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$12,500 to spend. EMS Synthi A vs Modular
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Modular Synth General Discussion Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next [all]
Author $12,500 to spend. EMS Synthi A vs Modular
joesdeals
I am wondering if I can build something similar if not better then the EMS Synthi VCS3 by using modular eurorack components.

If a VCS3 is worth $12,000+. What if I use that money to just build a modular wall with a joystick and matrix module?

What modules do I need to buy to replicate what a EMS Synthi could do?
soundslikejoe
Much of the Synthi's price is based on the rarity of the instrument.... not really just it's functionality. For $12k you would build something massive in Eurorack by comparison.... it wouldn't be able to clone the Synthi sound or workflow, but it would go far beyond that in flexibility and sound potential IMO.
soundslikejoe
This could be a useful matrix center..
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/alyseum-ms-matrix

.... here is a cheaper more Synthi style matrix.
https://www.modulargrid.net/e/future-sound-systems-mtx9
johnnywoods
You could easily replace the functions of the synthi for way less. What you can't replace is the feel and "mojo" of a single, complete instrument. Nothing will sound quite like a vintage synthi, and the portability/ergonomic factor can't really be replaced.
ersatzplanet
Look at the Analogue Systems licensed EMS modules. They make the envelope shaper and the filter, the only modules I feel that have the character of the VCS3. They also make some VCOs that can have responses up to 0.5v/oct which is closer to the EMS 0.32v/oct so you can get closer to the modulation sweeps that the Synthi does so well. Other than that, for the same amount of cash you can easily buy a MUCH larger system with many more modules that do MANY more functions than the VCS3.

The VCS3 is a very lovely machine, it was the first synth I ever owned. The package is nice but only really for the studio, it doesn't fold up into a traveling mode (the Synthi A is the one for that).

There are also many other quirks with the EMS stuff that make it much different to work with than the current crop of synths. Attenuation on the outputs of modules, and not the inputs, is a big one for instance. If you want a LFO to affect two different destinations differently, you have to use attenuation pins (which is a limited selection) for example since the destinations don't have input attenuation. The matrix is a great visual patching system but the pins are fragile and expensive to replace. Things like that.

Go onto Modulargrid and price out a dream rig. See how close you get to the VCS3. In fact, start with ALL the module sections of a VCS3 (or as close as you can get to them) and see how much you can ADD to that. I'm sure that will make up your mind.
ersatzplanet
johnnywoods wrote:
You could easily replace the functions of the synthi for way less. What you can't replace is the feel and "mojo" of a single, complete instrument. Nothing will sound quite like a vintage synthi, and the portability/ergonomic factor can't really be replaced.


This is spot on for sure. There is something ergonomically appealing to me about the Synthi line. For me it is more in the AKS than the VCS3. The AKS was just a great sweet machine to gig with. I had two of them though so that was less limiting than only one. The package was just perfect for a small system.
ablearcher
Same as others have said. Im 4 years (and many many hp) into euro and of the opinion it cant replace any of my monosynths, much less something as unique as a vcs3 or synthi. Its just a different feel and way of working even if you duplicate each of the functional blocks.
Nelson Baboon
So, I think that it is generally true, at least in the overall ui and work flow of the instrument, that individual modular synth modules can't totally emulate a self contained synth (at least the really good ones).

then it becomes a question of how important that one piece is to you, and what the threshold is for getting that experience. I don't think that many people would choose one of these for $50,000. Obviously (at least for almost everyone, I think) the increased overall functionality and variety would totally trump the one synth.

For 10,000+. I'm not interested, personally. but I guess if I were to give advice it would be to consider how much else you have, and how flexible a system you have now.

there are other considerations that can pop up. If you're familiar with the ems synths, maybe you foresee yourself gigging with them because you're really good at sustaining the quality of the music with that one piece.

