Synths that didn't impress you

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gcoudert
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Synths that didn't impress you

Post by gcoudert » Sun Apr 27, 2014 9:11 am

I remember spending hours every week in music shops back in the 80s, flicking through the presets and tweaking the latest synths and a lot of second-hand ones. Whilst several had that immediate 'wow' factor, some did not impress me at all, although they may well be collectors items nowadays.

At the time, I was unimpressed with the 4-op Yamaha DX9 / DX100 / DX21 / DX27. Nor did I like the Bit 01 & Bit 99, Siel Opera 6 and I hated that second-hand Moog Prodigy I once tried, but then we wouldn't have wanted to be seen dead with a mono synth at the time. I am ashamed to admit that I didn't like Oberheim's Matrix 6, although I would probably kill for one now. At one point, I could have part exchanged my Juno 60 for a Jupiter 6 but it sounded too harsh to my ears so I passed. Roland's D5 / D110 / D10 and D20 I didn't like either. As for drum machines, the TR808 sounded rubbish at a time when pop was dominated by LinnDrums, Fairlights and real drums.

The 'wow factor' synths for me were the Roland D50 & U110 (yep, and I bought it too), Roland S50 sampler and my first synth, the Juno 60. Korg's M1 and - in the 90s - the Wavestation also impressed me.

How about you?
Last edited by gcoudert on Mon Apr 28, 2014 8:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by vinyl_junkie » Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:12 am

Moog Voyager Rack.. It belonged to a friend and it's not that I dislike the Moog sound but he also had a original Model D which sounded like sex.
To be honest I didn't give it enough time but found the interface a bit cack handed and the instant happy factor wasn't as good as on the D... Also the price, personally I wouldn't buy one.
On the other hand I quite liked the Slim Phatty and the Minitaur, go figure :-/

Kawai K1R... Zzzzzzzzzzz

Access Virus Ti Polar; Not bad but not impressed either, felt cheap and didn't particularly have anything about the sound that grabbed me.
I'll take my buggy Blofeld over it any day

Korg M1: Brought this in the early 00's when I was just starting. It still had a lot of hype around it and all I can say is when I got it I was so so so disappointed.
It sounds like GM unless you have some of those expansion cards and the sequencer is kinda whack.
One thing I will say though other than weighing a tonne is the keyboard was quality, noisy but loved it.
Strangely enough I kinda miss the M1 but not sure why, nostalgia I guess.

Korg Triton.. Yet another rompler, hmm there's a pattern here hahah
It has this weird shiny plastic Korg sheen on the sound I didn't like and also I thought not a lot moved on since the M1.. To be honest I preferred the sounds on the M1 and found the touch screen gimmicky

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by CS_TBL » Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:36 am

What didn't impress me was mostly related to the moment in time. At my study, several synths were in class. Among them them a Korg M1 and Kawai K5000. The M1 just didn't impress me as I was (when talking samples) used to a more recent quality. And the K5000 was merely 'meh'.. as in: I just didn't see the point in all those sounds which I'd already heard elsewhere earlier.

No doubt the M1 was neat in its days, but alas.. only in those days for me..
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by pelican » Sun Apr 27, 2014 2:29 pm

Korg monopoly, liked the features just sounded like c**p
Nord lead 3, the same

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by mini700 » Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:13 pm

Roland JD 800.
Loved the looks, paid a lot of money for it, wasn't impressed with the sounds.
I haven't used it much since.

Korg Microkorg XL.
Nice and portable, but apart from using the vocoder now and then, it's mostly in its box.

So I've learnt my lesson.
Bought a Korg MS 20 mini. I love it and use it all the time.
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by synthroom » Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:20 pm

I've never really spent a lot of time in shops over the years, but I bought a Yamaha FB-01 new in 1986 or so. Sound unseen. I'd only seen the ads in Keyboard. It had a couple sounds that were nice, but overall, I really didn't really like the sound of it. I know it's heresy, but the DX-7 never really impressed me as well. I've got a DX-5 here, but I just really haven't spend much time with it based on the experience with the FB-01. I did have a TG-33, and that was much more interesting, so I figure someday I'll try a SY-99.

Lots of monos from the 70s - Prodigy, Rogue, MG-1, Axxe - not really impressed by them. I was quite surprised to find they have quite the following now. I wish I'd had the resources and the forethought to have bought all that I say in the late 80s for $100 and flipped them 20 years later.

Funny the original poster mentioned the Matrix 6R - I bought one from a friend for $300 in 1992 or so, and after a weekend, decided it sounded too close to my JX-3P. So I traded it back to him for his TG-33.

Alpha Junos.

Wow factor - number one on that list for me was the D-50. That sounded so different than anything else available at the time! I still love the sound of it.
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:00 pm

There is quite a lot of stuff I found unimpressive, be it contemporary or "vintage". I sold a Korg Z1 after a short time as I found it too complicated to operate and in terms of timbral scope, it didn´t offer anything that made it worth keeping. I found the NordLeads quite as boring, as well as the Virus series of synths.

Never could warm up to the entire group of cheapo polyphonic synthesisers from the 1980s, Polysix, Juno 6/60/106/Alpha, Bit 01/99, Prophet 600, Korg DW... meh!

EMS Synthi 100 was quite unimpressive, too.

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by Automatic Gainsay » Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:17 pm

A lot of the time, people feel like they should be impressed by synths that other people have been impressed by... but it gets confusing because people are initially impressed for a variety of reasons.

1. When some synths came out, they were impressive because they were new technology, capable of new things, and had a new sound. They became quite popular for these reasons. As a modern person looking back, there is no reason for these things to be impressive to you... it's now old technology, and it probably has a really dated sound that you'd only like if you were into that dated sound.

