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Loads of DSI synths now out of production.

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #100 on: October 05, 2016, 12:14:21 PM »
DSLsynth, what you've described above is nearly a two-voice Evolver with an improved interface.  Is that still your favorite instrument in the entire DSI line?
« Last Edit: October 05, 2016, 12:17:53 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #101 on: October 05, 2016, 12:27:15 PM »
My guess is that the eurorack modules cost next to nothing to produce, while the experiment allows Dave to see if there might be some substantial profits for DSI in the eurorack direction.

You've got it half right. We do see Eurorack as somewhat of an experimental platform, and it's fun to release some of the ideas we come up with so you guys can checkout things that might otherwise never see the light of day.

However, Dave's never been too interested in the modular synthesis format and much prefers designing and building complete instruments. So we're mostly doing it for fun as little side-projects, and there will probably never be a huge shift of our resources from complete instruments to Eurorack products.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2016, 12:39:34 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #102 on: October 05, 2016, 12:35:33 PM »
So we're mostly doing it for fun as little side-projects, and there will probably never be a huge shift of our resources from complete instruments to Eurorack products.

If DSI are looking for a new module idea then bring Dave's strongest points into the eurorack world: digital control in form of a preset/modulation/sequence manager module. The digital control of the Pro 2 voice would be a good starting point if extended with to least 16 CV outputs and some form of digital CV processing internally. Would be very tasty in your own voice architectures too.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #103 on: October 05, 2016, 12:39:45 PM »
We're not. As I said, it's more of a place to build some of the ideas we already have. As it stands, collectively we have so many ideas there's no way we have time to build even half of them. For example, there are some things that have been on the table for years and every time we decide to start working on them something else comes up and we go that direction instead. Suffice it to say we are in no way short on ideas, we're short on time.
SEQUENTIAL

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #104 on: October 05, 2016, 12:40:48 PM »
My guess is that the eurorack modules cost next to nothing to produce, while the experiment allows Dave to see if there might be some substantial profits for DSI in the eurorack direction.

You've got it half right. We do see Eurorack as somewhat of an experimental platform, and it's fun to release some of the ideas we come up with so you guys can checkout things that might otherwise never see the light of day.

However, Dave's never been too interested in the modular synthesis format and much prefers designing and building complete instruments. So we're mostly doing it for fun as little side-projects, and there will probably never be a huge shift of our resources from complete instruments to Eurorack products.

I hope the fun can some day be directed towards a new small module.  The three that you guys had produced were exceptional in so many ways, and the lack of them sure smarts.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2016, 12:48:36 PM by Sacred Synthesis »
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #105 on: October 05, 2016, 12:44:23 PM »
DSLsynth, what you've described above is nearly a two-voice Evolver with an improved interface.  Is that still your favorite instrument in the entire DSI line?

Oh there are several stronger points over the Evolver in my ideas: full analog signal path for the analog oscillators and external input, better sounding digital oscillators, more feature rich modulations, choice between voices in mono and stereo, possibly richer forms of CV processing internally. In other words a best-of-all so far voice architecture specifically designed for lure new and not so wealthy customers to buy DSI products. While DSI's current line of instruments are certainly interesting they are still (1) a choice between either sound or modulation features and (2) priced well above the affordable price range.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #106 on: October 05, 2016, 12:48:33 PM »
We're not. As I said, it's more of a place to build some of the ideas we already have. As it stands, collectively we have so many ideas there's no way we have time to build even half of them. For example, there are some things that have been on the table for years and every time we decide to start working on them something else comes up and we go that direction instead. Suffice it to say we are in no way short on ideas, we're short on time.

Off the record: If I had the resources to it I would be designing my own synthesizers. Unfortunately that is not the case. Also, its not that I have entirely given up on DSI making something interesting for me - a small voice count complex architecture desktop module - but I can very well see it never happen as there is alway a new flagship machine to be build instead.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #107 on: October 05, 2016, 12:58:27 PM »
The fun thing is that DSI have no problem making eurorack modules that they say don't really sell very well whereas making a smaller voice count more affordable desktop module seems out of reach due to competition situation. I simply don't get that argument. People ask for it and it makes good sense. Just do it!

