does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

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enomis
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does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by enomis » Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:32 pm

I see a lot of posts on forums about what gear people should or should not add to their studio. Do people ever post about gear they should or should not get rid of?

A year and a half ago I found two different Craigslist ads. One for a used DSI MEK and one for a SCI Pro-One. I got both. My intention was to have them both side by side and try them and see if and how they would become part of my work flow. The MEK was attractive for all is modulation possibilities and the fact that it was almost like having a modular synth inside a 36 key monosynth. The Pro-One was equally attractive for its "simplicity". I was prepared to keep one or none... and to keep both would require a really good reason.

Deciding on which of the two to keep has taken me much longer than expected but in the end I am certain the Pro-One wins out. A lot of people rave about the MEK but I've really not been able to bond with it. Have others had this happen?

The synth I use for a lot for playing/recording is a Nord Lead 2X. It's always in manual mode. In the 4 years I have had it I may have saved at most a dozen presets. I've never used any of the built in presets. I simply turn it on, switch to manual mode and start playing/writing/recording. I like to record long takes playing a synth (both keys and modulating parameters) and then editing. I feel the Pro-One locks into this approach of making music much more smoothly than the MEK. Sitting down with the Pro-One feels like pure exploration from the first second. Working with the MEK is exploration dampened by the reality of navigating the controls.

The sound of the two synths is also not really comparable. They each have their own unique personality so I won't even go into that.

The purpose of this post is not to make a qualitative statement about either synth or about any methodology of making music. Just curious to hear if other's have felt this way about the MEK vs a Pro One or any other monosynth. And, whether there is any compelling reason why I should give the MEK another chance.

The Pro-One has definitely found it's place in my studio and work flow and it is here to stay. My quest of a semimodular synth hasn't really been fulfilled with the MEK... so if it goes it is for the sake of finding one that does fit the bill.

sorry for the long winded post. Just curious to hear people's thoughts.
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otto
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by otto » Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:54 pm

The MEK is a synth that I had and sometimes wonder if it is something I should get again. DSI products are always great on paper, tons of destinations, modulation capabilities, a very interesting analog style destination approach to the sequencer, affordable analog, etc. I’ve owned 2 devos and 1 MEK, along with a mopho and P08. I think that first, the MEK is a deep synth that shouldn’t be written off at face value. I would never own a DEVO again, the interface is just silly on a synth like that. The MEK made programming a lot more fun BUT… I think the analog synth-on-a-chip is week and lacks a lot of the positive qualities associated with going analog. The filter is thin and not particularly special. I think what is more interesting is the combination of digital and analog along with interesting choice of onboard effects and all the routing – it does have modular like capabilities. The synth doesn’t seem to have a large “sweet spot” if you will. It can sound ugly, quickly. Also with all the programming possibilities it’s like a kid in a candy shop where you just keep adding things, modulating things doing this and that and you can spend hours building a perfectly ugly, unusable patch. SO the amount of programmability is both a great tool and a potential hindrance. I think the evolvers are great but I don’t think I am very effective with them.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by enomis » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:10 pm

I certainly concur that it is easy to get ugly sounds easily with the MEK. Your post actually made me think of that in terms of the Pro-One. I feel the Pro-One more than ugly can produces some very raw but interesting sounds. The MEK can do raw but as you said can also devolve into ugly rather quickly if you're not careful.

Did you replace the MEK with a modular or semi modular synth? or did you just gut rid of it? :)
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by cprescott08 » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:51 pm

I've also owned the MEK for a short time and occasionally wonder if I should have kept it
or possibly pick up another. As mentioned..on paper the DSI stuff seems to cover all the bases
in one self contained unit though I also agree that the sound tends to fall short 'thin' or whatever
you want to call it. I so much enjoy and prefer the sounds of many another synth!
I rarely found myself initially grabbing for the MEK when an idea arose..
At the same time I know I can definitely find a use/place for one and in this price range you'd be
hard pressed to find a better value no matter what capacity you use it in.
I think the Evolver line in particular will at the end of the day be a classic synth and one
should probably snag one while they're more available. Then again the fact that they are currently
a new synth and remain in production is why I wasn't to concerned parting with it?
I think if I knew they we going to cancel production I would definitely grab one again sooner than later.
I've also been considering the Pro-One or Six-Trak recently as I would like to have at least
one piece of DSCI gear in my mix. So, I will probably hold off on the MEK for now myself :|

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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by otto » Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:59 pm

