The Appearance of Synths

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
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cornutt
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by cornutt » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:25 am

ninja6485 wrote:it's one thing to appreciate the look of a particular synth, or really detest the look of another, but when you start making decisions on what you want to own and use based on looks, it shows that the mucisal value and functionality of the synth are less important than the looks.
It's more difficult than that, though. Because with a synth, appearance and usability are not independent. A synth with a poorly-laid-out panel or messy graphics will not only look bad, but it will also be more difficult to patch and play. Part of the appearance of a synth is the ability to look at it, take it all in, and quickly figure out what the controls do and what the settings are. There's an aesthetic pleasure in looking over a synth with a smart panel layout and easy-to-comprehend graphics. Okay, yeah, I have a utilitarian streak, but it's true of a lot of electrical and mechanical things -- if it's ugly on the outside, odds are it's ugly on the inside too.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by ninja6485 » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:49 am

cornutt wrote:
ninja6485 wrote:it's one thing to appreciate the look of a particular synth, or really detest the look of another, but when you start making decisions on what you want to own and use based on looks, it shows that the mucisal value and functionality of the synth are less important than the looks.
It's more difficult than that, though. Because with a synth, appearance and usability are not independent. A synth with a poorly-laid-out panel or messy graphics will not only look bad, but it will also be more difficult to patch and play. Part of the appearance of a synth is the ability to look at it, take it all in, and quickly figure out what the controls do and what the settings are. There's an aesthetic pleasure in looking over a synth with a smart panel layout and easy-to-comprehend graphics. Okay, yeah, I have a utilitarian streak, but it's true of a lot of electrical and mechanical things -- if it's ugly on the outside, odds are it's ugly on the inside too.
yea i agree with this, alot of time form follows function and looks very pleasing. (i actually think most if not all synths look good) but you run into situations like when collecting multiple synths, do you try to buy a sonically diverse selection and go after the pieces that you know sound the closest to your liking, or do you pass over potential gems and deal with some serious overlap to have you collection look a certian way? i had a dilema a short wile ago where i had two juno 60s. one was rattier than the other, but i thought it sounded better. it was older too. the other one looked nicer amoung my other synths, but i sold it because the rattier one just sounded richer and warmer somehow, at least to me. (the older one had a metal bar across the dcb, and the newer one had a black painted bar above the dcb).
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by griffin avid » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:59 am

A modular synth ugly? Not at all.
I think it looks like it's supposed to.
I consider it a complicated piece of...(sci-fi) technology so I expect knobs, buttons and ...tons of gadgetry on the surface. An Electric Piano, which doesn't pack in as much functionality per inch, would have a much sleeker appearance and streamlined surface. That simplified look matches the purpose.

But then again, even among modulars I think that some companies have better looking designs than others.

I think gear is designed purposefully and it's the same as designing an album cover for your music.
You want the exterior packaging to be consistent with the innards.

Makes me think of the Beatles crossing the street. There's no reason to buy that album based on a picture of some dudes crossing the street, but since the album itself is so landmark, that image is now iconic.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by Sir Nose » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:06 am

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Nope, looks isn't on the list of requirements. A welcome bonus, but not even a consideration.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by Pro5 » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:27 am

n/m
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by crystalmsc » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:39 am

Look will make an easier purchase ;) but If I like the sound, feature, playbility, value, etc..I can deal with fugly synth.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by pflosi » Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:56 am

I bought the A6 for functionality, despite its ugly look :) I love the sound so much that I start to like its appearance. Sometimes functionality has an impact on how we perceive a synth (and also vice versa). Another example would be the 303, I like its looks but I'm sure I wouldn't if this ugly little plastic box wouldn't make these nice sounds :)

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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by ImperatorDX » Fri Sep 03, 2010 8:08 am

ninja6485 wrote:it's one thing to appreciate the look of a particular synth, or really detest the look of another, but when you start making decisions on what you want to own and use based on looks, it shows that the mucisal value and functionality of the synth are less important than the looks.
Your premise is flawed. Please show me the quotation where I say that the musical value of the instrument is less important to me.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by Cumulus » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:38 pm

Looks are important in any piece of technology because we are visual creatures. Having said that, I would never not buy a good synth just because it was ugly but if there were competing synths that were similar enough, like, say a blofeld and a Mopho desktop I would be more drawn to the Mopho.

