help me choose a virtual analog synth

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Rpeggio
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help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Rpeggio » Sun Nov 09, 2014 2:01 am

Hello. First post, though I've been a vintage synth explorer fan since the late 90's.

I have a kind of frustrating question (at least for me) - I'm sure you can help. I'm just looking for some synth options that fit these parameters (hardware keyboard synth, not plugins/VSTs/iOS apps).

I am a singer/songwriter and my main (basically only) instrument is guitar. However, I seek a synth to expand my spontaneous songwriting process. So what I seek is a performance-focused synthesizer that likely falls under the 'virtual analog' heading that I can play in my home studio. The fewer menus the better, the more interactive/knobby the better (so absolutely not a 'workstation'). I have a few key sonic desires that are pretty basic: a robust arpeggiator, ability to create high-quality, lush pads, awesome lead sounds like those heard in electro, trance, edm (obviously polyphonic).

For sound references: If money was no object, the Access Virus would be a no-brainer for me. But my budget is in the 1000-1200USD range. One of my other all-time favorites is the JP-8000 but I am concerned about getting a used one since my research shows they ceased production in 2001. I haven't seen one in years - do they hold up well?

The chief options I have considered are:
-Waldorf Blofeld (this passed my 'can't stop playing it' test at the music store a year ago, but I am worried about what I've read about the knobs/encoders breaking? Also the menus were frustrating, but it sounded amazing)
-Nord Lead A1 (just a little out of budget - i have never seen one)
-Used Nord Lead 4? (never played one - only played Nord Lead 1 and 2)

Options eliminated:
Novation UltraNova (sounded cheap, felt cheap)
Roland GAIA (way too cheap feeling, no bank/preset names, no velocity sensitivity?, sounds not up to par with Virus or Blofeld, or JP-8000)
Items by Dave Smith (simply due to price)

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garranimal
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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by garranimal » Sun Nov 09, 2014 5:09 am

I'm not sure what the predisposition toward virtual analog may be...perhaps:
- newer and therefore more dependable
- better on the budget
Rpeggio wrote:Options eliminated: Items by Dave Smith (simply due to price)
But I think you can pick up a used Mopho x4 under your budget. I was auditioning one last week.
- 4 REAL analog synthesizers in one!
- High quality construction metal casing, wood end panels, pots not wobbly
- good feeling keys with velocity and aftertouch.
- Tons of great quality factory patches. How often do you see that?
- Lots of knobs are right there on front.
- Small footprint does not take up a lot of space in the home studio.

Check it out.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by meatballfulton » Sun Nov 09, 2014 4:23 pm

You can get used Virus TI for $1000-1500. There's one in the For Sale forum here right now for $1200.
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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Psy_Free » Sun Nov 09, 2014 4:28 pm

Rpeggio wrote: Options eliminated:
Novation UltraNova (sounded cheap, felt cheap)
Are you basing the 'sounds cheap' on the presets ? If so, then I would say that the presets do indeed suck.

However, if you bin them and program your own sounds, you will find the Ultranova an incredibly deep & sonically vast synth. In fact it's probably one of the best current VAs out there IMO. It also doubles as a MIDI controller & audio interface.

As for build quality, if you're Trent Reznor then build quality might be an issue eventually ;) . Otherwise it's fine (certainly better than many others out there).
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Rpeggio
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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Rpeggio » Sun Nov 09, 2014 5:48 pm

Thanks a lot for the insights everyone.

Had no idea there was a polyphonic mopho in existence. I also had no idea DSI made anything under 2 grand new. I mean I have toyed with the idea of just waiting longer and getting a Prophet 8... This X4 will have to be investigated lol - looks like a really strong option from what I'm hearing. I am still a bit hung up on the Blofeld though - what are your views on that piece?

The predisposition to VA is exactly what you said - I'm trying to get something new/mint condition, but willing to compromise. Also my stereotype of analog is it's simply out of my league financially.

As for the UltraNova - yes, i spent maybe 45 mins with the preset sounds (no editing) at a music store and came out depressed that this is the same company that produced one of my all time favorite synths - the Supernova II. But I admit - I am not a patch creator, or editor. I suppose I will need to dive in at some point, and I'm sure it will be great. I'm not a producer, so the source sound has to be as inspiring as possible. The Virus is the only keyboard I've ever played that floored me for hours with its factory presets....But the old TI vs TI2 question weighs on me and makes me wonder, maybe I should wait till 2015 when possibly access updates...

