Top 20 Greatest Synths - Episode 4

An Arp, an Oberheim, a Virus and some Synth Myths      28/03/07

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10:49 mins
Top 20 Greatest Synths - Episode 4

Top 20 Greatest Synths (Episode Four)

Episode 4 brings us to the halfway mark in our show about 20 great synths (well, 19 and a Mellotron, actually... but if you watched episode 3, you’d see why we just HAD to include the Melly for entertainment value alone!). And in this portion we start getting down to some real heavyweights on the chart with the Oberheim OB8 and the legendary Arp 2600. We also feature the youngest synth in the Top 20, the Access Virus. People have been asking why synths like the Andromeda and Oasys only feature as mere Chartgrazers? Well the truth is, although they are outstanding instruments, they still have to prove themselves to be the stuff of legend, or to be a major influence on music or design technology. Hence the youngest synth is still a fairly respectable 10 years old and has many influential design features as well as a formidable reputation in the field. (Plus it got loads of votes in our poll, of course!) The Story So Far! For those who have just joined us and missed all the build up to the show, here are the facts: We’ve based the chart on the votes that have been coming in to our Top 3 Synths page plus a bit of poetic license to include some outsiders, underdogs and a few surprises. The chart is about hardware, so no softies (we'll be doing a software chart next year), and 'Greatest' means the most inspirational, the most influential, the most iconic and the sexiest - er - basically the one with the most knobs on wins. We realise not everyone will be happy with the positioning on the chart, but there’s enough in the programmes to keep everyone smiling, and we hope you’ll enjoy them just the same. Oh, and it's mainly about the romance of electronic instruments in a changing World, so bring your irony and sense of humour otherwise you will be hopelessly lost and left behind. Episodes are about 10 minutes long and are posted at Sonic once a fortnight. There are 8 episodes in all, and the show will be posted as one contiguous show later in the year. So now we’ve cleared that up, let’s get on with the show as we count down numbers 11 to 9 on the Top 20 Greatest Synths of all time... Ever! Episode 1, 2, and 3 can be viewed here

<9.Access Virus
German synth lords Access introduced the uber cool desktop 'A' model in 1997 with the Virus 'B' mopping up all the success in 1999. The ‘B’ was a 24-voice, 3-oscillator upgrade with 82 realtime FX and a 32-band vocoder. OS 4.0 was introduced to the range in 2000 (free to download) and upgraded the Virus into one of the best analogue modelling synths ever produced. The Virus KB was a full sized keyboard version with handsome wood panelling and the Virus Rack was released in 2001. The gorgeous Virus Indigo is a sleek 37-note 'virtual analogue roadster' that looks as cool as it sounds and sounds as cool as it looks. The Virus family are truly magnificent upgradeable synths and have proved themselves to be one of the best affordable hardware range to be produced in the last decade.

<10. ARP 2600
OK, slight mistake here. Goldfrapp’s Mr. Gregory cited the ARP 2600 as being the system used on the movie Close Encounters whereas that was more likely to have been its predecessor the 2500. But, hey it's a great story anyhow so just enjoy it and let's remember that the 2600 has an even greater film legacy as it was used by Skywalker Sound to make the bleeps and widdles for the R2D2 voice in Star Wars. Hey-hey, movie buffs! This semi-modular, monophonic patch-cabled beast was produced in direct competition with the Moog modulars of the early 70s and became so popular that its fearsome reputation survives to this day, a quarter of a century after the demise of the ARP foundation. Jim Heintz from Wayoutware tells us about it’s unique features, sound quality and layout. Oh and by the way, if you’re thinking of getting a soft one, as well as Jim’s TimewArp 2600, there is also the Arturia ARP 2600V.

<11. Oberheim OB8
The big and brassy OB8 was the last in the series of synths that included the OB-1, OB-Xa and the OB-X. Although MIDI-less, the digital buss system offered unprecedented connectivity for the time, allowing it to talk to the DSX sequencer, the DMX drums and other OB synths. It had 120 patches of memory, an 8 note arpeggiator and syncable VCOs. Apart from the Prince and Van Halen examples mentioned by Dave, the Oberheims were regularly used by acts like the Police, Paul McCartney, Thompson Twins, Simple Minds and KLF. The Chartgrazers on this episode are the Casio CZ101 and the Novation Bass Station.

