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One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth

Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #300 on: April 04, 2021, 07:25:25 PM »
$2,000 is still a lot to pay for a monophonic instrument that takes up an immense amount of space, yet that ultimately is not a design of interest.  It's a great instrument, but it's just not for me.  I would find a couple of Odyssey modules controlled by a five-octave keyboard of much greater interest.

Still cheaper and more versatile than an ARP 2600M, Moog Matriach (which is another suggestion), Oberheim Two Voice Pro etc.

Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #301 on: April 05, 2021, 01:54:37 PM »
Versatility means very little to me.  The only quality I'm interested in is high quality.  A monophonic synthesizer that offers a by-modern-standards limited range of sounds is perfectly fine by me, as long as that limited range is musically/sonically excellent. 
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #302 on: April 05, 2021, 07:09:56 PM »
If there's one thing we can glean from this thread being active for five years, it's that you don't really need a monosynth. If we can glean two things, the other one is that you may not even want a monosynth.

Online research mode is a Möbius strip. I get into this every few years with cameras. The big difference with cameras is that all the compromises and tradeoffs are dictated by the laws of physics. So I go round and round on all these things for a while. But eventually, I pick one and get down to shooting. If I chose wrong, I can send it back.

Maybe what you should do next is buy something tangible to break the loop. You should buy a Pro 3 and play it for a while. There probably won't be a better monosynth by anybody for years. And if there is, if somebody makes a 49-key whatever, you're not really going to lose anything.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #303 on: April 05, 2021, 07:34:27 PM »
I mean wouldn't a Moog Matriach check all the boxes here?

Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #304 on: April 05, 2021, 07:37:40 PM »
The funny thing, Chysn, is that I've got a Korg ARP Odyssey Module arriving this Thursday. 

The tortuous issue that has kept me returning to this thread for five years is that I don't want a large set up.  That means I have to choose instruments very carefully and prudently.  I can't afford to buy and sell them every six months or so like so many synthesists do, almost as an end in itself.  It's only once every five or six years that I add or subtract something, and in the past year-and-a-half I've sold two synthesizers.  So, something new has to fill the spot. 

The Poly Evolver Keyboard and Prophet '08 sufficiently serve all my musical needs, both monophonic and polyphonic.  But I've sold one of each now, and still have one of each remaining.  If I had any control over the matter, I would have kept those two instruments perpetually in production and fully maintained by DSI/Sequential.  But that certainly is not how this industry operates.  And since my remaining synthesizers are getting rather old, it's definitely time to replace them with new ones for the long musical haul.  So, I'm presently trying to upgrade my whole set up to just three keyboard instruments, plus modules, that altogether will provide for my needs.   

If the Rev2 had reached full maturity, I would have bought one long ago.  But it's been about three years since its release, and I'm still waiting.  So, my mind naturally wanders back to this mono synth project.

There are two ways to solve all this; with either three poly synths, with one that doubles as a mono synth, or else, with two poly synths and one great big mono synth.  I'm trying to figure out which choice is the better.   
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 08:27:07 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #305 on: April 05, 2021, 07:43:57 PM »
I mean wouldn't a Moog Matriach check all the boxes here?

I certainly would have tried a Matriarch if it had a module version.  But I much prefer a full five-octave keyboard.

Perhaps I'll take to the Odyssey and add a second unit, or perhaps I won't like it and will return it.  Maybe all I need is a bunch of Rev2s.  For now, I'm experimenting with the Odyssey.  What frustrates me is that I've composed complete pieces of music and then forgotten them, all because I'm lacking the third instrument necessary to arranging and recording them.   
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 07:48:26 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #306 on: April 05, 2021, 08:35:05 PM »
You should buy a Pro 3 and play it for a while. There probably won't be a better monosynth by anybody for years.

I would agree with this.  But unfortunately, the keyboard is too short and there is no module version to pair it with.  I've been consistent from the beginning of this thread that those are fundamentals.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #307 on: April 05, 2021, 08:42:42 PM »
If the Rev2 had reached full maturity, I would have bought one long ago.  But it's been about three years since its release, and I'm still waiting.

