Or, lack of control.
A couple of days ago I posted a link on Twitter about the difference between shooting on movies on film vs digital. I noted that this is effectively a solved problem in audio – we all record to digital, and use whatever analogue tape emulations we like the sound of.
See, sound is a solved problem. We like the sound of some analogue processes, in some contexts. But we choose our source format (digital) because of the tremendous cost and workflow benefits it affords us.
And then Korg announced the Minilogue.
And I like it. But it’s not about the sound. With maybe the exception of that nasty cross-mod (FM it seems), I can do all the Minilogue’s sounds on my Ultranova. And that’s before I pull out something like Thor or Massive (or whatever super synth with All The Features you prefer).
What’s appealing about the Minilogue is the user interface. 90% of the controls are directly accessible from the front panel.
It’s with the same interest that I’ve been following the various iterations of similar synths by Dave Smith, Moog, Roland and others.
Nowadays, sound is a solved problem. It doesn’t actually matter how much is analogue and how much is digital. This is not the character of the instrument.
The character of the instrument is in the design. It’s the choice of features, the way they interact and how they’re controlled or configured.
A mouse and keyboard affords a certain range of interaction. The eight knobs and dozen menu buttons on my Ultranova affords another. A keyboard with a couple of dozen knobs on the front panel affords another again.
Almost all synths you’d want to use have some kind of oscillators, filters and modulation. But it’s the details that define the ‘voice’ and character of the instrument. How can the oscillators be shaped? What does the filter do when it’s abused? How freely can the LFOs be assigned?
How does the instrument want to be programmed? How does the instrument want to sound?
A Paul and a Strat play the same notes, but they play differently. Superficially the have the same range, but they want to play different music.