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Decent synth for roughly $500?

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  • Decent synth for roughly $500?

    Greetings,

    I am in the market for a synthesizer and would like to spend about $500. I would like one that does decent ambient sounds, but also has the capability of playing lead while not being too user unfriendly. A year ago I owned a Korg R3 and it was easy enough to use, but I could not get it to work via USB to edit patches, so its functionality was quite limited.

    Anyways, from a little searching on here and musicians friend I narrowed it down to the "forum favored" following synths:

    - M-Audio Venom
    - Casio XW-P1
    - Akai Miniak
    - Alesis Micron

    Of the lot, I like the Casio and M-Audio the most from what I saw in demonstrations and Youtube demos. They seem to have a lot of capability. Is it mostly preference between those four? Or is one much better than the others? I also noticed that the Miniak and Micron are no longer available on major sites.

    Thanks for your time
    <div class="signaturecontainer"><b>boosh!</b><br />
    <a href="http://mattvenus.com/" target="_blank">My guitar teacher in Columbus, OH</a><br />
    Guitars: Jackson Dinky, Ibanez RG, Custom Carvin, Ibanez classical, Ibanez RG7320<br />
    Toys: Peavey 3120, custom 2x12 cab, HarmonyMan, DD-20, modded 847wah, Cube 40X, about a dozen others...</div>

  • #2
    I'd try them out, the Venom is quite a promising synth and not limited to the sounds they promoted it with... and you get a nice editor plus Audio and Midi over USB. Plus its got 49 keys.

    The Casio is quite cool, its not all good but its quite powerful and very fun. The Hex Layers are great for building ambient soundscapes, the step sequencer is very fun and powerful and it's just a great deal

    The Micron and Miniak are sonically identical so far as I know. The Miniak seems a bit more robust, though the black caps in the middle of the knobs come off like all new AkaiPro products plus its got the gooseneck mike. They can be had for ~$200 used, worth it.

    I have a Micron, it sounds great, its not as good for bass as Korgs, but for ambient and idm its just great. Its a very deep synth and painful to program without an editor (fortunately there are a few including free ones) There's also a drum machine, the drum sounds are synthesized! and a sequencer/arpeggiator. and setups mode is powerful with layers and splits... unfortunately 37 keys is too few to take advantage of it but for what I paid its great! I wanted to get rid of it since I have a lot of synths but its one of my favorote things to pick up and play and jam on.

    Someday I want two of them, or a Miniak, too. The Ion is the full size older version with knobs, I think the synth is the same but it loses the drum parts maybe?

    You might look at a used UltraNova if you can find one, they sound awesome, my favorite of the current VAs. Maybe a used Radias though they tend to be expensive.

    If you want to go beyond VA polysynths there is the Minibrute, Mopho, Tetra (used) and other used stuff for ~500
    http://soundcloud.com/liliththekitten

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm a big fan of the Venom. It's a very versatile synth, and it works as a USB controller and audio interface. The software editor is very good, and the synth has a nice collection of waveforms to work with.

      The MiniAK also sounds good. Not an easy synth to program, but it has a very edgy and deep sound. The AK makes some of the best bass and lead sounds of any synth in its price range, and also does nice pads. The Micron is essentially the same as the AK spec-wise. The obvious difference is that the AK has a built-in mic for its vocoder, but as far as I know they have the same sound engine. Overall I like the AK's build and control surface better.

      Since you're looking in the $500 range, you might want to aim higher than the options you listed. A Radias-R can be had for about that much if you look around a bit, and you can even find a used UltraNova in your price range (got mine for $400). The Radias and the UltraNova are both on another level entirely.
      Kronos, Fant.G8, PC3X, K2500RS, A6, Q, M3-61, Fant.X7, Motif 8, EX5(x2), V-Synth, K2000(x2), D50, JD800, JD990, JP8080, XP30, MC909, MC505, JX-10, JX-305, TR-707, Juno 1, DR-202, Radias, Triton Pro, Wavest. SR, EMX1, ESX1, ER-1, EA-1, R3, Poly 800, RS7000, FS1R (x2), RM1X, AN200, DX200, QY70, QY100, K5000S, OB-12, Maschine,ASR10,ASR88,ASR-X Pro, EPS,Virus B, Equinox,E-Mu XL-7,MiniAK, Synthstation,X-Station, XioSynth,TG33,Venom,V50,UltraNova,Z1,Spark,Moog LP Stage II, JP8000,Tetra,Supernova 2.

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      • #4
        MicroKorg
        MiniAK
        Venom

        For that budget you could buy any two two of these in the used market, easily, and have a very versatile setup.
        <div class="signaturecontainer"><font face="verdana"><a href="http://www.reverbnation.com/christianschulze" target="_blank">http://www.reverbnation.com/christianschulze</a></font></div>

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        • #5
          A year ago I owned a Korg R3 and it was easy enough to use, but I could not get it to work via USB to edit patches, so its functionality was quite limited.


          The only parameter on the R3 that requires using the editor is the Formant Motion section, which to me is kind of a gimmick feature. Other than that, the editor isn't necessary to use, so I'm not sure what you mean by functionality being "quite limited." I personally found it a million times easier to program sounds from scratch on than both the Micron and MiniAK since the R3's knobs have screen read-outs and the parameter menu is printed right underneath.

