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View Full Version : Choosing one of the Budget Synths


Aingeal
11-04-2009, 02:46 PM
I think I've found the best synths for a low budget, the Alesis Micron, the microKORG XL and the Novation Xiosynth.

Which one of these would be the best for my first synth? Or is there something even better in the same price range that I missed?

(I was originally going to get a keyboard that could double as a piano for my mother, but she recently inherited a upright, just in case someone who saw my last thread was wondering.)

zircon
11-04-2009, 02:50 PM
Is there a reason why you want a hardware synth? They're more expensive and less powerful than software synths, as well as less versatile and of course harder to use (can't just render them offline.)

theshaggyfreak
11-04-2009, 03:11 PM
I wouldn't say that a hardware synth is less powerful or versatile. It really just depends on the work flow of the user. I personally prefer to use hardware synths but they can be I admit that they can be more expensive. IMHO, though, something like the Xiosynth or the Micron is much more portable than a laptop and a MIDI controller.

Here's a couple things to think about. What are your needs? Are you looking to play in a band or are you just going to record with it? What type of sounds are you looking to get out of it?

If you're looking to do some live performing, any of the synths you suggested would work fine. I actually owned a Xiosynth for a short time and it was a lot of fun to use although it was a bit tedious going through the menus to create new sounds. I can't really comment too deeply on the others since I haven't used any of the extensively.

Personally, I feel that if you're going to get something in the hardware real, you might want to look at something that's has a pure analog signal path. Why? As advanced as soft synths have gotten, they still have yet to completely mimic the sound of analog. It really has to do with the chaos factor that analog circuitry has.

I recently picked up a Dave Smith Mopho (http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Mopho/) which runs about $400. This little guy is awesome! If you're looking to get into analog, this is a great synth to start with. Granted, you'll need a MIDI controller to use it but there are tons of those that you can grab on any sort of budget.

If you're really just looking to do things around the house and you're really not sure what type of sounds you want, you may want to just look into a MIDI controller and a quality soft synth. The plus side of going this route is that you can try a number of different ones until you find one that you like to use. When you buy a piece of hardware like the Mopho, you're committing yourself to the sound that it gives you.

These are just some things to think about....

avaris
11-04-2009, 03:22 PM
Is there a reason why you want a hardware synth? They're more expensive and less powerful than software synths, as well as less versatile and of course harder to use (can't just render them offline.)

Agreed. If you are going for a specific type of sound or timbre that only exists on the hardware synth you wanna buy then you should go for it. A "real" analog might be worth it, like the mopho shaggy mentioned.

IMO I have used a Micron a bit and it's a pretty good work horse. But it's not worth $400 if that's what they are still going for. Spectrasonics Omnisphere is $500 and beats the pants off of any midrange synth and then some.

theshaggyfreak
11-04-2009, 03:26 PM
Agreed. If you are going for a specific type of sound or timbre that only exists on the hardware synth you wanna buy then you should go for it. A "real" analog might be worth it, like the mopho shaggy mentioned.

Actually, if you really want to go the analog route (and you're handing with a solder iron), you can try building your own synth! I'm actually in the process of doing this.

big giant circles
11-04-2009, 04:13 PM
Don't have any experience with the Xiosynth personally, so I can't say much there, but between the Micron and the Korg, I'd easily go for the Micron.

Korg really took a step backwards on that one, IMO. Trust me, the tiny keys get pretty annoying after a minute, plus the whole thing just feels really cheaply built. The Korg R3 on the other hand, much cooler. Great analog sounds, full sized keys, and just all around a step up.

Arcana
11-04-2009, 04:37 PM
I bought a Micron a couple of years ago for $400. I like it, but I don't really use its hardware capabilities much. For example I don't record its audio for anything I make nor do I create my own sounds.

While some people here might have suggested that I should have just bought a MIDI controller (I have one), there are huge creative benefits to having the hardware synth around, and that's the ability to goof off whenever you want. Feel like pounding out some chords? Power on and play. Drum beat gnawing at your head? Power on and play. I guess I could have used a Casio keyboard with MIDI out for the same purpose, but the Micron also doesn't sound like poo.

