How to choose a vintage Analog synth ?
There are two categories of vintage synthesizers, the digital and the analog, we are interested in analog synthesizers :
1. In which case buying a vintage analog synthesizer ?
. In case you're tired of the usual ''flat'' sounds from virtual instruments and other fake analog synths called ''virtual analog'' who are trying to emulates analog synths.
. In case you are looking for the same '' phatt '' sound of your favorite artists without never getting the same sound quality, in your productions, or even the same synths dynamics of your favorite albums ? Look no further, you are looking for an analog synthesizer !
So you are looking for an analog synthesizer. But why a vintage ? In fact the main asset of vintage analog synthesizers is that they all have a sonic character all their own, one could say they each have their own personality ! Another interesting aspect, is that you have a lot more choice in vintage analog synthesizers than in modern analog synths (there's only a few modern analog synths who sounds good). And a last point is that vintage analog synths have an History.
2. What budget ?
Currently (year 2010. Updated in 2015), it is clear that to find a vintage analog synth in perfect working condition, the minimum budget is 500 euros. Of course there are exceptions and you can find cheaper through the classifieds ads or on ebay, but there's a large risk of ending up with a synthesizer that does not work or works poorly and will cost you much more at the end if you have to pay a professional to restore the synth. So first tip : buy your vintage analog synthesizer with a professional like vintagesynthshop which will guarantee its smooth functioning and also ensure that the synthesizer is in tune and calibrated on scope as required, cause a vintage analog synthesizer is not a only a collector item but above all a musical instrument !
3. A vintage analog synthesizer Monophonic or polyphonic ?
Looking to create bass sounds, powerful leads or old science fiction movies sounds ? In this case, what you are looking for is a vintage analog monophonic synthesizer ! On a monophonic synthesizer you can play one note at a time.
Looking to create voluptuous layers, special effects and complex atmosphere sounds with rich harmonics, or simply want to be able to play chords ? In this case, what you are looking for is a vintage polyphonic analog synthesizer ! In a polyphonic synthesizer you can play several notes simultaneously.
4. Editing sounds with knob Controller or menus ?
Your budget will have an important place for this choice. Whether monophonic or polyphonic, vintage analog synthesizers with front controller are generally more expensive than their counterparts where the sounds edition is done through menus and sub-menus. Second important point to consider is the use being made of the synthesizer : only live, only in studio, or both ?
To use in studio only, editing sounds using menus is nicely for a smaller budget.
For live use, it is your style of music which is important for the choice :
. You make '' very live '' electronic music and you need to constantly manipulate the filter and change the speed of the LFO... So in this case, prefer a vintage analog synthesizer with front panel sounds editing using knobs or faders.
. Most of the time you use the synth in live, you need to find your sound ''rough'' without being modified live, so in this case prefer a vintage analog synthesizer with sounds editing by menus. In the vintage analog synthesizers world, sounds editing from menus is in 99% of cases, coupled with the fact that you can save your sounds after powering Off the synth, so it's also a important point.
5. DCO or VCO ?
VCO and DCO are both analog oscillators. (oscillators generate sound)
VCO for '' voltage controlled oscillator '' : A voltage that varies the speed of the analog oscillator. DCO for '' Digitally controlled Oscillator '' : A digital chip varies the speed of the analog oscillator.
The VCO based synths generally have a thicker sound than a DCO based synth. The VCO typically require fifteen minutes of''warming''before being in tune. In case of failure, the various components that comprise a VCO, are generally still existing and readily findable.
The DCO based synths generally sounds slightly less ''thick'' than a VCO based synth, but they do not require heating time and not go out of tune very often. For cons, the DCO based synth shall consist of obsolete and hard to find components (except in vintagesynthshop stock). Of course we should not make generalizations and there are always exceptions, because as I said before each vintage analog synthesizer has its own character, so it's possible that we could find a DCO based synth that sounds more ''phatt'' than another VCO based synth.
6. MIDI or CV/Gate ?
MIDI : You all know the MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) it is the current standard that allows to communicate with synthesizers, drum machines sequencers and other electronic instruments. MIDI transmit digital information of pitch, tempo ... MIDI has become the norm since its appearance around the year 1984. But before that digital time, there was another analog standard, allowing machines to communicate with each other : the CV/Gate.
The CV/Gate : This analog mode allows the communication of information such as : pitch, length of notes... This information is provided by electrical impulses transmitted through jack cables. But at the time of the CV/Gate each manufacturer trying to impose its standard, so there are several formats, the CV/Gate with the volts per Octave standard (Roland, Sequential Circuits, Oberheim, Arp, Moog ... just connector pins differ sometimes ...) and the Hrz per octave standard (mainly used by Korg and Yamaha).
To choose a vintage analog synthesizer we must therefore ask ourselves how it is used: With modern machines that communicate in MIDI ? With other CV/Gate vintage synthesizers ? With vintage CV/Gate synths connected to MIDI modern machines ?
To interact with vintage and modern equipment you may need a MIDI to CV/Gate converter. There are several models of MIDI to CV/Gate converters and this at different prices, it will be the number of machines that you have to connect, that will make the choice when selecting a converter. The most complete are those of the Kenton brand, they are found around 200 euros to 400 euros for the most complete. In the analog synths produced around the year 1985, there are few models that offer both CV/Gate and MIDI ! To purchase a vintage analog synth, if you favor the ''phatt'' sound, in most cases, you will have to ignore the non-presence of MIDI.
That is, all these criteria will help you to choose a vintage synthesizer, but if you ask yourself more questions about the choice of a vintage synth, feel free to contact me using the ''Contact'' section, I will answer you objectively even if it is to refer you to a machine that we do not offer for sale.