Open Mic: What’s Your Favorite Piece Of Gear?

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Open Mic: What’s your favorite piece of electronic music making gear?

If you had to sell your gear to pay the bills, what would be the last thing to go?

Maybe your favorite gear is the first real synth you got. Or maybe your favorite piece of gear is something you had to wait and save to be able to buy.

Maybe it’s the instrument that best lets you express yourself.

Or maybe it’s a garage sale find, that you still can’t believe you stumbled upon.

If you asked me the question, I’d probably answer that my favorite piece of gear is my large format modular synth, because I built most of the modules myself, because it’s a joy to use, and because its capabilities seem to be infinitely deep.

Catch me on another day, though, and I might answer that my favorite piece of gear is my first ‘real’ synth, a Sequential Circuits Pro-One. When I first brought it home, I couldn’t keep my hands off it for hours, it sounded so fantastic. And I couldn’t believe that I actually owned it……

What’s your favorite piece of electronic music making gear? And why?

Image: Peter Gorges

69 thoughts on “Open Mic: What’s Your Favorite Piece Of Gear?

  1. I’m torn between my DJ Techtools Midi Fighter Classic and my Apple MacBook. The Midi Fighter may not be the most feature-packed controller out there (I did find myself pining for some analog controls after some time), but it’s certainly one of the most inspiring to use, be it as a deck controller for Traktor Pro or an effects trigger for Ableton Live. However, I wouldn’t have even considered getting into electronic music had it not been for the ease of use and performance of the MacBook and, perhaps more importantly, the mighty OSX. I found PCs to be highly temperamental and buggy when hooking up multiple controllers and routing audio to and from different programs. OSX was delightfully simple to set up, and I’ve had few, if any, hiccups when it comes time to perform live.

  2. It varies from day to day; some days it will be my mono evolver keyboard, other days my EB Voyager. But the keyboard of mine that never fails me in the inspiration department is my Prophet~600. It is so straight forward and easy to use; and it’s sound … ahhh I love this sound. In the next few weeks, a Prophet ’08 will be arriving. Then it might be a battle between the two Prophets.

  3. Things I would not sell:

    My beloved Tenori-On TNR-W – such a great performance sequencer

    My “darling :-P” Roland JX-3P – six voices of analog wamth and punch in mint condition

    My cute little Teenage Engineering OP-1 : looks sooo good, great for fresh sounds

    A honorary mention goes to my MFB 522, its so portable!!! Yesterday I went to a friends birthday, we were talking about how we would never sell our MC-303s, ’cause they were the first for us both. I guess I would not get rid of my Yamaha RM1X either, hehehehe!!! 😉

  4. I’ll risk some flames and say my iPad, just because I can’t think of anything else that can wear so many hats and play nicely with such a wide variety of other instruments and devices. It also evolves and has new functionality added more rapidly than any other tool a musician might consider using. (I know everyone has been beating this drum pretty hard lately, but Animoog for a dollar? Really? Good lord.)

    Short of a modular synthesizer, or perhaps a monome, there’s nothing that can be exactly whatever the user wants it to be quite like an iPad can. (Now we just need designers to kick the skeuomorphism habit and stop making touch controllers that look like physical knobs/encoders, rendering them nearly useless in the process.)

    1. 3d fake knobs are a pet peeve of mine, too, but people seem to eat that up. It’s really rare to for developers to see the tablet interface as a blank slate and come up with something new.

      Got any favorite apps that you think do make creative use of the interface?

      1. (I’m mostly directing my answer to your readers, as I know you’re well aware of all this stuff.)

        The first thing that springs to mind is the category of “cheating” apps (I’m using that term in the tongue-in-cheek sense, not the tired “electronic musicians aren’t real musicians” sense) like Soundprism Pro and Polychord.

        The sequencer format is already well suited to a touchscreen (but requires less creativity/innovation), Poly Step Arp is awesome and Little MIDI Machine is almost as good, and a lot cheaper. I’ve also been having a lot of fun with DM1 lately, although I wish I could load my own samples and edit/manage kits (the kits it comes with sound great nonetheless).

        Konkreet Performer is cool. Sometimes (to me) it feels like a fancy xy controller existing primarily as a platform to show off someone’s design chops.

        Grantophone is fun, and takes advantage of the accelerometer in a clever way. There a ton of features I’d love to see added to that (proper iPad version and MIDI out near the top of the list), but the developer is a teenager—a cellist named Grant (hence the name) studying at Julliard—so I can see where it’d be difficult for him to find the time.

        I haven’t tried Geosynthesizer yet, and I wasn’t terribly impressed with the preset sounds in the videos I’ve seen, but as a controller it seems much better suited to a touchscreen than fake piano keys behind a glass shield, especially for anyone coming from a stringed instrument background.

