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Suggestions for a Small Performance Synth


Doug Robinson

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But guys, please listen to my limiting criteria before you suggest something, ok? Thanks.

 

I am a jazz and funk player. My main axe is Hammond SK1 through a Spacestation 3. I've always had keyboards with pitch bend capabilities and some cool distorted synth sounds for those occasions when I felt like blowing peoples' minds till now.

 

So I'm thinking of adding a small board, no bigger than 61 keys, for those kind of fun, soaring 'special effect' solos if you will.

 

And I am limited budget-wise, so it's got to be under $500. I'm not opposed to buying used if I need to, but I've seen some small synths in the last couple of years that might work, though I know very little about them.

 

I am not into programming--I just need some fun, distorted or trippy stock sounds I can grab and have fun with. I'm not interested in bringing a laptop along.

 

I like as close to full-sized keys as I can get.

 

So having ruined all the fun for those who love those great synths that cost more :) what's out there that I should try on my next trip to the states? Thanks!

Doug Robinson

www.dougrobinson.com

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The Casio XW-P1 world work well and are at that price point($499). The Novation Ultra Nova at $599 would be a good choice too. Personally I would spend a bit more ($999) and get a Waldorf Blofeld or ARP Odyssey by Korg. The Odyssey has only slightly smaller keys and are a lot easier to use than of the mini key synths. Odyssey Link

Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12

Modules: Korg Radias, Roland D-05, Bk7-m & Sonic Cell

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But guys, please listen to my limiting criteria before you suggest something, ok? Thanks.

 

LOL, someone's noticed the penchant for forum members to fire off answers without reading the entire post, or choosing to ignore criteria. :2thu:

 

(thanks to Toano88 for proving my point :roll: )

 

...pitch bend capabilities ...distorted synth sounds... no bigger than 61 keys... under $500 ...not opposed to buying used ...not into programming... not interested in bringing a laptop... as close to full-sized keys as I can get.

 

A few candidates that tick off most, if not all, of your requirements (* means used version should come in under $500):

 

Yamaha MX49

Roland GAIA SH-01 *

Roland Juno Di *

Novation Bass Station II

Novation Ultranova *

Akai Timbre Wolf

Casio XW-G1

Casio XW-P1

 

Good luck. :)

 

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Minibrute?

 

Minibrute is a cool synth - but for performance it would be tricky to change sounds as you need them as it can't store presets. Also being monophonic only limits is to solo synth only. These 2 issues may or may not be a problem for the OP but there they are. :)

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If you depise programing and never want to learn I would not get the Gaia. If you may take and interest in programming the Gaia is cool. In the very high registers the Oscillators are a little flakey but it doesn't sound too bad in general. I use the Gaia to program a lot of builds and effects. Sometimes I sample those and play them live with my sampler. The Gaia is used to teach subtractive synthesis at Berkley. The Gaia's presets are not so hot.

 

If you never want to program or even if you do ...... the Ultranova is supposed to sound better than the Gaia. It also does about anything the Gaia will do but it doesn't have the knobby interface. You need to navigate some menus.

 

Juno Di or MX49 - Romplers ....meh.

 

XW-P1 - more affordable meh..... it is OK and maybe a great choice.

 

XW-G1 - This will do some really cool stuff if you want to think out of the box.

 

The vibe I get from the OP is to get an Ultranova or one of the Casios. Especially the G1 if you think you may want to learn how to utilize the sampler and looper..... if not get the P1.

 

The Ultranova sounds cool though.

 

 

[video:youtube]

[video:youtube]

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Sven, did not my 1st suggestion tick off all the boxes? And my second should be found used for that price.

Only then did I use the preface "Personally I" before suggesting outside the parameters.

 

How many people have posted on the board one price point and ended spending way more because it made sense or "they wanted it"?

 

UPDATE: I agree with CEB, if you don't want to program it GAIA is not a good choice.

Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12

Modules: Korg Radias, Roland D-05, Bk7-m & Sonic Cell

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Personally If I wanted a lead synth and could only afford $500 now and no more but I absolutely didn't have to have one for my current gig I would wait 3 or 4 months and see if I could set aside another $500 or so for a Sledge or Mopho X4 or something really cool and used. Just saw a used Virus KC and a flight case for $1100 you could get for $1000..... there is always something cool to be found for around a grand. But that is just me.... older I get the more patient I am about somethings.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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The vibe I get from the OP is to get an Ultranova or one of the Casios. Especially the G1 if you think you may want to learn how to utilize the sampler and looper..... if not get the P1.

I picked the G1 over the P1 mainly for the sampling, but also you can do some solo synth manipulation you can't do on the P1 with using the iPad app. If you like weird, far-out sounds the XW-G1 is worth a hard look.

 

[video:youtube]

 

 

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You don't mention if you are wed to a particular style of pitch bender. For synth leads, this could be important. There are wheel guys, Roland paddle guys, Nord pitch stick guys, etc.

 

Nobody likes joysticks pitch sticks though.

 

Fixed. Personally.

 

 

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Rod

Here for the gear.

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The vibe I get from the OP is to get an Ultranova or one of the Casios. Especially the G1 if you think you may want to learn how to utilize the sampler and looper..... if not get the P1.

I picked the G1 over the P1 mainly for the sampling, but also you can do some solo synth manipulation you can't do on the P1 with using the iPad app. If you like weird, far-out sounds the XW-G1 is worth a hard look.

 

[video:youtube]

 

 

I prefer the G1. To me it is the most interesting product in their stable. You and I may be the only two here that prefer this over the P1.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I have an Ultranova, it's a great sounding synth out of the box, but the programming goes pretty deep on it. Lots of sounds available that are easy to load- drag and drop in the editor/librarian.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

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I like the G1 too but it was $100 more and came out later than the XW-P1. I originally bought the XW-P1 because it had the organ too. In hindsight I should have just waited. About a year later I ended up getting a VR-09 because I wasn't bonding as much with the CASIO organ as much as I thought I would. The VR-09 has excellent synth capabilities as well but I don't recommend it for the OP.

Boards: Kurzweil SP-6, Roland FA-08, VR-09, DeepMind 12

Modules: Korg Radias, Roland D-05, Bk7-m & Sonic Cell

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Juno Di or MX49 - Romplers ....meh.

 

Yes, meh, but they tick all the OP's boxes (*).

 

Sven, did not my 1st suggestion tick off all the boxes? And my second should be found used for that price.

Only then did I use the preface "Personally I" before suggesting outside the parameters.

 

Relax, the smiley was meant to indicate that I was poking fun. :D

 

But, to extend your logic, why not suggest a Kronos? ;)

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Jazzooo - A couple more to consider if you don't mind older synths...

 

The Yamaha AN1x is a 10 voice polyphonic late `90s VA that is very big and fat sounding. It's loaded with cool sounds if you don't want to program, but tweaking sounds is easy if you want to learn. Apparently the word has gotten around what a cool old synth it is, but you can still spot a few for around $500.

 

The Korg Z1 was an amazing synth when it came out in the late `90s, and IMO it still holds its own against many modern synths. It's based on physical modeling, and it does a killer VA and a lot more. Again, loaded with cool sounds, but has all the tools you need to learn tweaking, should you develop the interest. (and you probably will! ;) ) These are fairly plentiful for around $500 for a good one.

 

A more modern option could be something like an Avid Venom, which can be had for $200 - $300 used. it fits your requirements, but it has a sound character that ain't for everybody! :laugh: Make sure you check out a few online demos to see if you like it.

><>

Steve

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Another possibility: You can still buy the M-Audio Venom from Amazon. It's just under $500. Apparently, they haven't blown through all their inventory yet. (Maybe they should think about lowering the price.) With 49 keys it's a nice manageable size.

