I’m a student so I only dream of owning vintage analog synths. However, if you dig deep, you can find all sorts of alternatives on the internet, free of charge! As soon as I earn some proper money, I’ll be donating to these sites but in the mean time, let me share some of the synths I always wanted but couldn’t afford (except now I do have them! In a way…)
I’m not going to delve into the technicalities of every synth since, if you’re looking for some of these, you probably know a fair amount about how the originals worked. Therefore, I’ll just point out some extras which are offered and concentrate on the ease of use and the sound.
First a little background; because I’m a poor student, I have a setup which cost a minimal amount of money! I already had a laptop (HP WIndows 10) and I went out and bought myself a Roland UM-ONE so I could get it to talk to my VSTs (my advice is DON’T go looking for cheaper MIDI/USB converters, for the sake of about 40 dollars you can have the real deal and it’ll work with anything).
I then looked around for free VST players, not full DAWs, just so I could experience the vintage sounds without paying a fortune for loads of stuff I wouldn’t use. I tried a few but settled on Cantabile Lite – I could do a whole review just on this one piece of software (which I may actually do in the near future) but suffice it to say that there’s next to no latency, everything you would expect to assign via MIDI is assignable and it’s laid out logically. If you’re interested, you can find it here:
OK, so I’ve plugged my UM-ONE into my Roland XP-10 which is going to be my master keyboard, I’ve plugged the other end into my laptop and I’ve got Cantabile Lite up and running. Let’s find some synths!
I looked around many sites and some looked OK, some looked “well dodgy" as we say in Liverpool (!) and one looked perfect:
There are so many free synths on this site that you’ll probably be online for the next week non-stop if you’re anything like me! I have experience of playing a Yamaha CS-60 (there’s one in the studio I work in) and as a result I can kind of figure out how I’d use a CS-80. If you’re in a similar situation, you’ll love “80-vox" – it looks like the real deal, it SOUNDS like the real deal and it does what it says on the tin. It’s laid out more or less the same as a CS-80 so if you’ve used any of the CS analog polysynths by Yamaha, you’ll be at home here.
There are two interesting additions – chorus speed and depth which wasn’t on the CS-50 or CS-60, and a mono/poly switch (going into sustain II mode on the original synths put all the oscillators onto one note so it sounded fat but remained in poly mode). If you’d like to have a go yourself, here’s the link:
If you’re not worried that the VST doesn’t look like the original synth, try the Arminator – it’s got everything a CS-80 has got but it’s more like a modular synth because many of the routings are assignable, including multiple LFOs and effects.
There’s a preset on there which is instant Vangelis “China" and through the studio speakers, it sounds like Vesuvius erupting! If you’re tempted, click here:
Next up is a synth I’ve always wanted to own but never found one, not even in a dedicated keyboard store – The MiniMoog Model D! The VST I like best is the MiniMogue va, simply because it sounds the best. I tried some of the other free VSTs and they just didn’t have that overdriven Moog filter sound, This one does and, not only that, but you can control the amount of filter overdrive too! One great addition is a mono/poly switch, which converts your MiniMoog instantly into a 5-voice MemoryMoog – brilliant idea!
If you think you might like to add this to your virtual studio, here’s the link:
There are so many synths on this site, I could go on for month! I’ll just mention one more for now though and it’s a synth I’m in total awe of – the Korg PS-3300. I saw ONE of these once in a keyboard store in London but it was snapped up very quickly. Never been near one since. I would personally bow down and worship the ground under one of these! No need any more, I have one on my 42" screen (which I got off ebay for $15!) and it looks like the original and sounds like the original, even down to the red LEDs winking away at me in sync!
LFOs (Modulation generators in Korg language) are fully assignable across sections, e.g. you can get MG2 on Block A to modulate the resonators on Block C if you wanted or any combination thereof. There are assignable release modes and times for each block (because this series of Korg didn’t have release as part of the envelope generators) which you’ll find along the bottom of the panel. It’s created by “Full Bucket" and it’s amazing. If you don’t download any other synth all year, get yourself this one – it’ll take you a year to exhaust all the routing combinations! If I’ve gotten you interested, click here:
That’s it for now, I look forward to bringing you some more freebies real soon!
Hannah Bayne – #WEATNU Digital Magazine – November 2019