Polysynths

Impossibly frustrating user interfaces and design logic. Fantastic sound. Very frustrating. Design / UI looks much better on Synth Pro. The mod routings are limited, but that’s OK for me, I think…

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I’m a big fan of MFB, but I tend to agree; it’s a little like Elektron interfaces (a little) in that it takes a while adjusting to their way of doing things… but sometimes those decisions are also equally indecipherable or insufferable. Minimal manuals don’t help either.

Their knob-per-function devices like the Kraftzwerg II and Urzwerg sequencers are far more reasonable (for the most part; there were still some functions on the latter that it took me literally years to understand thanks to the poor explanation in the manual). The Synth Pro does look good though.

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tanzbar is a glorious drum machine in my opinion also - a little LED memorization is required but the combination of knob record, individual step length per instrument, and roll/flam are pretty wonderfully entertaining.

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I have to recommend going for the 16 voice. Stacking patches is by far one of the most powerful and worthwhile things about this synth, and 8 voices can add up fast, especially if you are doing pads with long releases. The more time goes on, the more I love this thing.

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I’d actually love an offshoot thread to talk about the RYTM - I’ve been underutilizing it in the past few months since getting my A4 (Which has been a very, very worthwhile polysynth for me!)

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There’s a thread over here for discussing the Rytm:

One weird thing for me is that I have never once used my A4 as a poly synth in all the years that I’ve had it since the Mk 1 came out. Perhaps because it has generally been used more as a groovebox than anything else, or for cv/gate sequencing, I tend to think of it in those terms (and I have Juno-60 and DX-7 for those occasions when I think of polyphony). Maybe it’s also the lack of obvious keys.

Somehow it mostly gets used as a drum machine these days, but perhaps it’s time to hook up a midi keyboard and give it a whirl.

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I have been thinking about replacing my Arturia Keystep midi controller and replacing it with something else which will fit in that space between my computer keyboard and monitor. I came across a video of someone using a Yamaha Reface CS and thought it could be an option. Does anyone have any experience of using one?
A nice bonus is that the sliders can put out midi, so it could be used for some Norns scripts, DAW faders, etc. On the downside, no mod wheel or velocity sensitive keys. But I do have other full-sized keyboards – I just have to move my chair to sit at them.
The reason I was thinking about getting rid of the Keystep is that I don’t use the sequencing or the CV out, and I wanted something less toy-like, more well made and with more keys. In that respect I probably wouldn’t be much further forwards with the Reface, though it has more keys. Perhaps it is worth it though if it has inspiring polyphonic sounds. Any opinions? (Or suggestions of an alternative compact midi controller.)

EDIT: the CP sounds really nice too…

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I highly recommend it, especially if you’re tracking via Overbridge - You can get some really interesting sounds by taking the voices separately from the FX bus / stereo mix.

Pretty soon I’m gonna try out the trick @madeofoak mentioned re: Matriarch, and send sequences and progessions into it that use more than 4-note polyphony. What’s cool with the A4 (And I think also with the DN!) is that every voice can be so totally different, but also they can process and modulate one another.

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I highly recommend the Reface CS and CP both. As far as MIDI goes, there’s an extra adapter you need to use, and I haven’t used it for anything fancy (just controlling modules with, no cc) but I really liked the feel of the keys, small as they are. The pitch wheel on the CS is no slouch either! The sounds and effects of both are very inspiring, I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of them, they feature prominently in my latest release. The synth melody at the end of this track is Reface CS (comes in at around 3:20) I was going for a big old Keith Emerson Moog Modular sound and was satisfied with the result (even though it did not achieve ELP quality).

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Thanks for that, yes they sound great from what I’ve heard. I think the keyboard could only be an improvement on the Keystep too. I’ve read others saying they are quite playable.

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I decided to take a leap of faith, sell some stuff, and go with the prophet 6. Sat down with it today and noodled some chords from “twist” and was very pleased. Now to write something of my own!

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Excellent choice!

I bought a rev2 few years ago because of AMOK and James Blake, but sold it because of the filter and bought a P6 instead because of ANIMA (especially Last I Heard), Suspiria OST and Beautiful People (w/ Mark Pritchard), which is the first time Yorke has recorded a P6.

EXCELLENT synth. I’m absolutely in love with everything of it: the creamy filter, the incredible ease of use, the form factor, the sound palette. Great beauty. My go-to and desert-island synth. I prefer it to the P5/P10 (except for the the triangle osc, but one can’t have everything…).

To me, the immediacy and simplicity of use of the P6 is much, much more important than the rev2 modulation greatness. Limits can be great, of course.

Also, load the patch 411 on the P6 (which is a patch originally from the P5), quickly tweak the filter and amp envelopes, add some stereo spread and BOOM: instant Everything In Its Right Place (which was the reason why I felt in love with Prophets, at the beginning).

(OT: I also had a RYTM because of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and a MachineDrum because of The Eraser, but I sold everything and bought instead a very basic Model:Sample because of Truth Ray and Ice On My Drink (I suspect Yorke didn’t really used RYTM’s engines in studio, but samples instead. RYTM is more for live use, as he also said. And Model:Sample is absolutely great to focus just on the samples+sequencer thing without annoying blips and blops).

