The Official Sequential/DSI Forum

The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)

The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« on: May 08, 2018, 10:40:24 AM »
Something I've noticed, a lot of synth heads seem to really gravitate and lust after reissues of older analog gear like the CS-80 and Jupiter 8 but one synth that seems to kind of fall off and on the radar is the Synclavier.

Let's look at the specs (courtesy of Vintage Synth.)

"The first version appeared in 1977/78 but was soon replaced by the Synclavier II in 1980 with a new "partial timbre" sound editing feature (it tweaks the harmonics), built-in FM and additive synthesis, sampling, 64 voice polyphony, 32MB of waveform RAM (expandable to 768), 32 outputs, music-notation printing, multitrack sequencing, and digital hard-disk recording. In 1984 a third model was introduced and became the most infamous version of the line-up. The new features included a full sized and weighted keyboard with velocity and aftertouch which replaced the previous model's plastic keyboard, and 128 voices polyphony. An optional DSP effects package including time compression/expansion was available for the Synclav as well. There was also a standard onboard arpeggiator and a robust sequencer with up to 200 tracks and its sampler had the ability to record and output at up to 100 khz!

The typical Synclavier system consists of a durable 76-note keyboard peppered with 132 illuminated buttons and a single control knob, connected to a rack-mounted CPU running NED's own 16-bit ABLE operating system plus the nostalgic mid-eighties looking mono-chromatic computer monitor/keyboard. Patches, sound files, sequences and samples are stored to 5.25" diskette, hard disk or in some models, magneto-optical drives."

Now although there have been some VST emulations, neither the UVI Beast or Arturia Synclavier V are complete Synclavier recreations. In most cases sampling is gone as is the sequencing.

My question is why is the Synclavier not as revisited or lusted after by synth fans or even synth manufacturers looking at doing clones or recreations? Although a lot of the features are common in workstation type synths I don't know a synth on the market currently that is essentially a complete hardware synthesizer with on board sampler, sequencer, music notation software and has a dedicated or proprietary DAW and editor software.

What's everyone's thoughts on the Synclavier? Why is it just not as mentioned as much when talking about synths we want or want to see recreated?
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano,Kurzweil K2600XS, Roland FA-08, Baldwin Upright Piano, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Chet Atkins SST, Jackson King V, Ibanez Jem, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii

chysn

  • ***
  • 1062
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2018, 10:58:02 AM »
Speculation:

People want classic synths recreated to chase a dose of nostalgia. Lots of people used to have ARP Odyssey and Minimoog and Roland Juno Whatever, so those things are reissued in some form. But Synclavier was a unicorn. Nobody actually had one. Enough people are curious enough to buy a VST or app, but it's not special to enough Gen Xers to warrant a reissue.

See also: Fairlight CMI.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Arturia MicroBrute
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore2
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2018, 11:02:30 AM »
Speculation:

People want classic synths recreated to chase a dose of nostalgia. Lots of people used to have ARP Odyssey and Minimoog and Roland Juno Whatever, so those things are reissued in some form. But Synclavier was a unicorn. Nobody actually had one. Enough people are curious enough to buy a VST or app, but it's not special to enough Gen Xers to warrant a reissue.

See also: Fairlight CMI.

Oh I agree but it's bizarre to me that people lust after things like the Jupiter 8 or CS-80 and want clones of them.....yet the Synclavier is more powerful than either of those things....even more powerful than the Fairlight CMI.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano,Kurzweil K2600XS, Roland FA-08, Baldwin Upright Piano, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Chet Atkins SST, Jackson King V, Ibanez Jem, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii

chysn

  • ***
  • 1062
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2018, 11:37:15 AM »
Oh I agree but it's bizarre to me that people lust after things like the Jupiter 8 or CS-80 and want clones of them.....yet the Synclavier is more powerful than either of those things....even more powerful than the Fairlight CMI.

Powerful has nothing to do with it, was my speculation. The question is: Did you have access to it when you were younger? That's it. If you didn't have access to a Synclavier back in the day, then you don't care if you have one now.

