Synths: That missing feature

Ever worked with a synthesizer and thought “a great thing, if it only had that additional feature, or did implement that one differently”? Today, I’m looking at a few of my synths and comment on those aspects.

When doing so, I’ll be setting the following the limitations for what I’m allowed to ask for.

  1. Stay withing technological boundaries: Yes, we’d all like our Emulator III to have USB2.0 connectivity. But USB wasn’t available back then.
  2. Don’t ask for game-changers: Something that would have a considerable impact on the synth’s design is also a taboo. Like adding sample playback to a Yamaha CS-80 or so.
  3. Only address functional aspects: Yes, those rotary encoders on the Waldorf Q are a drag. This is a reliability issue, and will not be considered.

So, let’s go through some of my synths, in no specific order.

Kurzweil K2600XS

The flagship of the latest iteration of Kurzweil’s impressive K2000 series of synth/sampler workstations. Established in 1991 in the wake of the series of workstation, PCM-based synths started by Korg’s M1, this synth has with its live sample mode an USP up until today.

As a seven-octave workstation synth, it also works well as a master keyboard, with some assignable sliders, two expression pedals and three footswitches, plus two MIDI outputs.

Yes, being required to use SCSI for sample storage is a drag (but you can somehow mitigate by installing a CF card reader instead of the floppy). And the acoustic piano factory patch is unacceptable by today’s standards, and the triple piano ROM addon is hard to find today, but this has to do with second-hand availability and what was available at the time.

That Missing Feature

The keyboard, in all its glory, doesn’t offer polyphonic aftertouch, which is especially strange as the synth engine (of course) responds to it. A massive oversight, limiting its usability for a central master keyboard role.

Waldorf Q

This is one of the flagships in Waldorf’s history, second only to the coveted Wave. A very convincing and flexible sonic architecture, lots of knobs (about 60), step sequencers galore, it contains about everything you could ask for in a virtual analogue synth. You even get analogue filters in the Q+ version. A great synth. Yes, the encoders have reliability issues, but we won’t look at that in this context as mentioned before.

That Missing Feature

Wavetable synthesis is available, but not as a full-blown feature – which is a pity, as this is what Waldorf is famous for, from the PPG Wave over the Microwave, Microwave XT up to today’s products. I’d like to have seen a more complete implementation – and would also be willing to let go of the surround delays or something else in the effects section for that. That should have been doable.

Quasimidi Sirius

Quasimidi was never one of those big, successful synth makers, with their only product with limited success in the creative scene being the Raveolution 309, a combo of a 303 and 909 clone. (They had that Polymorph which was a cool design and which I failed to get back then – second-hand prices are skyrocketing these days…crap).

The Sirius is what you might call a “techno workstation”. Four drum and three melodic parts, lots of knobs, a powerful pattern sequencer which records parameter changes, its weak point might be that it doesn’t sound like what people were after in these days – the sound of a 808 or 909 kick – it’s more of an early 80s digital affair. However, in that context, it’s a very unique voice in my synth setup.

That Missing Feature

Additional outputs. If I have a drum section plus synth voices, I’d want at least four, and not only a stereo output pair.

Waldorf Pulse 2

Contemporary analogue beauty. I already covered this in more detail here.

That Missing Feature

More modulation signal generators! More specifically, I’d like to have at least one envelope in addition to the existing amp and filter ones.

Arturia MiniBrute

Really oldskool, no-frills analogue keyboard synth from today. Already covered in detail here and here.

That Missing Feature

Velocity sensitivity! That keyboard sends velocity, but the synth doesn’t react to it.

DSI Evolver

A monophonic, four-oscillator hybrid synth with loads of modulation options, sonic flexibility, wavetables – you can even store your own user waves! This is about as good as it gets…

More details also here.

That Missing Feature

As great as this powerhouse is, there’s actually two – wavetable modulation sources (you can only select the wave with the sequencer, not with an LFO or envelope etc.) and the always-digital signal path.

If I had to pick one, it would probably be an all-analogue signal path: the way it is, everything always runs through the digital HP and effects, no possibility to bypass that. Pity, otherwise you’d have an all-analogue signal path when not using the digital oscillators.

Nord Modular G2

I love this series! Having a wonderful editor to go modular in a virtual analogue environment is great! And the G2 had addressed most of the shortcomings of generation one.

At first sight, I’d like samples as potential oscillators. However, as that might be one of those game-changers, I’ll settle with

That Missing Feature

I still need MIDI plus USB! Put both the editor interface and MIDI control onto one USB connection, please!

DSI Tetra

Also covered here already, this is pure analogue beauty taking into the 21st century. Four voice, four-part multitimbrality, four outputs, proper USB integration, a great sound architecture (from the Mopho, which in turn is an expanded Prophet).

I typically enjoy to have not only low-pass filters. Using multimode filters would make that a different synth, however, and adding highpasses should be considered a game changer, so

That Missing Feature

is not existent, really. Great work!

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