Not sure whether you were referring to my argument, but I was just saying that I think that a smaller voice module - let's say between 1-4 voices - would have to be different enough not to be compared to the likes of the Volcas, MS-20s, or Odyssey modules, amongst the small ACB stuff from Roland. Because that's a market in which DSI could only lose in my opinion - by means of market forces, not because they would be bad at it.

DSI's strength has been a more innovative approach, or - if you'd like to put it into less emphatic words - a good sense for what to combine in a single unit. I mean even the Prophet-5 was a case of "What woud be cool to have?" - "What's available out there to achieve that?" - "Let's put it all together."

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #108 on: October 05, 2016, 01:02:44 PM »
Paul Dither-

You're spot-on with your assessment. We started the affordable analog synth market with the Evolver and Mopho desktops, but that was many moons ago and we're no longer the only player in that game. We are a tiny company that builds instruments in the US with no desire to compete with the muscle of the behemoth synth companies for pennies. We have to play to our strengths, and competing to make increasingly cheaper instruments is not one of them.
SEQUENTIAL

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #109 on: October 05, 2016, 01:03:14 PM »
DSLsynth, what you've described above is nearly a two-voice Evolver with an improved interface.  Is that still your favorite instrument in the entire DSI line?

Oh there are several stronger points over the Evolver in my ideas: full analog signal path for the analog oscillators and external input, better sounding digital oscillators, more feature rich modulations, choice between voices in mono and stereo, possibly richer forms of CV processing internally. In other words a best-of-all so far voice architecture specifically designed for lure new and not so wealthy customers to buy DSI products.

The probem I see here is that I don't think this would end up being a truly affordable unit in the end. Maybe around twice the price of a Desktop Evolver.

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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #110 on: October 05, 2016, 01:09:34 PM »
We have to play to our strengths, and competing to make increasingly cheaper instruments is not one of them.

Which is why making a complex voice in the mid ranged price level would be a good compromise between unique DSI features and entry level products. Leave the low cost market to the other manufacturers, of cause!
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #111 on: October 05, 2016, 02:23:21 PM »
We have to play to our strengths, and competing to make increasingly cheaper instruments is not one of them.

Which is why making a complex voice in the mid ranged price level would be a good compromise between unique DSI features and entry level products. Leave the low cost market to the other manufacturers, of cause!

But the low cost market goes up to synths that are priced at around $499 to $599. That includes - just to name a few - the Roland System-1m and the rest of the AIRA instruments, the Roland JD-Xi, all the Roland Boutique stuff, Arturia's MiniBrute and MicroBrute, the Korg Volca series, the minilogue, the Odyssey desktop, the MS-20 Mini, and the microKorg. Those are all very successful devices, especially for those who are getting into synthesis and/or are on a tight budget.

Now, a synth like the Evolver was at the upper end of that price range. That alone is cool. But: The majority of the above-mentioned instruments are not only successful because they're relatively affordable and portable; they are also rather limited. And that sort of limitation is not perceived as something negative, but rather as something that serves the purpose of instant gratification: "getting that analog sound," "making these old-school beats," "being finally able to get all the classic Roland sounds at a price I can pay." So a huge part of these machines' unique selling point are the imitated limitations of 30-40 year old synths. There are of course a couple of exceptions, new designs like the minilogue that is not necessarily trying to emulate a specific historic model, or more complex instruments like the System-100 plug-out. All in all, though, the sound and - even more - the feature set that is being offered with these synths would have been possible years ago already, in the golden age of analog synthesis if you like. All the rest is openly emulated as in Roland's case. And that is all fine, as a synthesist can now choose just like a guitarist between a plethora of entry-level instruments that all have their unique analog - or emulated analog - sound. The key to the mass market success, though, is not only low pricing, but also an instant gratification that is tied to the notion of analog synths of the past.