All of us already have basically infinite access to what would have been considered "power" in 1980. It's not a motivator.
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Arturia MicroBrute
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore2
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2018, 12:57:24 PM »
Oh I agree but it's bizarre to me that people lust after things like the Jupiter 8 or CS-80 and want clones of them.....yet the Synclavier is more powerful than either of those things....even more powerful than the Fairlight CMI.

Powerful has nothing to do with it, was my speculation. The question is: Did you have access to it when you were younger? That's it. If you didn't have access to a Synclavier back in the day, then you don't care if you have one now.

All of us already have basically infinite access to what would have been considered "power" in 1980. It's not a motivator.

A lot of people didn't have access to a CS-80 either yet people lust for them.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano,Kurzweil K2600XS, Roland FA-08, Baldwin Upright Piano, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Chet Atkins SST, Jackson King V, Ibanez Jem, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2018, 01:10:28 PM »
I've never played a Synclavier, although I've certainly heard one enough times, having been a Tony Banks fan.  But I've never been seriously interested in the instrument for the simple reason that - like so many other digital instruments - its capabilities were too vast.  I've never been drawn to the sort of synthesizer that "does everything".  I much prefer large but simpler instruments that I can grow to know like the back of my hand.  For that reason alone, the Synclavier was never of interest to me, even though it was manufactured somewhat in my area.

chysn

  • ***
  • 1062
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2018, 07:44:19 PM »
A lot of people didn't have access to a CS-80 either yet people lust for them.

Touché
DSI: DSM03; previously: Mopho Keyboard, Desktop Mopho, Evolver, DSM01
Hardware: Eurorack, Arturia MicroBrute
Software: macOS, Ableton, MuseScore2
Modular Grid: https://www.modulargrid.net/e/racks/view/354385
GitHub: https://github.com/chysn

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2018, 10:28:03 PM »
You didn't see them in pop music videos too much, which could account for them not being remembered as an 80's classic sound, despite the synth series being used on some of the biggest pop albums and singles of the decade.  Ask anyone who grew up in that decade if they know what a DX7 is and they usually know.  If you could put a guitar neck on to one and rock around stage with it, then too you know we'd all know it.  Or if it was played by guys with cylindrical step pyramid hats.  Or if it was used to score an animated film that advanced a form of Japanese entertainment in the west.  Or if it wasn't taken on by Frank Zappa as a way to do away with musicians when he stopped touring, which logically should have had everyone going "wtf it that thing Frank is now using?".  All of those factors contributed to it not really being remembered as the most advanced synth to ever be produced prior to the introduction of computer aided digital synthesis and audio workstations.
I found out about the Synclavier because of Frank Zappa, but I know I totally forgot owning one when I found out how much they cost....then got an M1 few years later and thought "This is as close as I'll ever get to a Synclavier", heheheh.

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2018, 03:46:06 AM »
What megamarkd said. Plus: the current retro wave is mostly focusing on analog synths and drum machines. What might also run against its appeal is the fact that a fully-featured Synclavier is quite complex, which is not the reason why many people move towards hardware synths these days.

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #9 on: May 09, 2018, 07:33:37 AM »
There is the Pacarana, connect a keyboard and away you go (After months of head scratching): http://www.symbolicsound.com/cgi-bin/bin/view/Products/Pacarana

Metasynth gets you quite a bit of the way there as well: http://www.uisoftware.com/MetaSynth/

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #10 on: May 09, 2018, 12:26:29 PM »
edited - BobTheDog beat me to it
« Last Edit: May 09, 2018, 12:31:51 PM by DavidDever »
Sequential / DSI / Pioneer stuff: Prophet 12 Keyboard, Mono Evolver Keyboard, TORAIZ AS-1, Prophet-600 Gligli, Prophet 2000

