The Official Sequential/DSI Forum

Small DSI Modules

Small DSI Modules
« on: February 02, 2016, 07:43:46 AM »
Along with a few others on this forum, I'd like to see DSI return to producing smaller less expensive modules (of the hardwired type).  DSI built its reputation substantially on the Evolver Desktop and Mopho and Tetra Modules, along with their keyboard instruments.  Thanks to these, you could generally afford to slowly build up and modify your set up bit by bit, and without going into debt in the process.  It seemed as if, whatever your interests and financial circumstances were, DSI could help you.  Now that these three modules have been retired - rather than replaced - there's a noticeable vacuum in the DSI line up and a heavy leaning towards expensive instruments. 

With the brilliant new instruments and technology that DSI has recently developed, I hope the company will consider one or more small reasonably-priced modules, such as a one or two-voice version of the Prophet-6 or OB-6, perhaps using the ergonomics of the Prophet 12 Module.   
« Last Edit: February 08, 2016, 09:36:32 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2016, 12:17:00 AM »
I agree, but with KORG minilogue the US$499 synth with 4 voice polyphony it's not going to be easy as it used to be.

I have a feeling that learning from the mistake of the Sequential days, DSI is not eager to make reentry to the affordable price range. I do want to see their own answer to this market segment though.
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2016, 02:19:27 AM »
One of the things I admire about DSI is that they build their instruments in the U.S.A. In both the musical instrument and electronics industries, this is unusual. I realize that this is an international forum, and many members may wonder why that matters to me. But there are several reasons why it does--which I won't expand upon too much here--including issues related to labor practices, living wages, quality assurance, and, yes, perhaps even national pride at being home to one of the great makers of this era.

For many years, American instrument makers have stratified their lines to stay price-competitive. For example, the Fender American Standard Stratocaster sells for over $1200 (USD), while the Mexican-made instrument sells for about half that, and the Asian-made counterparts (under the Squier by Fender name) sell for half again. Gibson follows a similar pattern with their Les Paul guitars. Iconic American brands are routinely manufactured offshore to keep the prices down, as makers also continue to produce their high-end signature instruments at home.

Of course, I do not know what DSI's future plans are. If they are to return to the low-price instrument market, with any hope of standing ground in a market that they actually created, they'll probably find that they must follow that pattern. Offshore quality control is very good these days, and greater attention is being paid to human rights issues as they relate to labor practices. It may be that DSI is already investigating these options (or, at least, I think it would be the wise thing to do).

It takes time to pour through these options, and additional time to set up overseas production. Perhaps DSI's retreat from the lower-end market is temporary as they work through these issues. Or perhaps they've decided to keep manufacturing exclusively in the U.S.A., in which case the lower-end market is probably no longer an option for the foreseeable future.

I'm fascinated to see which way they go.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2016, 02:21:06 AM by chysn »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2016, 07:45:39 AM »
I've heard Dave say several times now - and with an emphasis that sounds like conviction - that DSI's products are designed and manufactured in the US.  It's not a coincidence or a convenience, but a fact that the man is obviously quite proud of; and speaking as an American, I am, too.

As for the lower end market - yes, things have changed since the early DSI modules.  The whole analog revival has resulted in an abundance of small inexpensive instruments - not to mention the minikeys phenomenon.  But DSI's products are unique and desirable for their voice architecture.  I don't think it would be a threat to DSI's stability if they dropped below the $1,000 price tag in one or two cases.  I'm not suggesting an assortment of cheap, cheap, cheap modules, but I am thinking of something comparable to the Tetr4. 

I suppose one difficulty now is the control panel issue.  DSI has commendably followed a parameter-ridden model with the Prophet '08 and Prophet-6, which is impossible to reproduce in small inexpensive instruments.  But again, there's the Prophet 12 Module, which could offer some ideas for a small one to four-voice module.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2016, 08:16:29 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2016, 09:26:55 PM »
While I am a fan of small modules and especially a fan of DSI's desktop modules ability to polychain, I much prefer the knob per function approach of the most recent desktop modules. I know they are much bigger, but I like the extra control that they offer. The way I thought of the older modules was as great additions to an existing DSI setup, rather than a complete instrument.

Incidentally, for a while there I was thinking that DSI was going to replace the small affordable analog modules (like the MoPho module) with Eurorack modules. I'm not so sure now though!

