Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

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Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by VCO8 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:15 am

I always hear about people comparing their old gear gear to their new equivalents and saying 'well the Prophet 12 comes close, but my Prophet 5 blows it outta the water!'

I know that new VCO-driven synthesizers can imitate the old stuff, but can it sound exact? I haven't played that many new analog synths and I don't own a vintage VCO synth, so I can only know from internet demos and peoples' opinions.

This question also applies to digital: If they were to re-release the Emulator II, would it keep it's character?

More importantly, what creates that character?

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by GuyaGuy » Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:24 am

VCO8 wrote:
More importantly, what creates that character?
Lack of treble and sub-par components distorting mostly.

And the way oscillators react to control voltage as opposed to quantized MIDI.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Jan 22, 2015 7:14 am

It's the circuit design. People will tell you it's all manner of magical fairy dust causes, but it's just how the circuit is designed and how it's designed to sound.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by Hybrid88 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 7:57 am

It's heaps of things, I think it's naive to think it's just one thing.

The changes to manufacturing electronic equipment in the past 40yrs are vast. For example;

- Through-hole components Vs SMD (I think this could make more difference that people make out)
- PCB Manufacture process (Including trace thicknesses, width, layout and proximity to one another)
- PCB circuit design and arrangement (now very automated)
- Chip spec improvements and noise reduction
- Tighter overall tolerances
- Lead solder Vs Leadfree
- Various other chemicals and metals used in components being made more safe (See RoHS compliance)

The only reason a modern synth would sound the same is if they made it the same ie. with the exact same components and the same processes/techniques. Which as we know, almost no one does.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by Alex E » Thu Jan 22, 2015 8:36 am

And then there are the people that take it one step further and claim reissues (MS20 mini/Odyssey) sound "nothing" like the original. That always makes me laugh.
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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by ppg_wavecomputer » Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:48 am

Component part ageing.

All contemporary analogue synthesisers will as well sound truly vintage... in forty years.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by Stab Frenzy » Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:51 am

ppg_wavecomputer wrote:Component part ageing.

All contemporary analogue synthesisers will as well sound truly vintage... in forty years.

Stephen
Nope.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by Hybrid88 » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:08 am

Stab Frenzy wrote:
ppg_wavecomputer wrote:Component part ageing.

All contemporary analogue synthesisers will as well sound truly vintage... in forty years.

Stephen
Nope.
Yeah I don't buy that at all. Listen to original demos, minus a bit of tape warble and fidelity it still has that vintage mojo.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by HideawayStudio » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:29 am

As an electronic design engineer and vintage synth tech maybe I can offer my spin on this...

PCB, no pcb, track widths, SMT or PTH (the die internally is the same regardless of packing), Hand built or Pick & Place.. these are highly unlikely to have any perceived effect at all...

However...

One thing that really does make a difference, and hasn't really been touched on so far, is that many vintage op amps and OTAs are much noisier by design (not so much by age), slower and less accurate than their modern counterparts and even those still in production carrying the same part numbers have undergone several silicon revisions and are most often higher performance. The main difference this makes is that their slew rates are considerably higher and their stability and noise levels improved and thus tend to naturally produce brighter crisper cleaner audio.

Capacitors also make a big difference. And here there is an aging effect for sure... old electrolytics become leaky with age and can make the audio path sound muddy, fuzzy, wooly or, if in complex audio paths eg. regeneration, they can affect stability (eg. phase margin in filters).

Interestingly, noise also has a much more important effect in analog synths than many realise. Again, in complex audio paths, eg. the regen loop on a filter (resonance), any noise cause up in this loop and very rapidly its effects become extremely complex and lead, especially in high resonance, to the filter being slightly chaotic and unstable. The same happens in analog phasers and flangers at high regen levels.

Then there is distortion... this can be increased with age as capacitors are less willing to pass near DC and the fact that older spec op amps don't behave in a linear fashion remotely close to rail voltages - in this case the distortion produced is likely to be quite musical as the entry into non-linearity is far more progressive than clipping a modern op amp which is frankly brutal. Such op amps also are less stable and can often ring slightly on sudden transients such as pulse waves and rather than having crisp edges are often slightly slewed too. This will most definitely effect the harmonic makeup knocking out some of the higher orders.

So its easy to see that with so many anomaly interacting like this in an old synth that very quickly even subtle effects of aging / vintage spec components will add up.

