Analog synths are versatile instruments that are used by electronic recording artists worldwide.
A synth, or synthesizer, is the term used for an instrument that creates tones, sounds, and musical notes by running electric signals through varying frequencies.
Sometimes analog synths are programmed to sound like a real instrument, such as a violin or bass guitar, and other times they are used to create a completely different type of sound.
The sheer variety of music able to be produced by synthesizers is what makes them so useful, giving an artist the freedom to explore new sounds.
From Analog Synths to Digital and Back to Analog
The history of analog synths is a backdrop for the history of electronic musical progression. Although analog synths have been around since as early as the 1920′s, they really became popular in the music industry in the 60′s.
With the 80′s we started seeing a new evolution of synths – the digital synth, but eventually, underground DJs and electronic artists slowly brought back the analog synth, simply because they couldn’t afford the more sophisticated (and expensive) digital systems.
These days, because the sound produced by analog synths is unique from the widespread digital versions, the analog types are still extremely popular.
Beginners Tips for Buying Analog Synths
The most important aspect of buying analog synths, more so perhaps than any other instrument, is understanding the capabilities of the model you want and matching that to your budget.
Going for a less costly synthesizer might be the worst mistake you could make, simply because many of the key components like sequencers or a basic drum kit may not be included.
Some of the cheaper models have also been known to have parts that break off after light use.
Additionally, cheaper synths usually don’t last very long – time is not a friend of cheap analog synths. You might have to dish out a little tough to find a synthesizer that will last and give you a decent amount of options.
2. Test Drive It
Aside from deciding based on the cost of your analog synth, it’s a really good idea to give it a test run before taking it home.
Now, if this is your first time buying (or playing) a synth, you might want to bring along a friend who knows a bit about analog synths and the sounds they should be making.
Sit down with it, test out some of the features, and ensure that all the controllers work as they are supposed to. Another good idea is to try out several analog synths before making a decision. Most music stores will allow you to play instruments before purchasing.
3. Understand Your Needs
There are a few different tiers of analog synths on the market, with models ranging in price from dirt cheap to a few hundred dollars to the price of a used Toyota.
The hard part isn’t finding a cheap analog synth necessarily, it’s finding the line of distinction where price and features come together in the most affordable way.
If you are planning to record professionally, then it makes sense to grab a top end model, even if it’s an investment. For more relaxed use, those top of the line synths would be great, but they just aren’t very practical. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as having too many features, so it’s best to understand exactly what you want before going in and making a purchase.
Buying a Used Analog Synth
This is always an option, but it’s one that comes with an extra level of risk. Analog synths don’t hold up very well with age; a ten-year-old synth may very well be worthless unless it was maintained in pristine condition.
It’s no fault of the manufacturers, it’s just that the intricate instruments involved can easily fall prey to moisture, humidity, dust, and rust.
In light of this, if you want to buy secondhand, inspect the synth very carefully, test it, and ask the owner questions about its history of use.
Basically, buying analog synths comes down to how much you are willing to pay, your skill level (whether you’re a novice or pro), and your requirements for the synth.
Will you be using it for professional recording or for working on improving your own skill?
Buying your first analog synth is a serious undertaking, but it should still be a fun and enjoyable learning experience. Taking the time to learn about the steps before purchasing analog synths can save a lot of headaches later.