People who voted for at least one of the synths in episode 4 include: Modular77, Z128, pbunky1970, bradhivoltage, djintact, r_quirk, squirtifier, kandokoro, da_dmaster, andyr, Roderick Macquarrie, , Protontube, Timothy Ringeling, Peter Nmahr, roxette_fan,, synthesiseme, djkaos, EA_shop, rugerseeds, dss_dood, soundjotter, Palle, mass.longo, HZ, leftbrain, amine.berrada.gouzi and many, many more.

Coming in Episode 5
In the next episode we go deeper into the Top 10 with the fourth & fifth Rolands to feature on the chart as well as the first of two Korgs. We feature interviews with Ade Utley of Portishead, Dave Robinson (PSNE) and Sonic State founder Nick Batt. All to come on the Top 20 Greatest Synths of all time... Ever. Keep it locked and thanks for watching!


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24 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Putas    Said...

(This is my 3rd message - I don't know why previous ones didn't make it through the list. If this one won't pass through, I am going to make it as publc as one could make with his possibilities. Take Care.)

This is the fourth episode of these, and I couldn't take it anymore - sorry to say, but these videos really suck (I guess "Technomania" wasn't enough ?). Very shallow demonstrations, mostly pictures from all over the web that almost anybody had seen, interviews with some B-class synth artists (ok, H.Jones is an exception, but was it really your interview , hm ???) - almost any amateur from "youtube" could come up with such a video.

It seems like one really wanted to fill these 9-10 minutes with any synth-related crap just to last as long, because they've paid one to do so. I really didn't suspect such a novice-crappy thing from a web site I really respected for all those NAMM/MusikMesse relations through all these years. And why the hell you just skipped some of the synthesizers you've mentioned ?! CZ-101 !? I think PD synthesis is really worth mentioning a bit more than a 10 sec. spot with a well-known picture and some crappy talk (take the whole sample-playing Proteus for one - which in your point of view is more sophisticated than the CZ series ? :/)

Btw. "Prof."!? Marc Norris ? Give us a break !

And why the hell when showing Nord Lead, when words like "entry system" were spoken You've showed pictures of the first Nord Modular system ??? Jesus Christ, are there really some bunch of idiots out there ? I'm using NM since '99 and "Entry level synth" is the last thing I'd say about it - show me a novice synthesist that is able to come up with a sensible patch right away with this system... You're hilarious...

I've read some previous comments on this series, and they were either written by some idiots that are doing these stupid, silly videos, or by some friends and/or relative ones.

PS. Sorry if my English sucks - I'm not from where you are - hopefully =)

28-Mar-07 08:15 PM

Nick Batt    Said...

Your comments have not been deleted or vetted by the Sonicstate Corporation– that would be me (I just checked the database and this appears to be the second post – not sure why you didn’t get the first notification email), but it does seem that this has really got you riled – it certainly wasn’t our intention to annoy people, we were hoping to take a light-hearted approach to this series to make less dense and hopefully broaden it’s appeal – which does appear to be the case – it’s by far our most widely viewed video content.

It is unfortunate that it’s pressed all the wrong buttons for you and I’m sorry about that. But it looks like it might actually turn in to an something of an opportunity - you say that any amateur on Youtube could do this, so go for it and we’ll be happy to promote the results – I’ll even host it for you if you like.

Just to put things into perspective – for a small company like us, it represents an enormous amount of work to make something like this and we’re very proud of what the producer Simon Power has achieved – we get lots of supportive comments and emails – and none of them are from my mum or his.

It may be that we’ll do something more in-depth and under the hood in the future – we have a ton of footage we’ve not used yet – perhaps you can get involved and help us make it more to your liking?


Nick Batt

29-Mar-07 01:58 AM

stevey777    Said...

The Cure, Goldfrapp, Portishead...These are "B" class acts????? HAHAHA!!! Get your facts straight PUTAS!! On the Nord Lead piece it says DATA ENTRY SYSTEM not ENTRY LEVEL. And "The Prof" is supposed to be HUMEROUS...Have you even had Monty Python in your country yet?? This series is the breath of fresh air. Great stuff, Sonic.

29-Mar-07 02:13 AM

Putas    Said...

First things first:

stevey777 Said...: - "The Cure, Goldfrapp, Portishead...These are "B" class acts????? HAHAHA!!! Get your facts straight PUTAS!!"

Yes, as opposed to such names like Thomas Dolby, Stevie Wonder, Jean Michel Jarre... got the point already ? I'm not saying they're B-class at all - I'm talking about they're input into the synth world.

