Seeking synthesizer advice

so i’ve been saving money to purchase a synthesizer. i’ve wanted one for years and i finally decided if i wanted one bad enough why not go ahead and save money on a regular basis until i can get one along with an inexpensive amp and a decent pair of headphones. i’ve already picked out those peripherals and that will run about $200.

i’m torn between the following models–

moog grandmother--

about $900

moog matriarch–

about $2000

moog sub 37–

about $1500


about $1400

i’d appreciate input from anyone with experience with one or more of these.


Have you considered software? You could have 300 synthesizers.


i’ve tried some software synths, the best i’ve found is the minimoog app on the ipad but it still doesn’t have all of the quirks and richness of actual analog oscillators.


I can’t speak specifically to hardware synths, as I use software. However, for midi keyboards I started with a second-hand Kurzweil that had some limited built-in synth capabilities, then got a new Yamaha electronic piano that was pretty good and had fully-weighted keys, but wasn’t as useful for things like strings, and now use a Roland midi-keyboard which only has five octaves, but the velocity keys are wonderful and it weighs like a third of the Yamaha. Anyway, I know the Roland Juno synths are highly regarded, but I don’t know what they cost. Moog is also very popular, and my understanding is they have a unique yet versatile sound.

In fact, my main library of virtual instruments, Native Instruments Komplete Ultimate 11, came with a software Moog. I mostly use the pianos and strings, but the soft-synths are dauntingly complex. In half a decade I’ve barely scratched the surface with Absynth, and believe the jokes that you can do anything in Reaktor with unlimited patience.

That said, if you’re more comfortable with hardware, that’s what I’d go for. Software synths have a way of lingering on the hard drive unable to call to you like physical instruments. They’re also a pain the ass to install. :slightly_smiling_face:


I seem to recall @Israel_B talking about synths a while back. Maybe he can help.

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You could go with a virtual analog syntesizer. Like the Roland JD-Xa Or better a workstation like their FA series (they have an analog modelling section and a sampler) or the scaled down Juno DS.

Casio has some nice synthesizer but they are selling them as stage pianos, like the PX-5S or the PX560 or the worksation mx-x 500 (this one has a monosynth mode, like their older XW-G1 and XW-P1 ones).

I have a PX-5S, an XW-G1 and a 1990s relic a Kawai K5000s, but I used the Rolands.

On these synths you have normally to dive into software menus to change the parameters, you could hook some knobs and sliders to adjust them, but things are becoming complicated. A true analog has a lot of knobs and is more intuitive to use.


this is why i would really prefer to have one of the analog synths listed in my original post. i was really hoping someone here might have personal experiences with one or more of the synths listed in the original post.

in the early 80s i was minoring in music with a specialization in composition. the music department had a roland system 100m and i had a key that let me into the small studio where it was set up. that was where i first developed my love of analog, modular synths.

edited to include picture when the link didn’t display.

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This might not help you decide, but it definitely includes expert synthesizer advice:


Roland still makes it (sort of) , I think you should go in a specialized Roland dealer.


If you’re good with a soldering iron you could roll your own:

(I wasn’t sure whether they were still in business, because IIRC John Simonton had died)

Easy for me to say as I’ve never built a synth from a kit (nor otherwise). Though I have built smaller PAiA kits…

that’s around $2100 without a keyboard. that’s about what the moog matriarch, 4-voice paraphonic goes for.

that’s a little bit outside of my price fondly as i reminisce about using the roland i think i’d prefer to have a moog. the hydrasynth does have some impressive features which would seem to make it a powerful sound design tool while the moogs have such a profound reputation for quality of build and quality of sound. those instruments seem to represent the most bang for the buck of the instruments i’ve seen. at the rate i’ve been saving for it, i should have enough to buy anything aside from the matriarch by next summer.


Thanks for tagging me @ficuswhisperer I don’t actively check the site often but saw a blue circle and investigated.

@navarro I’m in no way an expert on synths but have been using them on and off since the early-mid 80s. Honestly you cant go wrong with either of those Moogs. Great keyboards to re/learn analog synthesis and the build quality is legendary. That plus of course the Moog sound!