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Two weeks ago I got my Polybrute, and there’s a lot to like about it: build quality, flexibility, user interface, playability (Morphee and Ribbon controller) great built in arpeggiator and step sequencer, Connect remote and librarian plug-in, morphing, super flexible mod matrix… The sound on its own is also impressive – and the voice management (various options) works surprisingly well, so having “only six voices” doesn’t feel as limited as I expected.
I was hoping that on top of all that it could get close to the Prophet sound world, but this week I compared it with a friend to his P6 – and at least for a part of the sounds it’s just not possible, just because the filters do sound so differently (it’s always the filters, right?).
End of the story: My friend (who owns a P6 and a Prophet 10 amongst other polysynths) was so impressed that he will likely buy a Polybrute in the long run as a sound design machine.
I will keep the Polybrute, but will probably end up buying a P6 too, because that was always my favorite polysynth sound. Now I just have to avoid hearing my friend’s Prophet 10…

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Just to be more precise: the instrument responsible for most of Blake’s synth sounds is a P08, not a rev2. Also, his very first album (which contains the wilhelm scream) was entirely recorded ITB with NI Massive – he told in a recent interview.

Anyway.
For the P6 vs rev2 comparison: I also liked the rev2 a lot, to be honest. It’s complementary to the P6. Choosing a synth is of course really subjective and depends on the sound / workflow you’re after.
rev2, as you may have heard, is a deeper machine by far. and it sounds really “digital”, sharp and arctic to my ears (which can be very beautiful). but it needs a lot of menu-diving, and the filter isn’t always easy to deal with.
P6, on the other hand, has a limited (but still, large) sound palette, it hasn’t any learning curve and it’s an instant-joy with its knobs-per-function… and the filters are way warmer.
The questions are: do you need extended modulation options (and still: someone from Gearslutz has built and sells an external modulation box to extend P6 capabilities) / are you Ok with deep and time-consuming programming and menu-diving / what kind of sounds are you looking for / do you like the Curtis filter?

To tell you my experience: I am (unfortunately) obsessed with working within some limits, I can’t focus on my music if the possibilities are infinite. I prefer working with a limited machine and knowing it very deeply instead of having more possibilities and infinite distractions.
Also, I am really into the P6 sound palette, so the jump from rev2 to P6 was easy.
I like to work with simple patches.

I spent years trying to find the best-minimum setup for myself, tried a lot, lot of synths and samplers and fx and drum machines and plugins and stuff, and I finally found a setup that works pretty fine with my ears, and with my way of working and thinking: a P6 as my main synth (pads, leads, keys, and some weird sound design) / NI Monark for bass (and some leads, and some other stuff) – it greatly replaces all the Moogs I’ve own: it’s super simple, and sounds *really good / Serum for digital tones and coldness. As the most of my synth needs are programmed with the P6, I don’t mind having the rest ITB (on the contrary, I prefer it). Model:Samples (which is basically a Digitakt without distractions) and ITB-sequencing with Logic for some drum programming.

Of course, it’s worth saying that I do not do lives, everything is for studio use only. And I prefer to record something step by step, instrument by instrument and arrange it in the detail instead of looping things and so on.

This is what works for me!
Don’t know if it helps, or something…

And sorry for my english, too.

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not sure if this affects the matrix at all, but I think that abstrakt instruments’ vs-1 big claim is that they’re defaulting to less stable autotuning per voice, something they say affects modern polysynths compared to the vintage ones.

I think there’s a whole video on it in that link somewhere, it’s been a while since I watched it.

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May I ask you why are you looking for a partner for your rev2?
If you don’t need *that moog sound or a wavetable, I honestly think that rev2 is deep enough to cover pretty much all of somebody’s synth needs.

It can be sharp and cold as hell, its capable of doing beautiful lush and warm pads, clicky rhodes-like sounds, all sort of noises, and really fat basses. It can be very clean and sinusoidal, and very desertic and aggressive when needed.

If I wasn’t after to *that prophet classic sound (why I moved to P6) and I had kept the rev2, I guess I wouldn’t need any monark or serum or razor. It’s a real swiss army knife.

And rev2 its already a razor by itself: Episode 2: Exploring Audio Mod on the Prophet Rev2 - YouTube
!

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I thought it used to be the other way around! I got a 1000 3-4 years ago when they were a bit below $500 and I couldn’t find a 6R that cheap. 6R would have been preferred.

Great synth though. I never got around to getting a programmer though-- curious to hear how it works for you if go all in.

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I have enjoyed all your rumination on the rev2 - I am using a rev2 + hydrasynth combination into octatrack right now and I love it immensely made this the other night which is octa + rev2 (link). All that synth texture is pure rev2 all the way down - no external octa effects except the filter and sample chopping. It’s a gorgeous instrument. I get deep vizzy basses with it - I find using a tiny amount of audio out and noise as mod sources on osc frequency and filter cutoff with the filter env in the negative and the filter cutoff pretty tight are great ways to get real fuzzy bass growl with the rev2. Though those round sine basses are way easier on the hydra.

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Got my Kodamo EssenceFM Mk 2 and I can recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone wanting a multitimbral FM synth. The interface is the best I’ve seen for an FM synth of this power, and the sound is clean, detailed and layers well with itself and with analog and sampled sounds. It won’t substitute for a one knob per function polysynth if that’s the experience you’re after - FM is cerebral by nature- but it’s a great complement to other sound generators.

I’ll add a link here to a piece I put together during the initial learning phase. The 909 kick and hats in the opening bars are tiptop modules (and a snare at 3:30 or so), everything else is Kodamo.

Acid Zylo

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Maybe a digression (as you point out), but do you think you could spell this process out in more detail? Trying to figure out if this is something I already do or a new technique to try. And do you mean “69-91” % quantized?