And if you don't believe me... try listening to the difference between an Omega 8 fitted with factory standard op amps and one that has been retrofitted with old school op amps - the difference is pretty obvious.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by meatballfulton » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:41 pm

HideawayStudio wrote:As an electronic design engineer and vintage synth tech maybe I can offer my spin on this...
As a fellow EE thanks for your voice of reason =D>
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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by alan partridge » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:46 pm

What I find amazing is not how far, but how near some of the very latest analogs are. The MS20-mini is about 95% there, for instance, I would say. If the interesting comments hideawaystudio makes are right, maybe we're only a few opamp and noise changes away from nearly 100% there in future.
Last edited by alan partridge on Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by tomorrowstops » Thu Jan 22, 2015 1:38 pm

alan partridge wrote:What I find amazing is not how far, but how near some of the very latest analogs are. The MS20-mini is about 90-95% there, for instance, I would say. If the interesting comments hideawaystudio makes are right, maybe we're only a few opamp and noise changes away from nearly 100% there in the future.
I don't think the goal is drop specs and utilize less than great components. I don't even think the goal is to capture the 'vintage' analog sound.

Designers today are doing what designers of yesterday have always done: create the highest quality design with the best components (technology) that can be afforded! Like the experts have said before us, base component technology has advanced leaps and bounds in 40 years.

Isn't there a reason people freaked out and ditched their unreliable, finicky analog gear when digital came on to the scene?

If you want vintage, buy vintage. Don't be a sissy.

Companies like Korg are on the right track, but for the love of all things analog, PLEASE stop cheaping out on the case/keybed builds of these things. I would happily spend more money to have full size (and already assembled ;) ) synths.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by alan partridge » Thu Jan 22, 2015 1:42 pm

tomorrowstops wrote: I don't think the goal is drop specs and utilize less than great components. I don't even think the goal is to capture the 'vintage' analog sound.
What interests me, though, is that when manafacturers have literally tried to make an exact copy, such as in the case of the MS20, the sound is very close. The Odyssey in the demo yesterday also sounded extremely close. I guess that points to the fact that, as you said, synths that don't sound as close don't sound that way because of conscious design decisions.

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by HideawayStudio » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:56 pm

tomorrowstops wrote:
alan partridge wrote:What I find amazing is not how far, but how near some of the very latest analogs are. The MS20-mini is about 90-95% there, for instance, I would say. If the interesting comments hideawaystudio makes are right, maybe we're only a few opamp and noise changes away from nearly 100% there in the future.
I don't think the goal is drop specs and utilize less than great components. I don't even think the goal is to capture the 'vintage' analog sound.

Designers today are doing what designers of yesterday have always done: create the highest quality design with the best components (technology) that can be afforded! Like the experts have said before us, base component technology has advanced leaps and bounds in 40 years.

Isn't there a reason people freaked out and ditched their unreliable, finicky analog gear when digital came on to the scene?

If you want vintage, buy vintage. Don't be a sissy.

Companies like Korg are on the right track, but for the love of all things analog, PLEASE stop cheaping out on the case/keybed builds of these things. I would happily spend more money to have full size (and already assembled ;) ) synths.
Ahh... but there is one thing to remember - the electronics industry doesn't design op amps in the main to be musical - they design them to meet demanding high speed/low noise instrumentation applications and what might be a great op amp for high speed signal handling or indeed squeaky clean audio on 192KHz 24bit DAC output buffers may not necessarily be particularly musical in analog synthesis applications.

Let's face it - a perfect sawtooth sounds pretty lifeless - the character in every stage of an analog synth is in large part due to how things react to such waveforms including distortion which is a living breathing anomaly that is due to interactions in sympathy with the signals that pass through. This simply won't occur if the very parts the signal is pushed through are nearing perfection (nor their control aspects) - this is precisely why there is so much rekindled interest in adding tube/tape/transformer based processing to modern digital signal paths as people have learnt the hard way that when we didn't faithfully capture everything in the past we were in fact often inadvertently processing everything we were recording and now that magic has given way to total transparency which is not always the desired effect. This is well understood among guitarists and mix engineers but I'm not so sure its as well understood in the synth fraternity.

This is a real issue - you will find the builders of contemporary analogs are forever sifting through older op amp designs trying to musical parts - believe me the latest state of the art low voltage rail to rail op amp really isn't the kind of thing that should be sitting in a hot signal path just prior to a filter or in the mixer stages not unless you want it to sound like its a plasticy as the case the synth is mounted in ;)

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Re: Why don't new synths have 'that vintage sound?'

Post by seamonkey » Thu Jan 22, 2015 3:09 pm

I thought I was having deja vu when I read this thread. ;)

January 18th.. http://www.vintagesynth.com/forum/viewt ... =1&t=78455
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