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Music Technology


        Home Synthesizers Eurorack        
  Roland JX-3P + PG200 OSC Oscar Casio CZ-101 Yamaha TX81Z Korg DW8000
  Novation A-Station Kawai K4r Access Virus B Roland SH-32 Yamaha MU90R
  Alesis NanoSynth Roland JV-1010 Alesis NanoBass E-mu Proteus 2000 Casio VZ-8M
  Korg 03R/W Quasimidi Quasar Korg MS2000B Roland Gaia DSI Evolver
  Studiologic Sledge Waldorf Streichfett Roland JX-03 Roland SE-02 Roland D-05
  Roland SH-01A Novation Ultranova Behringer Neutron    


Roland JX-3P




This was the first serious piece of kit I managed to purchase, courtesy of my pay off at the end of my apprenticeship. Not as highly regarded as its stable mates the Juno 6 and Juno 60 but I'm glad I bought it. It has the benefit of the extra oscillator. I also got the optional programmer (PG200) without which it would be a bugger to program.

To my knowledge it was Rolands first MIDI synthesizer and the second only to the SCI Prophet 600 in being the first to have the interface. The MIDI spec though is limited by today's standards.

Considering it's age it still works perfectly.

It had been removed from my setup and replaced by the JX-03 but then due to the failure of the Korg DW8000 I had space for it so it got a reprieve.







I got one of the last few they made of these when they were being sold off via E&MM magazine.

Nowadays these are a big collectors item and worth a fortune which isn't true of any of my other gear.

Personally I never took to it in a big way, always found the envelopes lacked any real punch. The waveform building though is a big plus as it enables some great waveforms to be produced and this is how I mainly use it.

Billy Currie used one of these to replace the ARP Odyssey before moving onto software.



Casio CZ-101




This came as part of a package deal along with an Akai S612 Sampler.

The sampler has long been relegated to the loft to gather dust as it is totally obsolete but the Casio still gets a lot of use.

The advantage the Casio has over a lot of newer and better spec synthesizers is that it has a sound of its own and nothing replicates it. It is fairly easy to program once you get the hang of it although I do find the over complex envelopes a bit of a bind. Also it's small number of patch memories and their very volatile nature is a big shortcoming although this has been rectified by adding a CZPL to it which makes 1000s of sounds available.

I have tried a few software versions which come close but not quite the same, would love to upgrade to a full size CZ-3000 or CZ-5000 but space means that is highly unlikely.



Yamaha TX81Z




In the mid 80s the Yamaha DX7 arrived and pretty much killed the analogue synthesizer market for awhile.

The DX7 was way beyond my price range but Yamaha moved into the budget arena with the keyboard DX100 and DX11 (which was basically a TX81Z with a keyboard). I chose the TX81Z and got myself a, slightly battered, second hand one.

To this day I, along with many others, never understood it. I've used various editing software and recently got a Stereoping 81Z Programmer to help but generally it's pure luck if you get a sound you want or that is even usable so this is really only used in a preset mode.

As with the CZ-101 it's benefit is that it sounds different even if FM synthesis is looked down on nowadays by the purists, luckily I'm not a analogue snob.



Korg DW-8000




This was "Synthesizer Of The Year" at one point and I think deservedly so.

It's basically an analogue synthesizer with additional waveforms which enhance its sound considerably while retaining the ease of programming. It was also one of the first synthesizers to include a digital delay which was a great bonus at the time.

As with the Casio CZ-101 I find its over complicated envelopes more of an annoyance than a feature.

I recently got a Stereoping 8000 controller which replaced the Philip Rees version I was using and it's a great improvement.

I'm not a fan of the early Korg keyboards in a physical sense, I find them very heavy and noisy and I usually use this as just a sound module and run it from the Studiologic Sledge. If I could find a cheap EX8000 I would replace it.

At one point this had decided to not work, zero response when powering on. Luckily a good friend of mine took it on as a project and it is now running nicely.



