Aug 242012

Rheyne – 6/4/12 – Live Jam #47 on Vimeo


I came across this post over at one of my favorite blogs, Synthtopia – the question posed is whether Apple’s iPad has made digital synth keyboards obsolete. The discussion there is really great and worth the read – but it made me think even more about an idea that I’ve been thinking about recently: is this the new Golden Age of synthesizers?


Think about it:

  • Dave Smith, Tom Oberheim, and Roger Linn are designing, building, and releasing new synthesizers.
  • Korg is currently producing analog synths (albeit small and limited) alongside perhaps the most advanced multi-synth engine workstation ever
  • Wolfgang Palm and Peter Vogel also both have synth apps.
  • The opportunities afforded by iOS have launched entirely new companies like Yonac, BeepStreet, BlipInteractive, and many of these small new companies wouldn’t have survived the development, production, and release process of a hardware synth. Not only that, but they’ve created a new revenue stream for established hardware companies like Korg, Propellerhead, Moog, IK Multimedia and others that help support new product development for them.
  • Moog Music is alive and well, releasing not only analog hardware synths, but totally new apps like Animoog.
  • Inexpensive memory, processor speeds, and solid state drives have made most synth specifications so good that they’re practically irrelevant.
  • Massive virtual instrument bundles at reasonable prices are commonplace.
  • Streaming non-looped piano VIs and modeled pianos are now a reality.
  • The proliferation of touch screens now offers more flexibility and ease of use than ever before, and also affords numerous new methods of playing and controlling instruments.
  • Apps are so affordable that my kids have been exposed to scores of different kinds of instruments already.
  • Plug-and-play is no longer just a marketing term.
  • Well-integrated hardware / software combinations are more and more commonplace, bridging the gap between the two.
  • The long tail of the internet has created thriving communities of circuit benders, small manufacturers of out-of-the-ordinary hardware instruments, chiptune communities, and more.

About the only downside I see is that the overwhelming number of options and choices afforded to us all is, by any account, extreme. With so few limitations, distraction can take the place of creativity.

What do you think – is this the new Golden Age of Synthesizers? I do.

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