        I couldn’t believe no one had done touch MIDI clip editing until Liine introduced the feature in Griid, and as a Live user I also really like how Touchable has been chipping away at designing specific interfaces for its bundled instruments/effects (can’t wait til they take a crack at Operator).

        I’m surprised that there haven’t really been any music/controller apps with gesture controls (two-finger drag this way, three-finger swipe that way, etc). All in due time, I suppose.

        As long as I have the mic for a second, if anyone in Los Angeles wants to work on ideas and generally geek out with a decent visual/web developer, terrible Python coder, and person who doesn’t know a damn bit of C/Obj-C—but I am reading K&R, at least I’m trying!—holla atcha boy. ([email protected])

  5. Hmmm…its hard to say because I use so many things in tandem. I think it will would have to be the Moog Voyager RME or the Sherman Filterbank V.1. The reason is simply because of the possibilities of sounds I can create and never getting board.

  6. That would have to be my Moog EtherWave Theremin.

    It’s a beautiful instrument and wonderful fun to play. I feel like I can sort of hypnotize people when I play it – because so often they just stare.

    The theremin is a very difficult instrument, though, and every time I play it, it is a little different, because of the temperature and other things. I think I’ll always have something to learn with it.

    I have been lusting have Moog’s Moogerfoogers lately. I think it would be interesting to experiment with running the theremin through some of those.

  7. My JoMoX Mbase01 is probably my favourite. It’s a simple analogue monosynth designed only for bass drums. It has everything from tight sine wave drums, huge rave 909 drums, and big chunky 808s. It fits in a small desktop module and works with any MIDI controller or sequencer. The nice thing about it is I can stick it dead center in a mix with no effects, and get great results each time. Love it.

  8. The Monotron. Simple, direct, but flexible in its simplicity. Turns on when you turn it on. No booting up. And no patches or presets to lure you into scrolling through them all. You start where you are and play the sound (you don’t “audition” it). Don’t like the sound, turn a dial, twitch the finger on the ribbon. Change it a lot. Or just enough to tease something else out of it. And though it can be DI’d, I like that tiny speaker sound. Plugging into another speaker/amp, tiny to big, will yield another sound.

  9. My brain.
    It would be very hard to sell it. Nobody would buy it, hehehe ….
    But it’s this that’s driving all my instruments …

    1. I forgot the Why part. My CY116 was the first instrument that I ever actually owned and was truly mine. I bought it back in 1978 and would NEVER part with it. It still looks and sounds beautiful. The M3 is the best synth I’ve ever owned (and I still have my old ESQ-1 and a bunch of rack stuff). I just did the Radias upgrade and just love the whole thing. Very inspirational just to sit and play (especially with Karma) and I don’t have to turn on my computer.

  10. Probably my Yamaha DX 100. I have sold it before, and just bought one back, and forgot how wonderfully harsh and crazy they sound. I also really like my Atari Falcon. It is a great computer with rock solid timing and tons of interesting applications that may be a little less user-friendly, but I don’t have to deal with crashes or distractions like the internet. I can compose without interruption.

  11. I’d have to say I have the most fun with my Korg Kaoss Pad KP3. Now if we’re down to one piece of gear a looper feels a bit constrained… but pair it with anything to make sounds and I find myself have the most fun with that simple little setup.

  12. Well, I wouldnt sell my computer…haha I’m kinda to that point all ready…I sold a lot of stuff to pay bills and what I have left that I just will not get rid of:

    Novation Bass Station Keyboard…I worked at a Music Go Round and that thing came in…My next check I came to buy it and it was gone. A few days later I was talking about it with my awesome manager Mark and he said ‘Oh, that thing? The owner gave it to me as a Christmas gift, I just use it as a controller…Meet me out back after closing tomarrow, dont say a word, and Ill give it to you for a buck fifty…’ and so it was….10 years ago and I still love it to this day…I even sold it on ebay twice and I took it as a sign when both buyers refused the delivery and sent it back…

    My trust Waldorf MicroQ…I was out of work for two years for health reasons and when I got back to work the only place I was able to find work was Walmart. Since I had to move in with my parents during that two years I was able to save a bit while slaving away in the Electronics Department, when I moved out I ended up with some extra money out of my savings and bought this baby and never looked back.

    Next would be the Novation A Station. Its an awesome synth. I bought it when I was 18 with three jobs so I was essentially rolling in dough. The day these were released I was cruzing on my one half day off and stopped in Sam Ash to look around. At the time all I had was a Korg Poly61 and I think it was a Roland D110 and I saw the guy installing this thing in the rack, I asked him some questions about it and he said he has no idea quite yet as it just got released that morning. When he was all finish I played a few notes on this A Station, twisted a few knobs and I was sold. I slapped down $450 cash and off I went.