My perhaps curmudgeonly opinion is that the values of some of these vintage pieces have gotten silly, and that while, if I were rich I might want to have some of them around, I think that much better stuff is made nowadays in general. My own choice at one point several years ago when I was considering an ems synth (forget which exact one, but it was cheaper than the prices now) was between it, and to go through with my fenix 2 + 3 purchase when my name finally came up. I discussed it thoroughly with someone who owns 2 of the ems synths (again - forget which exact ones), and he thought that the fenix would be a far better value and far more flexible. I'm glad that I went that route.

of course, in that price range you're not limited to eurorack. There are other formats, and other combinations of semi-jmodular synths, etc, that could provide you with some very interesting sounds.
joesdeals
I understand. Yes the EMS Synthi is one of a kind. Best solution is get one and also a module eurorack setup.

I am planning to use Synthi for video game sound effects and film.

Has anyone had any experience with The Hornet? EMS Synthi clone.

http://www.thesynthi.de/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=119&v=Him60eLFwXk

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGmY-46Lf8M

Hornet is $6,700. So I can purchase one then purchase some eurorack modules.

soundslikejoe > thank you those matrix modules look fantastic.
BugBrand
What do you use already? That may give some pointers to your ways of working (sounds like it is work).

Plumping a large chunk down on first foray (I'm guessing) into Euro (or any other system/setup) sounds like a massive learning curve - the variety available in Euro is a strength and perhaps a weakness too.

Synthi = lots of limitations as mentioned above. That is useful in many ways for an 'instrument'. But, yes, it is pretty overpriced. You will never recreate the 'instrument' via modules (though you may make a nice system to play with)

Getting a Hornet + Euro ---- again brings in the excessive options of Euro.

You could do your work on many options (modular or non) for considerably less. Why do you need to spend so much in one go?

Nelson Baboon wrote:
of course, in that price range you're not limited to eurorack. There are other formats, and other combinations of semi-jmodular synths, etc, that could provide you with some very interesting sounds.


Wiard was the first setup that sprung to mind - could be damn nice.
Really, if you want an instrument to work on possibly best to get a nicely set up system and not have the endless battle of what if I add this & that (etc etc)
ranix
~$12k will get you a Dotcom Studio-88

https://www.synthesizers.com/studio88.html

if you have the room for 5u you won't regret it
CopperHydra
Build your massive modular for 12k, get really good at using it, then make friends with some one who has a vcs3
Drinking

My advice on building a modular is to start with as few modules as possible to make sounds. Maybe just an oscillator, a filter(or some way to modify timbre), a Dual/Quad VCA module, multiples and one control voltage source is enough because with just those modules you can get a wide variety of sound and knowledge.

Synths also sometimes like to be sent through external gear, which if you're using a modular, you'll need a way to bring the level down from 5v to whatever the gear requires either with an attenuator or an "Output" module.

With the modular stated above, a nice EQ like from BAE, a cool tape delay and a good converter/soundcard with some nice 3way monitors you could make a really cool album.

If you really just want to spend 12k on only a synth, go for it and skip this parable.

I started my hardware modular with just a VCF. I really liked that filter from demos I heard but the next day I realized that I needed a modular level preamp to power it and send my recordings into it like I did with my software filters. I chose a preamp that had an envelope follower with two outs and one with a lag plus a gate extractor. I did a lot with this setup, sometimes just sitting with my phone plugged into it sending signals to it from a $1 app.

Then I found that I really did want an analog oscillator after all. The next two modules were a VCO and another VCF, both, as I found out with the filter, could be used as LFO's. The VCO had a continuous waveform from Triangle to Saw with a CV input for "morphing" between the two and it also had a sync input with the amazing ability to track notes of an external Saw wave. The VCO also had PWM.

The next thing I did was build some multiples so I could really dig in to it. Over the next few weeks with this setup, I learned enough about my gear to understand what I was missing from it for what kind of sounds I wanted to hear from it. I was constantly experimenting with all the different ways that this tiny little setup could be arranged. I'd spent a little more that $1000 so far, since the filters were $400 each.

