Update: also check out this post for Sonic State's podcast on the list.
JB thought it would be fun to come up with an underrated synth list in the same vein as The first synth to post. I think this might be a pretty cool idea. I think all synths have something to offer and it would be interesting to see what people come up with. So here is how it will work. Put a synth you chose in the comments with 1 to 3 main points on why you think it's underrated and I'll update the list in this post. Make sure to follow the format below, or it doesn't go up. I need to be able to just copy and paste it in. You can discuss away in the comments, but only the list will get updated in the body of the post. Note the reasons can be a combination of what was cool about the synth in your opinion and what you believe kept it from gaining higher status. And yes, you can cheat by combining small things like I did below. I'll make this a sticky post on the right of the site as well so we can check it out and add to it over time as other posts go up. That said. I'll start with two. The most underrated synth in my book of course starts with:
The Oberheim Matrix-6
1. The modulation capabilities for the price - ramp and tracking generators, release velocity, matrix modulations, etc.
2. It is completely overshadowed by it's bigger brother the Matrix-12.
3. It is a CEM based DCO analog and categorized as one of the lesser sounding poly analogs along with it. It's true to an extent but I still like it's sound and it is the source of name of my alias and this site. : ) My first synth.
The Rhodes/ARP Chroma
1. It's just as incredible sounding as the more popular analog poly monsters like the Roland Jupiter-8, SCI Prophet 5, Oberheim OB-Xa, Memorymoog and so on, but for some reason it never seems to get the same recognition. I found one for US $950 in prestine condition from a shop that usually overprices gear.
2. It has a weighted keyboard and mod settings to die for. It's one of the most expressive and best sounding synths I have ever played. Definitely in a class of it's own.
1. the Elka synthex was much underrated too because of its brand. It's a fantastic synth anyway.
1. Same goes for the Mono/Poly. sounds great. The AArpeggiator tands for it´s own since u can play all 4 osc at different settings in Polymode, one by one ...
2. Put the lfo waveform between the waveform you wanna chosse and it starts sounding mad.
3. And then there´s crossmod, Xmod and so on ...
1. Another underrated synth is the monophonic synth in the Crumar Performer. It really got balls. The bass sounds as thick as my Moog Prodigy. Of cause very limited in parameters, but a great bass synth.
1. For *today's* underrated vintage gear, my vote is and always shall be the Roland JX-3P, provided you've got the PG-200 controller. You can do all the basic analog functionality, it sounds great, and a rig like this can be had for $500 or less.
Sequential Circuits MAX
1. I think the Sequential MAX is underrated, it's usually dismissed as some kind of toy but in reality it has te same architecture as the Six-Trak and has midi cc control over every parameter. The fact that it as no control knobs it the main reason for its lack of appeal, but any midi controller will do the job.
1. Casio HT-700. Resonant analog filters, DCO's, chorus, better sounding than the Poly-800 IMNSHO. Also, you can fully program the cheeeeesy presets (rhythm, bass-line, auto-chords) for ultra Casio rock-out sessions.
2. To make it scream, however, you gotta take the leash off those resonant filters by modding it.
1. Why didn't the FS1R do better? How come nobody talks about it now? Its 8 voice operators (and the 8 unvoiced) represents the most advanced FM spec ever released. I know its hard to program, but SoundDiver fixed that. And, they only cost about $400! Put down your copies of FM7/8 and get one of these!
4. matrix modulation
1. it has a very industrial science lab sound which hasn't been used on a million albums like a moog, arp, etc...
2. 4 oscillators
3. fully patchable with 1/4" jacks
4. monophonic or duophonic
5. built like a tank
1. Great sounding beast with it's own character.
2. Often compared to the Juno 60 or Akai AX
3. Sweet moogish filter and killer chorus together with the ring mod makes it possible to do some fairlight/wavetable type sounds and lushhhh strings that easily blow the arp omni/solina away.
4. 2x multitimbral, 3 unison modes (4, 2, mono (8 x 2 oscs + sub osc) and neat portamento and glissando effects
5. It's an affordable alternative to Roland's Juno60, Akai's 80, korg polysex.
6. My first digitally controlled analog synth with midi and I really dig this big lcd display with red glowing letters and the LED's for each and every parameter.
7. Overlooked because of Kawai's marketing strategy and timing
It should be regarded as one of the best analog synths ever made. Why would someone pay $5k for a 8 voice Oberheim?
The reasons are:
2) Polyphonic (16 voice)
3) Extremely versatile: no need for any other polysynth
4) Lot of knobs for real time tweaking
5) You can modulate everything with everything
7) 3 LFO
8) 3 seven stage envelope
9) ribbon controller
10) the best portamento I have ever seen
1. Most people say it's sequencer is useless and that it's no fun to program, or that it's thin on bass.
2. I actually like the six monophonic traks that it's sequencer has. I find it useful for sketching out ideas.
3. Latching the arpegiator and then switching to a new patch to play along with is also nice.
4. The stack feature adds 2 patches of unholy unison mono-synth terror.
5. I love the lights that trigger for each of the six voices.
6. Though it's sposed'ly only a single oscilator per voice this doesn't account for the fact that you can turn on/off Square, saw, triangle, individually so they are sort of stacked but not individually tuneable.
7. Like the Max everything is on a continuous controller. Get used to the aliasing though it really is DCO.
for it's bi-timbral keyboard and wheel splitting capability and of course all those sliders. If only it had Portamento/Glide.
Korg M-500 Micropreset
1. Dead simple to use
2. Very portable for an 70's analog synth
3. Very fun to use despite it's limitations
4. you can mix the presets, which is kind of a mystery to me since it's just a simple single osc, single vcf synth - how is this possible?? It's a mystery box!!
6. Fat, funky sound
The Waldorf Microwave 1
How much more value for money do you want?
1. The famous wavetable synthese + user definable wavetables
2. Creamy, very useful analog filters
3. 8 voices
4. deep programming possibilities
5. user definable presets
And you find these between 300-400 euro's. That's not much money per voice :)
yamaha's acoustic physical modelling synth.
1. it models just about every mono/duophonic acoustic instrument on the planet, very well.
2. I use it to create 80% of the sounds i've used in everysong i've ever written. and it only gets better with time.
3. because of its physical model nature, it actually takes practice to master, which means;
a. no two sound alike
b. it becomes easy to play, realisitically, any instrument it models, after a while. it takes practice. which means that not just anyone will be sounding like you.
4. it came with a wx power/midi port built in, so is perfectly matched with the yamaha wx5 this is easily the most powerful synth controller combo EVER. coupled with the fact that it is half rack size.
because it is special, FM synth but "simulated" subtractive control..
100€ and you are into the digital world of modulating samples and startpoints etc..
1-It is very much like the sixtrack but (sadly) it doesn't respond to midi CC.
2-It can stack up to 6 voices and is really easy to edit even with a single knob and some buttons.
3-As said before the cem3394 synth on a chip seems to contain a vco and not a dco.
Korg DSS-1 and Technics WSA-1
Both very cheap at present and both wonderful. Now I have one of each the truth can be told.