But I do recommend you sit around and actually play with the synths in the store for a while and see if you like their sounds, as well as their controls.

Yoozer
11-04-2009, 07:48 PM
The Korg R3 has fullsized keys and costs only a bit more than the XL. For that you get a better user interface, a better keyboard and a more solid machine in general.

Buy them secondhand. If you don't like them, you can pass them on for what you bought 'm for.

Kanthos
11-04-2009, 08:59 PM
But I do recommend you sit around and actually play with the synths in the store for a while and see if you like their sounds, as well as their controls.

The only reason for not trying out any instrument before you buy it is if you live a ridiculously long distance from a music store. Instruments aren't computers, where the specs tell you all you need and the character of each computer isn't that important. Reading over the specs of each instrument is important (especially for keyboards), but nothing compares to trying it out yourself.

theshaggyfreak
11-04-2009, 09:37 PM
The only reason for not trying out any instrument before you buy it is if you live a ridiculously long distance from a music store. Instruments aren't computers, where the specs tell you all you need and the character of each computer isn't that important. Reading over the specs of each instrument is important (especially for keyboards), but nothing compares to trying it out yourself.

While I do agree, I've often purchased a number of instruments after just reading reviews and maybe watching some Youtube videos. I never tried a Mopho out and I bought it just on it's reputation. Then again, you can do that with certain companies.

Yoozer
11-05-2009, 06:28 AM
It also helps that it's so cheap that it almost falls into impulse buy territory, and it's easy to send back if you don't like it ;-).

Nase
11-05-2009, 12:11 PM
I had a microkorg (the classic one) for a while, but didn't get to much use out of it.
The sounds are pretty nice, but it's nothing you couldn't do with software.
Editing patches is bothersome and unintuitive with the few knobs available, you'd have to get very familiar with all the submenus to feel somewhat comfortable with the editing process, and it still wouldn't be as fast as having a complete layout with all parameters in front of you. It does have a software editor, but then again why not just use software.

I think these little boxes (korg/micron alike) mostly are useful to live performers or people who don't use VSTs (e.g. those who don't like the workflow of software sequencers).

What I have now is a little monophonic analogue synth, the Doepfer Dark Energy. Not nearly as powerful from a sound design perspective as the digital synths comparable in price, but it sounds nice and the most important thing is that there's a knob for each and every parameter. You can really work this thing and get lost in tweaking it.

I can't say that I've used it in a lot of my music yet either (software is still the best for getting things done for me), but it's simply loads of fun.
The fact that it's analogue isn't all that important to me, it's the direct access to everything the synth can do that i find so valuable. I haven't seen any digital synth below $500 that offers just that. Of course, digital synths usually are more complex and thus would require more knobs.

Well, YMMV. There's a pretty high demand for these low budget synths, so I didn't have any trouble selling my microkorg for a decent price. Maybe you have to own one for a while to really know if it's the right thing for you.

OverCoat
11-05-2009, 07:52 PM
Why does everyone want NEW synths? :(

look to the 80s yo. I'm planning to get a DX7 sometime in the future

My Ensoniq ESQ-1 kicks ass and no VSTi emulate it except for one, but the VSTi more closely resembles the SQ-80 and is not as intuitive as using my ESQ-1, which lays everything out for me nicely.

Aingeal
11-06-2009, 11:39 AM
Thanks everyone, firstly I wanted to say the reason I want a synth is because I doubt my LG netbook could run my copy of Reason 4.0 with any reliability. If it could I probably would go with a MIDI controller.

But I'm mostly going to be doing orchestral pieces, so perhaps software would be a better choice.

I'm not certain, I'm new to this guys, guide me. :-P

Kanthos
11-06-2009, 12:59 PM
If you want good orchestral, why are you looking at a synth and not a workstation or arranger keyboard? You're right, you might be pushing it for good orchestral samples (at very least, you'd have to do a lot of track freezing to get remotely good performance on a netbook), but getting any of the synths you listed won't take you any closer to achieving what you want.

