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The Best Synths Today - Analogue, Digital & VST

Published: Fri April 12, 2013  News Feed

The Best Synths Today - Analogue, Digital & VST

By Hugh McKenna

Korg Analogue Synths
Courtesy Of Retro Synth Ads


Analogue is back! While there have always been a few companies flying the flag for analogue they have been more concentrated on the high end, until now.

There's been quite a resurgence of interest in analogue synthesis of late with lots of the major manufacturers revisiting classic sounds from times gone by or coming up with whole new ways to shake the foundations with bass or create serene atmospheres with pads. Of course this is all in addition to the huge range of digital hardware and software synths, many of which accurately replicate models of yesteryear with additional features like multi-fx & wavetable/additive/FM synthesis options. We truly live in a golden age of square waves and savage sawtooths and here's our guide to the help you choose which one is right for you.

Korg

Analogue

One of the original pioneers Korg have been getting back into the analogue game in a big way with their MS-20 reissue making a big splash at NAMM this year. Not simply plundering the past Korg have introduced the Volca series of noise makers at Musikmesse 2013, coming in Drum Machine, Bassline and Lead Synth flavours. While they have similar layout to the Monotron and Monotribe synths the Volcas are an altogether more serious proposition, maintaining a low price point that made the Mono synths so popular. Take these three synths, add in a Monotribe and you've got a mini-synth studio for little more than £500, you can even sync them all together for an all analogue setup with no MIDI or PC controller required.

Virtual Analogue

Not content with announcing the return of a prince among monosynths at NAMM Korg are also determined to be the king of the digital jungle. The KingKorg features technology that painstakingly models all that fat analogue goodness but adds numerous features and effects to expand your palette further. This lets you take all the sounds you need to the stage without racks of gear and complex setups.

Of course Korg are also responsible for one of the most popular VA synths of all time. The MicroKorg series is still going strong in venues, studios and band practice rooms around the globe.

Novation

Analogue

Novation have a strong analogue heritage, having made the acid monster Bass Station back in the early 90's. Now with the Bass Station II they've gone even further, offering acid squelch along with classic subtractive synthesis, arpeggiator, sequencing and effects. It's a beast for bass but the new BSII is capable of a huge range of synth sounds.

Novation Bass Station

Virtual Analogue

Among the first to dabble in VA Novation have a knack for creating lush sounding synths with that unmistakable analogue character and hands on control. Being digital affords certain advantages when it comes to the feature set, with 18 voices, 14 filters, arpeggiator plus heaps more the Ultranova synth essentially crams a semi-modular monster into a tidy package. The Mininova goes one step further, offering exactly the same sound engine in an even smaller and more affordable package. Either one makes for a versatile 'go to' synth for the stage or getting into deep editing in the studio. Brit Award nominees Alt-J agree. Novation keep improving the Nova family with the addition of new soundpacks, including some that emulate their famous, vintage synth the Supernova.

Novation Supernova Sound Pack

Arturia

Analogue

Announced in 2012 the Minibrute was something of a surprise, coming from a company who had largely specialised in digital recreations of analogue synths. It shouldn't have been really as that expertise has clearly been put to good use in the design of the Minibrute. Reminiscent of classic two octave monosynths from Moog and Roland the Brute really is a power house for basses and leads.

Plugins

It's here were Arturia really made their name with near perfect recreations of Moog, Sequential Circuits & Oberheim analogue synths. Of course what's the thing that every synth player really loves doing? Twiddling knobs of course and it's not quite the same tweaking settings on a PC monitor that you did your tax return on last week. So Arturia have released an array of different hardware controllers that integrate automatically with their plugins. One example is the Keylab they announced at Musikmesse 2013, offering 5000 sounds from their classic synth collections with direct control using knobs, faders, keys and drum pads.

Erasure and Depeche Mode synth fiend Vince Clarke is a Minibrute fan.

Nord

Virtual Analogue

They may only do one synthy thing but by gum they do it well! Nord concentrate on high end VA sound solutions for the serious synthesiser enthusiast, the Lead 4 and Drum 2 are their latest offerings. Delivering polyphonic hybrid synth action and cutting edge drum sounds respectively, the hardware is top notch too with that iconic red chassis, wooden pitch stick, ceramic mod wheel and now a set of drum pads for integration with the Drum 2. While build quality certainly is important you really want to know how they sound right?




Just in case there was any doubt left as to Nord's synth credentials Future Music caught a glimpse of Hans Nordelius' original Nord analogue synth at Musikmesse 2013.

Nord One

Native Instruments

Plugins

Not strictly a Messe announcement but we have been learning more about the Monark synth lately, based around a classic analogue synth (can you guess which one?) NI are so confident of the Monarks quality they've posted a direct comparison for you to judge for yourself. We're certainly convinced and the Monark comes with both Komplete 9 and Komplete 9 Ultimate, as if they weren't good enough value already.



Moog

It wouldn't be a synth round up without the venerable Moog Music, still making innovative analogue hardware with those famous filters. The most affordable offering is the Minitaur Bass Synth, straightforward but with a raw analogue sound. Recently Moog discontinued the Little Phatty but it's soul lives on in the more compact Slim Phatty analogue synth. Find out how the Little Phatty was designed during a turbulent time at the company.

 
 
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