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 11:30:46 AM »
Lobo Lives,  from what I've seen of it, I think I'd like to have one.   Why not so much talk of it relatively speaking? I'm not sure, but I also don't try too hard to figure it out.  Like Chysn said, it's familiarity probably.  I mean more people mention they would like to have a Corvette than a Ferrari.
DSI Equipment: Poly Evolver Keyboard, Evolver desktop, Prophet 8,  Pro-2, OB6, P-12
 

https://Soundcloud.com/wavescape-1

dsetto

  • ***
  • 375
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2018, 12:43:20 AM »
... Although a lot of the features are common in workstation type synths I don't know a synth on the market currently that is essentially a complete hardware synthesizer with on board sampler, sequencer, music notation software and has a dedicated or proprietary DAW and editor software....

To me, a combination of a Motif XF, Montage & Cubase seems to fit the bill you describe, and it exists. The Montage can be configured to  to run off the XF sequencer. That sequence could then be prepped for notation on computer. Which is fine as it doesn't require performance-grade response time. Integration between these 2 and Cubase is pretty tight. While the on-board XF song sequencer is "just" 16 tracks, its pattern sequencer is quite interesting. Still 16 simultaneous, but, each track has what could be used as 16 "takes". Montage can do a primitive 64-layer additive. 

I have NO idea about raw sound quality comparisons. But, the Montage's stated spec of up to 192kHz output seems potentially competitive. And while the XF is technically able to record audio to its sequencer, it's generally significantly easier to use a computer for this, too.

As it seems you've looked into those, what's missing there from your contemporary Synclavier?

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2018, 08:05:19 AM »
... Although a lot of the features are common in workstation type synths I don't know a synth on the market currently that is essentially a complete hardware synthesizer with on board sampler, sequencer, music notation software and has a dedicated or proprietary DAW and editor software....

To me, a combination of a Motif XF, Montage & Cubase seems to fit the bill you describe, and it exists. The Montage can be configured to  to run off the XF sequencer. That sequence could then be prepped for notation on computer. Which is fine as it doesn't require performance-grade response time. Integration between these 2 and Cubase is pretty tight. While the on-board XF song sequencer is "just" 16 tracks, its pattern sequencer is quite interesting. Still 16 simultaneous, but, each track has what could be used as 16 "takes". Montage can do a primitive 64-layer additive. 

I have NO idea about raw sound quality comparisons. But, the Montage's stated spec of up to 192kHz output seems potentially competitive. And while the XF is technically able to record audio to its sequencer, it's generally significantly easier to use a computer for this, too.

As it seems you've looked into those, what's missing there from your contemporary Synclavier?

The fact I'd have to get a Montage, Motif and Cubase as opposed to a single system that can do all this.
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano,Kurzweil K2600XS, Roland FA-08, Baldwin Upright Piano, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Chet Atkins SST, Jackson King V, Ibanez Jem, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii

dsetto

  • ***
  • 375
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2018, 03:32:38 PM »
What are the 2 most significant elements that you would like to see in one instrument?

dsetto

  • ***
  • 375
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2018, 08:03:09 AM »
In other words, what do you see as the needed defining characteristics of a modern day Synclavier?

dsetto

  • ***
  • 375
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2018, 10:01:46 AM »
Workstations are the existing modern equivalents to the Synclavier.

This assertion is based on the following. I'm eager to test it.
- The only workstation I know is Motif XF
- I only have a vague notion of what the Synclavier is.

dsetto

  • ***
  • 375
Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2018, 10:22:23 AM »
This topic is fascinating in light of the release of the Prophet X. For so many reasons:
- Dave Smith had a significant role in various building blocks fundamental to the formation & evolution of workstations. (polyphony, patches, sequencing, keyboard, microprocessors, midi) Today, we have his expression of this, in our time.
- What is a workstation? Is a production-sequencer a fundamental definition of it?*
- Yamaha retires their workstation.
- Sequential returns to sampling. Big-time.**
- If a workstation means inclusion of a production-sequencer, will a keyboard workstation stick around? (Kurz & Korg have top-end ones, & Yamaha & possibly Roland have mid-tier ones.)
- Akai reintroduced a pad workstation. 
- The changes in computer ability and folks’ changing absorption of those changes influences this.***
- In light of the ease of managing deep sampling & MIDI arrangement on a computer, would we have the patience to learn an instrument with great power, but great learning curve.


