Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

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Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:48 pm

This board makes pretty clear that while folks are thankful for the Andromeda A6's, the Prophet '08's and the Moog Little Phatty's, for the majority, they are still no substitute for the originals: the Prophet 5, the Minimoog Model D, the ARP Odyssey, and so forth. And if eBay is any guide, there remains an enormous demand for vintage synths out there -- when push comes to shove, folks just seem to prefer the less stable oscillators, the fatter filters, and, probably, the original brand.

So why aren't more of the classics made? The only one I know of that's still in production is the EMS Synthi. I don't expect Yamaha to rebuild the entire CS line or anything. But I would have to imagine that, say, the Minimoog would sell very well, as would a Prophet 5 rev 2. And unless someone can show me otherwise, I can't imagine they would be THAT difficult to produce.

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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by rhino » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:11 pm

not a profound writer, but i'll take a shot at an answer:
1. it is not possible to build a NEW classic synth... "classic" is a designation earned by withstanding the tests of time. some current synths WILL become classic in 30 years.
2. times have changed. players want more for their bucks now: huge polyphony, unlimited modulations, on-board studio quality effects, integration with computers, etc. the sound and 'feel' of vintage gear is great...but there would be a limited market for 'reproductions' of early synths. (note: the Moog Voyeger IS a new Minimoog...and is selling well)
3. the old devil still haunts us: "PRESETS"! Few (except here on this board) have time or inclination to sit for hours programming the perfect sound patch. modern digital synths with a zillion factory sounds at the push of a button are the norm now.
4. virtual softsynths will eventualy take over the majority of music production. better?? worse??? who knows. still, i'd hang on the Andromeda, the V-synth, the Fusion...i think they'll be sought out as 'classics' in time.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by otto » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:18 pm

I think what it really comes down to is that the specific components that were used to make the originals are no longer made. It would be extremely cost prohibitive to reporduce semi-exacting versions of old synths and the market of people interested in them is very niche.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by MarkM » Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:32 pm

I think there are plenty of classics being produced. As mentioned above it will take time for them to be designated "Classic." I think the following are just a few future classics: Alesis Ion, Roland V Synth, Waldorf Q, Waldorf XT, Waldorf Pulse, Novation Nova and KS series, Virus series, etc.

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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by JSRockit » Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:42 pm

Plenty of classics being made today... just wait 20-30 years and you'll see.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Hair » Sat Mar 28, 2009 4:56 pm

that's not what the original poster means, he's just asking why things like Model Ds and Pro 5s aren't made anymore, which as I understand really comes down to a lot of the original parts not being available, or if they are available, the synths being ridiculously cost prohibitive to make to original spec in this day and age

I don't think the market would be niche at all though, being able to buy a new Moog Model D Reissue would probably be successful comparable to the level of Gibson's Custom Shop Les Paul Reissues, though scaled down appropriately via the amount of guitar players to keyboard/synth players in the world

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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Reproduced Today?

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Sat Mar 28, 2009 5:06 pm

Hair wrote:that's not what the original poster means, he's just asking why things like Model Ds and Pro 5s aren't made anymore, which as I understand really comes down to a lot of the original parts not being available, or if they are available, the synths being ridiculously cost prohibitive to make to original spec in this day and age

I don't think the market would be niche at all though, being able to buy a new Moog Model D Reissue would probably be successful comparable to the level of Gibson's Custom Shop Les Paul Reissues, though scaled down appropriately via the amount of guitar players to keyboard/synth players in the world
That's exactly right -- I'm not talking about new synths not being classics. I'm talking about older, "vintage" synths not being reproduced today.

And "reissue" is an interesting concept in this context -- where the manufacturer produces copies of the originals in way that balances accuracy with cost efficiency. Of course, there will *always* be people who think nothing beats the original. And I suspect, yes, that many of the original parts aren't available anymore. But I'd be interested to know if anyone has asked a Dave Smith or a Roger Linn if they have considered simply rolling out the originals in today's market and what the obstacles are to that.

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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Reproduced Today?

Post by pricklyrobot » Sat Mar 28, 2009 5:46 pm

Naive Teen Idol wrote:Of course, there will *always* be people who think nothing beats the original.
Which, I assume, is why you're ignoring the Voyager, which is essentially the modern Minimoog. People who just want a really deluxe modern analog will buy it, and people who are obsessed with vintage gear will never be happy with the Voyager or its ilk (witness the quick discontinuation of the Voyager Old School). Attempting to cater to a market of orthodox purists is financial suicide; chances are they'll never be quite satisfied with your product and even if they were, there aren't enough of them out there to keep multiple synth companies alive and thriving.

People in the '70s bought Minis, Odysseys, et cetera because they were the only synths available, not because they were in love with discrete analog monosynths. And probably 80-90% of those people (who were keyboard players, and not synth nuts) were happier with the digital synths that appeared in the '80s and gave them patch memory, presets, and were much better at emulating the organs and electric pianos that they were probably playing before they switched to synths in the first place.
And I suspect, yes, that many of the original parts aren't available anymore. But I'd be interested to know if anyone has asked a Dave Smith or a Roger Linn if they have considered simply rolling out the originals in today's market and what the obstacles are to that.
That's like asking why they don't make '71 Chargers anymore. The parts don't exist; a large, viable market for them doesn't exist; and the people who designed them have moved on to what they undoubtedly believe are newer, better, and more interesting projects.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by tim gueguen » Sat Mar 28, 2009 6:43 pm

And if the world of guitar reissues is anything to go by a lot of people would complain that the new version of whatever didn't play/sound/feel like the originals no matter how close the parts were to the original.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Joey » Sat Mar 28, 2009 7:18 pm

tom oberheim is remaking the SEM at original spec.

there you go
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by JayEm » Sat Mar 28, 2009 7:33 pm

Naive Teen Idol wrote: So why aren't more of the classics made?
Because your assumption that minimoogs selling for high prices on eBay is a sign that classic analog gear is in HIGH demand (a very subjective term to most consumers, but probably not so subjective to a company expected to create and distribute them) is just plain wrong.

The truth is software has won out, and will continue to do so.
Even standalone digital keyboards and synth modules will continue to dwindle and PCs and laptops get cheaper, along with controllers and interfaces, the need for a variety of workstations will all but disappear.

Vintage gear selling for high prices will not mean that clones or even new gear will do well. A great sign of that is the simple fact that in your OP you left out the fact that many companies, even the few you listed, are still creating & selling various hardware units. Vintage sells for high because its "vintage" and in many cases rare.

A company like Roland can't assume that because the TB-303 sells for 1500-2500 today, that producing a new analog version of if it will give them that same return. Mass production may lower the cost of such a beast, but that only makes sense if you expect to sell enough to turn a good profit. Afterall, why do you think the Andy is run in batches?
Because there isn't enough of a demand to make more than what little sales they can project.

If you want modern classics, Yamaha, Roland & Korg probably won't be it.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Steve Jones » Sat Mar 28, 2009 10:22 pm

There are plenty of synths being made today that fall into the category that you are talking about, it's just that they are modular. A Synthesizers.Com modular would be a good example. About as close to a classic synth as you can get.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Yoozer » Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:03 pm

The forum is littered with these threads, and you'll get the dozen-or-so-reasons slapped in your face if you would bother to use the fine search first, but this is apparently very hard for the starry-eyed people who think the 80's aren't over yet.
the Minimoog would sell very well
A single voice fetching an incredible (not in the good way) price, and lack of MIDI - well, there's a good reason the Voyager Old School got discontinued.
as would a Prophet 5 rev 2.
I believe it was called the Nord Lead when a re-release was made.
And unless someone can show me otherwise, I can't imagine they would be THAT difficult to produce.
You have no clue on how much it costs to build synthesizers. It's not about difficulty - it's about setting up a production line. Your estimates on "a lot of people" are off the charts.

Purely discrete costs a fortune in parts and soldering everything by hand. SMT has high startup costs. Embedded engineers to write software for memory management aren't cheap either.

Furthermore, I firmly disagree with JayEm's "software has won" - it hasn't, because that's not the battle it's busy fighting. The modular module landscape has never been richer, and hardware you'd pay a fortune for 20 years ago is cheap as chips and does the job better; as long as you're willing to accept cheap build quality.
But I'd be interested to know if anyone has asked a Dave Smith or a Roger Linn if they have considered simply rolling out the originals in today's market and what the obstacles are to that.
Guess what; even engineers have a lot of ideas to improve on their existing designs.

A lot of computer games that allow character creation have 6 sliders. Putting one up means having to put another down; it's not like you can max them out all at the same time. You want discrete analog? It's going to cost you per voice, a lot. You want polyphony? It's going to cost you space. You want to use asshole-proof knobs and buttons? It'll cost you again - and every time you up the costs the market shrinks.

Also, the "Rev 2 is better than Rev 3" mindset is the exact opposite of an engineer's considerations.
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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Naive Teen Idol » Sat Mar 28, 2009 11:38 pm

I admit I know absolutely nothing about circuit design and the like. But I guess my point is this: it was the "imperfections" in the designs of the originals--the distortion in the Moog filter, the instability of oscillators, etc.--that are precisely what people today say they miss in newer analogs. I'm not saying that just b/c something fetches $4K on eBay it will necessarily fetch the same in a reissue -- in fact, quite the opposite. But I bet there would be a market for a synth that promises 85-90% of the original without the repair costs even the most cared-for 35 y/o synths are subject to. (Potential counterargument: "You're talking about the Prophet '08, dude.")

Is this a scientific theorem backed up by rich market-testing data? No. It's a guess, and I'm just wondering if anyone were doing it. Obviously it works for EMS. And apparently, Tom Oberheim. Which is awesome, btw. SEM's are exactly the kind of product that I think a lot of folks nowadays do think newer synths can't emulate. Though once again, I can't tell you why, exactly.

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Re: Why Aren't More Classic Synths Produced Today?

Post by Yoozer » Sun Mar 29, 2009 12:17 am

Naive Teen Idol wrote:But I bet there would be a market for a synth that promises 85-90% of the original
There is. It's called a plugin; it's just a matter of waiting on more horsepower for the emulation. It's not rocket science to rebuild a control surface that's custom for that synthesizer and give it the exact look and feel of a vintage machine while a small CPU is humming happily on the inside, cracking numbers (it's just that nobody's done this yet).

You don't have to emulate everything perfectly; just pass the point where the fanatic with the golden ears no longer can hear the difference :).

The looks of the machine already determine a big part of our impression. I really would like to see an A/B test where you'd take the shell of the classic and route all the controls to the plugin, letting people hear the audio of the plugin. Of course it's easy to say that it doesn't sound like the original at all when you're looking at a screen.
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