Novation A-Station




A lot can be crammed into a small space and this is a good example.

Novation started making a series of nice and cheap synthesizers when the others seem to be going more upmarket (expensive) and this is a lovely sounding machine but the space saving comes at a cost and the shared oscillator controls make it a bit difficult to understand what's going on.

I recently moved it to a more accessible position so have re-discovered it's potential.



Kawai K4r




This was very much an impulse buy and I think my first ever eBay purchase.

They were quite cheap at the time and probably still are. Once again not the easiest of synths to program even with the Stereoping K4 didn't really help that much but they do have a fairly unique sound which is hard to describe but at best I'd call "gritty industrial".

Very good for atmospheric pad sounds.



Access Virus B




Much of Gary Numans retro sounds come, I believe, from an Access Virus although a later model not the B.

It's is probably one of the nicest sounding synths I own, capable of some really lovely thick analogue sounds.

The filters routing can be confusing at times and once again an over complicated envelope (ADSR works perfectly well). There is also a lot hidden in menus including the effects, I tend to just use external effects as it's easier.

Mine does have a minor fault with the display in that a line is missing but it doesn't effect its use.



Roland SH-32




Another synthesizer that was very much an impulse buy but it was a good one.

Not been that impressed by Rolands later instruments (see Gaia) but this does have a lovely sound.

The interface does leave a lot to be desired and the shared oscillator controls are a pain. I've probably not even scratched the surface of it's multi-timbral capabilities as the manual confused me so much when I tried to access the drum sounds I gave up. I still don't know how to get drums from it.

I guess the interface will appeal to the "dance music" fraternity.



Yamaha MU90R




I use to own a Yamaha DB50XG Soundcard which bolted onto my existing card and gave me access to some wonderful Yamaha XG sounds as well as the standard GM.

Unfortunately after many an upgrade of my computer that card was no longer a viable option so I went for this and it's good.

I mainly use it as a preset device but it gives some great basic sounds from the XG and GM range along with many of it's own.

Mine does have a slightly temperamental volume control and I quite often lose one side of the output.



Alesis NanoSynth




Not a lot you can say about these units.

They have no real editing features apart from an effect level but what they do supply is a large number of good sounds to use in a very small package.

One thing I did find though is they are very particular about the PSU you use, a standard variable voltage one I tried using would not work with it.



Roland JV-1010




Much like the two Nanos this was purely bought as a preset instrument.

You may be able to edit it via software but nothing I have come across.

Its sounds are very good and usable and there is an option to expand it but not something I have looked into.



Alesis NanoBass




Exactly the same as the NanoSynth except this is purely dedicated to bass sounds.

It does a very good job at doing this covering a vast range of sounds but once again no editing facility.



E-mu Proteus 2000




These are a wonderful source of preset sounds covering a wide range of styles with easy editing of the main components.

I got mine second hand and not sure how the previous owner had it set up but the display didn't show the current sound being played and every time I used it I took ages to get it right but now I have found the parameter to change the default it is almost perfect and I've fallen in love with it again. I say almost perfect as for some reason (possibly the previous owner again) it defaults to fully panned right and I can't find how to change the default to central.



Casio VZ-8M




An enhancement of the Casio CZ series which I am a big fan of.

Unfortunately the poor interface and lack of patience on my part means I've never really got beyond the presets which is a bit of an injustice to this machine as the factory sounds are great.

One day I will dedicate some time to it.



Korg 03R/W




This was very much an impulse buy being both fairly cheap and a more up to date Korg than I currently have.

As is too often the case with digital synths they are a nightmare to program so this has served as nothing more than a little used preset synth not because it sounds in any way bad but mainly because it sits at the bottom of the rack so gets largely missed.

Another I need to spend more time with.



Quasimidi Quasar




You don't see many Quasimidi products and the company wasn't around long and has since folded.

This was going moderately cheap and from a manufacturer I had no units from so it was worth the purchase.

