Steve Roach On Analog Synthesizers

Sonic Immersion has an interesting interview with ambient electronic music pioneer Steve Roach

In the interview, Roach touches on his renewed interest in analog synthesizers:

I have been using vintage analogue gear all along in some basic ways as I consider the Oberheims the core to my sound and I never let go of these. They have been a part of most every release since the early 80’s. 

The analogue modular rebirth in my studio was a reconnection to the early tools I learned on – the Arp 2600. The current explosion of great quality affordable analogue modular gear was perfectly timed for my desire to put my hands back on this quality of pure sound at a modular level. When hearing and working with it now for the past four years, it has become another healthy obsession and has found a lasting place in my collection of favourite tools of the trade. 

This fits well to my way of working and that is hands on with knobs and sliders connected directly to instruments. With that said I am not an avid or even casual soft synthesizer user. If you never knew the difference it would be a different story, but no matter how I try after 15 minute on a soft synthesizer, I find myself back to the real deals and my ears just crave this sound. 

To my ears, nothing sounds and feels like the real thing when it comes to the pure sound of analogue and select hardware synthesizers. Since I live to create sounds, the sensual aspect of programming sounds on a real synthesizer and the instant feedback and feel to the fingertips is essential and a big part of the enjoyment of sound and music creation on dedicated instruments.

2 thoughts on “Steve Roach On Analog Synthesizers

  1. He is right about the need for immediate response when turning the knobs and dials. The sounds I found from the Juno-60 were precisely because I could touch the knobs and change the color of the sonics in a very short period of time. Also you just don’t know what the sound will be when you turn certain knobs. With that said, I also am using the soft synths a lot. Very big fan of the sounds I am getting from Reason’s Subtractor module. It is hard to tweak it in one session, so what I do is build a Subtractor sound save it then come back to it that day or weeks later and keep building on it. It’s changed my process of sonic creation but the resulting compositions are worth the non tactile nature of soft synths. It’s worth note that after I create a part / track with a soft synth it is rendered and put in a multitrack program with effects -some are plug in some are outboard- and I am able to get an organic sound with the multiple layers of processing and mixing each part will go through. In other words the end piece has many stages from the soft synth and I believe it helps my works sound a little less soft synthy

  2. I try to avoid the message that I´m a big fan of Steve, yet he did some remarkable albums especially the Quiet Music and Structures of Silence releases are truly masterpieces of art. I want to focus on the sonic difference of Soft/Hardware.
    I often read that the emulations are so spot on that ppl can´t hear the difference. Well, I can´t sign that with my name. An analog filter circuit alone produces much more gentle distortion and feedback, even with digitally driven oscillators. Analog is more compact in the lo-freq. domain, it stays compact in the mix and even the dullest music idea/sequence has a charm due to the subtle changes in sound.
    I often used soft synths in the context of metal or filmscore, they have many pros from the handling side and if the rest of the sound. The liveliiness of analog can only be imitated so a certain degree. But the magic of analog is essentially what it is in life: Flaws, change, evolvement…

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