Modern VA synths

Around 1998 some lovely synths have been produced, including the Viruses, Supernovas, AN1x, CS1x, JP-8000, also gonna count in Clavias Nord Leads because the new one seems kinda meh, and, although produced a little later, for the ultimate wtf???, Andromeda A6…
I’m wondering why these have ever been discontinued and in case for example Novation, have been replaced with synths with ever increasing crappyness?

Access and Clavia have turned towards professional producers and I dunno what Yamaha is up to anymore. What really blows my mind is why the A6 is not being produced anymore. A little later things were going upward again with Rolands SH-201 which got now replaced by the ultimate piece of trash Gaia…These are so many manufacturers doing the same thing that I’m simply puzzled as to what’s going on. Did computers simply void the need for proper music gear? Or what modern VA synth would be worth any money anymore (I don’t have a perfect overview of the current market)?

Much like todays music, the gear doesn’t seem to have any “soul” anymore. Instead produced as cheaply as possible with an Interface that leaves you asking why??? .

So…why??? Am I missing some decent part of todays market?

We’re in it right now, @diwib.

I’d argue the Octatrack, the Tempest, The Sub Phatty, the Prophet 12 in the mass market, and the OTO Biscuit and the Gotharmin Little Deformer, and some Jomox and Strymon products in the small markets are the only TRULY interesting pieces of synth/sampler/FX gear that are on the market and have a “soul” that just FEELS right. DIY+Kits+Small prefab production runs might be the future…

Of course you cold go on and look at some interesting, esoteric stuff. Even there, some of those little drone synths and drone sequencers and kinda half-assed modules from small companies are bordering on “quaint”.

Here’s an idea: this IS the future. Little companies, not massive ones, producing unique products that will ultimatley lead to better music being made (If I have to hear ONE MORE Virus T2 Pad in movie I’m going to tear out my hair). It’s better for creativity.

The idea that there is ONE COMPANY you MUST own to be a REAL musician seems to be dying. Sure, I’d take a minimoog in a heartbeat, but it’s a status symbol as much as it is a great monosynth.

The soul is in the people who yearn for it, and they put it into their builds and designs. I like the soul being there better anyway.

My theory is that with the excitement of what was possible in software most manufacturers and media got ahead of themselves and lost the innovative attitude to anything hardware related. Pretty much like the digital vs analog, and the more recent touch UI vs tactile UI. What I personally like with hardware is character and creative limitations. What I like with software is transparency and unlimited choice. The problem for me with modern VA is that they seems to go for unlimited choice. Not a solid answer to your question, but my 2 cents.

The A6 is not a VA, it used custom analog IC (something akin to the old CEM chips, but much more integrated), and the development costs for these nearly brought Alesis to bankruptcy. These chips were hard and expensive to make and had reliability problems.

I don’t think the SH-201 / Gaia are that different internally from the JP-8000 - but they look like crap for sure, this doesn’t help… Similarly, I don’t see in which way the old Viruses or NordLeads are better than the new ones. They had simpler interfaces, limitations, and lots of sonic “blind spots”, maybe that’s what appeals to you. As a manufacturer, I can tell you how difficult it is deal with all the engineering flaws/limitations in a product that people have come to love and get used to.

It takes 10, 15 years before any piece of gear starts being prized and respected - just give the current synths on the market some time for the nostalgia to settle in… A good exercise is also to look back at old synths magazines and see how they reviewed things back in time. All the good Ensoniqs or Oberheims blamed for the “Curtis sound”, all the late Roland analogs reviewed as “boring”, all the bad talk on aliasing and stepping on the first VAs…

@RyanA4 but Tempest, Sub patty and Prophet are all analog or hybrid, not VA, right!?

Grab a Nord Modular :slight_smile:


I agree, to an extent. But my gut tells me that a much smaller portion of the current generation of mass market synths will achieve “classic status”. There was an unfortunate, industry-wide decision to make computer integration the #1 priority (Gaia, Ultranova, etc.), because of (understandable) concerns that DAWs and VSTs and controllers were going to render their products a luxury/preforming musician/nerd buy and shrink their mid-level market share.

This course of action with regards to design/functionality occurred before the analog craze hit a few years ago.

So, I have hope that the next few years will get companies thinking more about how to push the hardware forward and less about how to stay relevant.