The fact that DSI makes their instruments in the US makes it difficult to compete in the small module market as far as I can tell. I don't think it's a coincidence that the classic DSI modules are no longer being produced. It's a shame though, because they offer so much more in terms of modulation than any of the other cheaper synthesizers. I realize the stagnant tones found in chiptunes are popular (and I really like the genre!), but ultimately I like an instrument to be interactive in terms of expression. That's where most of the newer and cheaper analog stuff doesn't compete with DSI.

In a sense, I think of the Tempest as the ultimate module. I understand that it is expensive when compared with other modules, but it is worth it all things considered. The fact that it has those pads and all of the performance capabilities makes it very visually appealing. This is something that more traditional modules fail at IMO. Furthermore, the footprint is extremely small.

Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2016, 06:32:39 AM »
Roland has managed to figure out how to handle the desktop / Eurorack shared form factor with the System-1m. Such a device might require an additional MIDI socket on the rear, as well as a cover plate for the Eurorack power connector when used as a desktop device, but it's very much possible.

Thing is, as I see it, this would still make the devices expensive (given the need to provide a knobby interface to drive it). And I'm not sure that the Eurorack ethos easily lends itself to polyphonic modules (the facility for which makes the Tetra highly interesting).
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2016, 08:11:56 AM »
If DSI can profit from small modules anymore, I cannot say... I'm not a bussiness fanatic, and don't even give a f*** about that aspect... others will have to deal with that topic...

But... if we're talking about small devices itself, I still feel that DSI has something that very few other manufacturers have... sure there are an abundance of small analog machines, but they lack MIDI capabilities and digital control almost all of them, or are so severely crippled in this department, that only a few companies still make the well specced ones... DSI, Waldorf and MOOG.... that's basicaly it.

So the song about lots of cheap analog being the reason DSI will not compete, I really don't give much for... DSI still has an advantage when it comes to digital control and engine depth... They can easily outconquer in this field, given that they actualy DO MAKE a low cost module, if not to replace their former small devices, then to make something new and unique... you do not need to make everything polyphonic to make an interresting a very useable synth... just do some creative thinking... do something that the other modules around cannot...

Not everyone is satisfied with an analog box, where you cannot save your presets, or control it from an editor... in fact I always see people complain about the lack of preset storage or MIDI functionality... so DSI could easily earn profits I think, by making new devices to replace those that has been discontinued.
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2016, 09:47:15 AM »
The company response to this has been, it's not impossible that DSI would offer a new small-sized inexpensive module, but it's also not likely for the time being, due to the various reasons named in this thread.  In accord with Chysn's comments, one of these is the new circumstances of the synthesizer market and the many new and relatively inexpensive instruments and modules that are now available.  But I would agree that DSI modules stand out from the others for their uniqueness.  What reasonably priced existing module could replace the Evolver, Mopho, or Tetr4?  In the case of the Evolver Desktop, where can you find four oscillators, programmability, and as much modulation and general flexibility for about $500?  Look at the limitations of a Minitaur or the price of a SEM.  When I look around for new modules, in spite of all, I still find myself coming back to DSI.  So, their matrix or parameter-sparse panels, which many of us didn't like, at least helped to make them quite affordable.  If I wasn't presently saving up for a new instrument - possibly an OB-6 - I'd buy another Evolver Desktop or a Tetr4 in a minute.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2016, 10:19:00 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2016, 11:15:01 AM »
The only just as programable synth out there, that fit's the bill of competing with those older cheap DSI synths are the Waldorf Pulse2 really... it's not 4 oscillators, and are not quite as comprehensive, but it is a powerhouse nonetheless, with both oscillators and filters that sound (to my ears), better than the older DSI devices... It does have three oscillators, and a full fledged modulation matrix, plus a multimode filter with analog distortion as well... and MIDI specs are all the way as good as any DSI instrument...

But other than that one... nothing really touches the old DSI instruments... in the cheap department... which means that when the last reserves of Mopho and Evolver runs out, I bet we'll see a used marked price increase for these modules...
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dslsynth

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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2016, 11:45:22 AM »
Thanks for taking up this topic, Sacred Synthesis. Much appreciated! In fact this is what I have been asking for from DSI for years now without anything happening at all!

And yeah, I think we should just rename DSI/Sequential - our proud Black and White Dinosaur (TM) - into Dave's Jewel Factory (TM).

And move on.

Sad!