What do you mean by "full maturity," and you're still waiting for what?
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #308 on: April 05, 2021, 08:47:22 PM »
The final OS update, which hopefully will be out by summer.  I'll leave it to the fellas at Sequential to do mine before the instrument is shipped.  Then I expect to be totally onboard with the instrument.
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 08:49:10 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #309 on: April 05, 2021, 08:49:42 PM »
You should buy a Pro 3 and play it for a while. There probably won't be a better monosynth by anybody for years.

I would agree with this.  But unfortunately, the keyboard is too short and there is no module version to pair it with.  I've been consistent from the beginning of this thread that those are fundamentals.

To be fair, you haven't been that consistent. You considered the Sub 37 but thought it looked weird, and it doesn't have a module either. And how many keys does the Odyssey have? No, what I was hinting at was that you should ignore some of your requirements because they may not matter once you actually start playing an instrument.

But you've got the Odyssey coming, so that's a similar step in the right direction of actually trying something.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #310 on: April 05, 2021, 08:56:44 PM »
You should buy a Pro 3 and play it for a while. There probably won't be a better monosynth by anybody for years.

I would agree with this.  But unfortunately, the keyboard is too short and there is no module version to pair it with.  I've been consistent from the beginning of this thread that those are fundamentals.

To be fair, you haven't been that consistent.

I've considered many different instruments for a time, including those that didn't fit my requirements.  But I've always returned to those requirements.  The Odyssey doesn't entirely fulfill them either, but a pair in some ways would surpass them.  My primary reason, though, is that I've always loved the ARP sound.  And if it were controlled by a P'08/Rev2 Keyboard...bingo!
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 09:00:18 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #311 on: April 05, 2021, 09:01:31 PM »
You've spoken highly of the Odyssey forever, since the old DSI Forum days, and I seem to remember that you've had multiple variants. So that totally makes sense, assuming that the new Odysseys sound the same.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #312 on: April 05, 2021, 09:04:15 PM »
Yes, when I was a teenager, I owned all three ARP Odyssey models.  I also had the Axxe and Pro Soloist (and I remember your comments on the latter!), and could only dream about owning a 2600 and a Quadra.  The Odysseys, though, have always stuck in my mind.  I've read primarily good things about the sound quality of the Korg reissues.  The main criticism has been that the keyboard version has a terribly cheap keybed.

At one point, I had considered a pair of Behringer 2600s controlled by a Rev2, as well as a Behringer Odyssey Keyboard controlling a Behringer 2600 Module.  Those were brief but happy daydreams.  But then I snapped out of it.  :(
« Last Edit: April 05, 2021, 09:40:43 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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LPF83

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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #313 on: April 06, 2021, 02:43:07 PM »
It sounds like I might be a bit late with this suggestion (and admittedly have only read bits and pieces of this thread), but if you want a low cost mono option that doesn't take much space, I could give the thumbs up to the Moog Slim Phatty.  It's the last of the Moogs that was actually Bob's design, to my ears it's more appealing than some of the newer offerings, and I only paid about 600 bucks for one in mint condition.  It shares a 4U rack that my audio interface and preamps sit in, underneath my monitor, so space is a non-issue.  Power switch is on the back (which in my rack case makes it hard to reach), but I bought a cord with footswitch to power it on and off.

That said, they seem to have gone up in price since then, but still worth the $700-800 they seem to go for.  I can see them fetching much more in the future

It is not a perfect synth by any means, but it's built like it was meant to last forever, it is an absolute monster for bass.  I don't think anyone would deny the quality, and it has a certain versatility that I don't hear in other Moogs.  Many have said the sound is similar to a Moog Source (vintage synth).

Bang for buck is off the charts and I doubt I will ever sell mine.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2021, 02:45:49 PM by LPF83 »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #314 on: April 13, 2021, 08:24:01 AM »
Since last week, I've been living in ARP Odyssey land.  The KARP arrived on Thursday, and I've been putting it through the paces.  And it's been putting me through the paces.

I have to commend Korg for the instrument.  It is of impressive quality.  The metal body is solid as a rock, rather heavy, the sliders have a bit of wobble but are still stable and precise, the switches are firm, and the general appearance is pleasing to the eyes (I have the black and orange version). 

