The Contenders: I am a poor poor musician now. Thank you net pirates. Any how, I really need a new mono synth that delivers dark and bright tones, sync, fm, lots of waves, great filters, and snappy envelopes for bass and percussive sounds. There are a ton of new small monosynths coming out. So many choices. What Desktop box is getting your money this year? I can only afford one or two. Keep in mind this is an on paper battle, price, and specs.
Studio Electronics Boomstar, comes in 4 models, The Moog filter, The Arp Filter, The 303 filter, and the SEM multimode Filter. This thing is loaded. Two snappy analog envs taht are exponential that will offer the a trim pot on the side so you can dial in how much “HOLD” you want on the attack like the original minimoog model D had and no other synth offers to get that huge snappy thump in your face bass sound like you hear on old madonna tracks like burning up, borderline, luckystar. The Boomstar should deliver with its moog filter as well with its atc and code 6 octave vco osc that are being used here with sub osc, sine, tri, saw, pulse and pwm(pwm only on one osc)(wave mixer only on one osc). one lfo, Ring mod like on the old arp odyssey. Bi directional Sync, noise, filter with 1/3 or full keyboard tracking, osc to filter for filter fm, glide as well. Pros: sound quality, vcos, stable for 6 octaves, tons of modulations, pick your filter model, 2nd osc can be lfo 2 with lo mode. Cons: no wave mixer on osc 2, one dedicated software lfo only, no memory. $799.
Arturia Minibrute, This is a cool cheap new monosynth. It has the steiner parker multimode filter the same thing i had in my modular the frequensteiner, but i thought my modular sounded way better than the demos I have heard of this synth. 12 db filter. Has only one osc plus a sub osc that lets you mix in wave forms. It is a lot like the sh101 in that regard. It has a lot of modulations for the osc, saw gets a super saw unison sound with detune, pulse width with pwm, triangle with metalizer that is like a flange sync sound. It sounds ok from the demos, but not huge and fat like the moog stuff, more nasal quality. It has an arp, cv controls, audio in, two octave keyboard. Pros: VCO, unique sound unlike anything else outside of modular synths, arpegiator rocks, brute filter over drive, price point. Cons: No 2nd osc so no sync, fm. 12db only filter, not so great for bass, no memory. $499
Ken Macbeth Micromac, Specs are hard to come by but this is what I know, 3 x VCOs with multiturn pots, 1 x LFO, Mixing, X-Modulation, 24dB/O?ctave Filter, 2 x Transistor based EGs, MIDI. I have head demos and man it blew me a way! Pros: patch points modular capabilities, sounds amazing, 3 osc fat city. Cons: maybe the price a little, no memory but thats it. This will come in a eurorack formate and a desktop. the desktop is about $2400.
Waldorf Pulse 2,
The pulse +, i owned it years ago, i thought it was ok, decent, but for bass it just didn’t do it for me, i didn’t like it much, the osc was just not musical like roland osc. From what i have read, this is jsut a revamp of the old model with new features. 3 analog oscillators + 1 noise generator, Pulse width modulation, Hard sync, Filter FM from Oscillator 3, Ring Modulation from Oscillator 3, XOR Osc Mode
8/4 Voice Paraphonic modes, Cascade Filter, 24dB/12db Lowpass, 12db Highpass/Bandpass filter modes Powerful Arpeggiator, 8-slot Modulation Matrix, USB, , MIDI, External analog signal input, Stereo line out, Headphone out, Backwards compatible with classic Pulse, 128×64 character backlit LCD, 8 stainless steel knobs, 500 Sound Programs, Electron-absorbing black case. Pros: New multi mode filter modes, ring mod and lots of modulation routings, 3 osc, memory. Cons: DCOs not VCOs yuck. $730.
MFB Dominion X, This module looks very promising and some of the demos I have heard are sick. Still i did not care for the build quality of the synth lite i owned, or the mfb eurorack dco. This thing has sick specs. 3 VCOs with wave shaping and ring modulation, Dual-Sync and Dual-FM features, 6-fold multimode-filter including 3 low pass configurations with 12/18/24 dB, patch-section for external CV/Gate-control, Velocity routing matrix with 11 destinations, 3 LFOs with 2 LFOS offering one-shot-modes and reset. Pros: this thing sounds sick, tons of modulations, VCOs, 2 lfos, complex multimode filter, fm, sync, memory!. Cons: Suspect MFB build quality. $1040.
