- Hardware synths are more expensive than software synths.
- Hardware synths have limitations in terms of features.
- Setting up hardware synths can be complicated.
- Getting a new hardware synth won’t necessarily improve your music.
- Most listeners can’t distinguish between hardware and software synths.
- Some hardware synths require regular maintenance.
What are some reasons to avoid a new synthesizer? Music production is more accessible today than it has been at any point in history. If you want to break into electronic music, you don’t need to spend a ton to get things going.
Making music can be relatively cheap if you know where to look. In fact, with a few choice investments, you can get all the power of a hardware synthesizer without any drawbacks.
So, if you’ve been looking to break into music production, why not check out six reasons to avoid a new synthesizer?
What Are Synthesizers?
Synthesizers are electronic instruments. They come in a few different forms, with a distinction between hardware and software synths. Hardware synths are a great way to experience electronic music without the ties of a computer.
Synthesizers aren’t like traditional instruments but rather are capable of a wide range of sounds. Even a basic synthesizer is capable of hundreds of different sounds on its own.
Reasons to Avoid a New Synthesizer
Here are six reasons to avoid a new synthesizer.
Reason #1: The Cost
There really isn’t any getting around this. One of the biggest reasons to avoid a new synthesizer comes down to the cost. You’re going to be spending a lot more with a hardware synth than you would with any piece of software.
Consider something like the Korg Volca Keys, which retail for around $179. You get three notes of polyphony, which are the number of keys you can play at one time.
It does come with some neat features, but you could just as easily download a free software synthesizer and get more functionality.
Reason #2: The Limitations
Hardware synthesizers are limited by what features the manufacturer can pack into them. In most cases, it is going to be an act of compromise to get certain features in over others.
If you’re getting hardware synth features on par with a software synthesizer, it can run into thousands of dollars. The limitations may be inspiring to some, but it is also one of the reasons to avoid a new synthesizer.
There are all sorts of caveats that arise when getting hardware instruments. It may come down to a single instrument not being able to do everything you need.
Reason #3: The Setup
Getting your computer and synthesizer to communicate with each other can be a complicated ordeal. This is further exacerbated if you have multiple synthesizers to connect to your computer. The setup is another one of the reasons to avoid a new synthesizer.
Just syncing up a basic synthesizer keyboard to your computer requires a solution for MIDI, which is the universal protocol for transmitting note data.
You’ll also need some sort of interface or mixer to output the audio for recording. Following that, you’ll have to make sure the synthesizer is receiving messages clearly.
It is a lot of manual diving, especially when compared to something like a digital audio workstation where you can just add as many instruments as you want with perfect syncing between each.
Reason #4: It Won’t Make Your Music Better
Musicians and other hobbyists can suffer from gear acquisition syndrome, or GAS, which is a phenomenon where you swear a new piece of equipment will make things better. A hardware synth is just a tool. It won’t make your output fundamentally better or worse.
At the end of the day, most musicians would be better served to hone their craft. Learning aspects of music production like better sound design, mixing, and music theory go a long way toward crafting a unique and memorable sound.
Sure, a hardware synth could be a component of this, but you need to master what you have before diving into the deep end.
Reason #5: Most People Won’t Know the Difference
There is plenty out there about the superior sound of hardware synths. However, when it gets down to brass tacks, most people won’t know what you use. If you consider how many musicians there really are, the only people that might know are other producers.
Sure, a hardware synth can sound better. However, once you factor in mixing and mastering, no one will know better. This is just one of the more minor reasons to avoid a new synthesizer.
Reason #6: Maintenance
Hardware synthesizers can require regular servicing. This is definitely the case for analog synths. An analog synth is a bit like a car, where it needs routine maintenance to function and hold tunings.
If you’re into music production as a hobby, this might be an additional expense you’ll want to avoid. Regular maintenance isn’t a bad thing, but it could be one of the reasons to avoid a new synthesizer.
Alternatives to hardware synths typically don’t need maintenance. You aren’t going to be taking your laptop to a service tech once a year to handle a software synthesizer floating out of its tuning.
Alternatives to a New Synthesizer
So, what are some alternatives to a new synthesizer? Here are three of our favorite options.
1. Apple iPad
- 12.9-inch Liquid Retina XDR display with ProMotion, True Tone, and P3 wide color
- M2 chip with 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU
- 12MP Wide camera, 10MP Ultra Wide back camera, and LiDAR Scanner for immersive AR
- Wi-Fi 6E connectivity
- 256 GB memory storage capacity
Odd as it may seem, the Apple iPad is a wonderful alternative to a hardware synthesizer. Apple’s tablet has quite a flourishing music production ecosystem surrounding it. There are synths and other instruments available for free readily.
If you decide you’d like to dive into paid synths, then they are generally fairly inexpensive. On the high end, you might see synth apps running at $30 or so. Typically, they’ll be around the $10 to $20 range. A great starter synth for iPad users is Synth One, which is free.
The iPad also readily integrates into music recording with a Mac. Apple has developed a special protocol called IDAM, which handles exporting audio and MIDI data from your iPad to your Mac with minimal fuss. All you’ll need is a simple cable to connect the two.
2. Digital Audio Workstation
Most music producers are already going to have a digital audio workstation. When it comes down to it, it really does come with everything you need. FL Studio is a great option for beginners and seasoned users alike.
You certainly get everything you need with FL Studio, including creative effects and synthesizers. If you’re just wanting to lay down some music or jam, you easily do it with FL Studio.
There are of course other options for digital audio workstations, like Logic Pro X which is a popular choice for Mac users. You’ll likely want to invest in one of these anyways, as it allows you to record and export your ideas.
Omnisphere is a supremely expensive software instrument, make no mistake there. However, when compared to a comparable hardware synth, it is a clear winner. You get access to hundreds of voices of polyphony and multitimbrality.
Multitimbrality refers to hosting multiple sounds in a single instrument, so you can play up to eight parts. Omnisphere has proven to be a popular choice for hip-hop producers, film composers, and a whole range of other musicians.
The cost is unreal when compared to other software instruments, but you get something with unparalleled power with Omnisphere.
Getting new instruments can be tempting. However, you don’t need to go breaking the bank to indulge in a new hobby.
Hardware synths certainly do have their place in the music production sphere. However, you’ll find there is an overwhelming amount of support for cheaper options.
|Reasons to Avoid a New Synthesizer|
|1. They are more expensive than software synths.|
|2. Hardware synths have many limitations.|
|3. Setting everything up can be overly complicated.|
|4. Getting new hardware won’t improve your music.|
|5. Most listeners can’t tell the difference between hardware and software.|
|6. Some synths can require regular maintenance with skilled technicians.|
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