Re: Trends in synths ...

From Brent A. Busby
Sent Thu, Jan 16th 1970, 01:00

On Fri, 29 May 1998, Sean Della-Franca wrote:

> Just a few general questions ...
> Did analogue always sound 'better' than digital? I mean back in the early
> '80s when digital started taking off, were there hardcore purists who were
> convinced that analogue sounded better, or was everyone too enchanted by the
> price/reliability of digital to notice.

There seem to have been remarkably few of them.  Most of the '80s
keyboardists that I admire were actually using the analog hardware that I
find so effective because they didn't have much else to choose from,
except for the Yamaha DX series, unless you wanted to talk real money. 
They've proven that now by going on to use digital wavetable ROMplers for
the most part, one big reason that so many of them seem to me to have
washed up and watered out their sound (lots of other reasons, too though). 
Since we're mentioning Jarre though lately, he may actually count as one
though who didn't, since, although he's not afraid of digitals and uses
the D-50, Fairlight, and others, he's still mostly an analog guy now, an
analog guy then, and always has been mostly an analog guy.  I actually had
to hoot a bit at the _Keyboard_ magazine review of one of his recent
albums that said, paraphrasing, that one bad thing about it is that Jarre
really ought to get in step with the way modern electronic music is being
made, and that his approach was outdated.  Bah!  He was one of the few who
can say they had a major part in *inventing* the act of approaching
electronic music.  They didn't say outright in the review what they were
refering to as being "outdated" in his approach, but I can't help but
wonder if it was his insistence on keeping a heavy dosage of ARP 2600 and
Matrix-6 around at all times instead of Korg Trinity and "n" series stuff,
not surpisingly what _Keyboard_ is being paid to sell.

> Also, we keep hearing the '80s sound is coming back. Anyone predicting (like
> RolandMan1) that the Yamaha FM stuff and the Casio CZ stuff will be as in
> demand as a Mini or a 303?

As an '80s oriented synthesist writing this type of material (and not a
'90s/'70s oriented synthesist, which seems to be a lot more common now
that the '70s are currently so in), this is something that has always
confused me greatly whenever I have seen it come up:  Since when were the
'80s a *digital* synth decade?  The very reason I'm on this list is for
its extreme pertinence to the type of hardware and music I'm working with,
which is mostly analog.  Even toward the late part of the decade, when the
D-50 started taking the scene away from the Prophet-5, Jupiter-8, and
OB-Xa, the old analogs and hybrids still hung on, and it was perhaps the
only time in emusic history so far that we've seen analogs, hybrids, and
digitals getting reasonably equal treatment.  *This* is the digital
decade.  You'd never know it to look at our interest and obsession with
analog that drives us to be here...but just try and get the market to do
anything for us.  Waldorf cares, Doepfer cares, Sound Transform
cares...the big three (Roland, Korg, Yamaha) don't care, they just keep
trying to appease us with the latest greatest DSP.  In the '80s, even the
digitals sounded more analog (ironically, more so than todays digitals
that are the result of millions in R&D to deliberately try to sound that
way)...just listen to the CZ series, the D-50, the ESQ-1, the DW8000...
These are synths that trumpeted their digitalness in the advertising
literature, and yet sounded amazingly analog.  I think it's hilarious that
you can't reproduce that today for over a million dollars in deliberate
research and development...  :)

> Is someone going to come up with a reason why a
> new digital synth can't sound as good as an old one? Not that I want to
> stock up on them now while they're still cheap or anything : - )

I think many of the '80s ones did, some in their own non-analog ways, some
in ways that are remarkably more analog sounding than so-called modern
emulation synths.  With the presence of analogs going back to the old
Moogs and ARPs, side by side with hybrids like the ESQ-1, and digitals
like the D-50, DX7, and CZ-1, I'll never be able to understand how the
'80s because a "digital decade".  They're the "all three" decade to me...

|                  |                                                |
| Brent A. Busby   |    "When you hear the price they paid,         |
| |       I'm sure you'll come and join            |
| |              the masquerade..."                |
|                  |                                                |
|  Rockford, IL    |                        --Berlin,               |
|  United States   |                     _Pleasure_Victim_, 1982    |
|                  |                                                |