Moog Minitaur, Moog is a company I have grown to dislike. After buying their VCO pedals and not being able to make them track or stay in tune worth a damn I lost hope with that and the fact that the little phatty I bought and my friends voyager sounded so dark and dull when next to my micromoog and sh2. The high end VCA they use on the LP and Voyger do not allow the filter to open up all the way, so no bright leads and chimey sounds with top end fizz. That does not make these synths suck, it just limits them in a way that no matter what, you cannot get those classic fizzy vintage tones out of these boxes, and for how much they cost it is unforgivable. So with the minitaur I was skeptical, to my surprise it can get bright, the filter opens all the way. WTF. but at what cost? LOL moog shoots themselves in the foot yet again. Two oscillators with Sawtooth (Original Taurus) and Square wave-shapes for each VCO. Recreate sounds of the original Taurus with sawtooth waves, or create new sounds with square waves or a combination of both. 2 Mixer VCAs for VCO levels control of Oscillators 1 and 2., Moog Ladder Filter with adjustable resonance, designed to deliver ‘classic Taurus 1 and 3 bass and boom’. Two Minimoog style ADSR Envelope Generators for modulating VCF and VCA. The Decay and Release segments are controlled by the Decay knob, while the Release segment is enabled or disabled via Release On/Off switch. Midi-syncable LFO with Controls for Rate, VCO LFO Amount, and VCF LFO Amount DIN MIDI and MIDI over USB offer complete control of the Minitaur’s sound engine. Analog Control inputs for Pitch, Filter, Volume and Gate. Use an EP2 or CV to connect and control MInitaur with everything from Modulars to Moogerfoogers. External audio input for processing external audio through the Mixer and Filter section of Minitaur. Headphone output with 1/8? connection. So it lacks wave forms, sync, fm, ring mod, PWM, and cannot play high notes, so it cannot do high leads. Pros: It does fat bass, and the wave punch thing is great. Cons: WAY TO MANY LIMITATIONS. ARE YOU KIDDING? $649
Doepfer Dark Energy 2, The dark Energy 1 is no longer being made, due to a lack of CEM parts no longer being made. The new model changes lots of stuffs. 12dB multimode filter with lowpass, notch, highpass and bandpass (instead of 24dB lowpass of Dark Energy I), the previous LM control of the filter becomes the filter type control (continuous crossfade lowpass – notch highpass – bandpass), the LM function of the filter is no longer available, the waveform switch is used to select between saw and clipped/distorted saw (in the center position the saw is off)
the basic waveform of the VCO is saw (not triangle like the Dark Energy I), because of the pure analog circuit and the temperature control it takes about 30 minutes until the VCO is in tune, the VCA has a exponential scale (not the combined linear/exponential scale of Dark Energy I). Plus: Price, sound, multimode filter. Cons: 1 osc, 12db only. $570.
Over All: I never personally liked the sound of the waldorf pulse, I had a pulse plus years back and thought the filter and osc were just not that musical or fat. Minitaur is too limited in modulations and waveforms, limited as a bass machine wont play high notes, it sounds good tho. Older moog stuff like the voyager and little phatty lack brightness because the vca prevents the filter from opening up all the way so no open osc bright sounds, say goodbye to the super bright leads of the 70s and 80s. Minibrute, I decided against because I would rather have the SEM Boomstar. Minimac is probably the best, but at 2300 us dollars i wont be picking that up any time soon. MFB Dominion X sounds promising, i’m not a fan of their build quality, bad luck with stuff I have owned from them in the past. Dark energy 2, one osc doesn’t cut it for me. None of the above suck, i think it’s amazing we have all these choices honestly. What a great time to be a mono synth freak. I can only hope that the Envs on these synths really give us the goods.
For me, easy: BOOMSTAR. The one with the most bang for the buck. It has great sound as well, its the studio electronics code sound with snappy analog envelopes, so i know it sounds great from the demos I have heard of the CODE and ATC. Boomstar Moog. 2 osc + sub, tri, saw, pulse, sine, pwm, ring mod, xmod, filter fm, sync. The works. I also plan on getting the SEM model as well. The ATC sounds great, i just didn’t likes its ENVs, so they promised that this will be fixed on these boxes. Snappy envs, fast. Knobs galore. Who could ask for more? If you buy two you can link them together with their cv patchbay so you could have a monster 4 osc mono like the monopoly and it would still be less than the Macbeth Micromac. It is a steal at $799.
PS: This is just my personal opinion, yours may vary. Please post who you think the winner is in your opinion? Comment. Thank you.