While we live in the golden age of plugins and software, it’s more than easy to forget that hardware was there first. Before any plugins were invented, actual hardware existed and people made music using them. Though plugins are great for a modern workflow, it’s worth owning an actual hardware synthesizer to support the music production process, solely for the authentic hands-on feel – and just think about the sound it lets out…
Ten plugins or one analog synth?
Here’s a common scenario: you are a bedroom producer, owning a bunch of different plugins and softsynths. However, you don’t know how to effectively use half of them. Instead of owning 10 plugin synths, get one quality analog synthesizer to sit on your desk, ready to be fiddled with.
Not only does a real synth look and sound awesome, it is an actual instrument to be played. Just tell me that twisting the filter on a softsynth has the same feeling as actually turning the filter knob, feeling the effect the analog processing does to the sound. I didn’t think so.
The advantages of hardware
The advantages of using a hardware synthesizer are real. The workflow in sound design is taken to a whole another level, not being limited to looking at the screen as you can simply trust your intuition as you turn the knobs.
The sounds you make with a hardware synth tend to become more personal due to its hand-crafted nature, which is a huge bonus. For purposes of learning synthesis, a hardware synth is the best choice. Sometimes using software, learning the actual synths inside and out is not that interesting, which results in using presets all the time.
Hardware synths support the learning process.
The beautiful sound of true analog oscillators and filters is a rock-solid fact. Aside of a great, organic sound, producers can easily trigger MIDI straight from their digital audio workstations to take advantage of the best from both digital and analog worlds. Also, modern synths usually communicate with your computer via USB, so it’s really that easy…
Suggestions for a first synth
Here are a few great, affordable monosynths to consider (except for Waldorf Pulse 2, which is technically a monosynth but has some polyphonic abilities, letting its user play chords with it!)
Waldorf Pulse 2
Waldorf Pulse 2 is a great choice for a first hardware synth. It is capable of producing powerful basses, leads, smooth pads and keys, even drums and special effects. The speciality of the Pulse 2 is its paraphonic mode, letting its user to play chords up to 8 voices. The Pulse 2 has a built-in arpeggiator and a great-sounding filter section.
Korg MS-20 Mini
Korg MS-20 Mini is true vintage in a modern and affordable package. The sound of the MS-20 needs no introduction, able to create fat analog basses, drums and all kinds of electronic sounds. This is a sound designer’s favorite, with a semi-modular patchbay for modulation possibilities.
The MiniBrute by Arturia is a fun and fat monosynth, great for organic-sounding leads and basses, featuring a sub oscillator for the lowest frequencies and an intuitive oscillator mixer section, letting its user tweak until a unique timbre is achieved.
Korg Volca Beats Analog Rhythm Machine
The Volca Beats by Korg is truly a small bundle of joy, with its intuitive user interface and great sound. The Beats has a 16-step sequencer for making drum patterns.
A new perspective
For any music producer and electronic music enthusiast, there really is no excuse not to acquire one quality hardware synthesizer, as the synth market is blooming, with a variety of options available.
Get out of your comfort zone of softsynths and get yourself an early birthday present. You’ll gain a whole new approach to making music with a hardware synth in your arsenal.
Do you own any hardware synths already (and if you do, which ones)? Are you thinking of getting one, or has it never even crossed your mind? Let’s discuss in the comment section below.