Last time we looked at the six reasons there are to buy a new synth or upgrade your existing software synth, keyboard or module. This time around, then, we’ll look at the pros and cons of the different ways of actually doing the deal itself…
Despite the fact that we love and celebrate new gear more than most here at MusicTech, we really do believe that you should make the most of the equipment you already own before you branch out and buy anything new for your studio.
However, last time around we did unearth six proper reasons that mean you simply must buy a new synth. Namely: you don’t own one already; you want to update a classic (and make some cash); you’re upgrading (or downgrading) your studio space; you’re tempted by modular; you’re after a specific sound; or you need some portability.
Those are, literally, the only reasons there are to buy a new synth – or upgrade an existing one – and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. So, if any of the above factors apply to you, then wake up, it’s time to buy… a new synth. But what is the best way? Pick from these six…
1. From a dealer
Dealers these days always seem to get a bad, well, deal. Everyone knows you can (usually) get most things cheaper online so all of those poor ‘traditional’ shop dealers have to get used to the ‘just looking’ brigade who turn up, try a couple of synth patches out, and then trot off to the internet to buy it for 5% less than the dealer price. And who can blame the buyers?
Well, we can. If everyone does that then the human race is going to be screwed. Your future shopping experience is going to be less human, and more soulless. Shops will literally disappear, town centres will become desolate landscapes littered with smashed black mirrors, and no one will leave their houses. Ever. Just to save 5%. It will be the end of our race and, literally, the end of days.
Remember, you’ve chosen music production which is not a cheap hobby or profession – so don’t be scared to spend a bit of cash. So, visit a dealer, try out a bunch of synths in comfort and don’t be scared to barter with them to try and shave a few quid off – there may be some wiggle room and you might just save the world while you’re at it.
2. Second hand
Mmm, as much as we are tempted to say ‘leave it’ when it comes to buying second-hand synths – the pitfalls can be many and varied – there are still bargains to be had. But when it comes to classic analogues, we’d be tempted to say that, because of their uneven reliability, you might be better off buying from a specialist dealer to get some kind of guarantee.
When it comes to 90s and 00s digital synths, though, there are still loads of incredibly cheap deals when scouring eBay and your local paper (yes, local papers do still exists and people still advertise in them). Do have a look through our tips for buying second hand at www.musictech.net before you do anything though, the main one being to try before you buy, if you possibly can.
3. The modular way
Recent years have taught us to expect the unexpected with synth fashions. 25 years ago analogue was dead and buried, yet now it’s back in all sorts of flavours, not least the Eurorack scene (and yes we know it’s not just analogue, it’s everything!).
We’ve all been tempted by modular, and it really is a very good way of getting a bespoke synth, tailored to your needs and budget.
Just remember three things though: 1) You probably won’t be able to save presets easily. 2) It’ll take you three hours to make a kick drum sound (although, in fairness, you’ll enjoy every second). 3) You will become addicted to collecting modules, because modular synthesis is basically a drug with capacitors and resistors. So if you think could end up dreaming of wires like some kind of Zammo McGuire, then just say no…
4. Ride your luck
Don’t write off lady luck when it comes to getting a new (old) synth. We got our first one from a music technology college virtually giving its old stock away, and have interviewed many leading collectors/producers who have found classic synths in skips and car boots. You never know…
5. The soft alternative
Buying a soft synth is the safe bet. It’s like backing Manchester City to beat your local under-8 b-team at football; like betting that a US team will win the World Series baseball. It’s the safest bet when it comes to buying a synth.
You’re spending less cash, (possibly none if you’re using freeware) you’re not using up any (real) space. And, of course, there are some excellent synths out there. Negatives? Absolutely none whatsoever, so fill your boots/hard drive.
6. Make one yourself
Anyone old enough to remember the Maplin catalogue from the 1970s/80s? In that you could buy the parts to assemble your own synth for around 40 quid. DIY synth kits still exist. Some can be easy to make (Korg and littleBits’ Synth Kit); some require just a screwdriver (Modal Electronics’s Kraftsynth, pictured, Moog Werkstatt 01, or the Haynes Electro Synth Kit); while others require soldering knowledge (from the OWL Synth Kit V2 to the more expensive options at www.oakleysound.com).