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Vyper

Buying a Synth

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Hi all,

I'm looking to buy a synth to fulfill both studio and performance needs. Now, this is going to be a big budget blow-out for me so I'd like to get some opinions.

I tend toward harder dance, like hardcore and hard trance kind of stuff. I've been to a shop and played around with the Korg M3 (total disappointment) and Roland Fantom X (which I absolutely loved) but they didn't have a Motif XS out for demo. I've looked at some videos of the Motif and it seems pretty nifty. I know the Fantom G just came out but I haven't been able to demo one yet.

So, Fantom X? Or is the Fantom G worth the money for an upgrade? Or should I go for the Motif XS?

Thanks.

~ Velly

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May I ask what you use for your main sequencer? If you use FL Studio or something that uses VSTs I might suggest a soft synth and a MIDI controller. It would most likely be about half the price and, depending on what synth you get, could be much more useful. For instance, I would HIGHLY recommend Reaktor 5. its about 400 bucks, but you can probably buy it for somewhere around 300 (or 200 if you're a student) and an Axiom is about 175 for a 25 key (about 300 for the 61 key I believe). If you buy Reaktor you get about 20 synths and then can download about 500 REALLY good synths from their user library. That, and it comes with a variety of sequencers, drum machines, TONS of high quality FX and you can even build your own synths and FX.

However, if you're dead set on a hardware synth, which can be much more useful for the tactile feel alone, I have heard very good things about the Motif series.

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What disappointed you about the Korg M3? Just curious.

Assuming you want to do live performance (and that you don't want to cart a laptop and audio interface around), you'll probably be better off asking at a site like keyboard forums (I post there too). Not too many people here that I know of have made big-budget keyboard purchases, although some have; more people here use software-based methods and a MIDI controller than a hardware keyboard.

What's your experience with synth sound design? Are you looking for a unit that's good out of the box, or are you happy making your own sounds?

Is there any reason why you gravitated towards workstation keyboards instead of looking at hardware synths?

As far as recording goes, are you planning to do everything on your keyboard, or would spending a bit on a DAW so you get better recording capabilities and a better sequencer appeal to you?

Are there any other sounds you want out of a keyboard than typical synth sounds? Are you looking for rich orchestral stuff as well? Good acoustic piano? Good keyboards and organs? Or is some/all of that stuff secondary?

As for keyboards, I know a lot of people were disappointed with the Fantom G. In some ways, it's much better than the Fantom X, including having better and more sounds, but in other ways, people find it broken. I can't remember exactly what, but there were a number of good features that the X had that didn't make it to the G. Personally, I've never been impressed with Roland; I find Korgs to be the more versatile keyboards and Yamahas to be the best at quality acoustic instruments.

Honestly though, this is a big purchase; don't spend a dime until you've gotten to try *all* of the Fantom X, Fantom G, Korg M3, and Motif XS.

Also, do you need the features of the flagship workstations, or could you settle for something cheaper, like the Korg M50 or an older Motif ES or MO6/MO8?

Personally, if I was buying one of the flagship workstations, I'd go for the Motif XS without having to think about it, unless I saw an M3 on for a really good deal.

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I tend toward harder dance, like hardcore and hard trance kind of stuff.

Workstations contain bread & butter sounds and don't go deep into actual alternative territory, so I'm not surprised by that.

All of those workstations have samplers but they're included more as an afterthought. Sampling is done better on software anyway.

In terms of sequencing - they're linear. For dance you'd rather want something pattern-based.

See if there's a Virus Snow in the store you've demo'd these in.

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Thanks for the responses.

@Hy Bound: Yeah, it's mostly a tactile feel sort of thing, and for live performance. DAW's just never cut it for eliminating latency and intuitive control setups (even with a control surface). I also like the look. So it's a cosmetic thing, and a little bit of an intangible. An actual keyboard just works better musically in some undefinable way.

@Kanthos: The M3 just didn't have quite the sound quality, features, or intuitive interface I'd expected, but I guess I was surrounded by Korg over-hype up to the time i tried it. I'm quite comfortable with sound design, so user-friendliness takes a backseat for me. I would love to have a variety of sounds, both synthetic and acoustic, but I'd rather have excellent synth sounds and poor acoustic sounds than the alternative. I would rather do everything on the keyboard, both live and in the studio, to keep a consistent sound.