* I think so. In fact, Yamaha called the Motif a Music Production Synthesizer. They call the Montage a Music Synthesizer. They did maintain their groove-capture & playback sequencer. (They did try to make it more user friendly. I think they did in the removal of production sequencer & sampler sections; and appreciable growth of the digital synthesis department. Besides a quick perusal upon release, I don’t know if it reached a successful place.) In opinion, Montage & Prophet X are the most neighboring instruments these two companies have had in quite a while. AND they are so different. Amazing, really.

** Sequential's sequencer is to keep the focus on live playing & sound shaping. It's not for groove capture & arrangement.

*** Today, a computer cannot totally imitate a performance keyboard. On sound, low-level latency, dedicated UI, management of components, and time-investment/longevity of constant. … Of course, computer wins on size, flexibility, multi-purpose use, file management, and other ways.

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2018, 01:30:55 PM »
Wow @dsetto great analysis. I've been asking some of the same questions. I'm going to make some overly general statements about something I know almost nothing about, so feel free to rip this apart.

1. Synthesizers are a tough business. My boss has always wanted to get into the music industry but concluded that it was very difficult to make money. The demand for high end instruments just isn't there. At the low end you need to compete with entrenched players who have done this much longer than you have. DSI bucks the trend by being super small, thus having low instrument development costs.

2. The synthesizer business is extremely faddy. Why is Yamaha exiting the workstation business? I think it's because of Ableton Live. Ableton enabled a loop based musical composition style where you slowly morph a step-based pattern over time. Yamaha's sequencers were linear and song based. That's considered old school and not competitive in the market. I think this is one reason DSI hasn't done a real workstation. I think only the Tempest has the Ableton style sequencing that's all the rage.

3. People are moving away from the one keyboard to rule them all. It could be that salaries are stagnating in the USA. People are connecting a bunch of cheap gear instead of buying a single big instrument that can do it all. I think the analog trend contributed to the balkanization of gear in addition to the rise of the (cheap) computer as the nerve center of a studio (because of Ableton again and earlier, the ability of computers to replace a rack of effects boxes).

4. The successful big players follow the money. Korg and Roland have $500 offerings that fit well into the tabletop studios of today. I'm thinking of Minilogue, Boutique series, JD-Xi (a real albeit only four track workstation), Volca, etc. Their workstations are adding step sequencing (Korg Kross, for example).

5. The real advantage of an all-in-one workstation is that if it's well designed, the work flow can be very intuitive and friction free. That's what I love about DSI gear in general and don't like about the work stations from the Big Three.

Sadly I have no interest in Ableton style compositions but I can't get a good linear sequencer anymore. So I have to get old Ensoniq gear. I'm interested in a more classical style (which is now considered film soundtracks). That's all done with terabyte sample libraries standing in for an orchestra and a computer.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 01:38:17 PM by tumble2k »

Re: The Synclavier (are there any modern equivalents?)
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2018, 04:01:55 PM »
I think you are all hitting the nail on the head in regards to workstations. My thing with the Synclavier is it wasn’t just a powerful synthesizer but it had amazing sampling capabilities and on board sequenceing. If that wasn’t enough it had dedicated software for further editing and sequencing. What I’m saying is I don’t think there is a single unit that can do all this. You would essentially have to have different pieces of gear and software to make up various elements. For me what makes the Synclavier so remarkable was it was a dedicated system.

https://goo.gl/images/kiVZvk
Prophet 6, Prophet X, Moog Sub 37, Tempest Drum Computer, Roland V Piano,Kurzweil K2600XS, Roland FA-08, Baldwin Upright Piano, Fender Stratocaster, Fender Telecaster, Gibson Chet Atkins SST, Jackson King V, Ibanez Jem, Roger Linn Adrenalinn iii