So while something like a Desktop Evolver would certainly still be attractive to that very same crowd that purchases MiniBrutes and AIRA instruments for example, the amount of choices it offers might not. An Evolver is a perfect sound designer's tool, but not everybody wants to dig that deep. Many people also still prefer to use presets - basically the majority, the casual keyboard synth or ROMpler buyer, while the rest is considered to be a couple of nerds, of which the recent analog afficionados are one part. I still know dozens of synth enthusiasts, who have never even heard about the Evolver that I chose here as an example for an ambitioned small-sized synth. It was around for almost 14 years and may have sold 5,000 times (if I drew approximately correct conclusions from some later serial numbers I've seen around). No one at Korg or Roland would even get out of bed for these numbers - at least not when it comes to a line of rather affordable instruments.

Of course, one could say, well that's fine but DSI could then just focus on being a boutique company (for the niche that actually cares about sound design) while continuing to offer instruments at entry level prices. The only problem I see is that if an affordable desktop unit la DSI (i.e. not just a replica of an old-school analog mono synth, or its digital emulation) doesn't become a real zinger immediately, it will easily get lost in the mass market of other affordable designs that appeal much quicker to prospective customers due to offering a reaffirming synth engine. And then you might just ask yourself, why all that hassle in the first place while you could also make a bigger instrument with an exciting combination of features and less compromises that might end up costing more, but will eventually sell just as well in the end (in terms of numbers).

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #112 on: October 05, 2016, 03:12:02 PM »
P.S.: I'm not saying that the current situation doesn't suck, especially for those of us who really appreciated an adventurous little box like the Evolver, and who are on a tight budget, or would just like to have a small, but powerful instrument in our collection. But we also have to consider that those of us who are interested in that kind of stuff are a rather small group of people with very specific needs, goals, and visions when it comes to synthesis. That group even stays small if you add all the software nerds (putting together stuff in M4Live or Reactor for example) and the Eurorack crowd. The highly heterogenic mix of people that is truly into exploring sounds and different types of synthesis might have its niches in some particular genres or styles wherein it appears as a majority, but I highly doubt that this affects the everyday life of the recording industry or the landscape of semi-professionals to a wider degree. It's still not mainstream.

We should also do a reality check about what kind of instruments have presumably been the most successful ones for DSI so far. They are the ones with which they've made the biggest concessions towards the analog revival market if one would like to word it that way (and I'm not phrasing it like that to be provocative or dismissive): The Prophet-6 and the OB-6, which are both listed as best sellers at retailers in the US and Europe alike, despite their price.

Both of these instruments symbolize pretty much the opposite of what the Evolver was all about, but besides offering the world two extremely nice-sounding analog poly synth engines, their instant success might also allow DSI a little bit of freedom for crazier future designs in whatever price range.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2016, 03:18:51 PM by Paul Dither »

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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #113 on: October 05, 2016, 05:06:39 PM »
Quote
Both of these instruments symbolize pretty much the opposite of what the Evolver was all about, but besides offering the world two extremely nice-sounding analog poly synth engines, their instant success might also allow DSI a little bit of freedom for crazier future designs in whatever price range.

For purely selfish reasons, I'd like to see DSI's lower-priced stuff be eurorack modules. Okay, $180 for a filter isn't exactly cheap, but if DSI really has the freedom and wants to do something weird, this is where it would be appreciated. I do understand that it's a teeny tiny niche of a smallish niche of a modestly-sized market, so I appreciate that they're throwing the hat into that ring at all. So far, their approach to eurorack has been to dust off concepts from previous synths, and they don't need to do that too many more times before having a complete modular synth.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #114 on: October 06, 2016, 01:31:49 PM »
@Paul Dither: Very interesting analysis. What I see a lot in this discussion is focus on limitations: small market, too expensive compared to competition, specialist tool - and so on. How about looking at the possibilities by having a standard small module front panel, use the flagship machines as technology development platforms and occasionally sell smaller slices of different combinations of the flagship machinery to people with smaller budgets who are interested in great sounding and expressive machines with a wide sonic span?

