What is Your Favorite Poly Synth?

For the last few of years I have been craving the sound of polyphonic, analogue synthesizers. Although I’ve got a collection of aging monophonic (and one duophonic) beasts, I haven’t owned an analogue polyphonic slab since I had an Oberhiem Matrix-6. Before that, it was one of my first instruments, the Korg Poly-800. Both of these synths sound great, but I can’t forget the frustration I experienced with their lack of tactile potentiometers. Although I wish I still had it now, the membrane buttons on the Matrix-6 were especially annoying.

Recently I joined a trio name DGK (Jon Davis, Tim Glenn, and John Keston) that I think would benefit from a versatile polyphonic analogue instrument on top of my Rhodes electric piano. I have few rigs in mind (insert vintage Korg, Roland, or Akai), but I’m looking for a good knob to dollar ratio (more knobs and less dollars). What are your favorite poly-synths and why? Ever get rid of something you wish you hadn’t? Or have you been assimilated by the latest software synths?

25 thoughts on “What is Your Favorite Poly Synth?

  1. There are a multitude of analog modeling synths with plenty of knobs. That’s not really analog. But it’s hard to beat the Roland JP-8000 in a knob and sliders count.

    I would suggest a Mellotron for it’s unique sound but I think it would crush your Rhodes if you try to put it on top. Also, it has a distinct lack of knobs.

    I recently sold my Juno-106 but that or perhaps a Juno-60 would probably offer the best bang for buck ratio.

  2. @tehk How does the AN1x compare to the Korg MS2000? I have an MS2K and love it, but it just misses the true analog warmth I get from my Pro-One and MaxiKorg.

  3. Thanks, @epilektric! The Juno-60 and 106 are definitely on my short list, but I’m not interested in newer (late 90s+) modeling synths since I already own a Korg MS2000. What I’m after is all the character and flaws of a living analogue instrument.

  4. I still have my original Juno 106 .. one of the last off the line. It’s had it’s share of wear and tear, but I keep it out of nostalgia now. I think it’s still my favorite, though I’d love to get my hands on some of the other classics. =)

  5. Another vote for the Juno 60. Patch memory, stable tuning, plenty sliders, and that warm sound. Perfect pad for the Rhodes.

  6. I think the Dave Smith Prophet 08 would be super because it’s new/reliable and readily available but if you’re after a vintage circuit then I would vote for an Oberheim OB-8 or OB-X (although really heavy machines).

  7. I had a Juno-60 sitting comfortably on my Rhodes 73 for most of my band time. As to stable tuning – a few screws dropped out of the part where the pitchbender rests and the metal casing came loose. I “fixed” that with gaffa before a show. Needless to say, the pitch went wild on stage and the 2500 people in the audience where wondering what the hell we were doing up there. Worst.Gig.Of.My.Life.

    So I learned the hard way its best to have a repair kit handy if you travel with vintage instruments. Or get a new thing like a Tetra that sounds worse but is not so much worry and considerably lighter

  8. @Hainbach I agree. I toured a few years ago with a Rhodes and brought a small tools box along, with extra tines (low ones that could be cut shorter if necessary), solder, a soldering iron, tools, and a few other bits and pieces. Ironically the only thing that went wrong was forgetting a crucial power supply at the hotel before going on at the Montreal Jazz Festival! There was a happy ending through. My wife took off her heals and ran like the wind back to our hotel to retrieve it seconds before we went on. *phew*

  9. @miditerranean Yeah, I’d love one of those monsters. Dave Smith, if you’re listening, I will review the crap out of it on ACB if you give me one! :P

  10. I used to have a Sequential Circuits Prophet 600 that was very fun to tweak and had amazing sound but a bit sluggish envelopes. I think it was like $450 used plus it has MIDI (first ever). The prices went up for a while and I then sold that and upgraded to an Andromeda, but I do miss that old prophet. The prices may have come down a bit recently though.
    I personally would go for the DSI Tetra, nice price, small and lots of analog gooeyness with sequencers galore.

  11. Again not true analogue but for my money (about 500 worth) i like the Creamware Prodyssey. A polyphonic VA emulation of the Arp Odyssey with all of the same sliders. A fantastic range of sounds and as much tactile feedback as one can manage.



  12. @John: The forgetting of specialist power supplies (especially for small mixers) is a common curse. All hail internal power supplies and bus power!

  13. Pingback: Audio Cookbook » Blog Archive » Roland Juno-106 with Bad Voice Chip Restored

  14. Look into The JX series of roland

    JX3P- JX8P are very analogue synths with dco’s and a lot of knobs, they are very underrated and sound as good as any juno, plus more versatile in my opinion

  15. @Pigsnoot I really dig the sound of the JX8P, and if I could find one with a programmer I’d probably bite, although now I have an MKS-80 which trumps a lot of gear.

  16. Juno 106 is easily the best all round analog poly as a ‘musical instrument’ from the 80s cheaper analogs. Yes even better than Jupiter 6 for the needs of a studio.

    Runners up would be Polysix for sound (great sound) and JX-3P for personality. The 106 remains the best overall though. I’ve had all the Junos including 6/60 and while they are nice and a bit thicker/punchier at times they are also less workable in real music, very ‘samey’ and not as useful as the 106. 106 also has a much better feature set for real music production and poly portamento is a real bonus!

  17. I like the 106, but find it pretty limited in comparison to beasts like the MKS-80 or DSI Tempest. Lately I have been investigating the Waldorf Blofeld virtual analog and wavetable synth. Although digital I think it might just be a sound designers dream. It has 25 voice polyphony and 16 part multi-tambral capability. Any thoughts?

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