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by V301H » Mon Nov 10, 2014 4:58 pm

Since you like the Blofeld check out the Studiologic Sledge which is Waldorf powered. Does Virtual Analog and PPG Wavetable Synthesis with a knob for nearly every function for under $1000.
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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by garranimal » Mon Nov 10, 2014 7:59 pm

meatballfulton wrote:You can get used Virus TI for $1000-1500. There's one in the For Sale forum here right now for $1200.
Going along with this enlightened way of thinking, if you do not go with your first choice (Virus) for whatever reason then you will end up with something that is 'not a Virus'. Your budget seems really very close.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Z » Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:15 pm

Rpeggio wrote:
Options eliminated:
Roland GAIA (way too cheap feeling, no bank/preset names, no velocity sensitivity?, sounds not up to par with Virus or Blofeld, or JP-8000)
The Roland SH-01 Gaia IS VELOCITY SENSITIVE. Why do people keep saying it's not? "Too cheap feeling"...welcome to the new millennium, everything is plastic now. "No preset names"...WHY does that matter? I take it you've never played any 80s synths like Akai AX60, AX80, Korg PolySix, Poly61, DW-8000 / 6000, Poly800, ALL Oberheim OBs, Roland JX-3P, Jupiter 6 & 8.

Sounds...sounds like a JP-8000 to me. Sure the Virus and Blofeld also offer wavetables and other advanced synthesis techniques, but you've got to menu dive for them.
Last edited by Z on Mon Nov 10, 2014 9:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Jabberwalky » Mon Nov 10, 2014 8:45 pm

2 x An1x and you're set for life.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by visceralvoids » Mon Nov 10, 2014 11:25 pm

I have had Korg MS2000, Roland JP-8000, and an Alesis Ion. My JP-8000 never gave me any issues during the period of time when I owned it, and for what you want:
...[the] fewer menus the better, the more interactive/knobby the better (so absolutely not a 'workstation') ...robust arpeggiator, ability to create high-quality, lush pads, awesome lead sounds like those heard in electro, trance, edm (obviously polyphonic)

...the JP-8000 fits the bill right on. Even has a built in sequencer. It has a very sturdy keyboard, but the plastic case scuffs a bit too easy, so as long as you don't rub it into any concrete it will continue looking good :mrgreen:

It is a very good synth to learn programming on but I hated that LFO 2 is tied to the mod-stick :x You will have to learn how to use JP's motion-control feature to make up for the lack of an LFO 2 (and LFO1 if it's being tied up by the oscillator pitch for some analog drift.) The GAIA has a better synth engine and much more potential for different sounds.

It's great sounding, fun but limited engine-wise. Despite being a case of beauty over brains, I wouldn't mind having a JP-8000 (or 8080) again.. who wouldn't? ;) If you do check a JP out in person, make sure the battery is not low on juice, or you will continually lose your presets. It will give you a warning when you turn it on if I remember correct. Also make sure sliders are working and that they do not jump in value while editing or while playing ("ghosts in the machine.") Had this happen to me once, and it never appeared again after giving the sliders and knobs some compressed air.

With a bit of patience you can find a Virus (much more advanced synth) for close to the price of a JP-8000. I always wanted a Virus and actually found my TI in great condition for a little over a grand. Most JP's I have seen this year go for $600-700 give or take shipping included, a bit overvalued I think. You can also find some used "higher-end" DSI instruments like the Mopho X4 for a grand on Craigslist.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by moodorf » Sun Nov 16, 2014 4:44 am

+1 for Blofeld or Studiologic Sledge.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by corndogssg » Thu Nov 20, 2014 12:45 pm

the sledge is awesome, as it has a 1 knob per function, and pretty much so does the mopho x4, but that being said for the price of either one of those great synths you can get a blofeld desktop and a dsi tetra which is a desktop version of the mopho x4. If keys aren't an issue for you then that would be a good choice to grab both of those small footprint beasts. You'd have the best of both worlds as far as digital and analog go and you'd be ready to rock the casbah! :D

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Percivale » Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:24 am

Waldorf Blofeld's pretty good.

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Daniele Spadavecchia » Tue Mar 31, 2015 3:07 pm

Did you make your decision? What did you eventually get?

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Re: help me choose a virtual analog synth

Post by Rick N Boogie » Fri Apr 03, 2015 11:41 pm

One more vote for a Blofeld kb. Awesome machine, and even though it's not a knobby affair, programming is dead simple, and fast.
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