@chysn: Eurorack modules are (1) not for small budget people and (2) lacks MIDI control which is essential for some of us. A MIDI controlled desktop machine is simply the best value for money and omits most of the cable salad mess.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #115 on: October 06, 2016, 02:53:45 PM »
One thing I'll point out that is often overlooked, and it's something that even we didn't realize until we started making Eurorack modules, is there is no such thing as a "quick and easy" product. The general perspective is that if a product is smaller or not as feature-rich then it's faster and easier to build and therefore cheaper.

To the contrary, we've found just the opposite. A product is a product is a product, and that means regardless of size or complexity it still takes a lot of resources and development time to produce. Sure there are exceptions; the really complex or new technology does take a bit longer, but for the most part even the "small" stuff takes a long time to develop, debug, and QC. The Prophet 12 Module, Mopho Keyboard, Mopho x4, DSM01, and DSM02 are all examples of taking existing technology and repackaging it, and they all took roughly the same amount of time to develop. These products have prices ranging from $179 up to $1799, and the Prophet 12 Module was initially $2299 when it was released.

So, as Paul Dither points out, for the small number of units we sell per product the margins are better where the prices are higher, because it's nearly the same amount of resources to develop something that costs $200 or $2000. While we're a "small" company in the business world, we're one of the larger businesses in the synth world. When we have to make money to stay in business it's a hard sell to devote too much time to smaller products with smaller returns, and the way to take advantage of our resources and our size is to make larger or more complex products that would be more difficult for smaller teams. It doesn't become easier to make smaller products until the company becomes much larger than we'll ever be.

On the other side, if we were 1-2 people, or 5 people, then the smaller stuff would be easier for us because we wouldn't have as many mouths to feed. But since we're now 13 people, it's expensive for us to make smaller/cheaper products because we don't make up the development costs by selling more units just because they're cheaper for the public to buy.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #116 on: October 06, 2016, 03:19:20 PM »
That's an enlightening perspective, because I always figured DSI's withdrawal from the low-cost market was because of U.S. production costs and DSI's reluctance to move production overseas.
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Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #117 on: October 06, 2016, 04:20:22 PM »
Well, that's true too. The two points aren't mutually exclusive. I spoke to the other point in an earlier post in which I did say production costs are high and we manufacture in the US, so that coupled with larger players entering the arena makes it difficult to compete on price given our sales volume.

Essentially, all of these points are contributing factors that led us to where we are now. It dawned on me that the breakdown of resource allocation and development time on products probably wasn't widespread knowledge, so I wanted to add that perspective too.
SEQUENTIAL

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #118 on: October 06, 2016, 06:14:07 PM »
Thanks for sharing your perspective, Robot Heart! Makes a lot of sense to me. And I hope it's obvious that I'm saying that even though I would of course like to see yet another portable power tool by DSI again. But I absolutely get the reasoning behind your/the company's decision and that it is one that has been made out of necessity rather than on principle (as in: we just don't like desktop modules anymore).

@Paul Dither: Very interesting analysis. What I see a lot in this discussion is focus on limitations: small market, too expensive compared to competition, specialist tool - and so on. How about looking at the possibilities by having a standard small module front panel, use the flagship machines as technology development platforms and occasionally sell smaller slices of different combinations of the flagship machinery to people with smaller budgets who are interested in great sounding and expressive machines with a wide sonic span?