2. A lot of people laud synths that became popular due to their inclusion in a genre. This is no reason to be impressed with a synth. A lot of great songs by important musicians feature great synth parts performed on a totally crappy synth.

3. The synth has great features. Of course, if you're looking for features alone... no synth will impress you but the most feature-filled.

4. Great sound. This is the man reason that vintage synths impress people. Often, their functionality is limited... so it really can only be sound for them. They're not going to impress you if you're looking for something with modern functionality OR modern sound.


I remember my first experience with the M1... it was the point at which synthesizers really started to have sounds that (to our ears) sounded real. None of us could get over the sax sound on the M1... I actually remember a group of friends sitting around it and just playing that sound and marveling at it. Also, there wasn't really such a thing as a "pad" until the M1. Synth chords, even with evolving filtering, just sounded kind of meh. The M1 created pads that changed over time in really cool ways. Suddenly, a chord could hold attention in a song if it was just held.
But of course, these days, the M1 sounds laughable in regard to realism, and no one remembers what it was like to hear an evolving pad for the first time.

Both the M1 and the DX7 paid for their fame and innovation by saturating the market and eventually becoming reviled.

My wish is that people could experience a 303 or 808 right now, somehow without any knowledge of their past or the music they've been used in.
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by commodorejohn » Sun Apr 27, 2014 8:01 pm

Virtual analog. When I first started getting into hardware after having started on trackers and VSTs, VA sounded, on paper, like the absolute coolest thing ever. But when I started trying it out, I experienced pretty much nothing but disappointment. Not only did it not really sound like analog, most of it barely sounded like anything at all! And the ones that did sound good (the MicroKORG, for one) sounded much better when they were embracing their digital nature than they did when trying to pretend that they were analog. The bright side was that this discovery prompted me to get right down to it and get myself a real analog synthesizer, and my wallet hasn't been the same since ;)
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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by meatballfulton » Sun Apr 27, 2014 10:48 pm

Korg M1...compared to my Ensoniq SQ-80 it did have more realistic sounds and onboard reverb but I thought it was a second rate copy otherwise. No resonant filters (unlike the D50), tiny display and I never liked joysticks. I particularly disliked the lack of a cassette port to back up the sequencer back when a PC plus MIDI interface could set you back $1000 while the SQ-80 had a floppy drive for backup and could use the tape port to synch with multitrack tape. I could never understand the huge appeal.

Kawai K5...traded my Odyssey for one. What a big mistake :oops: At the time I simply couldn't make sense of programming additive sounds and the presets were pretty uninspiring.

Roland SH-101...only cost me $25 but I still flipped it, next to the Odyssey it was like why bother? A buddy of mine had a Juno 6 and this sounded pretty much the same except it couldn't play chords and without MIDI it was useless to me.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by nathanscribe » Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:26 pm

Automatic Gainsay wrote: My wish is that people could experience a 303 or 808 right now, somehow without any knowledge of their past or the music they've been used in.
Ha. I had a 303 about 20 years ago, and thought it was the biggest (smallest) piece of c**p anyone would want to throw 300 quid at. Had it a couple of months. Never regretted getting rid until they were worth over a grand.

I've had some nice sounding synths that were rendered unimpressive through terrible user interfaces - Matrix 6R particularly. MicroKorg was c**p in so many ways it's not even funny. First time I clamped eyes on a genuine Prophet 5 I almost had babies, but half an hour of playing convined me the hype was greater than the price. By no means a bad synth, but not exactly mindblowing. Still one of the most beautiful to look at though.

I'm much less impressed by DAWs. Never found one yet that fails to frustrate me, make me swear, want to throttle people, give up and become an itinerant hurdy-gurdy player, etc.

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by phesago » Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:16 am

I dont really get peoples infatuation with the 303. Kind of confusing. That and totally overdone. 808 i can kind of get b/c of UI and simplicity, but the price is a bit too much these days.

Also, most unimpressive synth: the ones i didnt try yet :D

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by Percivale » Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:55 am

Synths that I feel overpriced (in terms of utility for money spent) do not impress. Sure, they sound really good but given this outlay that had better be! Other than that scenario, I think it depends on taste of individual. For example. someone who likes VA trance-y stuff would most likely be impressed by the supersaw of JP-8000 at its time, etc. That brings me to a different topic, does impressions last?

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by meatballfulton » Mon Apr 28, 2014 3:06 am

Percivale wrote:That brings me to a different topic, does impressions last?
I can think of a few synths that seemed quite impressive when first released that I now find totally unimpressive...Sequential MAX, Yamaha FB01 (owned one), Roland MT32. All three offered innovative technology at low prices for the time which is what attracted me to them.

As far as the synths I mentioned in my earlier reply (M1, K5, SH-101) my initial impressions have not changed over time.
I listened to Hatfield and the North at Rainbow. They were very wonderful and they made my heart a prisoner.

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Re: Synths that didn't impress you

Post by max badwan » Mon Apr 28, 2014 3:45 am

At the time of release, I found the Juno series relatively pedestrian, but I like them now.
I remember the Akai AX 80 didn't blow my socks off, but looking back, I may have been a synth snob.
I bought a JP 6 in 1986, sold it a month or two later, at the time, I just didn't like the sound (probably "not digital enough").
And so much depends on temporal context as well - in early 1984 (might have been late '83), I picked up a MiniMoog for around $100AUD - sampled it when my Mirage arrived, and got rid of it for a similar price - unthinkable today.

There aren't many synths I don't like.

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