Category Archives: Product Reviews

First Impressions – Sequential Prophet Rev 2

I picked up a Sequential (DSI) Prophet Rev 2 polyphonic analog synthesizer a couple of weeks ago. After two weeks of playing, I decided to make a recording and talk about it.

First a few terms. “Analog” means that the sound is created by electronics as a continuous electrical signal which is then manipulated by other electronics. I know,obtuse, but that definition is a contrast with “digital”, which means the sound is created and manipulated by a computer. Most of the first commercial synthesizers were analog.

I said it was a polyphonic synthesizer (poly-synth). In this case “polyphonic” means more than one note can be played at once, sort of like a piano, with each note being distinct. The distinct note is called a “voice” – my Prophet Rev 2 is an 8 voice synthesizer (16 voice Rev 2s exist – more about this later). The way this works is that each voice is played by a completely different synthesizer! In the late 1970s, Dave Smith perfected a way for a computer to store values for a synthesizer so that all of the different voices (synthesizers) could have the same sound though the user only has to set up the sound once (one set of controls). It also let the user save sounds. This instrument was the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. It helped to revolutionist the music industry and, actually, music itself.

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Review – Behringer VC340

B VC340

Last week I received a Behringer VC340 that I ordered a few months back.  This is a recreation of a classic synthesizer, the Roland VP-330 Vocoder Plus, which was made in 1979 and 1980.  Although the production of this synthesizer was short, it, along with the rackmount version, the SVC-350, is found all over music of the early 80s, including artists as far apart as Vangelis and Laurie Anderson.

The VC330, like the original VP-330, instead of being a general synthesizer is divided into three main parts: a string synthesizer, a “human voice” synthesizer and a vocoder.

The string synthesizer is just what it sounds like, a synthesized string ensemble sound that uses simple analog technology of the day.  String synths were very popular in the late 70s and the Roland version can be heard on a lot of music by a wide variety of artists.  It offers a simple tone (brightness) control, attack (how quickly the sound starts) and release (how quickly the sound fades after you take your hands from the keys). Continue reading

Review – Korg ARP Odyssey

Korg ARP Odyssey

I just picked up the Korg recreation of the classic analog synthesizer, the ARP Odyssey.  I first started playing with the instrument on Friday and it is Monday morning, so this is more of a “first impression” than an actual review.  Before that first impression, I should talk about the instrument a little.

A Brief History of the Odyssey

Back in the early 1970s ARP released the Odyssey as a direct competitor for the Mini Moog.  The Mini had the famous big, phat sound, but the Odyssey, besides being less expensive, had a lot going for it.  It was duophonic (you could play two notes as opposed to the Mini’s one), it had a ring modulator (creates complex harmonics), you could synch the oscillators (forces them in tune with each other, even when you try to force them out of tune), you can put an envelope on pitch, there was sample and hold (S&H), there was a simple high pass filter, and you could do some more complex modulation routings. Continue reading

Arturia Microbrute – Review

microbrute-image(Here is a little demo you can play as you read – more about it towards the bottom)

Back in the day the term “synthesizer” usually referred to a monophonic analog synthesizer. In the 1980s digital synths became the norm. There was no more worrying about oscillator tuning drifting, you could store hundreds, later thousands, of sounds without having to figure it all out every time you touched a dial, and they could play many notes at once. In the 1990s people began to long for that quirky, vintage, retro sound of analog instruments. Some true analog synths were created at huge price. And then there was the digital synths that modeled analog. In the 2000s and 2010s analog for the masses, or at least the keyboard playing masses, started to appear. Arturia, known more for their modeling software reproductions of vintage gear, came out with the ground breaking Minibrute. Later they lowered the price bar even more with the Microbrute. I picked one up at Christmas, though I started playing with it in mid-December. So after a month and a half I’ll let you know what I think.

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Review of 8.9″ Kindle Fire HDX

Kindle Fire HDX

A few years ago I received a great birthday gift, an original Kindle reader.  Since then either my wife or I have owned almost every model of Kindle made.  When the original Kindle Fire came out I scooped one up.  Oh, well, my bad.  I didn’t like it at all.  I later sold it back to Amazon but decided to give them another chance and picked up a 7” Kindle Fire HD.  It was significantly better.  I went from hate to love.  It became my mobile computing device of choice.  Back in late December, wanting a little more screen real estate, I decided to get a 8.9” Kindle Fire HDX.  So, what did I think?  Read on. Continue reading

Review of Jackson Journey Kayak

journey-product - Picture from Jackson web siteIn early November I received a great birthday present, a Jackson Journey kayak.  After spending six or seven hours on the boat spread out over three trips I have gotten the feel of it enough to share my experience.  As a small aside, I’m going to call this article a “review” even though it might be closer to “first impressions”.  I’ll begin with a quick recap of my kayaking experience.  Knowing my background will help you understand where I’m coming from. Continue reading