Basically, ever since the release of the Prophet '08, all of your suggestions have been put into practice. Those kinds of instruments were the Mopho variations and the Tetra. In the case of the Evolver it was the other way around, but I assume only because Dave was all on his own in the beginning and wanted to await the response first. If he had come out with the Poly Evolver in the first place, that would have been a much riskier move. Anyway, at least up until early 2013 - i.e. when the Prophet 12 was introduced - DSI indeed offered products for potentially every customer based on the derivative development strategy you described above. There was the Evolver family and then there were all the analog instruments based on the Prophet '08 engine with a couple of variations included.

My point is just that by 2013, DSI was 11 years old and the market had already significantly changed by then. It may not have happened overnight, but at around that time the resurgance of all things analog was already going strong, and lots of customers were craving for all those new portable and affordable analog synths. By now, this market segment (marking the price range from $150 to $600) is flooded with recreations, new devices, and emulations. Whether it's a good or bad thing, what had been most succesful in the past few years were relatively simple devices, everything that satisfied the nostalgia and retro appetite, everything that provided instant gratification without too much synth expertise, and so on. In short: fun boxes that are easy to operate and do still sound like "the real (analog) thing" that a significant number of people waited for or wanted to discover from a newbie perspective. Now, if you take a look at this presumed recipe for success, it doesn't quite represent what is usually associated with DSI products, which is why we like them because their products have always been somewhat more sophisticated. So in terms of company philosophy, it wouldn't make sense to serve that very same market. But even if they would try to be in it only for the money, they couldn't cash in as much as the competition, simply because of a lack of resources and higher production costs.

But we'd be more interested in anything that goes beyond the sheer analog revival craze anyway. Okay, but that already entails a shrunken prospective target audience - at least if one assumes that there are more people out there willing to pay for a TR-8 or a Volca synth; and just from observing various forums and discussions, I think there are plenty of hints out there that point in that direction. So, the first risky outcome of designing a more sophisticated device that doesn't necessarily focus on mainstream wishes would be a smaller potential customer base. Combine that with the lack of uber-competitive production resources (think Roland, Korg, or now Behringer), which results in not being able to undercut any of the given budget prices anymore, and you potentially end up in a lose-lose scenario.

There's only one way this could work out well: if the single ambitious affordable device appears to be a total game changer and everybody happens to recognize that immediately. But such instant success based on more than just innovation by pricing, but innovation by design, is not only hardly to predict, but also very unlikely, as one should never underestimate a certain conservatism when it comes to synth evergreens. And so it ends up not making much sense in the first place to invest time and money into the development of and research for such an exclusive project - an ambitious and relatively affordable synth that may not sell as it should (by the rules of the budget market segment).
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 06:18:42 PM by Paul Dither »

Re: Loads of DSI synths now out of production.
« Reply #119 on: October 07, 2016, 05:11:44 AM »
Eurorack modules are (1) not for small budget people and (2) lacks MIDI control which is essential for some of us. A MIDI controlled desktop machine is simply the best value for money and omits most of the cable salad mess.

Whether you prefer patch cables, MIDI capabilities, or both, this is a valid point about Eurorack prices. Let's take a moderately sized system that consists of 2 rows 84 or 104 HP (the latter becoming more popular in the US). You will end up paying quite a bit of money until all that space is filled. Even if you're planning on building a system of this size exclusively with affordable modules like the ones by Doepfer or used ones, it will at the very least cost as much as a brand new Pro 2 in the end (which is an almost modular system in itself). Now, as soon as you fall in love with the more esoteric and complex modules by manufacturers like Mutable Instruments, Make Noise, etc., you'll easily end up with something for which you could also afford a Voyager XL or a Modal Electronics 002/008 for example. In this case, you would end up far beyond the price range of any current DSI product - and only for a relatively small-sized and portable system, not a wall full of modules yet.

Of course, most people who begin to build a Eurorack system start on a small scale and fill out a case one by one. The point is, though, in order to end up with a self-assembled instrument that is as potent as something like a Pro 2 - whether it utilizes similar functions or completely different means of synthesis - you will most likely end up paying twice the price.