The tonal character of the instrument is clean, consistent, and leaning towards the thin side.  Although it has plenty of fullness in the lower registers and would make an excellent bass synthesizer, it is not boomy; the lower notes still sound clean and fit for fast playing.

It was an excellent idea to include the three different filters of the original revisions.  They're each quite different in character.  The first revision is most distinct from the other two in that, when the resonance is turned up high, the voice does not lose its bottom end, but remains full as when no resonance is used.  And the filter in general is lovely.  I would say it's the aspect I most like about the instrument.  A brass patch has a wonderful crispness to its quick envelope sweep of the cut off frequency - possibly the best I've ever heard.  Even turning up the filter 1's cut off frequency all the way sounds magnificently brisk and bright, in a Curtiss sort of way. 

The character of the oscillators is also pleasing, and they're reliably stable after only a few minutes of warming up.  You're given only sawtooth and pulse width, although you can design a playable sine wave from the self-oscillating filter.  The square wave sounds pure and satisfying. 

The Odyssey offers a very different designing and playing experience from a DSI/Sequential instrument, almost the opposite.  Since the instrument has no program memory, the synthesist is left in an almost helpless state.  But the challenge can be met with creativity and planning.  For example, the oscillator waveforms are set by switches that can be changed in a split second.  You can go from PWM to sawtooth almost as quickly as you could hit a program button.  The same is true for the three filters, which could be the difference between having a patch that used a lot of resonance and then one that seemingly used none.  And the ease of using the very visual panel means that, with one hand, you could go from a mellow flute patch to a caustic filter sample and hold effect in only seconds.  In many cases, it's just so easy to move from one sound to another, as long as you plan your sounds carefully with the changes in mind.  Of course, that can be limiting, too, so this sort of panel is not for everyone.

Pulse width modulation is an important patch for me; I use it constantly and in various ways - sometimes at a slow rate and moderate depth for bass sounds, sometimes at a moderate rate and extreme depth for solo patches.  But I nearly always use it with a vibrato.  So, the Odyssey's single LFO is an issue.  One solution is to borrow the first oscillator as a source of modulation, but I haven't yet found this satisfactory, never mind the problem of having only one audio oscillator left.  The best solution is the old remedy of assigning the ADSR generator to control the pulse width.  With a very slow attack, decay, and release, and no sustain, you can create an excellent substitute...until the envelope reaches the bottom of its sustain.  But for steady playing, it suffices.

That's a short list of the positives, and there are many more.  There are, of course, negatives: that single LFO is definitely a drawback, as well as the only two-stage (AR) VCA envelope, the lack of a master tuning control, and the lack of programmability.  And as is always the case when I play on old school analog synthesizer, I also find the tuning to be a problem; even the oscillator fine tuning is too coarse.  I find myself adjusting the beating rates by lightly tapping the slider with the top of my finger nail.  And even that moves the pitch too much.  But worst of all, when using both oscillators and playing in a legato style, there is an annoying "click" with each note strike, due to the two-note paraphony.  I've noticed this on all Odyssey videos of both the original and reissue instruments, and it's very bothersome.  I've listened carefully to this effect when playing the Odyssey with the other synthesizers, and it remains noticeable.  It doesn't disappear into a mix.  You can eliminate it with a detached type of playing, but that often doesn't suit the music; nor is it possible with long release times.  Plus, it's difficult not to accidentally trigger the second note as you smoothly play.  ARP and Korg should have offered a switch that would select either mono or duo triggering.  Here's a short example of the effect from Retrosound: https://youtu.be/9OwSNz7lLLo?t=97

As to the future of the Odyssey in my set up, I'm undecided.  I go back and forth about it.  A couple of days ago, I decided I would return it.  Then last night it sounded very sweet to my ears.  If I kept it, I would add a second Odyssey - whether another module or possibly even one of the last available keyboard versions.  The keyboard/module combination would look really sharp in the set up, and visual aesthetics are important to me.  But then the minuscule three-octave keyboard would be an issue.  Or else, I could control two modules with that five-octave MIDI keyboard posted above. 

