I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

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I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by otto » Wed Feb 17, 2010 5:52 pm

I thought I’d start a controversial thread. The other day I had the epiphany that none of the DCO synths I’ve ever owned have ever done much for me and none have been keepers. Granted, there are a lot of DCO synths I haven’t tried. I don’t think they are bad, I can find merits in every single DCO synth I’ve owned but ultimately they aren’t good enough to keep. It’s always more of “that’s sort of cool, that might be useful” but I’m never blown away or particularly excited with any I’ve owned.

I’d go so far as saying I actually prefer VA’s to DCO analog synths. I find that when emulating analog, VA’s tend to sound a bit “DCOish” but never or rarely VCO or discrete in character. But I digress, I hardly ever really think of my VA’s as devices to emulate real analog, I like their sound and character for what it is. Most DCO synths are fairly primitive and basic from a structural and programming perspective. After all they were generally “budget” synths. Most VAs just add so much more programming power and flexibility and the good ones have a lot of life and character (my favorite thus far being the virus line).

I’m not trying to slam DCO synths either. I mean for the money they offer a lot (as do older VAs). There are many DCO polysynths in the <$500 range. On a budget you could do amazing things with something like the JX10 and a cheap VA. Even as I write this, I wouldn’t mind having something like a cheap Matrix 1000 on hand just for when the need strikes me. However, I just can’t help but feel they just take up space and when I think and want analog polyphonic sound I think separate VCO based Curtis chip ala Prophets, OBs, etc. and discrete ala OB-X. No DCO synth I’ve used comes close.
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by JJQ » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:04 pm

I think the Juno-60 has a sound that is well on level with some VCO based synts. Id use to prefer it to my MC-202 for both some types bases and leads.

And I realy think that the Kawai SX-240 holds its own besida my three VCO (2 discreet & 1 CEM) polys. But I never wanted to keep any VA I have tried. :)

But I guess its a mather of taste
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by meatballfulton » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:20 pm

otto wrote:when I think and want analog polyphonic sound I think separate VCO based Curtis chip ala Prophets, OBs, etc. and discrete ala OB-X. No DCO synth I’ve used comes close.
But is it the DCO that is the reason for the difference or something else (like the filters, modulation matrix, etc.) :geek:
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by CfNorENa » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:38 pm

JJQ wrote:I think the Juno-60 has a sound that is well on level with some VCO based synts.
I agree. Hardware envelope, perhaps? And doesn't the Elka Synthex get a lot of love, too?

I can't speak to the whole range of DCO synths, but of those I know -- the Roland early/mid 80s variety -- they definitely have their place. Love the JX series in particular for the trademark soft, warm synth strings. Can't get that sound out of my Prophet 600 (or Juno 60, for that matter). Now, would I trade my JX-8P for an OB-X, or Jupiter 8? Without a doubt. But for $250, it's bringing a lot to the table...

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by Sir Ruff » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:53 pm

I'm with Otto... I've only ended up really liking (and keeping) non-DCO sample-based hybrids. (tho saying that, an SX240 is on it's way to me, and I'm hoping to be pleasantly surprised). When chorus employment is de facto to get a "good" sound, it just feels like an easy fix.

Saying that, I agree that the juno-6/60 kind of hold their own in the overall "sound/value" category. And I also have a thing for the alpha juno resonant filter (when chorused, natch)... it has an incredibly distinct tone that is more than the sum of it's parts.
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by clubbedtodeath » Wed Feb 17, 2010 6:58 pm

I own two synths with DCOs - an Evolver and an Oberheim Matrix 6.

Certainly, the Evolver has a certain sharpness to it, but it can do dead on a Pro One when pushed, and I can testify to the Matrix 6's well-deserved reputation for warm, buttery pads.

I don't completely disagree with Otto, but I think the difference sonically between VCO and DCO is perhaps somewhat exagerrated. It, really, depends upon the synth.

PS.

What I can't understand is, why doesn't someone do a DCO synth, but with sophisticated timing control to shape the waveform more to a VCO synth's? If it can be done in VSTis, surely it can be done with a small CPU. (And I mean something more sophisticated than DSI's 'slop' function). That'd nicely sidestep flakey temperate-dependent circuitry, whilst maintaining an analogue signal path.

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by maindeglorie » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:04 pm

The only DCO synths that I tend to like are Roland ones. The Juno 6/60 and JX-8p sound beautiful to me. Not exactly huge analog, but still beautiful.

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by nvbrkr » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:45 pm

Considering the time period and the musical context they were mainly designed for, they do their job. As far as I know, they weren't really used by the most commercially successful bands, but rather provided an affordable way to get some of that "synth chord" -type of thing going on for the rest (etc.). When you scroll through the presets of the later VCO synths as well, it just seems that musicians in general were looking for to play quite different type of parts on keyboards as before.

I don't think anyone needs more than 1-2 these days, though. They're fine for doubletracking, e.g. the basic DCO strings work quite well when stacked with VA stuff. I've hardly tried all of them, I guess I could settle for a Matrix 6R.

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by Dano » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:16 pm

nvbrkr wrote:As far as I know, they weren't really used by the most commercially successful bands
I'm not exactly sure of when the first DCO synth was introduced but I'm thinking the first from Roland was the Juno 6 and then shortly thereafter the Juno 60 in 1982. It was in 1983 that the Yamaha DX7 was introduced and changed everything so I'm not sure that it wasn't more a case of analog somewhat falling out of style shortly after DCO synths started hitting the market.

