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I need to get back to the 80s, but don't know much about synths

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by bottlenecker, Feb 13, 2018.

  1. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    I need to record some songs that sound very 80s, synth and drum machine, sequenced bass lines, like the knight rider or airwolf themes, zz top eliminator, top gun score. All the cheesey stuff.
    I know I really want a dx7, but I need to get a drum machine, synth, sequencer(?), at bottom feeder cost. I'd prefer hardware stuff, because I treat my recording computer like a tape machine and don't want to make it do anything else. But, if I can't get close with any of the cheap hardware stuff, I could set up another computer to run a software synth.
    So I see these synth modules out there for $100, but I don't know what they'll do. Like a Roland jv-880, for instance. Will it get me to the 80s, or would I be stuck in enya land?
    BorderRadio and songtalk like this.
  2. mitchfinck

    mitchfinck Tele-Holic

    Dec 7, 2015
    Stratford, Ontario
    Just get a bunch of Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators. They're adorable, and can make some really cool sounds.
    tintag27 and bottlenecker like this.
  3. ebb soul

    ebb soul Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 7, 2016
    Smyrna georgia
  4. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Is that a variant of a Jupiter 8? I definitely can't afford a Jupiter 8.
  5. raito

    raito Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Nov 22, 2010
    Madison, WI
    JV-880 won't get you to the 80's. But it was all over the 90's.

    There never was a Juno 8.

    And as fun as the Pocket Operators are, they won't get you an 80's sound.

    So what to do? Well, it looks as though you're after cheesy TV show / straight to VHS soundtrack sort of stuff.

    One thing's for sure. You won't need a sequencer if you have a modern DAW and an interface with MIDI.

    You could go full-on vintage hardware. DX7 (or TX816 for that monster sound) for the recognizable sound. Jupiter 8 or Oberheim OB-X or Prophet 5 for polyphonic pads and special effects. Roland TR-808 or TR-909 for drums. Maybe a Minimoog or SH-101 or Pro-One for monophonic leads. And spend a lot of money.

    Or get VSTs. Cheap, sometimes free, 90% of the way there. But then you're in the box. You could certainly cover your drum needs this way, as there's lots of 80's drum samples out there. Roland, Yamaha, Simmons, pretty much whatever you need. Dexed for the Yamaha FM sound. And any of the oodles of other 80's synth emulations.

    Or get some of the itty-bitty modern reproductions. Need a DX 7? Get a Yamaha Reface DX. Need a Jupiter 8? Get 1 (or 2, even though the polychaining stinks) Roland Boutique JP-08. And Roland makes boutique TR-909 (TR-09), TR-808 (TR-08), and Sh-1010 (SH-01A). A few hundred each, plus a controller, and you're set.

    Or mix and match. Even though I very much prefer hardware, I wouldn't hesitate to suggest software to others, especially if it was a sort of one-off project where you're going to be sequencing most of it anyway.

    So it depends on how you weight your criteria. Correct sound for a lot of bucks. Decent sound out of the box for less, but still a bit of money. Cheap and msot of the way there in the box with software, but it's software.

    As for me, I already have a bunch of 80's synth hardware. And since I prefer hardware over software, I went the middle route. Gets me almost all the sound for less money and in new packages that will probably last long enough for me. Vintage synths require some coddling (very much on the order of vintage amps and other gear). I currently have 6 with various maintenance scheduled for them, from simple power supply electrolytic cap replacement to having to un-pot the epoxy from some circuit modules to general maintenance and slider rebuilding. And one that I bought for a song, but needs to be looked over and reassembled.

    Have fun, and let us know what you decided and what you did with them!
    tintag27 and bottlenecker like this.
  6. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I saw a documentary on the 80s drum sound on youtube a few weeks back. Phil Collin's solo album was a primary result of an accidental sound that was used all through the 80s pop music scene.

    tintag27, mnutz, RetroTeleRod and 3 others like this.
  7. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    Thanks! That's very helpful.
  8. tubejockey

    tubejockey Tele-Meister

    Nov 25, 2015
    the bozone
    I highly recommend going with the software synth and midi controller route. Very affordable, versatile, easy to upgrade. So many great free VSTs and hosts out there.
    Frodebro likes this.
  9. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Sequential Circuits is your friend for the later analog tones. DX7, but also the DX variants will do the job, Casio CZ iirc, and the Roland D series. Also Oberheim/Ensoniq and oh my gawwwwwd low bit samplers with analog filters can fatten/warm the cheesiest samples.