- "On the Nord Lead piece it says DATA ENTRY SYSTEM not ENTRY LEVEL"

I might got carried away on this one - as I said, I'm far away from english-spoken countries, besides I drank a bit of whisky so, my apologies for this one. Anyway - Nord Lead (1,2), and Nord Modular (1-st generation) are completely different instruments (though algorithms in they-re DSP's are the same when it comes to generate/filter waveforms) so I don't really think that showing its picture when "reviewing" NL was a really clever move. We got too much "Nord Lead Modular"-style confused idiots around already.

- ""The Prof" is supposed to be HUMEROUS...Have you even had Monty Python in your country yet??"

Yes, actually I DID have hear of them (surprised? WOW!), I sure do like they're gags, but this one wasn't funny, nor ironic in "Monty Python" style at all (I still don't get your comparison matey(777)). It just looked like one got some kind of educational complex or something.

Nick Batt Said...: - "we were hoping to take a light-hearted approach to this series to make less dense and hopefully broaden it’s appeal"

Yeah, maybe even "too" light-hearted if you know what I mean. I thought this site wasn't meant for grandma's who doesn't know what a synthesizer is, (got nothing against grandma's) but for people that are really interested in this kind of stuff. (still comparing this kind of videos, to the quality music-show relations you're providing).

- "you say that any amateur on Youtube could do this, so go for it and we’ll be happy to promote the results – I’ll even host it for you if you like."

Sure I will - I will video-review some of my synths, and I take your word for providing the space for them - just drop me an email where to send my results - you know my adress, as you've checked the database already.

- "for a small company like us, it represents an enormous amount of work to make something like this and we’re very proud of what the producer Simon Power has achieved"

Come on! You're way better than this! The facts, the reviews, the audio demos from these could be tighten into a 2-3 min video - they're full of unnecessary crap, long breaks and stuff.

- "we have a ton of footage we’ve not used yet"

Then why didn't you use it instead of some popular stuff, that anyone can google for itself ? I don't think 2 weeks is really not enough time to edit such a weak video, when obviously one got paid for it. (corrrect me if I'm wrong on this one).

- "perhaps you can get involved and help us make it more to your liking?"

Sure, why not - as I said before - just drop me na email where to send stuff.

And why didn't you answer the skipped synth-section of my previous post? Is a "rompler" like a Proteus really worth mentioning more than an original and one-of-a-kind Phase Distortion synthesis ? I really don't think so.

No hard feelings, Putas.

29-Mar-07 06:30 AM

Nas    Said...

i've just got around to watching episode 4- lush!!!

Well done sonic! Im a new-skool soft synth kind of a chap, any chance of the prof giving it the same treatment?

Hey Putas, next time - dont drink & dial up!!!

29-Mar-07 08:25 AM

Pauly B.    Said...

Yeah, Putas. Let's get an interview with STEVIE WONDER...His phone number is 0873 G-E-T R-E-A-L!!!! HAHAHA. ...yeah and Goldfrapp haven't made a contribution to the synth world?? They are one of the biggest synth bands in the World. HAHA. Tell you what, mate. I don't think you know what you're on about.

29-Mar-07 08:27 AM

Putas    Said...

Nas Said...:

"Hey Putas, next time - dont drink & dial up!!!"

Hey, wasn't it don't drink & drive ? But seriously, I know, that is my problem.

Pauly B. Said...:

"Yeah, Putas. Let's get an interview with STEVIE WONDER...His phone number is 0873 G-E-T R-E-A-L!!!! HAHAHA. ..."

Got anything more creative to say? Anyway, I never said they were supposed to make one.

I know it's easy to suck up and post a lousy comment like "great job!", "awesome" and stuff - but hey - these videos aren't great in any way, and I'm trying to make a point here, and maybe I did use a bit harsh language last night for which I apologize, but I was trying to make a decent, and honest criticism.

29-Mar-07 09:01 AM

Pauly B.    Said...

Yeah, right, Putas...Have you finished your JEAN MICHEL JARRE interview yet?? Come on, we want to see it!!! Long live the greatest synths show. It makes me warm and nostalgic. You're the greatest, guys!!

29-Mar-07 12:00 PM

Nick Batt    Said...

Okay fellers, lets keep it civil eh?

I can see your point Putas, but my point was that we couldnt make that program for you given the resources - the people we did interview who are regular users of much of this kit are busy people you know? An hour for an interview as opposed to 1/2 a day or more doing musical (I agree perhaps more informative) demos of this kit is just not going to happen - this time. Most of the people interviewed were personal favours pulled in to help us out (some of us do have a musical history here you know?)

Also, many are not currently promoting new releases - which is generally the way these things go so we could not get some current "in action" stuff.