Two years later, here I am and I've spent over 12k on modules and outboard but I didn't cash out my entire savings right away. I've learned enough to be able to make most of the sounds I want to with the gear I have.
dsu
I have a Synthi AKS which I bought new in 1976 and some Eurorack stuff.

If I had nothing but money today I would think really hard before buying a used Sythni. They don't age well and depending on the condition you will need work done.

There is a bit of unubtainum in a Synthi so there is a risk that the $12,000 is just the beginning. Depending on where you live, service might be difficult.

However, as Ranix said, for 12K there are choices beyond Eurorack. Dotcom, and Serge come to mind as things worth investigating.

I can't get into a discussion about the Synthi "sound", it is too subjective for me but what I really love and haven't found equaled in the modular world is its playability. The key to this in my view is separating patching from controls with the matrix panel. Patching is fast with the synthi so repatching while playing live is encourage. There are no cables covering up the knobs so adjustment is easy.

I didn't realize this for a long time and it was only after playing with a Phenol and a Synthi side by side that I realized how annoying it was to dive in between the cables to twiddle the knobs. I'm not really sure how effective the eurorack matrix panels will be in reducing cable clutter over the knobs. I think it is possible but the skiff would need to be customized to provide pathways for cable runs between the Matrix and the modules. Sort of a uber version of the Make Noise shared system distribution panel.
pelican
Miss mine, but for 12 grand no way. half that is for rarity/collector value. You could easily get same functionality for less, but if you have to have it then go for it
joesdeals
Thanks for the replies. I wonder why the patch matrix is so rare on modern day synths. It seems so much more ideal than patch cables
joesdeals
dsu wrote:
I have a Synthi AKS which I bought new in 1976 and some Eurorack stuff.

If I had nothing but money today I would think really hard before buying a used Sythni. They don't age well and depending on the condition you will need work done.

There is a bit of unubtainum in a Synthi so there is a risk that the $12,000 is just the beginning. Depending on where you live, service might be difficult.

However, as Ranix said, for 12K there are choices beyond Eurorack. Dotcom, and Serge come to mind as things worth investigating.

I can't get into a discussion about the Synthi "sound", it is too subjective for me but what I really love and haven't found equaled in the modular world is its playability. The key to this in my view is separating patching from controls with the matrix panel. Patching is fast with the synthi so repatching while playing live is encourage. There are no cables covering up the knobs so adjustment is easy.

I didn't realize this for a long time and it was only after playing with a Phenol and a Synthi side by side that I realized how annoying it was to dive in between the cables to twiddle the knobs. I'm not really sure how effective the eurorack matrix panels will be in reducing cable clutter over the knobs. I think it is possible but the skiff would need to be customized to provide pathways for cable runs between the Matrix and the modules. Sort of a uber version of the Make Noise shared system distribution panel.


This is why I am very hesitant to spend money on a old vintage equipment.

I am really looking at the Hornet right now and spending the extra six thousand on a starting small eurorack.

Right now I have 3 x Mother 32 modules looks to expand from there.
Orwell
Go And find somewhere to test out an ems.

Check out the ems iPad app, can't say I've heard a more authentic analog vst or app. We compared it to a few ems synths on the spot and it stood up really well.

Think about what you want to accomplish in terms of sound.
Ems is heavy on sound effects, drones. It's over priced at the peak of the market

There is always a chance the ems will be cloned by mr. B.

Really if you are going to spend 12k on modular, it's worth driving to synth shop and tying out the euro modules.

Vcv rack is great starting point for trying out modules
Graham Hinton
joesdeals wrote:
I wonder why the patch matrix is so rare on modern day synths. It seems so much more ideal than patch cables


Because it is an expensive component and usually it is implemented incorrectly. The two mentioned above miss the whole point by not being able to sum, one is a crosspoint switch so it is merely a selector, the other uses shorting pins so it has no advantage over patch cables.

