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NAMM 2013: Hands On With Synthesizers From Moog, DSI, and Eowave

NAMM 2013 was relatively lacking in a plethora of new/innovative DJ products compared to previous years – with the big companies like Pioneer, Serato and Native Instruments launching products outside of the tradeshow cycle. We decided to use some of our extra time at NAMM to explore some of the new and old hardware offerings in the production world. Inside, learn what synths Mad Zach found that could be of use for starting your next epic floorfiller.

BACK TO SYNTHS, BACK TO REALITY

Hardware synths are the workhorses that built dance music in its original incarnations – and continue to be studio staples for producers who crave a real instrument in the production process. We heard people all over the floor claiming analog is back – of course, most of them happened to be employees and founders of companies that make analog gear, but we have noticed in the production world that there has been a bit of a digital/software backlash in recent years. Take last year’s introduction of a completely analog budget synthesizer by Arturia as a good example.

We decided to troll the show for some of the most exciting synths we could find. If you’ve never considered owning a hardware synth before, read on to learn what you might be able to use them for.

So here’s the top three picks of the NAMM 2013 floor – with quick listens and commentary by yours truly, Mad Zach:

MOOG SUBPHATTY

What Is It?: The SubPhatty is a 25-key, two oscillator analog synthesizer focused on bass. It features a pretty typical modulation schema and layout. All-in-all it was a bit of a well-behaved pitbull, with a name that does a pretty good job of describing its priorities.
Price/Release Date: $1099 / March
What Is It Good At?: Producers would use this potentially in a live rig with a band, or in the studio as a go-to bass synth.
Three Reasons Why It’s Great:

  • Smooth to work with – no surprises!
  • Nice, phat waves
  • Convenient and well-rounded sub oscillator + overdrive features

What Needs Work: The SubPhatty almost felt too smooth, not leaving enough character to inspire the imagination
More Info: Moog’s site

EOWAVE DOMINO


What Is It?: A handy, simple analog synth with full MIDI implementation and some nice-sounding waves. It’s been around at a number of previous shows, but caught our eye(ear?) finally this year on the NAMM floor.
Price/Release Date: €250 / Available Now
What Is It Good At? Would be great as part of a live techno rig or alongside DJ software.
Three Reasons Why It’s Great:

  • Has a fun and playful sound
  • Serious waveforms
  • The filter is no whimp

What Needs Work: The Domino lacks glide, and could really do with some more diverse additional routing capabilities
More Info: Eowave’s site

DAVE SMITH INSTRUMENTS PROPHET 12


What Is It?: The Prophet delivers a new dimension of sound in a polyphonic keyboard synthesizer package. It’s the perfect combination of analog and digital, never sacrificing an analog wave while retaining all the control and variety digital has to offer – an appropriate introduction to the market by one of the creators of MIDI on its 30th birthday.
Price/Release Date: $2,999 / Q2 2013
What Is It Good At?: This synth would give your sound a very unique edge that surpasses software. I found it was a joy to work with and immediately had me thinking outside the box.
Three Reasons Why It’s Great:

  • So much dynamic range and character
  • Was able to produce sounds I’ve never heard or even imagined
  • Inspiring and other-wordly

What Needs Work: The size could be a concern to some – it’s a bit large (almost too large for gigging), but that really doesn’t matter for most uses!
More Info: Dave Smith Instruments’ site

INTO THE SYNTHS?

Obviously at DJ TechTools our primary focus isn’t on studio-related production tools – but we’re soon going to be writing more great content that applies to DJs who are looking to start producing and other similar topics. Sound interesting? We’re still deciding on a final direction, but feel free to let us know your thoughts below!

  • Dash

    In these upcoming production articles, it would be great to find out how the hell ableton live works. Hindsight is a bitch.

  • tf

    The Domino does have glide, it can be activated via midi. Think mine was already switched on when I got it anyway…

    As for direction, maybe you should show more producers who are integrating hardware into their set-up, and as someone else already said, make you’re tutorials more specific, if I see another series of articles on the basics of synthesis I might just die. Having a unique angle for an article is more interesting because all the general knowledge is already out there!

  • You have to Test the Arturia Plugin Oberheim SEM!!!

  • BrokeDJ

    That DSI Prophet 12 so insane yet so unaffordable for my means.

  • FattyKutz

    I’m looking to get into hardware synths, and am most intrigued by those build to mod, yet maintain a price I can afford ($200-$599 to ballpark). I’m looking for something that will maintain a tube warmth, but is also capable of tones that resemble a 527 Blown Hemi at 7k RPM. Any suggestions on synths made to mod or synths with patchbays?

    • wardtf

      Well of course the Korg MS-20 which has CV

      Or

      buy a doepfer synthesizer voice (the eurorack version of the Dark Energy) with some additional modules. They also got some diy stuff for making your own case.