It's not a huge factor in my purchasing decisions. I usually just buy that cheap "piano thingy" that Grandma is selling at the garage sale even if it's ugly.

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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by Reginator » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:37 pm

Stevie Wonder has the benefit of playing a synth based on its sound and not its looks. The rest of us are not so lucky.

When I reach for a knob or slider to create the sound from my head, a left to right and top to bottom flow works best for me. Glide control to the left, arpeggiator to the right and pitch bend/modulation to the left of the keyboard (sorry Prophet 08), not too many flashing lights (might have a seizure). God forbid any control is too dainty to use less it gets snapped off in the middle of a soul bearing solo. Well built and solid is what I look for… but if it’s pink forget it.

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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:25 pm

A synthesizer can be beautiful and sound ugly and also the other way around. I haven't understood some these topics lately, they're all so deep and thought out. ;)
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by Solderman » Fri Sep 03, 2010 5:57 pm

Not a synth, but the wood cheeks on the Moogerfoogers, and more appropriately on the Virus tabletop synths, is an example of just a simple flourish that might provide a visual association to being inspired from vintage gear.
I realize, after reading your comments, that besides the buyer's choice aspect, there is that mental association you make in your mind with the gear. Most people picture the tools in their minds, at least briefly, before using them, wouldn't you agree? I'd guess that also goes for software synths, although it often gets more ambiguous there.

Anyway, not a knockout topic or anything, just wondering everyone's thoughts. Cheers fellas.
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by CS_TBL » Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:11 pm

What's the definition of an ugly synth anyway? Usually their panel layout is based on just being practical; you have functionality and you'll have to put it somewhere. The only things I don't like are panels in screamish colors like yellow, orange, green.. Do me black, grey, white, blue(ish).. :P But even if one of my HW synths would be in yellow, green etc. it wouldn't influence my workflow with them.

Just for the fun of it: is the apperance of a Con Brio neat or ugly? :P
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by vin14 » Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:16 pm

Good question, one that can be equally be asked about guitars, computers, cameras, cars, hifi components and all kinds of stuff. When viewing the synth purely as a tool, I'd say performance has to come first, followed by functionality and build quality. However if you view it as an item to derive enjoyment from or even dare I say a piece of art, then I think looks do matter, I think it's human nature to like nice-looking stuff!

Looks were a huge part of me buying a Voyager old school instead of a regular Voyager, I couldn't live with that horrible touch pad in the middle, even if it meant no patch memory. Of course I wouldn't have bought it if it didn't sound great too!
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Re: The Appearance of Synths

Post by nvbrkr » Fri Sep 03, 2010 7:23 pm

If something costs as much as keyboard instruments do, they better also look like something. "It's all about the sound" -type of comments seem a bit odd to me when something costs several thousands of dollars or euros. I've never understood the appeal of all those garish toy or winamp skin -like designs that became common in the late-90s and early-00s. Not to mention the abundance of the plastic everywhere. I haven't seen anything similar with drums, woodwinds, brass instruments or even with most guitars and bass guitars there is an option to choose the colour yourself.

Sure, my preference is the classic analog synth style design that looks a bit technical, but at least they look neutral. The aesthetics of the units can even get a bit awkward too from the creative standpoint. At least I'd feel a bit weird trying to work on some hissy, drony lofi stuff while staring something like the V-Synth in front of me. I remember using Cubase SX at work for some of my own recordings - given that the GUI reminded me of a spaceship or something I really couldn't help but feel like there was something seriously wrong about it.

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