    Some great deals can be had on the rack versions if you hunt like a dog.

    Oh I miss my old synth gear, I had some good **** mostly acquired before prices started to get stupid.
    bottlenecker likes this.
  10. warrent

    warrent Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2009
    That's a cool doc. My first thought when I saw the thread was gated reverb on the drums.
  11. Darkness

    Darkness Tele-Afflicted

    Apr 7, 2016
    Stygian Gulf
    Korg Monologue.

    I’m a newbie at synths too. This little machine can do a LOT. It’s extremely user friendly and sounds superb. Highly recommended.

    Look up reviews on the net.
    bottlenecker likes this.
  12. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    I'm looking at a DX27S, and a kawai k1. The kawai is half the dx's price and I could buy it now. I'm sure the dx is most likely to make me happy, but the kawai is really cheap and I'm curious.
  13. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 6, 2014
    Yamaha SY85 is a killer keyboard if you want fat 80’s stuff. Has sequencer, drums & basic workstation features too.

    Touch and aftertouch sensitive keyboard is nice and expressive.

    it makes the DX7 look very limited practically and musically as the SY nails all the dx FM type sounds but offers so much more inc. killer analog type samples and filters to get the OB type tones.

    Def. the sleeper synth if you can find one.


    There are plenty of free VSTs of classic 80’s synths though that I like too.
    tintag27 and bottlenecker like this.
  14. 3-Chord-Genius

    3-Chord-Genius Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 3, 2015
    Winchester, VA
    What I do know is that the DX7 and JX8P prices are still pretty high considering how old that stuff is.
    bottlenecker likes this.
  15. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    I'd bet they are high again, instead of still. I know dx7s are especially fashionable right now, in dubstep and edm.
    3-Chord-Genius likes this.
  16. raito

    raito Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Nov 22, 2010
    Madison, WI
    Roland D series and the Kawai are pretty near the end of the 80's. Might not be the sound sought.

    The Minilogue can do a lot, bit I don't think it sounds 80's. Not a bad thing, just different.

    The DX27 will get you close to a DX7, but is only 4-op. SY85 is a decent choice.

    I don't think $350-800 is all that high for a DX7 (current reverb prices) in decent condition. That's low enough I'd get one, if I wasn't holding out for a TX-816 or FS1R. I don't have the room for another full-size keyboard.

    Remember, I'm evaluating this stuff by the OP's choices of music. There was lots of up-front synth of many sorts around the 80's. Not all of it fits. Suzanne Ciani's modular wave-mangling stuff doesn't fit, as an example of something further out.
    bottlenecker likes this.
  17. bottlenecker

    bottlenecker Friend of Leo's

    Dec 6, 2015
    The dx27 might get close enough for the price. I don't think dx7s are going for too much, but it's not the bottom feeder price I need right now.
    I know I will want at least a sprinkling of analog synths, but I will try to get by with some of the cheap monophonic toys that are out there now, or borrow something.
  18. songtalk

    songtalk Friend of Leo's

    Ensoniq ESQ-1
    Korg poly 800
    Yamaha DX7
    Yamaha SY-77
    Roland D-50
    Any Roland Juno. I actually like the Alpha 2.
    Linn Drum/DMX/TR-808...or if you don't have 4000$, get a Yamaha RX-5, RY-30, Roland R-8 (electronic card) or just get an MPC1000 or something like that and load it with vintage drum machine sample packs.

    All vintage drum machines can be sequencers but they are pretty crude. Something like the MPC is very good for sequencing synths. I use a Roland JX-305 which is basically a full keyboard MC-505 which is just a sequencer with 8 midi tracks. I like it a LOT. I use it to sequence a room full of vintage 80s gear to make music with that vibe.

    bottlenecker likes this.
  19. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Aug 17, 2012
    I started out on the hardware side (Yamaha MO6), but quickly discovered that staying ITB was a better process for me. Most synth VST are really light on the CPU usage, too, so they don't really add any additional strain on the system.
    bottlenecker likes this.
  20. Slim

    Slim Tele-Holic

    Apr 11, 2003
    Fayetteville, AR
    This sounds pretty incredible, and I believe has presets.

    I'm not assuming your experience with programming a DX7, but it's challenging. For drums, maybe look into the Roland TR-09. There might be a software equivalent by now. TR-909 emulation or Linn emulation.

    JV-880 is nice, but yeah, that's Enya territory.
    bottlenecker likes this.
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