The Analog Synthesizer Revival
Korg Minilogue ($500)
Sequential Prophet 6 ($2,800)
The latest trend in musical synthesizers is a blast-from-the-past:
Synthesizer giant Korg just announced a new analog synthesizer, and
pioneering manufacturer Sequential came out with an updated version of
their classic analog synthesizer.
The earliest musical synthesizers used analog oscillators to produce
simple waveforms that were filtered, modulated, and an envelope applied
to create interesting sounds. Synthesizers went digital in the 1980s,
first with FM synthesis (Yamaha DX7) and later with sample-based
synthesis (Korg M1). Sample-based synthesis has remained the dominant
technology because it can approximate the familiar sounds of acoustic
Today, the processing needed for digital synthesis can easily be carried
out by software running on general-purpose computers. This offers
greater flexibility and lower cost than dedicated hardware synthesizers,
which are really just computers with black and white keys.
So, what should synthesizer manufacturers do? Analog synthesis offers a
quality that digital lacks - in a word, imperfection. Much of the
interest in the sounds of analog synthesis, and indeed acoustic
instruments, comes from imperfections.
Outside the world of musical instruments, I'm not expecting a revival of
analog computing any time soon.