    EMU Proteus 1000…This was a crazy bang for the buck. I found it on Ebay with 0 bids with a couple hours left. I ended up with it for $80. I remembered when they were still made they were very impressive at the time. They still are today. Coupled with the MicroQ it is a plain out solid setup and have made hours and hours of tracks with just those two synths. By itself it is still rock solid. Coupled with Cubase alone there really isnt a whole lot it cant do. I still havent picked up the expansion but Im going to pick up an Orchestral and an Orbit board when I can.

    I still have a lot more gear, but these pieces have proved themselves well and arent going anywhere. I also love my A/DA collection, I have quite a few pieces. Ohhhh and I almost forgot, my old school Alesis M1’s….

    If it had to be one though probably the Micro Q.

  13. That’s a really tough one.

    My nord lead 2x has a special place in my heart, because that was my first synth in which I really felt like I understood synthesis. Admittedly, I don’t use it as much these days.

    I really can’t decide. I know the PC answer would be one of my vintage boards, but it’s a four way tie between my andromeda, my virus TI, my korg Z1, and my blofeld. What is great is I love each for different reasons. my A6 is really too new to my studio for me to say with certainty it’s my favorite.

    I guess I feel like I would be fine with just having any one of those, whereas I’d be a bit limited with my prophet 600, sh101, cs-5, etc. I love all of them, too. GAH! How can you pick a favorite child?

    It’s an evil question!

  14. My elektron machinedrum uw mkll. I’ve been using machinedrums since their first year of production, and after all these years I still come up with new sounds and great new experiments…their are great runners up though…my sidstation always surprises me, and lately my octatrack ( now that the OS. Is is updated). My classics have to be my casio cz-101…and my boss dr-110…and my trusty yamaha su-10…all of which are simply amazing GO-TO kit, faithful and true…

  15. My current favorite would be my little Microkorg midi controller. It’s a great little desktop keyboard 3 octaves, pitch & mod wheel, velocity-sensitive, but what makes it grand is that with this little $99 keyboard, you get the chance to download the Korg Legacy Collection “special bundle” for another $99; and that includes the current non-dongle version of both the analog edition and the digital edition. The Mono/Poly is one of the most fun virtual knob-twiddlers out there. My long-term favorite is my iMac with Apple Logic. It’s easy to forget how good Logic’s built-in synths are.

  16. Platform I’d have to say tie between my Macbook Pro and my iPad. Instrument, I’m going to have to go with my Jupiter 6. Of the whole bunch its the one I get “lost” in playing. I just sounds like what I think a synthesizer should sound like.

  17. My laptop. And even not the Laptop itself, but programs and presets on it. Even if i’ll loose laptop, i can get another one and install all of my stuff on it – and here i go again )) That’s the benefits of s.c. “software” – it have an undefinite quantum state.

  18. oh, the second question was “why?” ))) laptop with a couple of s.c. “softsynths”, because i can do anything i want with so little gear )) And it sounds really good with good audio interface, it sounds so good that i sold all of outboard gear i had. And i can transport it in my backpack. )

  19. My Eurarack Modular would be the last thing to go.
    But I regret selling a Novation Nova desktop and a DSI Evolver, they will come back to my desk one day…

  20. I’d say my Moog Voyager XL is my fav piece of kit as its so easy to get quality sounds from it, BUT, it would also be the first thing I would sell, as it cost a ridiculous amount of money and so would hopefully be worth the most when I sold it! 🙂

    Also, as much as I love analogue and hardware equipment, the last thing I would sell is my Mac and Logic set up. I can’t disagree about the ease with which you can work with software/softsynths and the results you can get.

  21. Just got hold of a Minimoog D with the old oscillator board. Spent the weekend restoring the keybed and now I’m in love. It definitely would be the last to go.

  22. AKAI MPC 2500 with custom JJOS. Its like a extra hand. All I have to do is feed it sound already stored on its built in 80GB HD, CF Card Slot, or any other sound source via Audio input.

  23. Mutable Instruments Shruthi-1 with dual SVF filter! Small, portable, big sound and total fun to play. I think That’s the piece of gear I would keep, even if I had to sell anything else (maybe with a keyboard controller to play it).

  24. The two most important things for me are Digital Performer 7 and my K2661.

    There’s some other gear and plenty of other software, but those two have helped me create LOTS of original music and sound.

  25. I love my iMac 27 inch quad core i7 ableton live suite 8 with max for live, Virus Ti Snow and Genelec 8020b Monitors a producers intermediate dream, I love what i have, works fine gets the job done.

  26. My old piano, a Schimmel. My great-great-grandfather bought it and it has been passed on in the family ever since. My father and mother were the only ones not interested in it, much to the dislike of my grandfather…when he died 7 years ago it was given to me. A huge warmth washes over me whenever i play it. It is also the only piece of gear i will never EVER sell.