Well nothing exactly replaces an MEK cause not much is like an MEK. I would say my Virus TI is a deep and capable synth but I find it takes me in much more musical directions than the MEK did. While not exactly comparable, I much preferred the sound and usefulness of the simple Moog LP over the MEK. While you can do a lot more with the MEK, almost everything I did with the moog was musical and usable. I actually wouldn’t mind getting an LP again but at the moment I’m looking at the MFB synth II due to portability and built in sequencer.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by Angstwulf » Sat Nov 21, 2009 1:07 am

I bonded with the Evolver sound pretty quickly. I disagree that it can only sound thin/digital. It can but you just have to learn what parameters don't do it for you. I also have more than one template preset: a standard detuned sawtooth with an piano-esque envelope, a detuned sawtooth drone and an osc 3/4 only with an envelope. I generally start with one of those and will save to another location only if I really like the sound or want to keep tweaking it in another session.

BUT: I know what you mean about simple analogs without presets. It's different and probably more satisfying if you're just not in the mood to be scientific.

Keep the one that puts a grin on your face. If you are not using the Evolver. Sell it, hopefully to someone who will get the joy in ownership that eluded you with the MEK. Unless DSI discontinues the MEK you can always find another for a similar price. Or get that true semi-modular. The Kraftzwerg is calling...

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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by kuroichi » Sat Nov 21, 2009 1:18 am

I had a MEK and got similar results to those mentioned.

I always felt that if it had pots instead of encoders, it might have taken my eyes off the little blue screen and helped me listen more, but anyway, I never bonded with it, I got a FR XS and that pretty much replaced it...

I think the hybrid idea is excellent, but the combination of somewhat weak analog, with digital and all the ADC etc didnt work well for me on the MEK, and it lacked a warmth or strength to its character that I was seeking. I could never just sit down, turn a few dials and get a nice sound from it, plus as people have mentioned, all the combinations/modulation often worked against it.

I think ultimately the menu diving put me off the MEK, that and its lack of any pots. I always feel like I didnt spend enough time with it, but to be honest I spent at least an hour a day using it, and nothing ever 'really' impressed me.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by enomis » Sat Nov 21, 2009 2:35 am

kuroichi... it's interesting to read your post. I think I am on a similar wave length. The encoders have also been a big turn off for me. The fact that you are controlling a parameter with an encoder but still need to look at a screen to know where you are AND, on top of that, the fact that a full turn of an encoder doesn't equate a full sweep of the particular parameter, in my opinion, tremendously reduces the usefulness of all the physical controls. The fact that I can't look at the board at anyone time and generally know what sound I will get out of it is very disjointing for me. I am sure it works well for carefully fine tuning and programming... but it just doesn't work for a performance environment where you have to move to get to new sounds quickly.

your post also resonated with me with the mention of the FR XS. That is very high on my list of possible replacements for the MEK. I read up on it when it first was slated to come out but then got side tracked. Going back now and listening to all the demos on the FR website I am quite impressed! It seems to offer quite a lot. Have you had any criticism of the FR XS?

Has anyone else out there replaced the MEK specifically with a modular or semi modular? Curious to know.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by kuroichi » Sat Nov 21, 2009 12:06 pm

enomis wrote:
your post also resonated with me with the mention of the FR XS. Have you had any criticism of the FR XS?
I think that the filter isnt as good as some other synths, particularly the band pass and notch, It dosent really have a strong character compared to say a moog filter or oberheim. Also there was a problem recently involving LFO stepping at lower tempos too, but to be honest all of the criticisms arent that bad or important for most people. I think the main problem for some people is that it can go from very tame to very harsh quite fast when making sounds.

Compared to the MEK it is a lot easier to use, and produces a VERY wide range of analog sounds, and can even do some 8 bit digital style sounds too. The character is quite HiFi similar to most new analogs. Plus the build quality is great. Its quite easy to make some excellent sounds with it very quickly.

At the moment I am thinking of selling the XS and getting a voyager to be honest, however that is just a personal preference as I like the moog sound, and only really use one synth nowadays, and cant afford to keep both.

