Do you love classic ’80s music? Many of the songs of the era relied heavily on Yamaha’s vaunted DX7 synthesizer, which was the first mainstream synth to use FM synthesis, creating a variety of uniquely textured sounds, like the ones in Power DX7’s medley.
THE BEST Synthesizers
IK Multimedia’s compact beat maker was developed in collaboration with Italy’s Soundmachines, and cranks out a mix of analog sounds and PCM sound samples. It can play up to 12 sounds at once, has on-board effects, and can be controlled via USB or MIDI. Demo performance here.
Curious Sound Objects’ Bitty is a tiny drum machine and synthesizer. You can use it to create beats, melodies, or noise. It has four buttons, a time knob, a pitch knob, two function buttons, headphone in and out ports and an aluminum speaker often used in car door panels.
A droolworthy tool for any musician’s arsenal, Headrush’s looper pedal on steroids features a 7″ touchscreen UI, an onboard mixer and effects, and up to 9 hours of internal recording time. It offers numerous inputs and outputs, and comes pre-loaded with 300 percussion loops.
Teenage Engineering’s OP-Z combines a synth and sequencer in a minimal device. It can record 8 audio tracks and 8 control tracks at once, and has a 2-octave keyboard, speaker, microphone, headphone jack, and USB-C/MIDI ports built in. It also works wirelessly with iOS.
Jamstik’s new smart guitars offer portability for both pros and newbies. The Jamstik7 is perfect for beginners – it has 7 frets and works with Jamstik’s educational apps. The Jamstik12 is a 12-fret smart guitar with low latency, palm mute sensing and MIDI compatibility.
Artist, designer, and musician Tim Alex Jacobs or Mixtela shows off one of the coolest business cards ever. His custom-designed card has a built in printed circuit board and metallic keys that serve as a tiny stylophone-style MIDI controller when plugged into a USB port.
IK Multimedia proves you don’t have to be big or expensive to create fat analog sounds. Their portable synth costs less than $200, and features a pure-analog audio path with 2 VCOs, noise generator, resonant multimode VCF and VCA, MIDI, and a 27-note multitouch keyboard.
With the right synth patches, bass, brass section, and recording talent, Doctor Mix shows us how its possible to replicate the distinctive sound of Michael Jackson’s 1984 mega-hit Thriller incredibly well. Even with the King of Pop’s vocals gone, it’s an amazing performance.
Joué is an incredibly versatile MIDI controller, thanks to its swappable modules. The modules’ buttons are made of soft and elastic material that responds to pressure very nicely. There are eight modules to choose from, some familiar and some quite unorthodox.
Software engineer Kanru Hua shows off an impressive application he’s currently working on – a synthesizer that can emulate different vocal styles and sing in multiple languages. It shows quite a bit of promise, and could take on the big dogs like Vocaloid and CeVIO.
If there was one new sound that turned up more than any other back in ’80s music, it was the Yamaha DX7 and its cutting-edge FM synthesis. Polyphonic explores what made the DX7’s sound and tech unique, and some of the many artists who incorporated it in their music.
We already know that a rubber chicken can be used to make music. But Andrew Huang amped things up with Hexinverter’s mutant rubber chicken that uses compressed air to allow it to be played electronically. This is some serious mad scientist sh*t. Crazy sounds start at 1:59.
The latest creation from the analog synthesizer greats at Moog, the semi-modular DFAM (or Drummer from Another Mother) is designed specifically to create distinctive rhythmic sounds for use as the backbeat to electronic music tracks. Listen to sample tracks here.
The Royal Institution shares a 1985 lecture by professor David Pye as he shows off a vintage analog device which allowed a skilled player to synthesize sounds that approximated a human voice. He then showed off what was then state-of-the-art electronic speech synthesis.
Animator Eran Hilleli shows off an awesome work-in-progress system which allows him to animate the movements of a character using a series of faders and knobs, not unlike a sound mixing console. The system is based on code by keijiro takahashi. We want this now.
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