Rookie buyers advise

A forum for discussing the pros & cons of buying a particular synth and for advice on buying synthesizers.
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Rookie buyers advise

Post by Spark » Mon Oct 31, 2016 12:42 am

About 20 year ago I bought my first GUS to make MIDI music with my Yamaha PSR-37.
Until some years ago I've been playing for small audience with vinyl and CD's and
bought usb gear for my Ableton set-up.
My respect always went to the creators of the tracks I've played.

Now my heart is telling me... Make some music while you can.
So I've powered up Ableton and saw my license ran out. Version 8 it is.
After installation it crashed trying to start it. So a lite v9 it is to try it again.
I had to get rid of my bluetooth headphone that added 200 msec delay. (Now I can hear your laugh)

So you got some insight of my music making momentum....
I don't want to rely on software anymore!.
I want to have cables to my headphone, press keys and turn knobs to have more fun.

I like to make music in genres as: Club / House / Deep House / Trance / Techno / Hardcore and use (voice) samples.
Even though I find these genres very commercialized,
I've been grown up with Jean Michael Jarre and like to make just raw synth music for hours.
As kid living in a cassette world I've had a dream of making music with sounds I hear daily.
Back in those days it was impossible. but until now I've never pursued that dream.

Now I am, but what to choose from?

Roland's Aira
I love the Roland Aira concept with the mx1, tr-8, tb-3 and system-1 at "first sight".
It looks a good start, but I miss the sampling capability.
I like to create new (bass)drums and be able to use it in a set. I don't see an easy way with Aira
I dislike the choking feeling of closing in a system around you, but I could be wrong. I need facts, not rumours.
Am I okay of buying a system that's now a few years on the market?
Will they bring out new versions?
Yeah, That's me thinking I could make better/more music with new hardware :(

Korg (Volca)
I like those small boxes that pump out huge functionality.
The korg Volca Sample can make my dream come true: sampling sounds and use them in a step sequencer.
Should I add it to a Roland Aira setup?

Arturia Bute
I've never heard of the brand. But looking in to it

This world of synths is unfamiliar territory, I hope this is the right place to ask.
I'm not in the budgets of 1000,-'s a piece, but willing to invest 1500,- to start with a few elements.

If you would like to make music for a hobby, what would you setup be for:
Mixer, Drum, Synth and Sampler?

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by ninja6485 » Mon Oct 31, 2016 3:49 am

Dp32sd ($450-$600)

Drums: Tr-707, or Tr-606 ($350-$500)

Synth:JP-08 (~300)

Sampler: S3000xl ($100-$300)

Additional: beatstep pro (~$300)

This is not your typical setup, but here's the theory:

The DP has 20 faders, and fx, and can allow you to use the 8 inputs simultaneously. This means you can program sequences using the other instruments, and then mix them into a song dj style live. You can also use the fx to expand what you're capable of creating, and an effects processor is missing from your list. You could also use the DP to stay 100% in the hardware world.

The drum machine would be a bit of a splurge. Both machines sound excellent, and are fun to play. These are what I would pick based on what I actually use the most as workhorse drums. Any drum machine or mpc style thing would be fine, and you could save some money by going volca beats or something. I wouldn't though, as there's something nice about using these that I would want to sacrifice for more functionality.

The JP-08 makes all of the sounds a Jupiter 8 can make, only with 4 voices. Not a problem if you have a sampler! The filters are amazing recreations, and the cross mod lets you get very deep into sound design considering the stability of the virtual analog components. You could easily do a whole techno track with a Jupiter 8 and a sampler. The JP-08 has a little sequencer, and a delay effect to boot.

The S3000xl is a classic S series sampler. It has the classic sound, 8 outs + digital I/os, a good screen, and some excellent features. Almost any would do, this just represents my interest.

The beatstep pro will be a sequencer. You can sync one of the roland drum machines to the bsp's sync, send the midi out to the s3000xl, and either have the JP08 connected via midi through, or as the master clock. If you're using the 707, you get individual outs and a small mixer in house, the BSP /3000xl gives you two voices and a drum section that can utilize the 8 outs of the s series (one bass, and one lead then 6 additional one shots/ vox/ drum sounds), and along side of this you have the JP-08 playing a sequence. If you use this with the DP, you have to cut back on what you play into it live, BUT, you can record 20 tracks (8 mono, 12 stereo) in addition to what's going into the inputs. And since you have a 707 or 606, you can record a tape sync track and everything can play in time perfectly on multiple recording passes using an aux send.