These are exciting possibilities, and I'd love to immediately act on one of them while I'm still financially able, but one problem remains: in closely comparing the Odyssey's general sound with that of the Prophet '08, I've found that the two are very similar...very.  I've played the same patches on each instrument side-by-side - the ones I use most frequently - and I can't say that I prefer the Odyssey's renditions.  I like both equally.  And the fact that - off the top of my head - a P'08/Rev2 can do anything an Odyssey can do and so much more, means that the Odyssey is a hard sell.  Of course, I'd love to put two Odysseys together for the ultimate judgment, but that would make the returns a pain in the neck.  So, that's where I am right now - in musical limbo as usual.

I really do like the Odyssey.  Having a non-programmable instrument, as much as it's problematic, is also fun.  It makes you behave differently and do things you wouldn't normally do elsewhere.  And it's a sort of luxury to be able to glance across a panel - whether the instrument is on or off - and know precisely what sound is sitting there looking up at you.  It's a refreshing type of directness and simplicity, in the midst of a madly complex field.

The quest continues....
« Last Edit: April 13, 2021, 09:22:21 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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chysn

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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #315 on: April 14, 2021, 07:05:26 PM »
Hey, I'm proud of you for actually trying something out, though. Now that's a quest!  :)

I definitely enjoy synths without program memory. I think that "sweet spot" between enough parameters to make it interesting, and few enough to make sounds easy to dial in is historically well-established as exactly the number of parameters the Odyssey has.

I'm also a big fan of the AR envelope. It's the only kind of envelope I had in my Eurorack system and, to this day, I find myself forgetting that my envelopes now have sustain levels.

I know your plans are still up in the air. But if you even for a second think about getting an Odyssey keyboard with three octaves, you should immediately forget that idea and get a Pro 3 instead. If you're going to compromise on keyboard length, you might as well compromise with the best monosynth ever.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #316 on: April 14, 2021, 08:20:31 PM »
You're proud of me?  Gee, thanks, dad!  :D

Yes, I'm at the intensely undecided stage.  I'm considering that nice five-octave keyboard above controlling two Odyssey modules.  That would be an impressive combination.  But then, the Rev2 is getting lost in all this.  Back and forth and back and forth, just like you and your cameras.

I appreciate you're enthusiasm for the Pro 3.  But I think I could go three-octaves only as a special favor to an Odyssey.
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jg666

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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #317 on: April 14, 2021, 11:50:26 PM »
I've got the Odyssey iPad app and have played around with it for some time... but for some reason my brain can't adapt to the different way the Odyssey works. I'm fine with 'normal synths' but when I look at the sliders on this, I just get myself in a mess and end up creating the same sound every time  ;D

I don't know if it's a case of me being thick or the fact that it's an app and if it was the real hardware in front of me I'd be OK.
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #318 on: Yesterday at 06:27:27 AM »
I know what you mean.  I don't know about the app effect, but the ARP Odyssey is definitely a quirky instrument with a funny design.  After twelve years of programming Prophet '08s and Poly Evolver Keyboards, it's a radical change for me, too.  But I like the uniqueness of it all.  It's like having a homely-looking dog that makes you love him all the the more because no one else could.

There's something satisfying in the fact that my monophonic synthesizer "quest" should end with an "odyssey"...or two.  But I'll certainly be interested in Korg's forthcoming ARP 2600 Mini.  I like the opened-ended aspect of this idea, that I can add or omit modules without much fuss.  That's why the keyboard controller should be a proper MIDI device, as opposed to one that uses CV type control.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 06:40:46 AM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: One Man's Quest for the Perfect Mono Synth
« Reply #319 on: Yesterday at 09:10:53 AM »
The Prophet '08 has an advantage over the Rev2 as a keyboard controller; namely, it has a MIDI Poly Chain Out jack which, when not used for poly chaining, doubles as a second MIDI Out.  So, the P'08 can control two individual modules that are not connected to each other.  Unfortunately, the Rev2 lacks this Poly Chain Out, which makes it less valuable as a MIDI controller, especially for my situation.
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