@Yoozer: The virus snow doesn't have a keyboard! That's one of the major reasons for me to buy a synth. The Polar looks cool but it's a little up there in price range...

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I don't know much about hardware, but I'm pretty sure that the Virus is pretty much the GO TO synth for any dance music, period. Those superwaves are killer... (albeit, overused)

You could always get the polar, as well as a midi controller. Then you'd have the hardware sound + any vst's you want to pick up along the way to supplement the virus.

(although it's pricey, I'm pretty sure it'd be worth it in the end - the virus is so crazy warm its ridiculous)

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@Yoozer: The virus snow doesn't have a keyboard!

Welcome to 1982 when they invented MIDI :). Just buy a controller - while the TI's keyboard is excellent, the Polar's isn't and an M-Audio Axiom or Xboard will work just as well.

It means dragging along 2 machines, yes - but this is not an issue at all. The Snow fits in your pocket, and if the keyboard is ever hit you won't have to kill people (just maim them badly) for ruining your $$$$ synth.

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I don't know much about hardware, but I'm pretty sure that the Virus is pretty much the GO TO synth for any dance music, period. Those superwaves are killer... (albeit, overused)

You could always get the polar, as well as a midi controller. Then you'd have the hardware sound + any vst's you want to pick up along the way to supplement the virus.

(although it's pricey, I'm pretty sure it'd be worth it in the end - the virus is so crazy warm its ridiculous)

I disagree that the Virus is the go-to dance synth. Tons of people use softsynths as well as hardware ones like the Nord Lead. A few popular softsynths would be FM7/FM8, Reaktor, Albino, Nexus, Vanguard, Predator, and Zebra.

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Completely agree. There is a quote from dance producer Arksun where he says that more dance producers use software more than people realize. Some use software only. As far as I know Arksun uses only softsynths.

To add to the synths zircon mentioned would be Blue and the JP8000 (overused but still sounds great, just like the Virus :)) Although IMO if you are willing to splash the cash just go for Omnisphere. They just updated it with new dance patches and DAMN...they are prob exactly what you are looking for. Omnisphere has the it's own synth engine along with tons of samples and raw waveforms from other synths and other crazy stuff. It's only $500 compared to the hefty price of a snow.

I disagree that the Virus is the go-to dance synth. Tons of people use softsynths as well as hardware ones like the Nord Lead. A few popular softsynths would be FM7/FM8, Reaktor, Albino, Nexus, Vanguard, Predator, and Zebra.

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I just checked out the Omnisphere demo videos... :shock:

I think I'll go for that plus a controller. Thanks, avaris. :)

Would I have any latency problems if I ran the Omnisphere off an external USB hard drive? There's no way I can get 50 gigs of space on my main hard drive...

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I disagree that the Virus is the go-to dance synth. Tons of people use softsynths as well as hardware ones like the Nord Lead. A few popular softsynths would be FM7/FM8, Reaktor, Albino, Nexus, Vanguard, Predator, and Zebra.

IMO, the only softsynths out there that that sound even remotely close to the virus is the fantastic Sylenth1. Albino, nexus, vanguard, etc etc all have nifty patches and cool sounds - but they can't do the 412 voice on one note craziness that the virus can. They just sound thin when a/b'd. (and I'm not just talking out my ass, I have a friend who has a polar and we've tried it)

Although I totally forgot about omnisphere. now THAT is a nice piece of softsynth - although I can't say I've had the pleasure of messing with it.

Isn't it crazy on CPU usage though? I was under the impression that you couldn't use it on more than 3 or 4 tracks simultaneously. Or maybe that's just my rationalization for not having it yet..:(

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Nope, there shouldn't be any latency. I used EWQLSO and Colossus off of an external hard-drive and truthfully that was the most stable and responsive it has ever been.

If you really have 2000 to plop down on a synth, go with Omnisphere AND Reaktor. That would be the last synth/effect bundle you would need for years and years. Add that to a nice controller like an axiom or something and you have a sweet little package.

NOTE: I have a Novation X-Station, which is a synth and MIDI-controller combo and only about 500 bucks; i would also recommend that. Though, not as highly as Reaktor, but I regard Reaktor JUST below god in the importance scale.

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IMO, the only softsynths out there that that sound even remotely close to the virus is the fantastic Sylenth1.

