December 4, 2013

The Synth Nerd Holiday Gift Guide...

by Chris Randall

I present to you the guaranteed-to-please good for all budgets Synth Nerd Gift Guide. You're here because someone you know is a Synth Nerd, and they have given you a link to this article, and said "anything off this list is fine." Well, they probably mumbled it, as your average Synth Nerd isn't much of a people-person. But you're here now, so settle in. You don't have to know what any of this stuff is. Just click the link for the amount you want to spend, then click "Buy Now." Easy peasy.

1. The Cheap Bastard (less than $25) You really can't go wrong with the Stylophone Retro Pocket Synth, which will set you back $24.99. Even if the Synth Nerd in your life already has one, or has an original one, or one of the new super-duper ones, they'll still find a use for this, if only to annoy their co-workers. I guarantee it.

2. The Cheap But Not A Bastard ($25 - $50) Another fun little pocket noise-maker, only a bit more capable. I chose the Korg Monotron Duo ($49.00) here, because virtually everybody bought a Monotron a couple years ago, and while it was fun and all, the shine has probably come off that penny. And of the three Monotrons, this one sounds the most interesting, in my opinion.

3. The Risk:Reward Ratio ($50 - $100) Now we're getting in to things that are actually useful to, you know, make music. Sorta. This is useful enough to actually elicit a "wow, you actually put some thought in to this and got me something you think I might like." Of course, you didn't. I did. But that'll be our little secret. Anyhow, if you want to drop a little more bank, go get that Nerd an Axle Grease Delay. It'll only set you back $69, and there are zero scenarios where a Synth Nerd isn't happy with a new analog delay. Especially one that is kind of semi-awesome. (For the money, anyhow.)

4. The Now We're Getting Somewhere ($100 - $250) If you're looking to spend a bit more, pick up a Korg Volca Bass synthesizer. ($189.) That is, if you want the easy way out (i.e. Amazon.) If you don't mind putting in a touch more effort, and perhaps risking not getting your gift before Christmas, then the thing to buy is the MeeBlip Anode. ($129). I personally think the Anode is the better gift, and I'd go with that, even if it's late. It'll show you care.

5. The Groove Is In The Heart ($250 - $500) I had to think about this for a while. My initial inclination was to go with the Waldorf Rocket, as it sounds very cool. However, I feel that it is overpriced at $329.99. It simply doesn't have the feature set or usefulness of other synths in this price range. Which is too bad. It's a cute little guy, with a unique twist on the tiny synth. No, in this price range, the hands-down winner is the Arturia Microbrute. ($299.) As of right now, this is probably the best value on this list, when you look at capabilities, feature set, and general usefulness. Very difficult to beat, and your Synth Nerd will be ecstatic. And you'll be happy because the keyboard doesn't have enough notes to play the lead line from "The Final Countdown."

6. The Hey, Big Spender ($500+) If you're gonna make it rain on your Synth Nerd, probably best to just give him a Visa gift card, because it's everywhere he wants to be.™ Just throwing that out there. But if you want something with a more personal touch, then I recommend the Korg MS-20 Mini. ($599.) I personally don't care for this synth, and I certainly don't want it for myself. But I'm demonstrably strange, and absolutely in the minority. Your Synth Nerd will definitely be happy with it.

So, there you go. Something for all budgets. Happy holidays!


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Dec.05.2013 @ 12:25 AM
All good there, but I think the Mooer Ana Echo (which I just received yesterday) is wee bit more nerd-tastic than the Axle Grease delay because 1) it's insanely tiny, and 2) it's a nifty DM-2 correct magenta, and 3) seems like the natural tiny accessory for the tiny Monotron Duo.

Dec.05.2013 @ 7:18 AM
Chris Randall
Nah, that feedback knob is too tiny. I think the Axle Grease sounds better, as well. More jank to it.


Dec.05.2013 @ 10:40 AM
an email confirmation forwarded from my wife that I am on this waiting list for some of these will do fine

link []

Dec.05.2013 @ 11:26 AM
Does anybody think we're going to see affordable, playable polysynths in 2014? We've got the affordable monosynth territory well-covered by now.

Dec.05.2013 @ 12:01 PM
Chris Randall
Most of my work-time, when I'm not assembling modules, is R&D, and that's one of the things I'm R-ing. I would very much like to offer a cheap(ish) poly desktop in the AD lineup, but CPUs being what they are, I don't know if cheap-ish is really an option. And analog poly is a fucking bear. You have to do everything N times. (Not that I really give a shit about "analog," when it comes to synths. My main concern is "good.")


Dec.05.2013 @ 12:22 PM
Great idea! Sadly, my SO is far too fucking organised for her (and I suppose by extension in this case, my) own good. She's already informed me that both my Christmas present AND birthday present (it's in late January...) have already arrived because she's so organised.

I'm sure they will be great and I love her but consider this a request for doing this in November next time around.

Dec.05.2013 @ 12:47 PM
dj empirical
Have you seen the MS-20 Mini / Make Noise synth vids that have been making the rounds?

Part 1 (of 4 so far): link []

Pretty fun, though they're not gonna make me buy an MS-20. (It doesn't help that I'd need an English Tear)

Dec.05.2013 @ 1:16 PM
I didn't know that VisualSound had moved into lower cost pedals (the Axel Grease Delay). I have an older Jekyll&Hyde, and it is pretty fantastic.

Dec.05.2013 @ 3:05 PM
RE: polys - Yeah, analog not a requirement. Good and playable are my top two criteria. I had a DSI Tetra that sounded great, but was pretty unplayable from a hands-on standpoint. Got rid of it within a week. A poly seems like it should be relatively easy, especially if you already have a software synth as a basis. Then again, I don't know shit! Maybe cheapish, poly, and playable is a unicorn.

Dec.05.2013 @ 8:31 PM
The volca bass is $149 in b&h photo tax free if you are not in NY. Just throwing it out there.

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