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Music Thing: Boutique Synthesizers

Ryan Block, @ryan
Each week Tom Whitwell of Music Thing highlights the best of the new music gear that's coming out, as well as noteworthy vintage equipment:

Droid 3 synth

If you want to be a player in the music geek world, you need to get yourself a boutique synth — something hand-made, ideally in Scandinavia. It should be absurdly expensive, virtually out of production, and using some kind of weird-ass synthesis technology that nobody else has heard of. It must also look cool and sound unlike anything you're going to hear on the radio. Here are a few contenders:

Droid 3 Robotic Sound Module €449
It's got a great name and a great look: Black, with one knob, four buttons and a reversed-out two line LCD. Sound output is 8-bit, and is so lo-fi that it would be perfect for people who don't want the bland polished sound of, say, a 20 year-old Commodore 64 sound chip. Claims to be the first synth ever made in Denmark. The only American owner appears to have travelled to Denmark to collect it.

Resonator Neuronium

Resonator Neuronium ?2,499

Designed a few years ago by in Germany by J?rgen Michaelis (who makes the JoMox range of drum machines and synths), the Neuronium is truly boutique. He?s sold 25 units at ?2,499 each, and it comes wrapped in a cloud of badly-translated hype. The machine claims to use ?analog neurons? to generate tones and sequences. Sample explanation from the website: ?Who hasn?t heard about neural nets yet, which as technical pendants to the biological predecessor should teach the actually stupid, static and serial working computers the creative ?thinking.? Disappointingly, most of the sound samples sound like crickets chirruping.

Dave Smith Evolver
Dave Smith Evolver $499

This is the only synth here that you might actually see in your local guitar shop. Dave Smith designed all the Sequential Circuits synths in the 1970s and helped invent MIDI before inventing the first serious software synth. When he got tired of software, he designed the evolver ? a fantastic sounding analog/digital hybrid with a built in sequencer, in a little metal box the size of a paperback. There?s also a lustworthy keyboard model, which costs $2,399. Last week it got a new OS, which will make tweaking via MIDI much easier.

AVR-X Synth
AVR-X Synth

Gratifyingly, only five AVR-X synths exist in the world. It?s a home-build project by a group of friends in Link?ping, Sweden, with digital oscillators, analog filters and ? best of all ? wooden panels on the side. They?re hoping to start selling a DIY kit for about ?350.

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