I think a problem you may have is that the XS is a rack mount, as opposed to the Pro One which has keys to play. The lack of a keybed on the XS or a built in sequencer makes it seem less like a standalone synth to me physically, and the physical appearance and shape of a synth can really get to me at times. However it is an excellent synth overall.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by de raaf » Sat Nov 21, 2009 3:21 pm

i love my mek
if you are only after analog sounds this isn't for you obviously!
also people longing to a mfb, just makes me laugh, oh yeah 100% analog = means great, sorry it isn't

pots can just be as confusion on a synth with memory, when changing patches while playing, than having encoders

a wider option of sound aka it can also go more extreme and ugly, is to me a plus point, its gives a wider spectrum to work with or experiment with. maybe it just tells more about what you like as sounds than it tells about the sound possibilities of the synth.


and yeah the mek deserves some time to grow on you and get used the working flow, userinterface

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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by greyhound_flyer » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:25 pm

In defense of the Desktop Evolver, a BRC2000 or Emu Launchpad, etc., makes the Evolver a lot more approachable, like my Juno 6 that I can walk up to and start sliding, switching and tweaking. Also, being able to modulate so many things with the Evo sequencer really opens up possibilities. There are times, though, when that arpeggiator (and a little outboard delay) on the Juno is just irresistible! :)

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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:28 pm

Agree with everything you said de raaf.

I bought a desktop Evolver just after the PEK came out, I guess that was 4 or 5 years ago. Traded up to a MEK about two year ago and I'm still really happy with it. It does take a while to be able to program whatever sound you want because the palette is so broad, as others have said, but if you know your way around it you can get a huge range of sounds from it.

I think a lot of people get an Evolver wanting analogue sounds and are disappointed because that's not what it is really. If you're after a classic analogue the LP is a much better choice but if you're after something that can make the sounds that will be classic in the future it's fantastic, once you know how to program it.

I had the Evolver signal flow chart printed out and stuck on my wall when my desktop was new and I think I know the synth pretty much inside out now. With the great programming interface on the MEK I often just program patches to fit the song when I'm recording, and don't bother saving them afterwards. Took me years to get to that point though.

I find that the Evolvers sound best with a bit of EQ though, and mine has always got the timefactor on it.

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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by otto » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:52 pm

In defense of evolver buyers who later sell. I knew what I was getting into when I bought an evolver and didn't expect it do be just an analog monosynth (at which, I think it fails horribly). My comparision to the LP was just in relation to the fact that an LP almost always sound good where you really have to work to make the MEK sound good (subjective but my opinion). I like synths with a broad range of good sound and while I think the MEK can get there, it really takes some work and dedication with I found was too much and got in the way of music creation.

This is one of the reasons I haven't entered the world of true modular. I think I would spend more time doing crazy unusable stuff. Judging from videos and MP3s of many peoples modulars, people spend an awful lot of money to create really shitty sounds.

De raaf, I don't think 100% analog = great. I have owned many digital and analog synths. I have reservations about the MFB but from the demos I've heard it sounds very 70's, discrete analog, more so than most other modern analog and far more so than DSI analog. That sound is appealing to me, along with it being a small portable package with built in sequencer (otherwise I would serious consider another LP or SE product). I understand that they are fragile and I've also read that the oscilators might need to be tuned frequently. If that's the worst of it than I'll be fine. I suspect from your other posts that you need to tune your MFB or something because you seem to be the only person that thinks it sounds s**t. Also you've recomended a Pulse and a mopho as good alternatives, both mono synths I think sound shitty. Perhaps your Synth II needs to be tuned or perhaps the 70's discrete sound just isn't your cup of tea.
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by enomis » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:58 pm

I was wondering when the MEK supporters would chime in :)

Thanks for your replies. Do any you (Stab Frenzy, greyhound_flyer, de raaf) or anyone else out there use the MEK in live performance situations? Just curious to hear peoples thoughts on how it integrates in the live format for you.

Again, the intent of my post was not to start a MEK/Evolver bashing thread. Just interested in hearing people's thoughts. For sure the MEK has a tremendous ability at creating sound. But, just as in all relationships in life there are personalities that you jive with quirks and all and others that you don't.

kuroichi - thanks for the info on the FR XS. I think you hit the nail on the head. I'm primarily a keyboard player so the XS's lack of keyboard makes it a little less appealing. I have been looking at the Moog Voyager OS as another different option, though the price tag certainly makes me think twice... thrice... if not more.

Speaking of the Voyager... I have had a few occasions to try it but all have been within the context of a store environment where it is difficult to sit at length with it. My question: is it possible to coax some edgier/raw sounds from it?
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Re: does anyone else feel this way about the DSI MEK

Post by otto » Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:14 pm

You can do a lot with the voyager. I is pretty much as semi-modular its self particularly with a few extras. A lot of people like to mix in a preamp and/or distortion sources. The LP has the built in overdrive which is nice but I think if you want aggressive, edgy that an FRXS excels at that sound wheras as the moogs do better at being creamy, smooth and funky.

Oh, and I'm not bashing the Evolver. If people are going call me on my choices than I will let them know how I feel. The sounds you enjoy are all subjective so people might not agree with me and I might not agree with them.
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