January 27, 2012
by Chris Randall
Okay, I figure this subject is interesting enough to warrant its own post. In the previous topic, we discover that we generally agree that the following synths, which can be had for a song for the most part (or at least they could before this post, sorry...), are all worth space in your studio:
1. Ensoniq ESQ-1 / ESQ-M / SQ-80 I lump these together because they're all essentially the same thing; the SQ-80 has moar of everything the ESQ has. I just bought an ESQ-M for $100 last week, and this is right in line with what I've paid for the four I've owned. This one is kind of a no-brainer. I am personally baffled as to why these are not more desirable. DCOs with CEM filters and VCAs.
2. Yamaha TG-33 / SY-22 I've never used one of these, so I can't speak to them, but apparently people feel strongly about them. Enough to where I'm considering hunting one down. It is a vector synth like the Wavestation, Prophet VS, Microwave, et al, but unlike those, it combines that with a full FM synthesis engine. The reason, I think, that they don't command higher prices today is that there are no filters. At all. My research shows they go for about $150 to $200, with occasional $75 - $100 bargains.
EDIT: 3. Kawai XD-5 This is a drum synthesizer that creates sounds with DCO oscs similar to those found in the ESQ, DW8000, etc. It is a sophisticated drum synth that is capable of both normal (albeit somewhat dated) and rather strange percussion sounds. They go for $125 to $175. (Or did today, anyhow.)
EDIT: 4. Pearl Drum-X This is an all-analog drum synth with kick, snare, and three tom voices. It has patch memory for 8 kits, and five trigger inputs. (No MIDI.) It is easily modded. Not terribly common, but they go for $75 to $150.
EDIT: 5. Lexicon Vortex Typical Lexicon semi-preset effects box of the era; however, it has one interesting feature. You can attach an expression pedal (and thus a modular synth) and "morph" between two states of a given preset. There is also an internal envelope morphing function. This unit requires some patience, and is really shitty as a send effect because the mix parameter is soft, and part-and-parcel of many of the presets. However, used inline on a synth or guitar, very strange and wonderful things are possible. I've seen these anywhere from $50 to $200.
Since we've already discussed the first two (or five, depending on how you count) ad nauseam, and all seem to agree they're desirable, let's start the list with them, and I'll add to it as others come up that we all seem to agree on. The Ensoniq Fizmo can't really be on the list, as it is borderline rare, and commands a minimum of $350 to $450 when it comes up (and works.) The Yamaha FS1R is also quite expensive; I rarely see them going for under $750. We're looking for instruments and effects that can be had in the $50 to $200 range without looking too hard, that are innovative and unique enough to fit in the Secret Weapon category.
A side note: since I last mentioned it, we've updated Vapor and Rough Rider (free) to 32/64-bit. Adam is working on Dr. Device right now. We're about 2/3 of the way done, and most of the remainder are pretty simple. So we should be done with this 64-bit update and back to making new shit Real Soon Now.