Yes, I know. I’ve been up all night writing and working, so my points are not getting across very well. It was just to highlight the OPs concern- the analog stuff is the only thing that really interests most musicians.

And even with Analog stuff, some of the products in the past 24 months have been huge letdowns: Mopo, Mopho X4, Little Phatty, Waldorf Rocket, Volcas (well, except the bass one), even the MS-20 Mini is getting some groans about the “feel” (or SOUL) etc.

The problem doesn’t just extend to VAs.

@dude163 Agree totally. My Nord Modular (G1) is the only VA I’m really keen on keeping.

I’m between a Nord Modular (one on Craig’s List LA for $590) and a Microwave XT (on ebay for $800)

Tough decision

Nord Mod G1 is down to $480!

I know the A6 is rather special, but it’s that one piece of gear that made me wonder most about why these things get discontinued in a heartbeat. I would think, once you got production on those chips going, it’ll get cheaper as you go on?

I have to give it to Nord; good job on keeping the 2X, But it doesn’t look like they’re working on any successor, which is fine as long as the 2X won’t get discontinued. I guess that’s exactly what Access is doing but at prices that lead me towards buying a Nord instead.
The Gaia on the other hand sounds very different to the SH-201 from what I gathered through plenty videos, which in case of the Gaia were almost all recorded by music stores. Doesn’t seem like many people wanna get hold of it. I do miss some hands-on experience however.

Yes, I cannot understand why Clavia didn’t continue the Nord Modular generations. Perhaps it was because they’d invested so much code in the now legacy Motorola DSP chips, and it was to much work for such a small company to make the code more generic. Too bad anyway. It’s great fun building new synths.

Owning a MW 2XT, a JP-8080, a Radias Rack and a Virus TI2 Polar, plus a nice little Xio25 I wouldn’t say that all VAs suck. It’s debateable if the XT is a VA, but it has a fantastic sound and a DSP filter to die for! The 8080 used creatively beyond the cliche of the supersaw has it’s own unique sonic signature and is great fun. The Xio is ultra convenient as a sketchpad and has some sonic surprises.

The dark horse is the Radias… Some would say it’s a trance box, some presets and sequences will certainly make people think that. Once you get going with sequencers, the extremely lovely and useful ( filter, waveshapers, effects and versatile oscillators/FM/wavetably stuff it’s a deep and full synth. Lots of hands-on controls too. If the Virus is dark the Radias can be bright and frissy without aliasing or sounding harsh. They compliment each other very well)

The Virus is fantastic. It’s like having an Easel with all the colors in the palette at hand. Very versatile and great sounding. Yes, I’m lusting over a Super/Ultranova but there’s no stress.

The Nord Lead 1,2 and 3 are nice but a bit too clinical for me. I recently tried the NL4 and loved it. The Nord Modular is great! The Prophet 12 is fantastic too. Just trying to prioritize and see what comes my way. There’s a certain small brand I love who just released some modular gear… :smiley:

Just wait and see what will happen in a few years when the people hating on the Prophet 08 start to realize that there will never be anything analog that gets closer to their Prophet 5s. I know it’s not fully the same, but the 08 is a respectable, great-sounding synth.

It’s not TERRIBLE, @diwib.

It’s a pretty poor when used monophonically for a very annoying reason (I’m too tired to explain, but look it up). It sounds pretty good, fairly analog, is inexpensive on the second hand market now, and, all and all, is a decent synth. But all that tacked on Daw integration and USB audio interface makes you wonder what sacrifices were make under the hood to accommodate it.

Just isn’t sexy in all the ways it needs to be.

BTW, I’ve read somewhere that the real issue with the Alesis A6 was the effects chip. They were made with horrible yields on some ancient process so that was the crux of it all.

I’ve always been kind of curious about the Radias… Hmmm…

@Bjarne: Stop by in Sundbyberg C for a coffee (or beer) and have a go at it! I use mine with my K5000s as keyboard. It’s a great setup :smiley:

I’d also grab an Alesis A7 with a different effects chip, if there was one :s

I read some text about some guy who worked at Alesis, even post Numark and the idea about doing something with the analog ASICs got nixed all the time :frowning: Tragic!

@Jojjelito I might take your word for that ‘fika’ in the future, maybe in the autumn gloom :slight_smile: