|1979||Solina String Ensemble (Eminent)||Stringsynth||The classic full string sound, useful brasses too. Solinas (rebranded by ARP) are heard on MANY 70s records. I had the later stereo version, which has a smoother sound than the mono Mk1. Also, only the Mk1 has that lovely unique behaviour as you play with longer release times, letting previous decaying notes re-swell as you play new notes. This adds movement, dissonance and complexity when you play - I missed this in the stereo version. No editing; somehow after the initial pleasure I lacked the space to keep it for what it did, could trade it for a Juno 60.|
|1979||Crumar Performer||Stringsynth||Darker string sound than the Solina, but lovely tweakable with three-band analog EQ and vibrato depth, delay and rate. Very atmospheric, gives a vibe of eternity when layering with other string sounds. Weak brass section; in later versions there is more control over attack and release duration so you can get passed the trumpet-like sounds. |
I had mine modified with volume controls instead of switches for the 8' and 16' strings, for even more versatility. Also added switches to link the brass and string sections in various ways, it can make almost vocoder like sounds now. Favourite string synth.
|1979||Sequential Prophet 5 revision 2||Poly||All-time classic, beautiful synth. Alive and organic sounding, also that Patrick Cowley sound all over it. More dark and mellow than later Prophets. Keybed is almost as bad to play as the pro-one, best to midi-fy it. Did the CPU upgrade from Riku, which makes it rock-steady in tune from startup, extra LFO, more memory, parameter display and voice watch etc, highly recommended. If you ever find one.|
|1986||Sequential Prophet VS||Poly||Very inspiring Prophet, takes you on a trip. Has many faces; filtered strings are stellar, brass also very powerful. Its saw and square waves (nr 33, 34) are the strongest, the many other waveforms can give unique digital flavors, but may be weak on their own. Unison and double modes (which can even be combined) can make the sound thick and oberheim-ish. In the lower octaves the bass can become undefined, as it as digital oscillators, but this actually makes it better in a mix with another analog mono bass, like it should. |
The early 1.0 ROM is the best for pads as it has free running LFO, I reverted the more featured 1.2 upgrade for this reason. Jason Proctor wrote a great PC editor program.
|1981||Korg Polysix||Poly||Astounding, simple polysynth, very reliable (if having a replaced internal battery). Sounds of many 80s club & italo classics, with that darker underground feel, hints of the Prophet 5 rev 2, and sometimes even better. Very large range of sounds. Strings are great with the ensemble effect - although in direct comparison the Crumar Performer beats it for this. |
The delayed tremolo fx that you can do over chords is what I love most, typical Polysix stabs (Patrick Cowley / Lift Off). Its noisy keybed clicks, loud enough to awake family members at night, are what I like least.
|1984||Roland Juno 106||Poly||
Perhaps the greatest all-rounder. I programmed this endlessly doing every sound in my earlier videos (Oberheim DMX part 1 as best example). In isolation can sound a bit plain and same-ish, but when mixing in the track it somehow delivers magic. Has a kind of irrestible humbleness. Maybe it's a case of retrograde perfection as it was used on so many famous tracks in 80s and 90s. |
BUT: sold it eventually because voice chips kept on dying one by one, and it had more overlap with the Juno 60 than I thought when really testing. I still miss it sometimes though.
|1981||Roland Juno 60||Poly||Beautiful looking and vintage sounding poly, great Jupiter filter, its oscillators sound more alive and grainy than the Juno 106. Its sub wave is much weaker compared to the 106 (which has more bass EQ, and can be set louder than on the J60); also the pulse width range is smaller on mine. Chorus adds no noise on my Juno 60, unlike most others. Greatest for dark / mellow sounds, organs, bass, strings, anything new wave as it reminds of the Jupiters. |
One of the most used synths in early 80s. Made taking synths on stage reliable and easy. You switch it on and have it in tune straightaway, which is quite unique for this age.
|1988||Yamaha PSR-36||Poly||Very nice, toy-ish FM synth with sliders and MIDI, giving some fat gritty spacy growls, tines and organs, with wicked vibrato. Funny camp drums as well, very late 80s.|
|1981||Sequential Circuits Pro One||Mono||Bass specialist, also great for fx. Can be hard, aggressive; when tamed down, it still has a firmness that works well in an atmospheric synth track. Used in many tracks for bass; Yazoo / Yaz made complete tracks with it. Its sequencer makes it easy to sync and change chords while improvising. Very inspiring synth.|
|1975||Minikorg 700S||Mono||Very characterful, can sound odd, exotic, Japanese. Before invention of the ADSR curves, any decay and release time can still be had with its odd controls. Has lovely bass, squelchy filters, one of the best you can have. Experimental, wild sounds possible. The perfect lead synth to me, and takes little space. The second oscillator (as compared to the Minikorg) functions more to spice things up than making it a true dual osc monosynth, but this is a must have. Nice ringmod and wind / storm sounds too. |
Mine was modified with a trigger input which is a great addition; the note repeat function doesn't sync otherwise.
|1981||Moog MG1 (Realistic Concertmate)||Mono||A simple true Moog, joy to use, and a keeper. Very characterful as well; ring modulated (bell) sounds are great when tuning oscs a fifth apart, and the oscillators are strong. Thundering low bass in lower octaves when playing it through a Kenton Pro Solo. Use headphone out instead of RCAs on the back. A bit limited sound range. Had mine from a true synth lover, who had removed the black felt inside in time before it would do damage, and still gave me a spare sliders set with it.|
|1982||Moog Source||Mono||Great looker with deep, smooth, rounded bass, sounding very close to the Minimoog. Heard in many mid 80s dance tracks. More stable than the Mini as well (which can drift forever sometimes), and patch storage is easy. Reliable but like any Moog it takes a long warmup to sound right. Misses PWM as an LFO destination. Editing with the jog wheel is fun, but not very intuitive.|
|2004||Korg Legacy MS20 USB Controller||Controller||Good introduction to the Korg MS20 - after this I knew for sure that this would not be anything for me. I used it mostly as a controller for the Polysix software emulation, of which I liked the sound. Made a colorful overlay for its knobs matching the Polysix colors, see the Yahoo group. In comparison to the real Polysix, the sound is quite close. But 3 octaves of mini keys is not practical for a polysynth. The mini keys have a nice feel.|
|2007||EMU X-board 61||Controller||Good MIDI board, key playing style is very well adjustable including velocity curves, start and end points etc. Sold it later because of having almost complete pre-MIDI setup.|