Useful and large range of presets.



Korg MS2000B




This was a present to myself as away of cheering myself up on being made redundant.

I was originally going to get a MicroKorg but decided instead to go for its big brother, I believe they have the same sound engine.

The presets don't exactly excite being very much aimed at a dance audience but once you get past them it's a good sounding instrument especially with the additional waveforms. Also for a Korg the keyboard has a far lighter feel to it.

As far as I know the only difference between the MS2000B and the MS2000 is colour scheme and microphone socket



Roland Gaia SH-01




This is one of the few instruments I've purchased that I didn't really like.

It should be amazing having plenty of control, looks great and in effect is three independent synthesizers in one.

Unfortuanely this is all ruined by a rather lacklustre sound.



DSI Evolver




I got this mainly as it was from a manufacturer I had not owned before.

Only a monophonic but it does possess a powerful sound unfortunately coupled with an awkward interface.

For some reason it also seems to have defaulted on all presets to playing the same note regardless of what key you press, I'm sure there is a reason for this option but not one I can work out. I found the option to change it but it's a pain having to do it for all the sounds.



Studiologic Sledge




I remember seeing the first pictures of this synthesizer and falling in love with it but fully expecting it to be a hideous price but it is in fact very affordable.

Probably my favourite instrument, the control panel just makes it so accessible although it would of been nice with a slightly more extensive and varied list of presets.

Comes with a very basic but highly usable effects section. You can also update the software to allow effects to work simultaneously.

The wavetables I believe come from a Waldorf Blofeld and they certainly add a lot to its sound.



Waldorf Streichfett




I love the sound of old string synthesizers, probably from my love of early Jarre music.

I've had numerous software options, originally the eSLine then the Cromina and finally the paid for Arturia Solina V.

When this came out I knew it was a definate purchase, yes it might be a limited string synth but it does it so well.



Roland JX-03




I got this purely as a space saver allowing me to retire my original JX-3P and replace with this much smaller unit. Then due to the failure of the Korg DW8000 I now have both in operation.

It is hard to tell them apart sound wise although this does offer a few extra waveforms and also a built in delay but it's far easier to use an external one.

Not outstanding but functional in much the same way the JX-3P was.



Roland SE-02




I was never going to able to afford a real MiniMoog so apart from a software version this is probably as close as I will get.

To be honest I've never known what the fuss was about apart from the fact it does a killer bass sound.

An ARP Odyssey would still be my first choice



Roland D-05




I once got a Roland D-110 as my first foray into LA Synthesis, I owned it for about two weeks and could not make head nor tail of it. Couldn't even work out how to access the presets!

This is far easier to operate.

Sounds are amazing but I have yet to explore its programmability.



Roland SH-01A




One of my biggest regrets was selling my old Roland SH-101 many years ago so when this came out it was a no brainer, although Behringer bringing out their own version a while later somewhat dampened my enthusiasm.

Took a while to decide which colour to go for but opted for the classic grey.

A simple synth with a very clean sound which I didn't like at the time. If only the oscillator on the Gaia sounded this good.



Novation Ultranova




My fourth attempt at buying one of these. Every previous time I was sold one they decided they were out of stock. This was possibly the last new one in the UK.

I love it, so many options, almost too many. Who really needs 6 Envelopes!

The Wavetables I would say are the only disappointment when compared to what the MS2000B gives but the basic waveforms on offer and how you can vary them more than makes up for it.



Behringer Neutron




This was not a long-term planned buy, I was always intending to get a Modal Argon8 and possibly still will but ended up with this instead.

I had started to take a partial interest in modular synths with a long term plan of maybe one day building a Eurorack. This seemed a good starting point and is currently an integral part of my modular system.

Worried at first as it made no noise out of the box even though it was clearly getting a signal but found an initial setup guide online that pointed me to my error (Overdrive Level set at Zero)

It has some interesting tonal possibilites and for a Behringer does seem a solid build.



Updated - 04/06/2024