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by jaypodesta » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:17 pm

Love my Juno 60 to bits - as much for the nostalgia as the sound I'll admit.

But - I do like the sound a h**l of lot... (way more than my Prophet '08).

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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by Solderman » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:19 pm

Think about how a DCO works for a moment: A counter whose output toggles between logic 1 and logic 0, whenever the count resets, is used to take that square wave output and run it through one or more waveshapers that can change the wave to triangle or ramp/sawtooth, run through a flip-flop circuit for sub-oscillator pitch or no change for a square waveform choice. That's it. There's ALOT of room for error and design differences. How many bits does the counter use? What happens when you add modulation, since the pitches are discrete counter values? How is the waveshaper implemented? Plus when you consider that VCO waveforms are not usually generated the same way something designed for TTL is, the VCO waveshape is alot less likely to be perfect, let alone the drifty nature of its pitch. I believe that it is those imperfections that you appreciate, otto.

Also consider that each VCO is never locked to another's pitch, whereas a typical DCO implementation will use a singular clock for all the counters. That means every oscillator is phase-locked. You could get around this by having a clock for each oscillator, but that would be a more costly design.
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by otto » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:34 pm

I guess it would be helpful if I mentioned some of the stuff I’ve owned for comparative purposes.

Prophet ’08 – really great flexibility , lots of knobs and the great DSI sequencer, more usefully stacked as a 4 voice for decent thickness, I don’t know if I’m come across a more bland analog filter… perhaps on the Waldorf Pulse. If this were a $500 there is no doubt I would still own it but it’s a lot of cash, for me, for DCO sound…
Evolver (MEK & DEVO) – evolvers are the king of the DSI world IMO, they are very powerful synths but the analog side by its self just isn’t very analog sounding. The synth is great because of its combined synthesis, IMO. Even at the I find myself lost in programming more than doing anything useful. Still maybe another MEK someday…
Mopho – same as above, nice crisp bleepy tones, the added sub-osc is something the Prophet ’08 could really use. Ultimately I thought my VA could cover the same territory and more and it just wasn’t great at classic analog tones.
Poly 800 – good at a couple interesting things (dirty grungy bass and pads)
Juno 106 – Not bad admittedly but still not blown away and the chorus is a huge part of its sound, that and the nice quick envelopes.
JX3P- yes it has silky strings and actually even covers some 106 ground but I don’t usually need silky strings (actually prefer the big gritty punch-you-in-the-face P600 strings). It’s lovely and polite but…
AX-80 – This one had a flavor all its own and could do some really nice stuff, including some deep, dark bass.
Alpha Juno – easy but not fun to program kind of muffled sounding to me…
I think there were a couple others that don’t immediately come to mind...

I realize that there is potential greatness in these synths, it was just a bit on the niche side of things and they take up a lot of room to just be used once in a while for this and that. I’m also not fond of having stacks of synth if I can avoid it… At least that’s what I tell myself.

I do think I could have fun intentionally using a DCO synths for a project. I mean they are good at being cold and you can do fun fluffy, fizzy, sounds with them but I guess that stuff just doesn’t appeal to me on a regular basis with what I want to do. There are a lot of bands I like using the Prophet ’08 so I’m not saying they are useless, they just don’t grab me. I guess that’s why you can buy a JX10 for $400 but a simple, lowly prophet 5 will set you back $2k+

All of this is, of course, a matter of taste and I envy the person that prefers DCO synths.
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by projectwoofer » Wed Feb 17, 2010 10:31 pm

I believe the difference between VCOs and DCOs is a bit overrated...I've created some really deep, punch VCO style sounds using various techniques on my DSI Tetra which is also capable of the more bright, clear, whatever DCO sound...and I really like the filter too, great for poly sounds, although the Pulse's filter is excellent too IMO...
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:03 pm

I have done a lot of eye-rolling about DCOs, but honestly I only dislike them in comparison to VCOs. On their own, and judged on their own merits, they are capable of creating some effective, fun, and attractive sounds.
I've had a slew of DCO synths, and most of them don't stay with me long. It's not really the sound for me.
The exceptions being the JX3P and (as has been mentioned a number of times in this thread), the extremely fun and nice SX-210.

All of these things being said, you have to realize that the whole reason DCOs exist and are so irritatingly flawless is because synth buyers and users in the seventies demanded it!
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Re: I guess I’m just not a big fan of DCO’s

Post by otto » Wed Feb 17, 2010 11:12 pm

Hate to say it and I’m not trying to be snarky (I couldn’t think of a better word, sorry) but…
projectwoofer wrote:I believe the difference between VCOs and DCOs is a bit overrated...

…So says the guy without a VCO synth.

When I started my endeavor into synths I thought the VCO and discrete stuff was a bit of a myth. I couldn’t believe people would pay the prices they did for a basic monophonic synth (and this was before prices really skyrocketed). Well I tried different things, curiosity got the better of me and over time I got to try more and more synths. There’s no looking back now… So, ignorance is bliss. If you are happy stay happy and don’t proceed down the dark path.

Honestly though, if the ultimate goal is music I don’t think it’s as much about what you use but how you use it and that it inspires you. I hear great music produced on synths I didn’t exactly gel with.
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