Vintage Rack Synth

Dear Mutable’s,

i’m thinking to buy a Vintage Rack Synth. I have no place for a Keyboard.
My music goes direction EDM, Techno.

My Gear in the moment:
XBase 888
Shruthi XT
Shruthi Midnight Edition

My research in the www give me Synth’s like:
Oberherim Matrix-1000
Yamaha FS1R
Waldorf Microwave II
Waldorf Micro Wave XT

Maybe it is not really necessary but there is a point where i get the dot of an i.

Thank you for your advise, input, idea.

All the best,


Vote for Microwave XT, beware of the Matrix - this baby has a rather weak filter and the envelopes are slow as hell. It is nice for pads but not really versatile.

Any Waldorf (of the classic ones) is a good choice. If you don’t mind programming or are willing to use an Editor go for the MW II, the XT is great with all the knobs but the tricky Modulation Matrix is the same as on the non XT. Soundwise they are beasts and can be pretty much anything and the Filter is (for a digital one) really nice as long as you don’t go to very high Resonance. Luckily they didn’t try to emulate or imitate a certain Filter Sound, they just built a nice non sounding LowPass Filter. The MWs play quite nicely with the MI Stuff, pushing the VAish and Wavetablish sounds much further (as it is designed to be a Wavetable Synth) but be aware it never will sound that gritty and digital trashy as a ppg or Shruthi or VS can do.

The FS1R is unusable without an Editor - jojjelito might give you more insight.

The Matrix sounds super nice for Pads and Strings and thats pretty much about it, for my taste overhyped because of the Oberheim Name sticking on it. A MKS-50 would be a better choice and both are easily outperformed by the Ambika thats running circles around both of them. Together.

My Secret Tip would be getting a MicroQ that go over here cheaper than the MW II and have this distinct late 90ies VA Techno Feeling - its so good (and different from MI Gear) that i have 2 of them :wink: Waldorf released the latest 2.3 Software for free now so you can get full 25Voice out of any MQ, even the Lite version (which i have).

Instead of the Oberheim you can look for a Cheetah MS6, same sound but multi-timbral.

Yamaha FS1R is a complete nightmare to edit and program. Very hard to find and the formant stuff is apparently over-rated. A Preen FM2 will give you a modern FM synth if you want one.

+1 for the PreenFM if it comes to FM. Only outperformed sound wise by the mighty SY-77/99/TG-77 - which are also nightmarish to edit.

Same goes for the Casio CZ series, although I’d still have one.

Dear Mutable’s,

thank you first.
I have the chance to get an MicroQ for 200 €. The only thing the original Power Supply not exist and i get a nother one, not original.
PreenFM looks great because it is also a DIY.

It seems to be a 12V 1.0 amp supply needed for the MicroQ.

PreenFM is quite actively developed and has some fairly complete DX7 patch loading ability. Plus a VST editor. It has some filters and FX too.

2nd on the fs1r for bear programing. the “analog” filters are nothing special either. I really like my mks-50, and they seem to be under the radar price wise.

Id love to see a 1ru shruthi case someday!

Tx81z. Best $80 you’ll ever spend, Inner City in a 1u rack :). Pass on the MicroQ, had one, sold it, dont miss it

I’m with @altitude here. A TX81z plus a PreenFM will give you lots of FM capabilities and typical sounds for cheap. The Tx802, which is basically a DX7 II in a box is nice if you can find a cheap one.

The FS1r has some very nice and unique sounds, but you’ll need an editor to make it more than just a bunch of DX presets in a box. The hype has made it expensive too.

Earlier I got a Supernova II rack for not that much on Ebay UK - that synth is a more than worthy alternative to a Micro Q. Of course, being a gear head, I found a minty fresh Q rack a few months later so I’m set on VAs for a while. The SN II has a nice and polished sound before you turn on the FX which are totally multitimbral - you can apply lots of them in both patch and multi mode. It can also do lots of FM! All waveforms can be tweaked with PWM - you can gets lots of mileage out of sub basses with a variable duty cycle sinusoid as the foundation :slight_smile: I also have that available in my modular in the form of a Bubblesound uLFO and that makes for killer sounds when I push it up into audio rate territory.

The Q rack sounds huge and 90s. I’ve only scratched at the surface yet but so far there are no complaints. It’s a bit more complicated to program than my SN2, Radias and the JP-8080 but it has lots of sounds that really shine.

It’s also worth looking at a Radias rack. It’s surprisingly deep once you start programming it, there isn’t that much stuff hidden under the menus either. The Radias filter sounds fantastic! Applying the sequencers for modulation, small melodies and such makes it quite versatile. It also comes with a good model of my old favorite - the Korg PS series resonator for really liquid, phasey and gooey sounds. It’s dead easy to make the Radias sing like it’s pouring out plastic treacle. It too does FM, Korg calls it VPM. You can get some really nice electric pianos without even trying.

Oh yes - one more thing: Roland JD-990 with the vintage card. It’s the king of pad sounds. Yes! Check out some demos on YouTube. Once you start making sounds on the 990 you can lose track of time… Mine sits very nicely in most stuff I can cook up. Stack it with the Ambika, FM or a VA and you’ve got 90% of the work done. You can emulate it with a XV-5080 if you know what you’re doing, but the 5080 isn’t exactly cheap.

After the built of my first shruthi, I needed a polytimbral rack unit. I found a tx81z for 80€. Really really good synth and complementary to the shruthi and Ambika.
So I’m with altitude and jojjelito.
Editing is ok, I have a nice editor for Mac too. Actually when it comes to experimenting, the fm can get you to strange places. I would not have expected that soud capabilities that goes way beyond classical dx7 sounds.

Dear altitude, Jojjelito and Paulus,

Thank you All for more input.

A TX81z goes here in Germany between 90 -110 €.
TX802 for round about 250 €.

Looks like for me in the moment my favour is the TX81z regarding what i have to pay.
And it is a real Vintage Synth.
The PreenFM2 will be from point of view interesting, new and DIY from a nice Guy.

All the best,


This little fella looks interesting. It has the same 4 op FM engine but with some digital FX and sequencer.

Although further reading seems to suggest it is a bit oversimplified.

Be aware that the interface of the tx81z and fm can be hard to understand at first, but for me it was a real plus, I liked the fact that you have to experiment a lot to get interesting sounds. If you are into weird drums and blips, the performance mode in multitimbral is really useful (8 voices for drum is really nice)!
Hook it up to a chorus effect to warm it up and you can also have great pads !

That’s what I like about the PreenFM. While FM is harder to understand there is at least a rather good interface.

@6581punk: On the money! The PreenFM kicks ass and the interface does its best to demystify FM synthesis. Plus, Xavier just like Olivier and Samuel over at Audiothingies are nice guys that France should be proud of so send them some business.

Well, it’s under active development and you can customise it. Which is more than you can say for Yamaha FM, the last time that appeared (to my knowledge) was in the DX200 which seems to be becoming a classic?

I think I can also second what 6581punk and Jojjelito. I experimented with FM first with a TX81Z, and I unfortunately do not own a PreenFM2 but I have been thinking about it since a long time.
I’d be really excited to put my hand on it, it indeed seems more practical and powerful than a TX!
If you are short on money and if it really have to be a “vintage” synth, go for the TX. But if you can wait a bit and gather more for the PreenFM2, go for it!

Listen to FCD , grab a waldorf , I LOVE my XT