Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

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har35157
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Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by har35157 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:57 pm

Hi all, I've been on my synth journey for just under two years now, and have played a myriad of modern analogue, as well as VA and digital, models in that time. However, no doubt partly due to the hours I've spent browsing this forum, coupled with my own musical proclivities (the big analogue sounds of the early 80s), and the plethora of classic remakes hitting the shelves over the last few years, the vintage analogue synth market is something I've always wanted to make the step into, but have been put off by increasingly obscene prices, horror stories of parts blowing up or becoming unsourceable, new models diverting my attention, etc...

However, they do continue to intrigue me. While I of course appreciate the history, prestige and character/quirks of the technology as a whole, as odd as it sounds, I also actually quite like the limitations of ageing analogue hardware in a way - I find it forces me to think creatively/outside the box in order to come up with convoluted solutions to issues which would be easy to replicate on modern machines. What can I say; call me a masochist! Plus I've always found that a lot of the hidden/under-the-hood or boutique features of modern synths tend to overwhelm me a bit, so the simplicity of older technology scratches that itch, too.

I've set aside a budget of around £1200/$1500 (including any initial maintenance) for this initial foray. I guess what I'm looking for is something a) quite cheapish, or at least not yet a victim to the Juno-106-isation of vintage synth prices; b) reliable, or at least something whose replacement parts aren't becoming scarcer; and c) decent-sounding! Oh, and also something with keys - I'm not interested in modules or rack-mounted synths. Mono and poly recommendations are both welcome; ideally I'd love to pick up one of each so I've got a pair of instruments that compliment each other nicely, so if there are two synths available my budget which go together nicely, as opposed to one expensive one, then I'd be happy to hear suggestions. Some options I've considered are:

Mono
Yamaha CS-5/10/15
Korg MS-10
Moog Rogue
Moog Prodigy
Roland SH-101

Poly
Korg Poly-800
Sequential Six-Trak
Roland Juno-106 (if I can find a decently priced, serviced unit)/HS-60
Roland JX-3P
Roland Alpha Juno 2/HS-80

Thanks! :)

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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by madtheory » Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:05 pm

Well pretty much everything is now "a victim to the Juno-106-isation of vintage synth prices". And there's now a wide choice of new analogue synths, that won't have reliability issues. But if you want a slice of history, here's my take on it:
Having owned several Yamaha CS-5 and CS-10, I would say that with current prices the CS-15 is the one to go for, it will give the best value.

The MS-10 is too compromised compared to the MS-20. Get the new kit MS-20, so you have mark 1 and 2 filters (but mark2 filter is very nice, have one here at the mo). O ya, you're insisting on keys...

Roland SH-101 is very nice sounding, great tone but very limited and possibly beyond your budget? I'm not sure about that.

The Korg Poly-800 is an awful synth. Very very compromised, and not in a good way. If you want that sort of thing go for the DW-6000 or 8000, far more musical. Very nice.

Yes JX or Alpha Juno can do the Juno 106 thing, and are still fairly reasonably priced. IMO a JX3P really needs the KiwTechnic upgrade. Going up the range, IMO the JX8P is among the best polysynths ever made. It has real character and class, and very immediate to program. Like the 106, it's really hard to get a bad sound from it. Lots of sweet spots.

Why the Sequential Six Trak? The P600 is a lot better, especially with the Gligli upgrade that removes the compromises on that synths CPU. It's pretty much a P5 with that in. I guess P600 prices are silly too?

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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by commodorejohn » Thu Sep 15, 2016 6:23 pm

The Roland JX analogs can be quite nice, and they haven't climbed as ridiculously high as the Junos. I've never used the -3P, but the -8P/-10 provide a lot of options for a reasonable price. The only thing is that you really want the programmer attachment, as voice editing with the alpha dial is an absolute slog.

The Prophet-600 is also available fairly affordably, though closer to the top of your range. It doesn't have the chorus that the JXes do, but it does offer VCO-based oscillators, which tend to sound a little more organic than the DCOs used in the later Roland analogs, plus it has all the knobs without the need for a separate accessory. However, unlike the JX-8P/10, it's not velocity-sensitive, and the envelopes/control response are pretty lackluster unless you get the GliGli upgrade for it.

For vintage monosynths, I've noticed that you can get some of the older, non-famous Roland SH series fairly cheaply, plus they have discrete filters, which I like much better than Roland's IC filters (they seem to mesh more naturally with the sound of the oscillators at high resonance.) The Korg MS-10/20 are also great, but if you're going for those I'd just get the MS-20 Mini for half the going rate, unless mini-keys are a problem for you.
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by ninja6485 » Thu Sep 15, 2016 8:46 pm

It's really hard to judge synths without using them. If you look at the specs, the JX-8P has much more going for it than the sh101. But it's easier to create a wider variety of usable sounds with the sh101. I use it probably 50 times for every one time I use the JX, maybe more, and I love the JX. The self oscillation of the sh101 is very, very good as it's own thing. It's my favorite sub bass instrument. It's not a synth for designing complex and intricate patches. It is, however, one giant sweet spot, and the spot is really, really sweet, especially if you're into techno style sounds, so when you do make the bread and butter sounds with it, they sound great. I've never found it to be limited while using it, but it does sound limited on paper. Going back to the JX8P, it is substantially cheaper, and an amazing deal for a vintage analog synth. If you're going to go dco, jx an junos are the way to go!
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by har35157 » Fri Sep 16, 2016 1:27 pm

Thanks for all the responses so far. Looks like the Roland JX-8P seems to be an early contender, especially considering that some great-condition models have gone for under £400 recently on eBay.

SH-101s seem to be going for about £600-900 depending on condition, so just within my budget if I was also looking at a cheap poly I'd say. 37 keys would be my preference, though, hence the interest in the Yamaha CS series.
commodorejohn wrote:The Prophet-600 is also available fairly affordably, though closer to the top of your range.
madtheory wrote:Why the Sequential Six Trak? The P600 is a lot better, especially with the Gligli upgrade that removes the compromises on that synths CPU. It's pretty much a P5 with that in. I guess P600 prices are silly too?
Regarding the Six-Trak, I chose it because it basically seems to be the only SC poly synth seen for under £1,000 (and even then it's around £800 or so). Common selling prices I've seen for the Prophet 600 are often close to £1,400, so out of my budget unfortunately. :(

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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by DesolationBlvd » Fri Sep 16, 2016 2:25 pm

JX-8P does seem to be the best bet for the "big poly" sounds, the brasses, strings, and pads, within your budget. Having two envelopes, vs. only one on Alpha Juno or JX-3P, really helps articulate those sounds. It struggles with plucky sounds, but you say you're pairing it with a mono anyway, and SH-101 excels at precisely those things.

SH-2 has 37 keys and goes for about the same as SH-101, and SH-09 goes for less.


Disclaimer: My avatar is merely poking fun at the mismatch between the name and the voice count of the JX-8P.
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by madtheory » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:08 pm

DesolationBlvd wrote:Disclaimer: My avatar is merely poking fun at the mismatch between the name and the voice count of the JX-8P.
:lol: to be fair, you should poke equally at the JX3P for having a mismatch in the other direction :lol:

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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by commodorejohn » Fri Sep 16, 2016 6:37 pm

madtheory wrote:
DesolationBlvd wrote:Disclaimer: My avatar is merely poking fun at the mismatch between the name and the voice count of the JX-8P.
:lol: to be fair, you should poke equally at the JX3P for having a mismatch in the other direction :lol:
Au contraire, that's what you call a "value-add!" :D
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by DesolationBlvd » Mon Sep 19, 2016 10:06 pm

commodorejohn wrote:
madtheory wrote:
DesolationBlvd wrote:Disclaimer: My avatar is merely poking fun at the mismatch between the name and the voice count of the JX-8P.
:lol: to be fair, you should poke equally at the JX3P for having a mismatch in the other direction :lol:
Au contraire, that's what you call a "value-add!" :D
Exactly. And, 3P is explained on the front panel: "Programmable Preset Polyphonic". "JX-PPP" doesn't roll off the tongue the way "JX-3P" does. 8-)
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Sep 20, 2016 3:10 pm

As another perspective, since this will be your first vintage synth, I would suggest buying one that's not too expensive, like the JX8P. I'd also buy just one and live with it for a few months before buying any more.

First, you might find that the vintage thing isn't for you.

Second, you'll have a better idea of what you like and don't like about that first synth which will help you decide what to get next.
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Re: Recommended first forays into vintage analogue synths?

Post by ApolloBoy » Wed Oct 12, 2016 7:05 pm

har35157 wrote: Regarding the Six-Trak, I chose it because it basically seems to be the only SC poly synth seen for under £1,000 (and even then it's around £800 or so). Common selling prices I've seen for the Prophet 600 are often close to £1,400, so out of my budget unfortunately. :(
If you're considering the Six-Trak I'd actually recommend the Akai AX60 instead. The AX60 uses the same CEM chips as the Six-Trak, but you get a proper UI with tons of sliders and 61 keys. The build quality's considerably better too.
Had: DX7, AX-60, SR-16, Yamaha TQ5, 01/WFD, Juno-106, MG-1, JX-03
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