Keyboards (musical not computer)

Keyboards! Synthesizers! Bleepy bloopy noisemaking things! Alright, what’ve you got? What’s your favourite? What do you want?

Currently rocking:

Moog Subsequent 25
Slightly regret not splashing out for the 37 now, especially now prices have gone through the roof (nearly doubled, a 25 goes for more than a 37 does now), and I can never be bothered getting out the manual to remember all the button presses to unlock the second functions on things, which means I’m under-using the sound engine massively. That said: it’s still a Moog, it sounds immense and fantastic even with my limited playing and programming ability and, with any luck, it will outlive me and be worth more than my house some day.

Novation Peak + Novation SL Mk III
OK so it’s a module and a controller but they count as a keyboard if I use them together, right? Seen a lot of people banging on about the Peak sounding sterile and clinical and yeah it can if you don’t add a bit of modulation/noise/randomisation, but the engine on it is so flexible and it’s got a super-great front-end UI with a clear and easy to understand signal flow, and then has a really flexible routing and modulation engine underneath. The oscillators are nicely flexible (standard VA, wavetable - albeit a fairly uninspiring factory set but you can load your own, noise, plus cross-mod including FM). The effects - especially the reverb - sound great, and it’s just a great workhorse synth that’ll basically do everything.

Korg Minilogue XD
Don’t like it, if I’m honest, and I don’t know if that’s just me or what - it always sounds a bit flat and lifeless to my ear, like it’s been EQd really badly and I can’t get it to come to life. I know other people love it and maybe I’m just trying to do the wrong thing with it (people tell me it’s great for pads, but compared to the Peak it just sounds disappointing to me). It’s got super flexible oscillators and effects, but the filter just feels… bleh. Should probably sell it but also keep feeling like I’m missing something…

Lots of silly Roland Boutique toys
Honestly these are so much fun and they sound way better than I expected, especially the JU-06 (Dat Juno Chorus, yesss) and S-1 (a polyphonic SH-101!) and they’re super-immediate in terms of making fun sounds but then when you try and do anything serious with them the tiny form factor and other compromises (four voices? for a Juno? Booo) just get in the way.

Also have a Minibrute kicking around, which has character but it’s not necessarily one that’s useful in many contexts, and some ancient 90s ROMpler things.

Hankering after a Minifreak, but not really sure where it would fit with what I’ve got - it looks fun, but is it useful?

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My current synth setup is:

Blofeld Keys - sounds great, nice keys, pain in the arse to program.

Wavestate - replaced a Wavestation with this to get more hands on control, still a massive challenge to make patches on. Randomiser can be fun.

Polyend Medusa - love the pads, loads of modulation. Drone monster.

Reface CS - bought this for my daughter but she barely uses it so have claimed it back. Lots of sweet spots, very easy to make nice patches on. It’d be ace if it had another LFO and/or envelope, but great for what it is.

Hydrasynth Desktop - my favourite synth. Massively powerful and sounds fantastic. Wish I was competent enough to make good use of the poly AT. Genuinely tempted to buy a second one.

PreenFM2 - tiny usb powered FM module. As much fun to program as any hardware FM synth, but what it offers in a tiny box is hard to beat.

Yamaha TG33 - picked this up cheap because I love vector synthesis. A lot of terrible 80s cheese patches, but can also do some cool stuff too by combining 2op FM with grungy AWM samples.

Plus about 550hp of Eurorack that I use for massive drones and weird FX.

In all honesty, I’m absolutely cackhanded on a keyboard so I tend to use my MPC or the Hydra’s pads set to whatever scale I’m working in most of the time.

I should probably sell a few of the above bits, don’t really have space to have them all set up all the time. Would like to add a proper 8 voice analog poly at some point.

I’ve only got the Microfreak plus guitar pedals for hardware synth needs. I’ve been using my Electron: Samples to make lots of bleeps and bloops lately, which is not really what it’s for. A cheap second synth is very much in my future to complete my DAWless jam set up (them two plus tape loops and field recordings and maybe guitar if I ever get the damn thing fixed).

Eyeballing a Microbrute at the minute. Very much like the cut of Arturia’s jib and it looks like it’d do the job. Not much else at the £100-150 price point to trouble it I don’t think.

Also bought a minilogue and am similarly nonplussed by it. Always been a VSTs guy and wanted to branch out into some hardware but not sure it was such a great shout for my first synth, like you say seems a bit lifeless but I’m sure that’s as much to do with my inexperience as anything.

