Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Discussions about anything analog, digital, MIDI, synth technology, techniques, theories and more.
User avatar
madtheory
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 5156
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 12:45 pm
Real name: Tomas Mulcahy
Gear: Flangebeast Mk1, Plonkotron, Morovdis Arpeggiator, Maplin My First EQ, Jeff Wayne Thunderchild rack, Thermostat, Buck Owens' Moog.
Band: Minim
Location: Cork, Ireland
Contact:

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by madtheory » Tue Jun 21, 2016 11:36 am

Excellent post cornutt, all valid points well made IMHO.
cornutt wrote:Now, it might be interesting to do an A/B test to see if the user can actually tell the difference sonically. But if choice A gives the performer more of a vibe, more confidence so to speak, then use A. Why not? (On the other hand, the user of A doesn't get to mock the person who chooses B, unless they want to look pretentious.)
yes yes YES! This is what I've been trying to get across in the other thread.
cornutt wrote:But you can't let nostalgia swallow you, drag you out of the present. You have to be careful with those rose colored glasses.
Yes as knolan points out, the passage of time has filtered out a lot of the duds. I think that is still happening! A recent example is the V-Synth. Those are still holding their value, which shows they're appreciated. And careful you don't become just a collector, or waiting to finish a piece of music because it has to have that fat old analogue poly.
cornutt wrote:The 1970s were not the golden age of modular synths. The golden age of modular synths is now.
I don't think anyone is arguing with that :)
cornutt wrote:The Mellotron was a lot more than just a flute-strings-choir machine, and a lot of people don't realize that.
Hey, sshhhhhh! That's a secret! ;) Actually that's one instrument that gets too much nostalgia. What's the point of a Memotron? It's a good set of samples in a nice looking box. You're paying for the box!
cornutt wrote:So my answer is: are synths today better than 35 years ago? Yes. But they are so because they had those 35-year-old synths to use as starting points. While appreciating the heights we have achieved, let's not make the mistake of overlooking the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.
Again yes yes YES. The DSI stuff has the same personality it always had. The Moog stuff does too, really.

User avatar
Dr. Phibes
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 523
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:12 am
Location: UK

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by Dr. Phibes » Wed Jun 22, 2016 4:03 am

Everything's been on a downward spiral since the first hominid farted.

zaphod betamax
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 55
Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2015 3:51 am

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by zaphod betamax » Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:03 pm

My CS-40m can still hod its own against other duophonics in this day and age. IMHO.

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:38 pm

Sabaja wrote:I can understand the interface couplings. But when people rave about a Dave Smith analogue at £2k and then I see its the same as one or similar to one from the distant past im thinking is this just good marketing?
Oh yeah, I guess the price was taken off from e-bay buy-it-now prices. ANd so they sell the new ones with the price as the old ones. But it escapes from my mind why still the same amount polyphony. at 2008 even the 8-12 voice polyphony and dual-timbral is ridiculously low, as so has been ROland JX-10/MKS70 already in the past.

The big difference is still the price. On old days these were institutions, not individuals who bought the synthesizers.

Still... on those days, synthesizers were made from wood and synthplayers from iron. Now the synthesizers are made from iron and synthplayers from wood... :D ;)

However I never miss the pre-MIDI situations or synthesizers without patch memories. Also I have no complains about the production what and how it was back then (remember, they are now 30+ years old AND STILL WORKING!!!), whereas we have already the problems with synthesizers which are produced AFTER 2000.

THere has been nothing worthwhile the last 10 years from three big companies, and the last 5 years has been pure c**p from them or just repackaging the same synths over and over again but also their firmware and CPUs are crashing.

BUt worst is the software which breaks down just after 3..4 years sometimes just 2 years. They are the
worst "instruments" or actually they cant be considered as instruments.
Whats the point of VSTs if there are very many other dependant details which are required in order to run or use it?
After 10 years the computers is usable only to those who can fix it themself, and the software package is so obsolete that cant be run on the newer platforms/systems, just becouse they are not meant to me used, but to be bought and trashed becouse just some corporations thinks to "change" things from useful to "innovative" which refuses to be backward compatible?
The hardware synths and modules with MIDI you can use even if they are 30 years old, they are really compatible, also as independent units or instruments, and for older instruments they are made to be usable, but the same thing does not apply to software. Also these are just bought once, but worthless after that as You cant resell it or impractical if you have not enough spares to keep that computer running.