It however loses in the complexity department, having no such thing as PWM, wavetables, or the new oscillator models.

I'm convinced that Albino and Sylenth1 overlap with parts of the Virus, but as of yet there's nothing that emulates it completely.

However, making the Nexus sounds (courtesy from Vengeance) is not hard if you know the trick - unison, unison, unison.

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I disagree that the Virus is the go-to dance synth. Tons of people use softsynths as well as hardware ones like the Nord Lead. A few popular softsynths would be FM7/FM8, Reaktor, Albino, Nexus, Vanguard, Predator, and Zebra.

You have to admit that the Virus has had a big hand in creating a lot of electronic tracks though. I had one for like, a week or two and I kind of regret taking it back (I couldn't part with $2000 at that point) and its like the Rolls Royce of synths.

THAT SAID, baaaad first synth and really only needed if you're top of the pops to begin with (f you catch my drift). The first REAL synth I got I cannot reccomend enough: Z3ta+. It is 6 years old now but still fantastic, and once you learn it you've learned most modern sytnhs. Albino is also fantastive, but Z3ta+ is the easiest to wrap your head around if you aren't used to using complex synths.

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IMO, the only softsynths out there that that sound even remotely close to the virus is the fantastic Sylenth1. Albino, nexus, vanguard, etc etc all have nifty patches and cool sounds - but they can't do the 412 voice on one note craziness that the virus can. They just sound thin when a/b'd. (and I'm not just talking out my ass, I have a friend who has a polar and we've tried it)

Although I totally forgot about omnisphere. now THAT is a nice piece of softsynth - although I can't say I've had the pleasure of messing with it.

Isn't it crazy on CPU usage though? I was under the impression that you couldn't use it on more than 3 or 4 tracks simultaneously. Or maybe that's just my rationalization for not having it yet..:(

Someone recreated a whole bank of Virus presets using Zebra. It sounds just as good if not better, and is certainly more flexible, cheaper, and easier to use.

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Someone recreated a whole bank of Virus presets using Zebra. It sounds just as good if not better, and is certainly more flexible, cheaper, and easier to use.

There is also a Virus mod for Z3ta+ that uses the Virus Waveforms

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I've only used the z3ta virus mod, so I can't speak for the zebra presets, but, at least for me, it failed to impress.

(and zircon, if you could link me to said zebra bank I'd be really grateful - all I found through google was a bunch of arguments on kvr over pretty much this same topic. XD)

Anyway, just going to suggest another synth I totally forgot - GForce's Minimonsta. It can do unisons until your cpu explodes into firey chunks. It's awesome.

Their ImpOscar is most likely just as good, but I haven't had any experience with it yet. Someone else can probably chime in here on it.

Another thing I learned from a friend for getting even fatter sounds for - use a preamp. He had some synths running out of the computer into a preamp then back into the box, and, wow, did it make a world of difference.

I don't know if you can recreate that same effect digitally, but it might be worth to invest in some decent preamps/converters so you can get that "analog" (oh no I said "it") sound.

I don't want to start a virus war, and I'm sure that plenty of dance producers do use soft synths (or maybe that's what they tell you so you won't sound like them? haha), but it's a pricey, wonderful synth.

And for people like me who absolutely suck at synth programming, it's relatively easy to dial in sounds on.

/my 2c

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all I found through google was a bunch of arguments on kvr over pretty much this same topic. XD)

I found those too and I was kind of surprised that they were so bent on burning that thing down. Must be due to the fact that it costs a fortune - but they can't download a demo of it.

I could understand this with a horde of people asking for "the Virus sound", preferably for free and with a complimentary puppy.

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I found those too and I was kind of surprised that they were so bent on burning that thing down. Must be due to the fact that it costs a fortune - but they can't download a demo of it.

The things I would do for a vst "hardware-free" access synth would make the klondike bar go cry in a corner...:-P

I'd even be ok with it if it didn't come with a puppy.

A demo, yes. But a small furry mammal is optional.

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There's the Access Virus Powercore, but you need a Creamware (now Soniccore) dsp soundcard for that.

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Powercore is TC Electronic, not Creamware ;). Creamware/SonicCore have their own synth builders.

Main reason I wouldn't get it is because the Virus B is cheaper and it won't break with software updates.

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