First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
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Virgil
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First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Virgil » Fri Nov 19, 2010 1:55 am

Yes, from you! That's right. So pour some high-caffeine liquid in your cup, clear your thoughts with a favourite tantrum and read on.

As you can deduct from the topic title - I'm buying a keyboard for a first time. Honestly, for years I've been dismissing synthesizers and electronic music, viewing it as a primitive and artificial or maybe due to the other concerns I can't remember now. That was because I've mostly heard dance genres, like trance, house or whatever it is popular in the clubs. And while I heard interesting cases of synth use - that was rather episodic. Turning point came less than a year ago, when I accidentally heard Jean-Michel Jarre on youtube - I used to dismiss him as well, viewing him as a showman with all these fancy laser shows. How was I wrong! I was very surprised that something electronic could be so beautiful and provoke strong emotions and not being a primitive 4/4 dance anthem. After that I discovered some other electronic musicians, as Vangelis and Larry Fast and also found their music fascinating.

So, after this little background I'd like to announce that I want to get a keyboard! I'm a guitar player already, so I know something about music and music theory. I've also tried out some virtual synths and practised with some of the Arturia products, so you could assume I already know a little about principles of synthesis.

I've decided to stop my budget counter at $1000, or $1300 at maximum, I doubt I will regret spending money on a intrument, since music is one of my true passions. I'd like a synth in a real meaning of the word i.e. a device I could to use to design and play my own sounds. I'm opposed to use a midi-keyboard, because internet and etc. are very distracting , that's why I got a typewriter sitting to my left... And also I want to experience a real thing, not play pixel hunting in one of VSTi's.

Also, the important thing - my experience with keyboards, aside from one I'm using right now, is that, non-existent. I've never played a piano, however, I'm ready to start learning it.

I don't mind getting a used instrument, but I don't have much experience in that.

P.S. I've searched the forum for relevant topics, but didn't find ones suiting my case.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:17 am

Virgil wrote:P.S. I've searched the forum for relevant topics, but didn't find ones suiting my case.
How did you not find a relevant topic? You're basically looking for a synthesizer and you didn't list any desires.

Anyway, if you can spend $1000-1300, you are in a good position. If you want analog, there aren't many new choices, so the used market is where you should be looking. Do you want polyphonic (chords) or monophonic (one voice)? Digital or analog? Certain number of keys? Give us a few more desires and we can help. ;)

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Virgil » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:50 am

Ah yes, I forgot to specify my needs, my bad. I'd like a polyphonic, analog (digital synths I saw had rather minimalistic editing tools, except for big workstations and such), would be nice to have 61 keys. I have large enough hands, so I don't want to play these toy synths from Korg. I've tried them out at the expo and could use them, but still would prefer not to.

I don't know what else to add. Certainly it should be an instrument I could use to play, not just make sfx like Polivoks. I really like vintage sound, though I do not like it because it *is* vintage, if I can get it with contemporary means - that's fine by me, no need for wardrobe synthesizers. As for music I intend to play it is a tough question, but if it would help - it would probably be classical, (traditional)electronic, and some sort of rock.

Hopefully, I'll go to the store to check out Roland Gaia tomorrow.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:55 am

Virgil wrote:Ah yes, I forgot to specify my needs, my bad. I'd like a polyphonic, analog (digital synths I saw had rather minimalistic editing tools, except for big workstations and such), would be nice to have 61 keys.

Hopefully, I'll go to the store to check out Roland Gaia tomorrow.
You do realize the Gaia is digital, right?

It sounds like you might like the Prophet '08. You might be able to find a used one for a little more than your budget. It's 8 voices, all analog, plenty of hands on control.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Virgil » Fri Nov 19, 2010 8:59 am

Yes, virtual analog, or so they say. One thing about Gaia I've noticed - low volume output, could be critical during gigs, but I need more time to decide if it's worth my money. Dave Smith's machine is looking neat, but the price is really above my budget and I simply don't see any used device for sale in my area, save from the couple offers for new ones from the stores. I'm in the far eastern corner of the Europe, so used market is not as lush as in US. There is one on ebay that was sold for ~$1500, but it means at least $150 more for shipping, so it's an unlikely option.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by sequentialsoftshock » Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:59 pm

Ohh I see your dilemma. Hmm. I know you said you wanted an all in one, but here's something to consider at some point- Buy whatever suits you best right now which is available, whether VA or true analog, and then down the road, if you're still interested in the sound, try to score a used Tetra. That is a 4 voice module from DSI. It has half the polyphony of a Prophet '08, but otherwise the same sound/architecture, in a compact desktop box.