Currently eyeing up the minimoog vst :eyes:

My Korg Monologue arrived this afternoon. First impressions - really good value for money (£150 second hand but in near-perfect condition), big fan of the step sequencer (something I’ve never played about with before) and should be good for live stuff when the time comes.

My next purchase is going to be a Microfreak, I think.

An OG Minilogue rather than the XD? Think if I’d paid that for my XD, I’d be less disenchanted by it - at nearly £500 though it feels considerably worse value for money (although the XD is more expensive as it’s got the fancy programmable oscillators that I am pretty sure I’ll never do anything with). Be interesting to see if you have a better time with it. I think the OG one has a 24dB/oct filter, not just a 12dB (which might be part of the reason I’m not keen on my XD)


Yeah, I’m super-tempted because it’s so unlike anything else, but reckon if I’m gonna to that I’ll only be disappointed if I didn’t get the Minifreak for the polyphony.

If you’re on a Mac with Apple Silicon, the iOS plugins work cross-platform and are frequently on sale for £10 each… Got the Model D and Model 15 and they’re both ridiculously good.

It’s the Monologue not the Minilogue. If only I bagged a Minilogue for £150…

Ah, misread. I liked the idea of the keyboard on those - shifted to start on E rather than C, isn’t it? Makes it handier for bass.

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Currently plugged in

Viscount Legend 70s Artist EX
My main workhorse. A modular digital piano which takes care of all of those Rhodes and acoustic piano needs as well as having some nice other bits and pieces under the hood (organs, strings etc.)
It’s also my main MIDI keyboard which is great as it has a proper weighted keybed, 88 keys and great velocity sensitivity. Very playable, even for a non-trained, clumsy player like me

Moog Matriarch
Semi modular 4 oscillator paraphonic synth. Takes care of all the synth bass duties these days, does wonky, modulating, thick Thom Yorke style chords, great leads & I especially like to use it to programme analogue drum sounds. (every sound on THIS is the Matriarch) And of course it does all of those bleepy bloopy modular sequence type things

Sequential/Dave Smith/Tom Oberheim OB-6
My analogue poly. Can do all of the 80s sounding stuff and a bunch more besides. This entire album is basically just that synth & a few drum machine sample

Solina String Ensemble MK.II
Just does 1 thing but does it so utterly brilliantly. Stick it through an RE-301 & it sounds desolate and post punk, stick it through a phaser & it sounds like Jean-Michel Jarre, Stick it through an empress reverb it sounds like this

weighs about 30kg though

Korg M1
Juat the classic house/dance workstation really

Teenage Engineering OP-1
Recently acquired (3 weeks ago) and not like any of my other gear. Tons of fun box but I’d never have bought it at retail price (got it at the TE Garage Sale)

Got a few others that I don’t really use (Quasimidi Sirius, Roland MC303 etc) and have had & sold some famous pieces (Roland Jupiter 6 & recently a Roland VP-330 vocoder)

though my Yamaha Electone organ gets an occasional use. Did the drums, bass & keys on this (with the Viscount just providing the piano on top) - same song as the first piano-only video

Between them all I think I have most bases covered in the keyboard department

this has a bit of all of the above in it I think

Where are the drum machines thread, the fx thread & the guitars thread?


Toys I have

Moog Grandmother - my 1st synth and a good choice as I felt I got a good understanding of synthesis basics plus it’s a fucking great sounding synth

Moog - M32 , sometimes it’s a synth on its own, sometimes it’s patched into the GM to make a 3 oscillator monster

Elektron Digitakt - my 1st a Elektron box, sampler/ drum machine/ sequencer tends to be used as the main sequencer

Elektron Digitone - fm Poly synth

Elektron Syntakt - analogue / digital synth and drum machine. Mainly using this one on its own at the moment so it’s not wired into the main set-up. It’s awesome though

Think I’ve given up on recording to tape - they keep breaking, still useful as mixers though .


Just absolutely love my OP1. Having so much fun making so much music!

I’m a visual artist predominantly, and I’ve been getting so inspired to pair all these weird and wonderful sounds with imagery that I would never normally create. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


I’ve always gone for cheap stuff. Here’s what I have now

Roland D-110: pretty cool and cheesy presets. Haven’t had the time yet to truly dig in to programming it and I’m not encouraged by one of the top YouTube vids having “most frustrating synth ever” in its title. But I knew that going into this.