Aingeal
11-06-2009, 02:03 PM
I wasn't totally certain what genre I wanted to go into at first, but I've settled on orchestral because it's the most natural for my mind to think of.

Anyways, What would you recommend in a arranger or workstation in my price range then? $500 max.

big giant circles
11-06-2009, 03:09 PM
I wasn't totally certain what genre I wanted to go into at first, but I've settled on orchestral because it's the most natural for my mind to think of.

Anyways, What would you recommend in a arranger or workstation in my price range then? $500 max.

If you're looking for orchestral with a $500 max budget, then you should definitely go the softsynth route as there's really not any hardware I can think of in this range that has good synth OR sampled sounds. You'd be better off saving your money until you can splurge a little more on something nicer. Otherwise, what'll happen is you'll realize how limited your sound-quality and options are and then probably end up either trying to sell what you bought (for a substantial loss) or just flat out starting over. Then you're just set back $500. :)

I think what you should do is buy Native Instruments Komplete 6 (http://www.zzounds.com/a--925434/item--NINKOMPLETE) (remember to use that link when you do) because it's on sale for a mere $500 right now which would give you Kontakt which will have a very nice variety of orchestral and world sounds, and plenty of electronic sounds and pads as well, and a Guitar Rig, which is not only good for guitar but pretty much anything.

If you're worried your computer can't handle it, most of those things are not all that CPU intensive, and if it's a storage issue, then just snag an ext USB harddrive or something--they're dirt cheap lately. Then just snag a MIDI controller and you're in business. You certainly won't find any hardware that comes close to the quality and sheer quantity of sounds as Komplete until you get closer to the $2000-3000 range.

theshaggyfreak
11-06-2009, 03:45 PM
If this netbook has problems running Reason (which is very CPU efficient), I seriously doubt that Komplete is going to work either. Unfortunately a decent work station keyboard is going to be well above your $500 limit. There are some cheap Yamaha keyboards like this (http://www.zzounds.com/item--YAMYPG535) but I'm not sure that would help you much. At this point, you may want to start scouring craigslist to see if you can find a deal.

big giant circles
11-06-2009, 03:54 PM
If this netbook has problems running Reason (which is very CPU efficient), I seriously doubt that Komplete is going to work either. Unfortunately a decent work station keyboard is going to be well above your $500 limit. There are some cheap Yamaha keyboards like this (http://www.zzounds.com/item--YAMYPG535) but I'm not sure that would help you much. At this point, you may want to start scouring craigslist to see if you can find a deal.

Yeah, Shaggy's right, don't buy that keyboard. You might like it for a couple months, but you'd grow sick of it in a hurry.

Anyway, reiterating what I said, just save up. If that means you should save up enough to upgrade your computer as well, then do it. You can buy a new laptop PLENTY fast enough to run Reason/Komplete etc for like $300 now. I sure hate to see people buy something that is not what they need just because they're on a budget.

Aingeal
11-12-2009, 12:33 PM
If I was able to get a computer that could run Reason what should I do for a MIDI controller? I can spend $600 tops at the moment, but would prefer somewhere around $400. Or would a good controller still be out of my price range?

Kanthos
11-12-2009, 12:51 PM
If you want weighted keys (feeling more like a piano), then no. For that money though, you can easily get an M-Audio Axiom series, and possibly an M-Audio Axiom Pro. Korg has some decent-looking controllers as well, and there are a few brands I don't really know anything about that might also be good.

Yoozer
11-12-2009, 07:48 PM
If I was able to get a computer that could run Reason what should I do for a MIDI controller? I can spend $600 tops at the moment

Is that for the computer and the controller? Any computer that's not older than 3 years and has an ASIO soundcard can run Reason, that's not the problem.

Or would a good controller still be out of my price range?
Get an E-mu Xboard 49 and be happy.