We don’t always say new gear is best and you should always consider all of your options before splashing out. But there are reasons you should consider buying a new synth, and we’ve listed them all here…
For a magazine that talks endlessly about gear, we don’t really advocate buying new gear all of the time. We think that you have to have some very special reasons to purchase something new or upgrade an existing studio item and we believe this for two reasons.
Firstly there’s the cost. Making music is cheaper now than it ever has been, but once you factor in the quality pieces of equipment you need for your signal chain, it can still be an expensive pastime.
The second reason is that it’s often best to know your equipment well and when you do, you’ll get more out of it, so why upgrade? Why indeed. There are reasons you’ll need a new synth, though, so only think about doing it once you’ve read these and, if any of them apply to you, we’ll tell you how to upgrade next time.
1. You simply haven’t got one
Then you really do need one. Synths are great and they’re not just for Jean-Michel Jarre – they’re used in everything these days, from shiny pop to Bro-Country. So get a synth. Now. You need one in your life. The caveat? Actually you might already own one. Check your DAW.
2. You’re downgrading/upgrading your space
You might be moving your studio to a larger or smaller space – either way, it’s time to look at buying a new synth. If you’re going small, consider a software version of your hardware and get rid of the latter. If you find yourself with more space on your hands, then it might be a good time to consider a wall of modular or the tactility that a large keyboard synth offers.
The caveat? A bigger space might require better acoustics before the luxury of new synthesis…
3. You’ve been tempted by modular
Ah yes, haven’t we all. Those wires; the absolute lack of a computer anywhere in sight; the futuristic sci-fi banks of knobs and flashing lights; the constant arpeggiated bleeps… Yes, the Eurorack scene is a tempting one to enter, especially as the synth you buy will be totally your creation: a set of modules of your design which (probably) no one else will have.
The obvious caveat here is: be afraid, be very afraid. Modular can suck you in, strip your bank account and spit you out with nothing more than a beep. Tread carefully.
4. You’re after a particular sound
You may think that any synth can make any sound, and when you lift the lid on something like KV331’s SynthMaster One, Spectrasonics’ Omnisphere or Rob Papen’s Blue you’ll find so much synth power that virtually any sound can be created with it.
But the fact is that most synths specialise in one area: maybe analogue lushness or the recreation of a specific classic synth sound. Some synths are well known for having ’a sound’ as well – the ARP Odyssey was always the brash older cousin of the deep-thinking Moog, for example.
So if you need a specific sound, you might need a specific synth. The caveat? Explore the synthesis options which you do have first – they might take you on the right sonic journey after all.
5. You need the cash! Eh?
Yes, upgrading your synth really can make you money. You what? Well, you may be sitting on a hugely expensive classic analogue synth which you could sell and buy its modern equivalent for a fraction of the money you made. How so? OK, consider the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5.
Current value is anywhere between £2,500 and £4,300. Sell it, get yourself a new DSI Prophet-6 for a shade over £2,000 and you’ve just netted yourself anywhere up to two grand! Make even more by buying Arturia’s software Prophet for just €149!
There are plenty more examples: a new Korg v a classic ARP; a new Moog v a classic Moog; a new Eurorack anything v an old classic anything. So consider whether that old, out-of-tune and unreliable doorstop really is worth hanging on to when you can buy a modern, reliable hardware or software alternative and make a ton of cash along the way. The caveat? Cash. You might make more of it by holding on to your investment.
6. You need portability
Back in the day the only way to go mobile with a synth was to (literally) strap on a strap. The Roland SH-101 was about as portable as they got but of course nowadays you can go mobile with anything from the hardware Yamaha Reface range to a vast range of iOS synth apps. So if you absolutely need mobile synthesis, then you need a new synth. The caveat? Do you really need to use a synth on the tube?