It is not a question of getting a filter that "sounds" like a Synthi filter, i.e. FET distortion, it is a question of getting a filter that can have 16 audio inputs and 16 CV inputs including itself. Standalone clone modules taken out of that context just sound a bit naff.

The people who made the Synthis famous, and hence "worth" silly money, got them because they were cheap and accessable, unlike modulars at the time that cost more than a house. They overcame the shortcomings and made records that sold millions and then stopped using them because they could then buy what they really wanted. David Bowie bought Brain Eno's Synthi A at a silly price because it was used on 'Heroes' and he thought he needed it to get "that sound" again, then died without using it. Ironically, that one is "worth" even more now, whatever happened to it. Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses.

I know a handful of people who have been performing with a Synthi continuously for four decades and if any of them had it broken or stolen they couldn't afford to replace it now due to "collectors".

New Synthis and clones are expensive now because they are built inefficiently with 1950s hand wiring. Putting together a similar module complement is also inefficient and expensive.
ndkent
I've had both a Synthi AKS and Eurorack for roughly 20 years. A synthi is it's own environment and workspace. It has a really interesting personality though is pretty basic. I'm in agreement that too many people want one as a sort of artifact or status piece. I'm sure there will be some better semi clones though obviously there is always a how close is close enough. Just having bits of it in another format isn't the same experience

You probably won't find the real thing anything like a good value but you should work to try to arrange some time on one and maybe a bigger modular too. Only you can decide what gives you the experience and sound you would like. One person's "close enough" is an other person's "nothing like it"
sitarman
maybe if we are lucky Behringer will clone the synthi next Enjoy the show!
joesdeals
Orwell wrote:
Go And find somewhere to test out an ems.

Check out the ems iPad app, can't say I've heard a more authentic analog vst or app. We compared it to a few ems synths on the spot and it stood up really well.

Think about what you want to accomplish in terms of sound.
Ems is heavy on sound effects, drones. It's over priced at the peak of the market

There is always a chance the ems will be cloned by mr. B.

Really if you are going to spend 12k on modular, it's worth driving to synth shop and tying out the euro modules.

Vcv rack is great starting point for trying out modules



The app is amazing. The devs said it was so close to their real vcs3 they couldn't tell the difference. So I have been playing in the app making tons of presets and saving them is a great feature.

I am seriously considering getting the portabella clone
http://www.matrixsynth.com/2017/02/portabella-sound-preview-sync-for-4 -pins.html

then use the rest my budget on a synth keyboard like the Moog Voyager XL and some eurorack modules to dip my toes into.

I just got started in the world of Eurorack modules, I got 3 of the Mother 32 and that already is an amazing experience. So many combinations.
ersatzplanet
Graham Hinton wrote:

The people who made the Synthis famous, and hence "worth" silly money, got them because they were cheap and accessable, unlike modulars at the time that cost more than a house. They overcame the shortcomings and made records that sold millions and then stopped using them because they could then buy what they really wanted. David Bowie bought Brain Eno's Synthi A at a silly price because it was used on 'Heroes' and he thought he needed it to get "that sound" again, then died without using it. Ironically, that one is "worth" even more now, whatever happened to it. Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses.


This is spot on. Especially the "Brain Eno still sounds like Brian Eno whatever he uses." bit. (remember he was fond of DX7s for a long time.)
wackelpeter
When a VCS3 or AKS clone some day pops up for 1000-1500 euro, count me in for one. Otherwise i rather stick to other gear and my DIY stuff.
SmokyClap
I had a friend who owned a Synthi and it's probably the best sounding synth I've ever heard. With that said, unless I was uber wealthy, I'd spend that money on a lot of other things before I bought one. With half of that you'd have an amazing euro system and a lot of spare change for other stuff.
akairipper
The dude that mak the vcs3 sent me a quote 10 months ago for a new one for about 5 grand (pounds) I want one but not that much and no way would I waste 12.5 on an old one. I used to have one in the studio I worked in and itvwas amazing but never ever ever worth that money. Get some modular and a vermona spring reverb and buy a new car with the change.
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