User avatar
Solderman
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 1799
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2007 5:43 pm

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by Solderman » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:42 pm

cornutt wrote:Electronic components available today are almost unquestioningly better, in terms of specifications and reliability. Capacitors are more stable, less temperature sensitive, have less parasitic inductance, higher breakdown voltages, and the electrolytics are a lot less toxic. Resistors have better specs and less noise -- a lot of the old synths were built with 10% bulk-carbon resistors. I don't know if you can even get those anymore. Arguably, transistors have improved, although fans of geranium transistors might disagree (but that's mostly the guitar-pedal crowd). Power supplies are more reliable and better filtered. Today's op amps have vastly better specs than the old 741s. And pots last longer and are less scratchy.
There are those who might argue these improvements in industry standards and component design/manufacturing is what robs a modern analogue synthesizer of character and charm present in their vintage counterparts. You trade more flexibility and reliability for an instrument that has a living presence: Makes you feel something and inspires as you play.(At least until it breaks :mrgreen: )
Another aspect to this is the possibility that since the engineers 40 years ago had to work with what components were available, with some aspirations unreachable, their ability to cleverly solve problems and find the best compromise produced a product that in the end we have come to expect when you desire vintage versus modern. I'm tempted to wonder how much of the nostalgia factor influencing the design and production of modern analogue synthesis, versus an actual cutting-edge demand by the industry of the past, is responsible for the results we get these days.

The choice of the word "improve" is not wholly subjective, but I can't help thinking it is interpreted in significantly different ways by an engineer, a professional musician, a collector and a hobbyist.
I am no longer in pursuit of vintage synths. The generally absurd inflation from demand versus practical use and maintenance costs is no longer viable. The internet has suffocated and vanquished yet another wonderful hobby. Too bad.
--Solderman no more.

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:48 pm

madtheory wrote: And we still have acres of opinion that, for example, the new Prophet 6 is not as good as the old Prophet 5. With not an ounce of evidence to back it up. God forbid that someone might actually demonstrate the differences with the two synths, instead of endlessly "expounding" (yes, pompous word).
NOw there are comparisons about Prophet 6 vs OB-6, Prophet-5 vs Prophet 08... on youtube. Perhaps that Prophet 5 vs prophet 6 too if to search?

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Wed Jan 25, 2017 9:57 pm

recordbot wrote:I'm thinking it's because newer artists have a different relationship with these instruments, they admire the material made with them and didn't have to buy them new so for them it's nostalgia and filling the shoes of their heroes while the heroes themselves are probably just pissy they spent the 1970s money they did on machines that needed constant maintenance, had limited use, were problematic to tour with and brought on massive hassles that needed attention when they could have been simply focusing on making music
But its the same thing with modern electronics! I have hands full with these modern small compact mixer boards.
Also since the production was transferred from Japan to China and all that lead-free soldering hassle began!
You can just imagine how many times in the last 10 years I had to open the BEHRINGER or ALTO mixing console or the Behringers, SAMSON, effect units becouse of all that how it is produced! All that which lasts little bit longer still costs a fortune like it was decades ago.
ANd the latest most complex synthesizer firmware is very problematic.

And so if the BEHRINGERs DeepMind was put together the exact same way as V-VERB PRO and Ultracurve etc effect modules and rack units, then well good luck to those guys -- have a happy "do-yourself-a-synthesizer" kit.

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Wed Jan 25, 2017 10:19 pm

cornutt wrote: Capacitors are more stable, less temperature sensitive, have less parasitic inductance, higher breakdown voltages, and the electrolytics are a lot less toxic. :shock: Resistors have better specs and less noise -- a lot of the old synths were built with 10% bulk-carbon resistors. I don't know if you can even get those anymore. Arguably, transistors have improved, although fans of geranium transistors might disagree (but that's mostly the guitar-pedal crowd). Power supplies are more reliable and better filtered.
it was better and better...just until the beginning of the 90s. Then all began to go downhill again.
70s potentiometers had the thick carbon layer, but 90s the pots have just some carbon dust and dont last so long.
Production was transferred from Japan to China, but capacitors produced in china is a major headache which takes down the whole production quality of the items, power supplys design went cheap and troublesome if they began to use impulse PSUs on everywhere. On those places the capacitors are very eager to go bad.
There are fake capacitors, also bad capacitors.
INtroduction of the lead-free soldering made extra troubles.
Is it nostalgia? Well, partly. And yes, you can be nostalgic for a place and an era you didn't actually experience, whether that be sailing ships, coast-to-coast passenger trains, Glenn Miller at the Savoy, or Edgar Winter with a 2600 keyboard slung around his neck. Is nostalgia good or bad? Well, sometimes it's beneficial to put yourself in the place of someone from another time, by experiencing what they experienced. And sometimes it's beneficial to re-explore the past to see what was left undiscovered the first time. There's value in just seeing "how it was back
I use the synthesizers and stick to those with MIDI, however I really dont miss the modular era or the hord of the
cables and "wall of sounds". My most favourite sounds are from FM synthesisers still. :)
I use the hardware synthesizers becouse of the sound and it is more practical than computer with VSTs as I dont have to be this way in a endless "upgrade" cycle where this or that program or platform renders my old bought software obsolete. The way how in comptuer it is done nowadays is really offputting as everything is done like programmers hate their customers, the end product and computers.
So for me it has been in hardware 3..4 steps forward (patch memories, multitimbrality, Sysex), and one step back, but about computers and sequencers it is always one 1 forward, 3 steps back if looking what and how it was the last 20 years.

Which means that I certainly have a way much more use of the Yamaha TX802 unit in a longer run than these VST counterparts becouse just they have compatibility problems which are purely by software company policy of greed.

I never miss the hiss of the sound, also I do not like all these digital grainy emulations of analog sound.

SUmmation: I see that the whole problems are induced by marketing greed where they try to deliver for market what
market demands, but the companies introduced whole line new problems with the will to make production cheaper, maximize profit and so actually faking the products.

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:10 pm

got this thought when I read again the thread title...

SYnthesizers have improved only its first 10 years (stability, details),
the next 10 years they were faked, not improved by design (DCOs, ROMplers),
and more than last decade these synths are cheated as they sell and take it back from customer (leadfree soldering, bad capacitors, policy what they deliver and do not support, software with planned obsolence).

So, no wonder that the old synthesizers value are getting up faster than gold. ;)

I would be not surprised if it seems that synthesizers produced during 1985..1994 are like top notch quality compared to the nowadays production. (well, do I have to re-solder after 2 years the synthesizer when it was produced 2014 ? ;-) ).

recordbot
Junior Member
Junior Member
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:01 pm
Location: MA

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by recordbot » Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:12 pm

I own and have owned a lot of synths both new and vintage, some of those old synths have some magic in them they just pack more oomph to me, maybe it's the fact that I know them very well although there are reissues that don't sound the same or as good to my ear,

some of the new modern interpretations are also straight up let downs to me,

I always figured the awesome factor in the old synths was similar to the awesome factor in a lot of old electronic technology, that the WWII parts manufacturing produced a higher standard of reliability which is no longer expected from modern components, so the farther away you get from 40s and 50s manufacturing the closer to the modern sound you get

some of these vintage synths have parts that were designed for military applications, so they have to remain stable at extreme temperatures, funny that the exact same synth with a military grade part in one section will also contain a pile of flaky chips that fritz out at the slightest temperature change or static discharge in another section

User avatar
griffin avid
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 11:08 am
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by griffin avid » Mon Jan 30, 2017 5:40 am

All of this sounds funny when the scales are tilted.
Let's not compare a synth that ate three months of paychecks with ones (from today) that cost two days worth of pay.

So when you say quality from the past, what was the relative price you paid for that quality?
And when you say VSTs, which ones do you mean?

Cause the ones that are worth discussing, cost a pretty penny, take a proper rig to run and loads of HD space.
And they sound better than anything "vintage" that was trying to accomplish the same goals.
Now, if you are going to goof on KVR stuff as the modern example of what VSTs have to offer, go for it.

And as far as obsolescence is concerned, that's about your PC/Mac operating system, which actually doesn't have to upgrade. Just like I don't have to upgrade my old pieces storage medium... Just because.


Although I do admit, it sounds like VINTAGE SYNTH EXPLORER found its viewpoint again.
And that's a good thing for this place.
Music Product: Better Sounds for Beats http://www.StudioAVX.com
Music Production: Resources and Research http://www.ProducersEdgeMagazine.com
Music Produced: Abstract Hip Hop Sci-Fi: http://www.TheDynamicUniverse.com

User avatar
salwa
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 327
Joined: Sun May 20, 2007 7:12 pm
Location: Gdynia, Poland

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by salwa » Mon Jan 30, 2017 10:24 am

jxalex wrote: the next 10 years they were faked, not improved by design (DCOs, ROMplers),
I don't understand how DCO or sample-based synthesis is "fake". Is VCO only "true" way of synthesis?
Casio CZ-1, Elektronika EM-25, Yamaha TX81Z, Roland JV-2080, Novation KS-rack, Korg Poly 800, Casio SK-1, Casio SK-8, Vermona E-piano, Akai S2000, Roland SP 404, Roland TR 505, Yamaha MR 10, Yamaha RX 5 and more
https://www.facebook.com/DOMmusicpl

jxalex
Active Member
Active Member
Posts: 475
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2016 6:05 am
Gear: enough
Location: Sweden

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by jxalex » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:52 am

salwa wrote:
jxalex wrote: the next 10 years they were faked, not improved by design (DCOs, ROMplers),
I don't understand how DCO or sample-based synthesis is "fake". Is VCO only "true" way of synthesis?
NOt what it is but in the way how it is USED or trying to be. HOw many of those synths have presets like
"Minilead", "Thick Oberheim" etc. which are trying to imitate the VCO synths . ;-) ?

WHereas of course there are many totally new and different things when the multitimbrality come with the use of layering tones, and the FM/format synthesis that is the only part where it is not fake or faked.

User avatar
griffin avid
Synth Explorer
Synth Explorer
Posts: 1568
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 11:08 am
Location: New York
Contact:

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by griffin avid » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:05 pm

This is the part of the thread where I look around and wonder if you are setting me up.

which are trying to imitate the VCO synths . ;-) ?

And how many "VCO"-powered ANALOG SYNTHS have patches/presets -FUNCTIONS/aim/design/marketing/purpose to "imitate" or by your own definition FAKE other instruments?

By your own logic, pretty much every analog etc, synth has been faking it. Especially all those vintage ones.

Even the great Marc can't save you.
He would pop in and tell you how synths (ultimate purpose) is/was to create unheard of sounds.

Strange then, how they were all doing sounds you already heard, used interfaces you already used and are now slanted at created sounds they used to make for people that already heard them. And worse, those people complain if they don't give them the same sounds they should have already moved beyond and away from.

Don't take my word for it.
Synthesis and Synthetic
A sampling and a sample.

Or do take my words for it.
Music Product: Better Sounds for Beats http://www.StudioAVX.com
Music Production: Resources and Research http://www.ProducersEdgeMagazine.com
Music Produced: Abstract Hip Hop Sci-Fi: http://www.TheDynamicUniverse.com

User avatar
Solderman
Supporting Member!
Supporting Member!
Posts: 1799
Joined: Sat Nov 17, 2007 5:43 pm

Re: Have synthesizers Improved in 35 years?

Post by Solderman » Wed Feb 01, 2017 4:09 pm

recordbot wrote:I always figured the awesome factor in the old synths was similar to the awesome factor in a lot of old electronic technology, that the WWII parts manufacturing produced a higher standard of reliability which is no longer expected from modern components, so the farther away you get from 40s and 50s manufacturing the closer to the modern sound you get
I would attribute this to the lower cost of electronics the public expects in general as time goes on. More people buying electronics these days. There are still high quality components obviously, some in fact are much less flawed in greater numbers off the assembly line than in years past. Some so good in fact it seems more likely what people cherish about the synths of old are partly the product of clever compromises by the engineers forced to build with what are now considered inferior parts. Combine that with the fact that most electronics now are built around microprocessors with the industry adapting around that premise and you get a different set of design practices, hence a different assortment of parts available in the necessary quantity and cost. Even parts manufacturers must compete and stay afloat in this changing environment.
jxalex wrote:
  • Synthesizers have improved only in its first 10 years
  • the next 10 years they were faked
  • and more than the last decade these synths are a cheat
I know where you're going with this, and it's an inclination that has been around for a while now. I think it may have started as far back as when the media was calling the then new Fairlight CMI a "synthesizer". Your stance seems to be a point of view that is rooted in a once popular idea here at VSE forums, in that progress stagnated when synth manufacturers stopped tinkering with the old design and replaced it with newer and cheaper technologies. Don't forget that both the industry and the market demanded these changes.

As we know, most musicians wanted a keyboard-based performance instrument with a minimal set of controls that could call up the sound of a piano or a bell or a strings section in a split-second, not a knob-laden device controlled by anything with a 10 volt range that could do something totally unique. If the synthesizer was seen as a novelty when first introduced in the 1960's, then was more respectfully treated as a new instrument in a limited set of musical genres, then later fell out of fashion after a near ubiquitous presence in popular music, it stands to reason that the demand and interest for it at large may have been misguided all along. Those manufacturers who did not adapt quickly to the changing market found their businesses going bankrupt or being bought out solely for their brand name. Once samplers became affordable, those who adopted synthesizers into their musical repertoire after this likely did so because they were cheap and still appreciated in a certain smaller set of genres. This appreciation has slowly increased with time, but I have to wonder if the majority of it still is not misguided, albeit now due more to preconceived perceptions based on old recordings.

If we want a new synth built with the old standard, chances are you're still going to have to pay alot. Look at the MacBeth Elements: It's $5,000. Most people now who want a synthesizer are eager to do little more than recreate the sounds of their favorite record albums and they want it done cheaply and want it to do everything easily. Everyone gets a shiny new device every couple of years now, so why not? If you want to experiment or fill in time, you buy Aalto or build a modular system. The times and the technology have changed, plain and simple.
I am no longer in pursuit of vintage synths. The generally absurd inflation from demand versus practical use and maintenance costs is no longer viable. The internet has suffocated and vanquished yet another wonderful hobby. Too bad.
--Solderman no more.

Post Reply