 

But personally I think the XW-G1 or P1 would be a better option, simply because they're more versatile. Either one will do a decent job for monophonic lead lines. These particular videos focus on that capability exclusively:

 

[video:youtube]

 

[video:youtube]

 

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I love my Gaia SH-01...they can be found 2nd hand for around $400. Or, the earlier effort by Roland, the SH-201. It's not hard to program at all, and probably most of the presets will satisfy your "distorted and trippy sounds" needs. You have to spend time programming it if you want warm, vintage sounds.

 

How about a 2nd hand Korg X50? They sell for around $300 and up where I am in Ontario...

Electro 5, NI Kontrol S61/49, MX49, PC3, Rev2, Prologue, Pro3, Juno-DS, Mopho Keys, SE02, drums, tons of synth software, guitars, amps, and pedals...help me!!

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Thanks everyone--I knew there would be a ton of suggestions. I'm listening to demos of everything on youtube right now...I live in central rural Mexico so not a lot of opportunities to check things out in person, unfortunately.

 

Doug Robinson

www.dougrobinson.com

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...actually, the more I think about it, that Yamaha MX49 would be a very nice addition. And it should be readily available being that it is currently in production (rather than trying to hunt down 2nd hand synthesizers.)

 

It's pretty amazing how much stuff they have crammed into the MX line for such a nice price.

Electro 5, NI Kontrol S61/49, MX49, PC3, Rev2, Prologue, Pro3, Juno-DS, Mopho Keys, SE02, drums, tons of synth software, guitars, amps, and pedals...help me!!

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It's interesting looking at these demos. My benchmark is my old yamaha S80--it has a sound or two that I used to love ripping off a solo in a funk tune, mainly VOODOO MAN, a fuzz guitar thing that changed the sound with your velocity. I really am more of a 'note' than a 'sound' guy, but once in a while it's fun to step out. Synthesizers are is now so much about arpeggiators and oscillators, it's a little daunting--just not what I need. I appreciate well-made electronic music but it isn't who I really am.

 

Anyway, I'm getting the sense that everything is capable about about 1000 times more than what I really need :) But I do like the fact that the Ultranova has a vocoder...

Doug Robinson

www.dougrobinson.com

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I am not into programming--I just need some fun, distorted or trippy stock sounds I can grab and have fun with. I'm not interested in bringing a laptop along.

 

Since you are not into programming ... have you tried the Hammond SK1? :)

 

"Extra voices" respond to pitch bend and modulation, if you attach a cheap controller or IOS device.

 

[video:youtube]_yNCaRjOK2s

 

Less than $500, no audio to connect up on stage, enough to take a synth solo or two .... what's not to love? :D

 

Use the money instead (non-of your forum buddies would seriously suggest not spending money would they? ;) ) get yourself a multi-effect box (like a $399 Eventide H9) you can toggle on and off so that your "synth" sounds have some serious character. For trippy solos, you primarily want some distortion, delay and some midi control of LFO rate and delay tempo ... this box will give you that and a lot more. :thu:

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It's interesting looking at these demos. My benchmark is my old yamaha S80--it has a sound or two that I used to love ripping off a solo in a funk tune, mainly VOODOO MAN, a fuzz guitar thing that changed the sound with your velocity.

 

That was one of the things I missed when I sold my S80. Pressure sensitivity made it so darn expressive! I used to trade solos with guitar players. My MOX8 has that same patch, but it sure don't sound the same without aftertouch :(

Kronos 88 Platinum, Yamaha YC88, Subsequent 37, Korg CX3, Hydrasynth 49-key, Nord Electro 5D 73, QSC K8.2, Lester K

 

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New, for $500 or under, my vote goes to the Casio XW-P1 or XW-G1. There are some very strong, no-programming-required patches in Casio's Solo Synth engine; definitely some attention-getting leads onboard.

 

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Since you are not into programming ... have you tried the Hammond SK1? :)

 

"Extra voices" respond to pitch bend and modulation, if you attach a cheap controller or IOS device.

 

Are you sure about that? The SK2 doesn't respond to pitch bend and mod. I am not home now, but I happen to have the SK2 manual in Dropbox (nerdy, I know) and I just checked the midi implementation documentation to confirm.

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