Since it seems we hit synths around the same time, not sure if you have experience with software synths, but in the end I dont find them all that conductive to my process of producing/playing. Futzing about on the screen for the control points, hoping the mouse pointer gets the result I want, etc. Certainly thats not something to do during actual playing. You can work around it with MIDI control surfaces, but that too is less satisfying for me.


i’ve messed around a bit with a few software synths and i don’t find them


with one exception i haven’t found the sound quality to be that great. the exception comes from moog, go figure, which has an ios app that emulates the minimoog model d. the sound quality from that is remarkable and you can do some real sound design with that app and for $15.99 it’s a real bargain. moog also makes an app that emulates the sytem 55 modular which costs around $35-40. the downside to the model d app is exactly what you would expect-- difficulties with getting the settings placed right with the touchscreen interface as well as trying to make subtle changes on the fly.

have you had a chance to play any of the instruments i listed in the original post? i’ve watched several reviews and “deep dives” about all three of the moogs on youtube and compared reviews among them by the same reviewers. i’d like to be able to talk directly with someone who’s played on them, or even one or two of them.

at this point the patch-cord modularity of the grandmother and the matriarch make them very appealing with the extra oscillator and filters of the matriarch giving it an edge on the one hand while the physical spring reverb and the price of the grandmother giving it an edge of its own. meanwhile the sub 37 has some very sophisticated capabilities but it looks like it will take rather a lot of practice and exploration to make good on them but at $500-600 less than the matriarch it might be worth taking the time and effort. and all of them have the ladder filter and that unmistakable moog sound.

as you might imagine, i’ve watched a number of reviews of other analog, subtractive synths–prophet, behringer, arturia to name a few-- and none of them really caught my interest until i ran across a couple of reviews for the asm hydrasynth, which really has some unique sonic capabilities and its price is pretty good for the feature set, definitely comparing very well with the sub 37.

have you had an opportunity to play any of the 4 above and if so what were your impressions?


Must admit I have not. The only synths I’ve been using for a while now are my Korg Volcas. Cheap and small and simple which suits my current needs.

A pox on them for all their generations!

i finally decided on the moog grandmother. after haunting youtube demos, deep dives, and tutorials i decided that for someone who had never used an analog synth for more than 15-20 minutes in a showroom, the grandmother had the best combination of features, flexibility, and price.

tragically, the keyboard, the stand, the headphones, and the amp will all be wrapped and await the morning of 12/25/19.


Congrats and may it bring you much pleasure!


What about a Buchla, though I’m not sure how long they were in the market.

Crica 1976 I spent some time at the McGill electronjc music department. They had a Mellotron, and a Moog. But the professor in charge didn’t want a keyboard connected to the Moog, there was a ribbon controller. He was worried that instead of more experimental work, students would just use it to play

At that time musicians were already touring with synthesizers, to get special effects. But they were still large, and analog, and probably only one note at a time. A bit later it changed, synthesizers that were better oriented for live performance and multiple tones rather than in the studio building up by note by note with a recorder.

Then digital came along, “synthesized” but the end user wasn’t adjusting filters or envelope generators. It’s all presets, press a button and get a given sound.

An analog synthesizer can be interesting. I never had one, but read a lot and played with homemade circuits that made up a synthesizer, taught me a lot about sound. But they are limited, and a buyer should know the limitations and value.

buchla is still making synths, although they are very idiosyncratic as always. here’s a recent unit–

top quality digital fm synths did have envelopes the end-user could adjust. filters weren’t required because fm synthesis is an additive process, not subtractive, and sonic design was possible from the yamaha dx line onward.

as i mentioned above, the first synthesizer i had a chance to work with was a roland system 100m in college. i’m well acquainted with the “limitations” of analog synths but i’m also acquainted with their profound ability to design sounds. you should have a look at the demo video for the moog grandmother i linked to above.

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Even the Casio digital synths had any number of adjustable controls over the synthesis processes. Whats more they had a unique hase distortion synthesis method.

I still have my CZ-101 from the 80s.

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