          Off the list, I'd personally go for the M-Audio Venom if I already didn't have my R3. The Casio XW-P1's VA section being only monophonic is a giant turn off for me.
          <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="1"><b>Hard</b>: JP-8000, MC-505, R3, microSTATION, Moog Theremin, miniKP, Ineko, Bitrman <br />
          <b>Soft</b>: Ableton Live 8, Korg Legacy Collection, FM8, D16 Classic Boxes/SilverLine Collection</font></div>

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          • #6
            Forgot the X-Station, if you can find it used!
            http://soundcloud.com/liliththekitten

            Comment


            • #7
              Forgot the X-Station, if you can find it used!


              That would be a truly excellent choice. The swiss army knife of synth/controllers.

              Hi Mom!

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              • #8
                I still want one, even though I have the VST and a Remote SL
                http://soundcloud.com/liliththekitten

                Comment


                • #9
                  for hardware va get a used virus b or c, i've seen them from $450-600. possibly a used ti snow ?

                  for ambience omnisphere is prolly the best but it's software and having a powerful computer helps take advantage of it much more, not ideal for live use.

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                  • #10
                    The only parameter on the R3 that requires using the editor is the Formant Motion section, which to me is kind of a gimmick feature. Other than that, the editor isn't necessary to use, so I'm not sure what you mean by functionality being "quite limited." I personally found it a million times easier to program sounds from scratch on than both the Micron and MiniAK since the R3's knobs have screen read-outs and the parameter menu is printed right underneath.



                    Right, I could program it on the machine easily enough but I had hoped to be able to do so from my computer, which I could not get to recognize the R3. I tried a variety of methods and drivers but for some reason Vista / Windows 7 does not recognize it via USB. Because of that I couldn't swap out the banks for the Microkorg or other free patches. If I had dumped money on a MIDI controller I might have been able to fix the problem I suppose.

                    Thanks the replies. On the venom, should I be concerned that the audio is sampled and not generated? At least I read that from another post...
                    <div class="signaturecontainer"><b>boosh!</b><br />
                    <a href="http://mattvenus.com/" target="_blank">My guitar teacher in Columbus, OH</a><br />
                    Guitars: Jackson Dinky, Ibanez RG, Custom Carvin, Ibanez classical, Ibanez RG7320<br />
                    Toys: Peavey 3120, custom 2x12 cab, HarmonyMan, DD-20, modded 847wah, Cube 40X, about a dozen others...</div>

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                    • #11
                      If it sounds good, it doesn't matter how its generated!
                      http://soundcloud.com/liliththekitten

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What's up with the low miniAK price? Half the posts out there I see enjoying it are surprised at the value, the rest apparently don't like it based off just the presets or menu-hell.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          What's up with the low miniAK price? Half the posts out there I see enjoying it are surprised at the value, the rest apparently don't like it based off just the presets or menu-hell.


                          My assumption is that they didn't sell well since it was basically repackaged Micron, plus I remember the original retail price was like $700. Korg had the R3 on sale for $500 for an entire year, plus the microKORG is always around for $300, so the huge price drop makes sense to keep up with competition.

                          Personally, I've been very tempted to replace my R3 with the miniAK since you can have four timbres running at once (I perform with a sequencer), but the interface just didn't do it for me. Looks great, sounds great, but trying to program it felt very awkward compared to the R3. I'm already under six layers of menu-hell with other gear I own, I don't need to sink any further, haha.
                          <div class="signaturecontainer"><font size="1"><b>Hard</b>: JP-8000, MC-505, R3, microSTATION, Moog Theremin, miniKP, Ineko, Bitrman <br />
                          <b>Soft</b>: Ableton Live 8, Korg Legacy Collection, FM8, D16 Classic Boxes/SilverLine Collection</font></div>

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I'm used to Yamaha's TG/TX rack modules, which weren't all that friendly either, but they did have lots of buttons used for just navigation, making edits much more intuitive. (TX81z/TG55)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              They made a lot of both Microns and Miniaks but MicroKorg is always more popular and for better or worse has name recognition. There's always lots of them for sale but indeed the Micron is usually a lot cheaper about $200 used here where the MK is $250 or even $300 which is overpriced imo. The Miniak was being blown out for $300 new @ GC. The Micron sold really well I figure but the Miniak didn't. Plus the original MicroKorg is cute, it looks like a toy analog synth but the Micron looks like it is made out of Lego (even though it is mostly metal) and the Miniak looks like every Akai midi controller.

                              The MK has the better interface and programming is not that painful to me, its like a DW-8000 with some modular gubbins. The Micron is like programming a modular synth through a single LCD, knob and button. Hell, even the 3 performance knobs arent set to anything commonly useful by default... Programming the Korg Prophecy is a joy compared to programming the Micron.

                              The Miniak and Micron both have computer editors so it's not that big a deal. The MK editor makes things a lot nicer but the Micron editors are damn near necessary.

                              Personally I think the Alesis and Akai are a better value but I like Korgs too.
                              http://soundcloud.com/liliththekitten

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