For a more simple way to connect to the dp, say for jamming or adding the instruments to the recordings, you could have inputs 1 &2 for the 707, Inputs 3&4 for the JP08, input 5 for a bass line from the S3k, input 6 for lead from the S3K, and then a stereo out mix from the S3K with whatever other sounds are triggered from the drum portion of the BSP. Volume, panning, etc can even be done inside the S3K. These sounds can also be triggered live via the pads.

So yea, this is one idea. There are probably as many approaches as there are musicians, and hopefully you can take some inspiration from these ideas and build your own unique setup!
This looks like a psychotropic reaction. No wonder it's so popular...

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by ian » Mon Oct 31, 2016 4:43 am

Good advise by Ninja above ^, the inclusion of a mixing board is very important.

Some alternative/ complimentary suggestions...

Drum machine:

I of course love the suggestions of the TR 707 or 606 but I would also highly recommend the >

Arturia Drum Brute ( would have to preorder, I think Sweatwater still has them for $450 US):


Korg Minilogue (?)

The same YouTube channel, Sonic Lab, has an excellent video review of the Minilogue.


Korg Volca Bass (or any of the 303/ sh-101 style remakes) such as the MC303 ( never tried only read about) or the Roland boutique series. One could also go the less groove box and more mono synth version... A heap way to start could be the Arturia Micro/ mini brute OR the Novation Bass station II ... The bass station might be a really good way to go! But remember it must be the bass station II (two) not the plain old Bass station.

(I got my Volca bass for under $100 US)

FX (?):

Another thing to consider is FX... To my mind, reverb and delay are fairly essential for making things sound cool. A decent compressor can go a long way, too. This is a whole new can of worms, with too many options. This brings it back to the mixing board again (not very sexy), having a board with dedicated sends/returns will make you very happy in the long run. These days, with everyone switching to computer DAWs and plugins there are some good deals to be had on FX rack units and mixers.


As already suggested by Ninja, The Beat Step Pro is a great idea... They also make a Keystep ( I have one and love it)... I am currently rebuilding my setup after years away and am trying to figure out a Midi Keyboard Controller myself with over 49 keys ( open to suggestions! )

I will stay out of the sampler race... I had an s1000 and an s3000, years ago... Solid choices.

P.S. There is also a Greek company that makes a box called an Eribus, it's a neat sounding little desktop synth with cool filters. That said, Dave Smith makes a desktop box called a Mopho, also neat.

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by Spark » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:26 am

Thank you all for sharing your experience. I appreciate that very much.
While putting my thought out on the web, It's not my intention to offend any vintage purist.

I've read about the Tascam DP-32SD. I never thought of recording directly on a mixer, only externally.
It looks like a very serious piece of hardware, compared to the Roland MX-1.
If I use effects on a mixer I want a step-sequencer.
Preferably no display, just knobs and wheels.
I had Ableton in mind to do some recording, but this gives me again a positive push away from the mouse.
This mixer gives me new perspectives. Thanks ninja6485.

I have compared some of the retro 707 with the Roland TR-8 & 707.
Looking at the price / functions & warranty from a shop, I think the TR-8 has my love.
Then again, I was wrong some time ago by selecting speakers by checking their specs.
So perhaps I need to go back to a store to listen and play with it to get in the groove.
The Arturia DrumBrute definitely has my attention.
And for some reason the Korg Volca Beats as a just for fun in the middle...

I've never considered a Roland Boutique synth like the JP-08, but I really really like it.
Why? Because I see it has a step-sequencer. I don't want anything anymore without a step-sequencer :)
But it's limited?

Now I see the JP-08 has steps... I want it for my bass.
But let's not get into financial awkward situations. I liked the Korg Volca Bass before.
Even the whole Volca line has something nice.
The price/performance for a beginner like me is perfect.

I was a bit shocked about the Akai S3000XL. That really is a vintage monster.
If I had one, I would never ever sell it.
I can hear the heads already buzzing over the magnetic disk aka floppy.
It's a sound on it's own already :) Love it! but I can only spend my money once.
Still not sure on this topic.
The only Sampler so far I like is the Elektron Octatrack, but it has an Elektron pricetag, which I can't affort.
I don't want to fall back to my mac for playing samples that quickly... There has to be something.

