but at like $4k. Maybe look into getting a used Fantom G6, Yamaha XS6 or even a Korg M3 (the 61 key one), you can probably score those for around $1000-1500 on ebay or Craigslist. They tend to weigh around 30-40lbs though.


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#13 pingosimon

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Posted 17 May 2019 - 12:18 AM

 

 

Based on what you want out of the synth I would recommend one of these: https://www.roland.c...ystem-8/?lang=e

based on your requirements?  myrone nailed it.  also my recommendation.

 

I just don't know where to even start as far as learning to use all these knobs and sliders.

 

Honestly, it'd probably only take you a couple hours.  Sit down with the instruction book, then with a Youtube video or two (I just youtube'd some under 10 minute ones).  The best side-effect: after learning more about patch creation, you'll be able to more critically listen to patches of other games/bands and define what you like/dislike about them.

 

It has presets, too, I found some on youtube.


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#14 Scrab Cakes

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Posted 17 May 2019 - 02:18 PM

Well it sounds like you want a rompler, but romplers generally don't have onboard FM synths ( the ones that do will typically set you back multiple thousands of dollars). Romplers do, however, tend to have lots of sampled synth sounds from iconic synths and they generally sound really nice, not as nice as the actual synths they've sampled, but nice enough if your goal is to perform and record, as they're intended to streamline live performance a bit.

In that scenario I'd recommend mid-level stuff from Korg, Roland and Yamaha:

https://www.sweetwat...nthesizer-black

https://www.sweetwat...key-synthesizer

https://www.sweetwat...zer-workstation

I haven't tried any of these, but the Korg looks pretty excellent. Anyway go into a Guitar Center and try these out.
 

 

Unfortunately with your criteria you're left with either getting analog synths you do have to program extensively or with way costly workstations like Korg Kronos which would take care of everything for you but at like $4k. Maybe look into getting a used Fantom G6, Yamaha XS6 or even a Korg M3 (the 61 key one), you can probably score those for around $1000-1500 on ebay or Craigslist. They tend to weigh around 30-40lbs though.

Dude, yes! Hadn't specifically heard the term rompler before, but I've actually been researching that exact Roland model. I'm sure some people would consider this a cardinal sin but I'm really not much of a purist when it comes to synths, so using sampled sounds is something I'm totally cool with. Maybe complex analog stuff and other gear that requires extensive programming are things I'll want to incorporate down the line once I'm more comfortable (I definitely appreciate all the recommendations, thank you), but to start as a solo act I think for me the best place to focus might be establishing an overall style and cohesive performance rig.


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#15 Papahoodwinker

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Posted 17 May 2019 - 04:18 PM

Well it sounds like you want a rompler, but romplers generally don't have onboard FM synths ( the ones that do will typically set you back multiple thousands of dollars). Romplers do, however, tend to have lots of sampled synth sounds from iconic synths and they generally sound really nice, not as nice as the actual synths they've sampled, but nice enough if your goal is to perform and record, as they're intended to streamline live performance a bit.
In that scenario I'd recommend mid-level stuff from Korg, Roland and Yamaha:
https://www.sweetwat...nthesizer-black

https://www.sweetwat...key-synthesizer

https://www.sweetwat...zer-workstation

I haven't tried any of these, but the Korg looks pretty excellent. Anyway go into a Guitar Center and try these out.


Unfortunately with your criteria you're left with either getting analog synths you do have to program extensively or with way costly workstations like Korg Kronos which would take care of everything for you but at like $4k. Maybe look into getting a used Fantom G6, Yamaha XS6 or even a Korg M3 (the 61 key one), you can probably score those for around $1000-1500 on ebay or Craigslist. They tend to weigh around 30-40lbs though.

Dude, yes! Hadn't specifically heard the term rompler before, but I've actually been researching that exact Roland model. I'm sure some people would consider this a cardinal sin but I'm really not much of a purist when it comes to synths, so using sampled sounds is something I'm totally cool with. Maybe complex analog stuff and other gear that requires extensive programming are things I'll want to incorporate down the line once I'm more comfortable (I definitely appreciate all the recommendations, thank you), but to start as a solo act I think for me the best place to focus might be establishing an overall style and cohesive performance rig.

We use the Yamaha MX61 to save us from using a bunch of VSTs live or hauling the goods from home (not taking a Juno to a small show), gets the job done! Use it as a replacement for an almost twenty year old Motif
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