  • lakatta

    But will it blend

  • Anonymous

    The old DJ Powertools and Mad Zach’s SoundPacks are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applying production knowledge to a controllerist’s performance. You can go so far beyond by enhancing and creating things of your own by adding a little synth. The minitaur (not new) is one of my most recent additions and it has helped me grow so much.

  • theclaus

    Why are snyths so expensive? I’m asking out of genuine curiosity.

    • Mad Zach

      they require a lot of engineering, the components are not cheap, and with a company like DSI, they manufacture in the USA so its not made by Chinese sweatshop workers

  • It’s a shame synths really are just synths. Having a good piano sound is just not possible with these guys. I’m in the camp that thinks vst synths have overtaken hardware not just in sound but ease of use, programming options and much more. However live you really still need that 0ms latency to avoid that disconnected feeling software still gets you above a certain safe live asio buffer.

    • Mad Zach

      for me its all about racing through synthesis and being creative with the knobs at hand, software just doesn’t inspire me in the same way to explore and create

  • I’m totally down with this synthesizer/production stuff!

  • Jim

    Would love to see more articles on producing and products for producers. Most DJs will end up producing, even if they don’t realize it yet. Don’t be afraid to get specific with your articles. It seems like a lot of DJTT articles stay general. For example, if you did an article on mastering, don’t do a general article on basic mastering concepts, pick one aspect of mastering and do an article on that. For example, eq’ing.

  • This new Prophet sounds pretty phat. $3000 ouch!

    • Yeah, that’s why a lot of people lean toward using VST emulations of the originals with their new-fangled MIDI keyboard controllers. There are a lot of really good “Controller Keyboards” on the market and a LOT (and I do mean a VERY LARGE AMOUNT) of emulated synthesizers on the market.

      • RockingClub

        Which doesn’t mean there is no use and need for the real instrument, of course 😉

      • Mad Zach

        ah but the tone and playability don’t even compare

  • JuanSOLO

    I have a SlimPhatty and I love it, that Sub Phatty looks delicious, hope to see a version without the keyboard.

  • I’m all into production and including controllerism into a show, so this new direction is great!

  • 1nfinite zer0

    love synths and production info. feels like there is a gap out there for consistent live and performance news, tips, articles. which is one of the reason i love djtt so much. would enjoy if that direction continued

  • That new Moog is a nice piece of kit. I would kill for a Dave Smith though. Easily my favorite keyboard synth ever. I wish I had a car to sell for one

    • wardtf

      Why not selling your gf? 😛

      • Anonymous

        ^^this ..GF’s are more expensive

        • wardtf

          Well, then sell your soul to buy your GF back

          • wardtf

            And sell your house/car after that to get your soul back!

  • wardtf

    DJTT forgot to mention the Korg MS-20 mini….
    The great thing is that it can be easily expanded with modular synth stuff like doepfer A-100, and that it already has shown to be a good synth..

    $599 <== OMG

    http://korg.com/MS20mini

    • wardtf

      http://korg.com/MS20mini

      (left one in the picture is the mini ($599), right one in the picture is the original (on eBay around $1500+)

    • Spacecamp

      Very true – Zach didn’t get a chance to play with one on camera because there was such a crowd around it each time we went over!

    • The MS-20 Mini is a Hertz per Volt rather than a Volts per Octave synth (just like the original) and therefore is incompatible with Eurorack stuff like the Doepfer stuff you mentioned without something else in between. So it won’t work with modular gear on it’s own.

    • FattyKutz

      I don’t have much, but I’ll sell you my soul for one 🙂

      • wardtf

        Hmm, depends on how religious you are

        If your atheïst i would only give $50 but if your a good christian, i’ll give you 750$… always nice to have an extra soul, i mean: bigger chance to get in heaven xD

  • Prof_Strangeman

    Kind of disappointed in the Moog Sub. I’ll be sticking to my Slim’s and Minitaur setup. I really like that Domino though..

    • Mad Zach

      a bit boring if you ask me :/

      • Prof_Strangeman

        Oh my God. Mad Zach responded to my comment. O_O His glorious fingers which bring us so much finger drumming love rode accross his keyboard to back up a comment I made.

        • Kim

          I guess it might seem boring if you’ve had plenty of experience with more advanced synths, but the Domino seems great for hardware-starters in my eyes! Great way to get a basic understanding of synthesis and MIDI-routing, apart from the cute sounds it makes.

  • The Prophet 12 is my dream synth. Had so much fun playing with it and talking to the DSI guys.

    • Mad Zach

      I couldn’t step away from it, people were giving me dirty looks and asking me if “I was done yet” lol