Which synth workstation?

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
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hemmick reef
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Which synth workstation?

Post by hemmick reef » Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:41 am

I was wondering which is the better sounding/most versitile of the worstations out there at the moment? I was thinking that rather than buying a pure synth (Polyevolver/Andomeda) that a workstation may deliver close to those sort of sounds and much more!

I like the yamaha's integration with cubase but which has the better sounds? I'd be interested in comments about the ability to produce good analog type sounds - Prophet style or even digital FM?

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:35 pm

I'm afraid what you will get is no real answer. I personally prefer Yamaha sounds over Korg or Roland but there are plenty who will disagree with me. You really need to go to a dealer and spend some serious time with each.

As far as ability to cover Prophet or FM sounds, it depends on the waveforms the manufacturer has provided or what multisamples you have access to. You'll have to use your own ears to decide if the sounds are "good enough".

All modern workstations have plenty of programming horsepower in terms of filters, EGs, LFOs, etc. They fall short in depth of modulation routings and the ability to do analog oscillator tricks like hard sync, ring mod, cross mod and PWM. Fantoms have the most flexibility in this area.

-- Korg offers a Radias board for the M3 which gives you a full blown VA synth engine for about $200.

-- Yamaha's last generation (Motif ES) also had optional VA and FM boards but the current Motif XS series doesn't have this capability.

-- It remains to be seen if Roland will offer a VA expansion for the Fantom G, so far only drum and electric piano boards are available.
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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by Synthaholic » Tue Sep 30, 2008 1:45 pm

You might want to check out the Alesis Fusion. In addition to Sample Playback (ROMpler), it also offers VA, FM and physical modeling synthesis.

Although the Fusion doesn't offer sampling, the big 3 (Fantom/Motif/M3) have integrated sampling capability, so you can load your own waveforms/samples.
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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by Johnny Lenin » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:27 pm

The current generation of workstations are great. They offer a huge amount of functionality and a vast range of sounds in a relatively easy-to-use package. I bought my Fantom to be a do-it all system: Piano, organ, synth, sequencer, drum machine, sampler, DAW. The thing is that, while it can do all of those things, it doesn't really replace all of those things. Before long, I realized that I couldn't do without a stand-alone DAW and, above all, my analog synths.

I only used the Tritons and Motifs when I was shopping for a workstation, so I can't comment on them in any detail, but I found that they were more alike than different. I preferred the Fantom's pianos and organs and interface, but had the sense that any of the three would have been a good choice.

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by shaft9000 » Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:49 pm

hemmick reef wrote:I was wondering which is the better sounding/most versitile of the worstations out there at the moment?
OASYS by a good distance. Spend a while playing it, then play some others and you'll see what I mean.

BUT, assuming you're not made of money, then it's the Yammies for EP's, Organs & Pianos
Roland for drums and all-around versatility w/ electronic emphasis
Korg for brass, strings and fans of typical Korg plasticity
Kurzweil for orchestral, pianos and more acoustic sounds...although all-around they are usually a cut above the other 3's stuff. Often favored by pro players rather than the home-studio MIDI lot.

In general that's what they tend to excel at, anyways.
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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by 23 » Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:46 pm

The Korg Oasys is arguably the workstation to end all workstations and I don't think anyone will argue that. That said, it will also cost you.

As far as raw synthesis might, I'd put the Alesis Fusion behind it. In regard to some other work stations out there, it may leave you desiring a fair amount in the effects department, and the same goes in regard to it's sequencing abilities (no pattern type abilities really); but as a sample based synth, it stands pretty darn strong, same goes as a VA, and same goes for it's acoustical Physical Modelling abilities. As far as raw available space for sample storage, it's pretty tough to beat as well (40 to 80 gigs). All in all, it's a pretty rock solid piece, and the prices they are going for now is nothing short of shockingly low.
*I'll not that it's sample editing abilities will probably leave you desiring more as well*

Behind the Alesis I'd throw the Kurzweil 2600 series. Your pretty much limited to a sample based nature, but the depth of the architecture is pretty much without parallel (I'm excluding the HD-1 engine of the Oasys when I say that). The a forementioned areas that Fusion left you short changed on, the 2600s will make up for.

Finally, the last of the truly good workstations (IMO) are the Roland Fantom's, notably the new G's.
The biggest shortcoming to prior Fantoms was the lack of atypical multi-sample sets. This has been resolved with the G. As far as sample based synths go, it's depth is very hard to find a match for, it's sequencing abilities are quite in depth, and it's effects will do you.


In any regard, all three (or four if you want to consider an 8k price bracket) are absolute marvels as workstations go if you ask me.


Dropping below these three, which I really think, I also still think there's a considerable amount of power to be found with the old Roland XPs, the EMU P2500/CS (which can arguably be considered work stations), the older Kurzweil K2500, and the Yamaha EX5. The Yamaha Motifs have stepped up considerably in the current versions, but prior to this I just think they were really lack luster (if one elected to view them as synths). The Triton I've long thought was way over-rated beyond it's Karma abilities and effects depth.
I really don't even know why Korg bothered with their current M3....talk about a disappointment.

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by hemmick reef » Tue Sep 30, 2008 4:58 pm

Thanks for the comments :) .
I may check out my nearest music shop to see if I can demo some of these workstations - best way I guess is to try 'em all!

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by Johnny Lenin » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:06 pm

Good idea. While you're at it, check out the Roland Juno-G.

[You never mentioned your price range.]

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by hemmick reef » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:29 pm

Johnny Lenin wrote:Good idea. While you're at it, check out the Roland Juno-G.

[You never mentioned your price range.]
Between 1-2k (UK)

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by Johnny Lenin » Tue Sep 30, 2008 5:56 pm

Well, the 610key versions of the Roland Fantom G6, Yamaha Motif XS and Korg M3 all fit within that price range [GBP1500-1750], and all of the big three have lower-priced, entry-level workstations at about GBP600-800 as well, so you have some options. Have fun at the music store.

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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by Spadz » Wed Oct 01, 2008 4:16 am

And don't listen to others that obviously have something against some products! Go with your guts when you play them. It's like a Mac and PC war. Some obviously don't like the Korg's sound, some don't like the Yamahas... I've had a Motif for 3 years, now I have a Karma which had the Triton engine. I miss some pianos and some sounds from the Motif, but I find the Korg is warmer. Which is good on some sound, but I find the Motif to have a more defined sound. IF I could, I would get a Motif ES and an M3.

I tried Roland... The sound is good, but it just doesn't get me.
That doesn't mean it's "not good", it means the sound does not make me "wow" if I could say.

Good luck
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Re: Which synth workstation?

Post by hemmick reef » Wed Oct 01, 2008 9:34 am

Yep....sound is a personal thing 8) - I like Pink Floyd, some people hate 'em......can't understand why though :? but that's the way it is 8)

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