Anyway, if DSI listens to what people says on the forums:
  • There are indeed a market for a more affordable small voice count module even at the price level DSI can sell them for. Just go for it!
  • While there may be many other affordable analog products on the market none of them sound like DSI, very few of them got a complex voice architecture nor a complete MIDI implementation for that matter (as Razmo says).
  • A standard user interface a la Prophet 12 module would be just perfect and very user friendly too.
  • Please no more monophonic modules. Make a two or four voice module instead as they got a higher voice contents over user interface cost ratio.
  • Be sure to include per voice external inputs on a two voice module and possibly on the four voice too.
  • Think in terms of a studio multi-tool: Complex voice architecture including layers and sequencer, a well sounding discrete filter, large space of potential sounds, fast percussion compatible envelopes.
  • If its a well sounding complex voice consider that some users will buy multiple identical modules over time just like what happened with Tetra: Instant gratification, expand voice count later on.
  • Support multi-timbral. The MPE controller users will LOVE to have a well sounding analog synthesizer with full expressiveness for use with their Seaboard/LinnStrument/Eigenharp/Continuum controllers.
  • Current DSI experience delivers usable multi-timbral support for one and two voice machines so there is another good reason for making a two voice module.
  • If DSI decides to make a module matching my taste please include both analog and digital oscillators, analog filter feedback and tuned feedback.

Basically everything in this list have been stated before by me and/or others in the community.

Yeah, market positioning can be complex in todays crowded analog synthesizer market. But don't forget the uniqueness of your offers, DSI/DJF!

;)
« Last Edit: February 08, 2016, 01:18:23 PM by dslsynth »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #10 on: February 08, 2016, 12:08:25 PM »
I haven't tried a Prophet 12 Module, but I've read the interface is excellent.  I had hoped that this might indicate the fresh new direction DSI would be taking with future modules.  DSI clearly has the technology and wits to do this, but apparently the market has them hesitating.  I understand it, but I wish it were otherwise.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2016, 05:53:03 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #11 on: February 08, 2016, 12:16:45 PM »
I would say that DSI/DJF are scared of the market when they should not be so. I mean, please continue with making one flagship instrument after another, but do work on the smaller modules in the background so that they can be made as a summer/autumn release when the timing is right.

The tech is there, the demand is there, less wealthy users will love them for it. What is takes is making the decision and actually do it. A standard user interface panel modeled after Prophet 12 module would be perfect.
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Razmo

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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2016, 02:22:25 AM »
They could at least just do like they did with the Mopho... make a one-voice version, interface cut-down version of the flagships they make... A one voice P12, A one voice P6, a one voice OB-6 etc... even a one-voice Tempest could be useful for users who make music with audio layering.

Besides this, I think it's also time that DSI start doing their OWN editors to come with the synths, free of charge... almost all other factories do this, and it would actualy allow them to leave the one voice synths with very skimmed down interfaces, as people could just use the editors for sound design.

Besides... if Waldorf can make cheap products... so can DSI... I'm not buying that profit excuse, I get this fealing that Dave simply is too interrested in the high-voice-count machines, and has lost interest in the cheap ones.... of course that is my gut feeling, and open to discussion, but I don't see why it should not be profitable... making a one-voice version of an allready bigger synth leaves you with the abillity to reuse most of the code and curcuit which is allready module based according to what I've read Pym state, and the curcuits are singlevoice based anyway, when you look at the boards (each voice clearly obvious on the print etc.). It's only minor changes to curcuits and code, only the casing would be new... but this is not an excuse because Dave often makes a module version right after releasing a flagship jewel, and even that module version has small changes to the code and curcuit too probably, since the interface is slightly different without the keys, and in some cases (like the P12 module) very different.

Sometimes I'm wondering, if the reluctance to make these now is that they actualy sell too well? ... leaving many users with a choice between the 1-voice version and the expensive jewwl, and that the user in many cases choose to "live with" the one-voice version, when they would have bought the expensive version if they were not there? ... I bet this is why Dave allways made a few bells and whistles, to make people crave them all.... but maybe itĘs not enough?
« Last Edit: February 09, 2016, 02:29:39 AM by Razmo »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2016, 11:51:01 AM »
Honestly I think its a question of making DSI realize that there is a space for them in that market too. I do get Dave's Jewel Drive (TM) and I think its important that he keeps realizing that drive. But if he is just a little bit smarter than now DSI would create a few lower voice count machines that people with smaller budgets can buy.

I do understand that this is just a user need and that the company thinks it got better things to do. But still!
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2016, 03:35:24 PM »
Another aspect is, that most new users, especialy the younger users, simply do not have the funds needed to buy these big jewels... so what better way to make them crave them, by first letting them buy a single voice version of them? ... many may not even consider them because of the steep price.... I'm an example of that myself... before I decided to sell a lot of studio gear, I never had the funds to pay for these... I got only low-budget synths, and DSI was no different... first I had the Evolver Desktop, then I got the Mopho Desktop... then the Tetra... If I had not had the opportunity to try out DSI instruments like this, I'm not sure I'd ever have bought the big jewels later on to be honest... We saw the same with MOOG before they started making a few low budget synths... people might have wanted a MOOG, but many never did because of the expensiveness.