Are there any other boards you are considering besides the Gaia? I've not actually tried the Gaia, but when I saw one in the store, it did look pretty well built and had plenty of controls.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by 101 Force » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:45 am

If I were in your shoes, for about $1,300 I would get the following things:

1. M-Audio Keystation 88es : $219.95 : It doesn't produce sound on its own, but it can be connected to sound modules by MIDI to produce sound or it can be connected to your computer by USB for similar purposes as well.

2. Synthesia : $25 : It's like the video game Rockband for a keyboard connected to your computer, although it has many more features geared toward enhancing your keyboard playing skills and learning. It's available for Windows and Mac. Unless you're going to pay for private lessons this is easily the best way to learn how to play the keyboard. You can see a pretty good introduction to the software here, and note the level of difficulty ranges from ridiculously easy to quite advanced as a result of its ability to use MIDI files for song lessons.

3. Nord Rack 2X :$1,099.00 : It's a digital virtual analogue and capable of a wide variety of sounds. It's got knobs for every parameter, it's polyphonic, and if you want to find one for a better price they're usually much cheaper on the used market. You can check out some demo videos to get a feel for its sound capabilities here and here.

I notice you're in Europe. You probably shouldn't use the first and third links to buy those products, as I believe they're based in USA, although I may be wrong, and as such shipping and duties would likely be too high. You may want to investigate similar online outlets in your country, or a nearby country for which duty charges are not very high when you deal with them, to see if you can track down any better prices for your final decision. If you specify your country we may be able to suggest a music equipment website in your area.
Last edited by 101 Force on Sun Nov 21, 2010 1:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Virgil » Sat Nov 20, 2010 8:21 am

Are there any other boards you are considering besides the Gaia? I've not actually tried the Gaia, but when I saw one in the store, it did look pretty well built and had plenty of controls.
Heh, I have not had a chance to try Gaia myself. I've been to three different stores, including one dealing exclusively in Roland products and no one had it - the keyboard seems to be very popular. There are a few other keyboards in my price range which are in production (or were discontinued just recently): Roland SH-201(got mixed reviews), Korg MS-2000 (as far as get it's a full sized microKorg with 4-notes polyphony) and Waldorf Blofeld Keyboard. Well, correct me if I wrong, but I believe what that's all.

I understand that you advise against buying a true retro keyboard, like 80s stuff? I've spotted some Juno 106 keyboards in unknown condition for $500 in my area.

@101 Force
Thanks for the suggestion, going to check out Synthesia soon.
If you specify your country we may be able to suggest a music equipment website in your area.
I'm in Russia, if that helps.

Thanks for the advice guys!

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Stab Frenzy » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:02 am

Kurzweil PC3LE6 would be worth a look in, has their great sounding VA synth, plus heaps of other sounds, really good fx, sequencer etc. If I was in your position I'd be looking at that.

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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by 101 Force » Sun Nov 21, 2010 1:02 am

Virgil wrote:I'm in Russia, if that helps.
I visited the websites for a few synthesizer manufacturers and compiled a list of instrument dealers in Russia from their dealers links. I haven't learned to read Russian as of yet, so I don't know if I've got the names right for any of these websites, and I don't know which of these sites have good prices, good customer reviews, or even the sort of gear you're looking for. As such, please exercise as much caution as you normally would on the internet if and when you choose to buy from any of these instrument dealers, and do a little research to ensure you're dealing with a good business and are paying fair prices.

01. Music-Import.ru
02. AccordMusic
03. Ros Audio Servic
04. Invask
05. Artone
06. DNA
07. A-Music
08. Muzdetal
09. Pop-Music
10. Neglinnoy
11. All Time
12. Us-Trade
13. La Gitarra
14. Muzbazar
15. Da Sound
16. Intershop
17. Buy Music
18. Pianino
19. Mak Studio
20. Comp Music
21. MuzDrive
22. Karina+
23. Analog Music
24. DynaTone
25. MuzDom
26. muzzDvor
27. Best Muzik
28. ruMidi
29. Music Digital
30. Gley
31. Saint Honore
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Re: First time synth buyer seeks an advice from you...

Post by Virgil » Thu Nov 25, 2010 12:14 am

Kurzweil PC3LE6 would be worth a look in, has their great sounding VA synth, plus heaps of other sounds, really good fx, sequencer etc. If I was in your position I'd be looking at that.
Yeah, it's looks great, no doubt, all-in-one solution. It even has mellotron samples! If I find one on used market I give it a shot. Thanks for suggestion.

@101 Force
Wow, that's a long list, thanks for your time! Honestly, I even consider ordering from eBay or some other international websites, because price difference could reach 30% or more in many cases.

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