The point is (an no offence meant here) that you talking about your synths is not going to have the same wide appeal as some of these people - which was suitable for this project.

I am serious about putting your stuff online - be happy to - just let me know when you have something.

I appreaciate your input and that you had the balls to say you were a bit out of order.

And no, no hard feelings.

29-Mar-07 02:12 PM

REwire    Said...

I'm so frustrated every time because I actually want to hear the synth in question. Can't the guy sitting in front of the OB-8 just push a few keys and say "Yah, that's the sound.".......Infuriating!

29-Mar-07 05:18 PM

Daybreak    Said...

Love this series.

Would like to hear the synth sounds being featured just as 'REwire' said.

I think 'Putas' needs to quit mixing speed and alcohol.

29-Mar-07 08:48 PM

Simon Power, producer Top 20 Synths    Said...

Thanks, guys. Dave certainly could have pushed a few keys, but you wouldn't have heard anything because it was broken! I have included many many many examples of sounds from the synths in the background sound beds (loads infact!), but I don't want to give you a show that just runs thru presets. In the next episode you get a full D50 demo from Dave Robinson of ProSoundNews and an indepth piece from Ade Utley about the MS20. Hope you enjoy it.

30-Mar-07 05:44 AM

Putas    Said...

Pauly B. Said...: - "Yeah, right, Putas...Have you finished your JEAN MICHEL JARRE interview yet??"

Can't really call it an interview, but I did ask him some questions last saturday. I can send you Q&A from this meeting (just post your e-mail). Here's a link to a photo when he signed me a JD-800

(he used one on my favourite album - "Chronologie") - but hey!, isn't this is a kind of thing that you're all laughing at?. I won't say anything more here - wait for my videos, that Nick is hopefully going to host.

Nick Batt Said...: - "I am serious about putting your stuff online - be happy to - just let me know when you have something."

And I was serious when I said I wanted to make a video review of a CZ-101 and other stuff, but I still don't know your e-mail - please be kind to send me an empty one, so I can reply to it with link to stuff I'd like you to host for me. I really can't promise it'll be really some time soon, but it'll happen - believe me :)

BTW: Daybreak Said...: "I think 'Putas' needs to quit mixing speed and alcohol."

I never did any drugs, so quit with such a stupid comments.


'Putas' was my temporary "drunk" nickname, but you'll all learn it soon. See ya!

Greetings, and sorry for being such a hard-ass, but I really hate popular stuff being promoted as some personal one.

30-Mar-07 10:06 PM

android    Said...

Hey Putas, (hmm. That rhymes with pooftas!)

You say that you don't do drugs and you don't always drink. Therefore all excuses are gone, and you are officially an idiot.

Sonic State does a great job, and if you don't like it, don't come here. The world is negative enough without rednecks like you chiming in.

We are frankly sick of hearing from you and would appreciate it if you'd leave the forum.

PS. Glad to hear your trailer park finally has internet.

01-Apr-07 01:32 AM

Computer Controlled    Said...

So far, good series. The host is rather humorous. A few issues i take though, for one, i don't see the Proteus as being one of the top 20 synths of all time. Also, i think the OB-8 should have replaced by either the Bass Station or the CZ-101. Also, where is the 303? I truly hope it's in the top 5!!! It has spawned one of the largest underground dance musics of all time, was once THEE most wanted synth, and is most likely thee most cloned synth of all. It has easily had one of the largest impacts on electronic music ever. If the 101 is there, then the 303 should be!

12-Apr-07 04:21 PM

Stephen Teller    Said...

Episode 4 - a couple of quick corrections- the Close Encounters Arp in the pic was a 2500- also the other Arp described as one of the last ones was "The Solus" no the soloist. Not even sure what the picture was of. I enjoy these but you guys should try to have your info correct.

15-Apr-07 04:13 PM

Michael    Said...

Very enjoyable, especially the Seq circuits interview.

I can see you put a lot of time into this. Much appreciated.

30-Apr-07 03:40 PM

rayla    Said...

I want to hear more sounds from each synth you show!

07-Jun-07 01:57 PM

rayla    Said...

I want to hear more sounds from each synth.

07-Jun-07 01:58 PM

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10-Jul-07 12:39 PM

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10-Jul-07 12:47 PM

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11-Jul-07 09:04 PM

wkqbearh    Said...

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11-Jul-07 09:09 PM

Benedict Johnson    Said...

The music at the beginning of this one is also used at the beginning of quite a few of the podcasts!! If you're short on music, I'll give make you some! (You guy like smug smart-arses, right?)

12-Jan-09 08:30 PM

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