Korg Microkorg: my first ever synth. Traded it to a friend for some cymbals a decade ago, then bought a cheap one with half the keys not working. The plan was to hack it and make it like a desktop module. But I don’t have the skill to do it and the cost to have someone do it would just buy me a working microkorg. Wound up hardly using it as a sound module and eventually impulse bought a…

Korg MS2000R: as I understand it, the same as the microkorg but with the added mod sequencer. Plus nearly everything is mapped out to a knob or button

Alesis Micron: the other trendy budget synth of the 2000s. Outputs are broken so you have to use the headphone jack. Not fun to program!

Casio HT-700: probably gonna sell this.

Casio SK-1: essential!

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Just picked up a Microfreak at the weekend and this is a weird little synth. Yes, superficially it’s a subtractive thing with (a huge selection of) digital oscillators, but… nearly everything about it is either a little bit or a lot different to what you’re used to. The envelopes are not ADSR, they’re… well, they kind of are but the decay and release are tied together? And the cycling envelope is a rise/fall thing with hold which means it’s kinda ASR but also not because it can loop… The paraphony is only for the filter - which means the mod envelope for the filter is shared between all four voices but each voice gets its own amp envelope. And then everything is modulatable by everything else, which is far more complex than I’d expect for something this tiny. There’s a lot in here and it’s going to take a while to get my head round it.

Also, when you upgrade to firmware V5 (which adds sample support, and more wavetables) don’t forget to update the samples and wavetables as well as the presets or you’ll spend half an hour trying to diagnose why none of the new presets make any sound.

Also also, there is at least one preset on here that I can’t figure out how they made. It sounds like it’s a classic squelchy sequence with a delay but… there’s no delay (or effects of any kind). But it’s got an echo tail when you release the note. Baffling.

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If I was going to patch that I’d be sending an envelope with sharp attack and slow release to a reverse ramped LFO.

Basic doodle of the effect

Edit this would need to be triggered by the note off signal too ofc

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Turns out it’s not that, or at least not just that. It’s some granular cleverness - there’s a sample which is essentially the pitched impulse/pluck, and then that is looped - being granular, it can be re-pitched without changing the sample length, so the loop time is constant. Then uses the envelope to fade like a delay tail, and the LFOs and cycling envelope are used to add a bit more movement (with the filter and I think nudging the granular engine a bit).

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Ah cool! It seems like a crazily powerful little synth considering the cost.

It is. A couple of days with it and I’m understanding the hype, this thing is wild and sounds like nothing else I’ve got. It can do big growly digital basses, classic VA, glitchy granular, weird scratchy strings and god knows how much more. The mod matrix is stupid powerful, and yeah, the keyboard is weird but it really encourages you to play with the aftertouch/pressure as a modulation source.

Only complaint really is no internal effects (although some oscillators do have a built-in mono chorus) but pairing it with an HX Stomp it’s completely otherwordly.

I know it’s only a couple of days and it’s the honeymoon period but man this thing is the most fun I’ve had with a synth of any price for ages, let alone one this cheap.

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My keyboard set-up is amusingly basic.

I have a MicroKORG that I’ve had for about 12 years or so. That’s what I mainly use these days – even though it’s very much a beginner’s synth (and is limited by that cause sometimes you just want to tweak more parameters than you can get to at once with the very user-friendly set of dials and that), I think they’re unfairly derided cause you can get really creative with it. Even if a lot of the presets were ubiquitous in the late '00s. Sadly two of the keys are fucked, and some of the buttons I have to mash like a bastard to get them to respond these days. Considering stepping up to the Korg Minilogue - as it’s (a) similarly affordable as a hardware synth, and (b) seems like what I’m looking for as a follow-up to the MicroKORG.

I also have my dad’s old Yamaha PSS-570 (can’t remember the exact number, but it’s def a PSS). That’s the thing I started making music on because it was stored in my old wardrobe for years and I just found it out one day and started mucking about with it. The best thing is that it has this little super basic synthesiser section where you can tweak aspects of each preset. With some combinations of settings, you could end up with some really gnarly sounds (which I think is why they’re quite popular for circuit-benders who kind of just build on those possibilities). I don’t use it so much now - it’s under my bed atm, but it’s so dusty that I feel a bit ill whenever I play it.

But yeah, I’m hoping to look for a fairly affordable synth in the near future. Rather that than a MIDI keyboard – any computer I’ve ever had has historically never gotten on brilliantly with USB MIDI things, and tbh I quite like having a component of the recording / writing process where the DAW is completely off.