I think I'm not used to work with sequencers already.
I have ableton with an APC40 (yes software :o ) But if I need it, that should do it.
First I want to turn those knobs without thinking of pressing rec or stop.
The Arturia Beat Step Pro is now in my mind as the sequencer.
I do see it has a lot of clock sync potential.

Midi Keyboard Controller:
Curious question Ian, why a Midi keyboard. Is it for Softsynths, or as external controller for hardware synth?
Currently I use an M-audio Keystation 49 with externally a Korg padcontrol, just for softsynths.
I've played keyboard for a long time on my old Yamaha and have no real piano experience.
That made me wonder... Would I want weighted keys? I've never missed them. That's why the cheap M-Audio.

I'm not a step further making a choice, but making already connections in my mind on how I want my set-up.
I've got a few days until the holidays.

I Like to hear about your personal preference and will read through this very interesting forum.

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by JamesPerez » Thu Nov 17, 2016 5:58 am

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by Spark » Sun Nov 20, 2016 2:18 am

Thank you for reminding me questioning the bluetooth version and profiles I currently use to stream the audio.
I guess it's the well known A2DP profile and not the APT-X I've just read about that adds so much delay.
From the old vinyl days I've still got a wired one, which I will use to still feel connected to my music :)

Some feedback to the buying dilemma I'm now facing:

I't easy to select a few synths based on popularity and look / reviews.
I first thought it would be a complete Roland set. I love the TR-8 as it brings back some taste of the old days.
But it wasn't what I expected. If there are digital parts, I want the digital options.
I want to switch between the emulation of analoge signals and use samples to use it in the future.
Otherwise I think I will get bored with the sound after a few years (spoiled by DAW)

So to brake that tie, it is another thing as you can spend your money only once.

I never thought it would be hard to make a choice for hardware.
That's mainly because I'm not that familiar with the elements in an analoge synth...
What is my sound? How many "types or nrs. of oscillators, filters etc" would I feel happy with.
So perhaps I need to buy a synths within Ableton or Bitwig (I like to be OS independancy and prefer Linux)

Current hardware choice:

Mixer: Behringer DDM4000 (I still have this one)
Drums: Arturia DrumBute (affordable & analoge)
synth: Arturia MiniBrute / Korg Minilogue (affordable, but it looks like a starter)
Bass: Arturia MiniBrute / Korg Volca Bass (looks the Minibrute can handle both for starters)

I'm reading about Arturia and of course it's always the negative things that pop up about products.
A faulty batch or something is always possible... But I hear also "youtube people" make great music with Arturia.

I haven't thought about connecting all the parts like MIDI, but I'm feeling still a long way from complete DAW.
Which makes me question my main purpose why I want to go full analoge...
There are brand specific sync's.. and beyond there's midi with timing issues I read about?

I expect for using a DAW as synth/beats/etc, it will take a minimum of 500,- out of my budget each year for
- DAW replacement/upgrade
- OS / software updates
- keep up with the renewal of controllers.
That's money thrown away for having something you can touch.

Or is it well spend DAW money to give me:
- Free space on my desk
- easy switching between different tracks as all knobs are virtual
- An easy try/taste for an other synth, and don't have to return hardware when I don't like the product.
- I don't have to write down synth settings for that number of last year

I need a few more weeks.....

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Re: Rookie buyers advise

Post by gcoudert » Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:26 am

Spark wrote:Mixer:
I've read about the Tascam DP-32SD.
I have a Tascam DP-24SD. It's a great machine and you can insert a compressor on each of the inputs (pre-recording only) as well as a couple of the usual effects and there's an EQ too. If you are going to use MIDI for sequencing, I recommend you get the older model (DP-24 or DP-32), which has MIDI - the SD models don't. You can then run everything in sync. Of course, if you're going to record a whole performance in a single pass, it's not an issue; if you need to overdub in sync, it's a different matter. You also probably won't need 32 channels. The old DP-24 model would be a good investment and, if you don't need more than 8 inputs, it'll double up as a mixer.

This is my old set-up. The CME controller has since been replaced with a Fantom X7. I use 4 outs on the X8 and 2 on the X7 so I have two spare inputs on the Tascam.


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