Best EMS VCS3 / Synthi software synth

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Best EMS VCS3 / Synthi software synth

Post by coolazice » Tue Jun 08, 2021 4:29 am

Hi everyone, I'm trying to chase particular synth tones, especially the ones used extensively by Brian Eno on his EMS Synthi AKS. So I'm in the market for a VCS3 or Synthi recreation, since I don't have $20,000 on hand :lol: . Looks like these are the options, from cheapest to most expensive:

XILS 3 LE 34€
Arturia Synthi 5 $149
XILS 3 149€
XILS 4 179€

In addition there are these alternative options:

Apesoft iVCS3 (iOS app) $15
SonicCouture The Attic 2 $199 (Synthi AKS samples, rather than synth modelling)

I'm looking for great sound and playability - by all accounts the Synthi felt like a real live instrument with a very unique tone, so that's what I want too. I'm not a huge synth-head and so don't typically spend hours and hours twiddling knobs, but I could see myself becoming like that if I loved the sound I was making.

Has anyone tried all or most of the above products and is willing to say which is superior? I'm particularly interested in the opinions of anyone who has played the real thing. Thanks!

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Re: Best EMS VCS3 / Synthi software synth

Post by Ashe37 » Tue Jun 08, 2021 3:00 pm

I have XILS 3. The XILS stuff is written be a former arturia programmer who writes individual models for each synth he makes, it sounds very good.

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Re: Best EMS VCS3 / Synthi software synth

Post by meatballfulton » Tue Jun 08, 2021 3:00 pm

I've used the XILS3 CM (similar to LE, free from Computer Music magazine).

One thing I found interesting is it offers a traditional ADSR envelope as well as the actual Trapezoid EG of the VCS3. That makes it more usable for folks who find the trapezoid maddening, but also makes it sound less like the real thing. I found using the pin matrix fussier than a patch cord system, partly because it's hard to manipulate on a computer screen. Otherwise it retains most of the oddities that make it sound so different than other synths of the time.

It will take a while to wrap your head around how it actually works. Although the VCS was cheaper than most of the competition when it was being made (under $1000 in the USA in the early 70s), it's easy to see why Moog, ARP and Roland machines became the template for most synthesizers going forward.

I'd recommend the cheapest option, or at least trying a demo version for a while before purchasing, because it's not for everybody. I personally abandoned using it after a while, it wasn't well suited for the music I was making.
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