When there are no such low-price alternatives on the market, those types of users will most likely just enter the used marked, and find older alternatives instead... I did...
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2016, 08:39:03 AM »
Frankly - even those of us that might be inclined to shell out for the bigger items usually test the waters with the entry-level products first.

I just bought a Tetra (for the voices) and a Mopho SE (to shoehorn into limited available space on my desktop, and to function as an editor for the Tetra), and frankly, I have been very impressed with the MIDI implementation / functionality, software maintenance and customer support for the products (setting aside the remarks made by those who would prefer a DSI-branded editor/librarian, which is a bit unreasonable IMHO but another discussion about software development resources).

The Tetra and Mopho are great examples of the gradual-upgrade approach ("want a sixteen-voice polysynth? buy one or four voices at a time") that better suits the enthusiast market than the all-in-one, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink workstation approach of the 90s / 00s.

Within the Eurorack realm, though, there is no sane polyphonic equivalent in a semi-modular format, unless you model audio-rate modulation or route parallel control signals by proxy, so I'd guess that area to be the problem that needs better solved (hands-on control, better polyphonic modulation aggregation) than a re-casting of the existing DSI-120 based voice boxes (Evolver, Mopho, Tetra, Prophet 08).

Additionally - I think that the entry-level products ought to have:
  • at least one modulation / delay / spring reverb emulation effects slot
  • stereo sum in (with or without input trim) for aggregation of poly chain voices, no processing
  • some form of modulation sync (maybe a multiplexed mod channel?) or single CV i/o, on 3.5mm TRS a la the Korg stuff, so that one can sync LFOs or other modulations that are not bound to MIDI clock (e.g., for PWM or other destinations)
« Last Edit: February 14, 2016, 09:00:15 AM by DavidDever »
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2016, 12:15:43 PM »
Its exactly a question of making it possible to customers to start out in the affordable part of the price spectrum and then later grow their collection if that works for them. For this reason I think DSI are slowly eliminating an important entrance for their customers: starting out small.

Of cause that is all up to DSI but some of us have been saying this for years without anything happening at all. And yeah its just a user need!
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2016, 04:24:07 AM »
I agree, but with KORG minilogue the US$499 synth with 4 voice polyphony it's not going to be easy as it used to be.

I have a feeling that learning from the mistake of the Sequential days, DSI is not eager to make reentry to the affordable price range. I do want to see their own answer to this market segment though.

This is what I wrote before.
And now with the Skype communication event with uncle Dave as shown in the thread below:
http://forum.davesmithinstruments.com/index.php/topic,399.0.html
.....he gave us polite "No" to making small low cost modules.

As I said things are different from the founding of the DSI back in 2002.
There are many game players now making limited function but very cheap analog synths of all sorts and kinds. This is very much like the heydays of YAMAHA DX Series from DX1 to DX100 has thrown Sequential to the coffin. In those days Sequential made a mistake of making products with low price tag like MAX and still unable to combat the situation.
He doesn't want to repeat that happen again, I suppose.

It's true that you can climb up the ladder from low cost models to eventually flagships, but for the time being, it is wise to leave the entry models to things like KORG minilogue, and then eventually let those users climb up to modern DSI prophets.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2016, 02:54:05 AM by NemoSynth »
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chysn

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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #18 on: March 22, 2016, 03:38:18 AM »
Sequential made a mistake of making products with low price tag like MAX and still unable to combat the situation.

I keep a Commodore 64 around just in case I ever acquire a Max. Also, to play Omega Race.
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Re: Small DSI Modules
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2016, 12:58:42 PM »
It seems that we'll just have to rely on Waldorf for making small budget friendly synths with full MIDI implementation and digital control... If DSI do not make them anymore, I really don't see many others... that depends on KORG's trend on the matter in the future... until now, all they did I've seen is a bit "toy like"... The rest of the game is analog with only MIDI to CV/GATE functionality, and that's not what I want... Then there are Novation, but they never release any kind of SysEx specs, and have only one analog product... MOOG have a few good candidates, but are usually too limited to compete with DSI's flexibility...

I guess I'm glad, that I decided to go for at small quantity, high quality gems solution...
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