  27. TX81Z! It’s so polite . It tells me good morning every time I turn it on. The rest of my gear just doesn’t seem to care how my day is going.

  28. My iMac, hands down. I’m a semi-devout hands-on keyboardist, but over time, despite the hassles of any general-purpose computer, Logic Studio has allowed me to expand and focus at the same time. I love my hardware, but even now, I’m sampling it into the EXS24. It would be substantially harder to acquire & maintain things like a real Mellotron. This way, I can have one and with nary a tape snarl in sight. It s all helped me get closer to the actual NOTES. No gear is so hot that it matters more than what comes back OUT.

  29. I would say it would be my Roland JP8000. I absolutely love this thing. It has so much depth and potential to make just about any sound. Very simple and straight forward interface. Lots of knobs and buttons give this think a sort of sexyness when it comes to synth nerds like me. Too many times this synth is catagorized as a “trance type synth”. When it can do so much more. I love it!

  30. My Prophet10. Had to sell to literally pay the rent!:-(
    It was the perfect synth for me. (Like the Prophet 5´s older, dirtier illtempered and bad mannered brother).
    (Had a VERY nice collection of analogs who had to go, one by one over some years. Still very happy to have owned and played, in that order ;-), some of the greats! (DX5, OBX, Memory Moog, Mini Moog, and twentysome more…

  31. Hard to say what my absolute favorite piece of gear is, but my Novation SL MKii keyboard would be right up there. My Electrix effect units would be my second choices (Filter Factory, Warp Factory, and Mo-FX) Those things make anything sound good.

  32. Wow its hard – despite all the synths I own I probably wouldn’t part with my first electric guitar its a Jackson Dinky made in japan with upgraded pickups… through my all tube marshall and some boss pedals its pure awesomeness! Then theres my equally awesome handmade acoustic…

    Synthwise – the eurorack is king!

  33. Tough call. Would have to be hungry to sell any of it. Have weeded out most of the chaff. I think the last to go would be the Korg Mono/Poly. It’s old like me.

  34. My Little Phatty S2, Taurus 3, and JoMoX X-Bass 999 are such a fine trio, that they would be the last things to go from my studio. And it would be the 999 that would be very last to go, and have to be pried away from my cold, dead hands.

  35. I’m going to second Rymf and nominate my iPad for it’s versatility. TouchAble is a great bit of software to name but one.

    I’ve got rid of a lot of hardware but my ‘ancient’ Kenton Control Freak Studio is still rock-solid and well loved. A solid peice of kit from the Old School of build quality thinking.

    I recently had to retire my DMX6Fire soundcard because my new rig doesn’t have a PCI slot, I loved that thing and it still hurts.

  36. Fender Rhodes Mark ’73, something about sitting in front of this think brings inspiration. Brings magic to your fingers when you play on it.

    The other would be my Juno-2, been in rig for over 25 years–sentimental as my first since (I was in grade school), and surprisingly has outlast (build quality) synths that have passed through my stands and racks in the last decade.

  37. Firstly, I’d probably answer that my favorite piece of gear is my large format modular synth, because I built most of the modules myself, because it’s a joy to use, and because its capabilities seem to be infinitely deep. On the other hand, if it came to a house fire I’d almost certainly die trying to rescue it, so probably not worth it. Second thought is that it should be something I built myself because it would be essentially irreplaceable, so probably “The Mighty Mirlitzer” mini-synthesizer.

    Then again, I’d probably just grab my Lag Jet guitar with built-in Kaossilator, because it’s infinitely cool and with it I can jam along to just about anything and anyone.

  38. I’d have to say it’s a toss up between Dave Smith Instruments Prophet 8 and the Yamaha CS-80. Honourable mentions to my beloved Tenori-on, Crumar Performer and Sammich SID which are all awesome in their own right.

  39. My Doepfer A100, no memories, no cryptic displays, just load of knobs, sockets and cables. Huge sonic possibilities and it can be continually added too when funds allow.

  40. Everyone here is lying. Our favourite piece of gear is always the next one, that one we don’t have yet that we imagine will make everything better, give us ‘that sound’, promises instant gratification, etc. etc. The “If only I had a Pro One I could sound like Vince Clarke!!” machine.

    That admitted, my fave piece of gear that I actually own would have to be my piano (a Grotrian), my guitar (a Rick 360 JG), and among synths, it’s a toss up between the Pro One (which does actually sound like Vince, but doesn’t give one any magical hook writing skills, alas!) and my ARP Odyssey (which just sounds like itself, and it doesn’t give a damn for anyone. Shout out to Kevin Lightner for an AWESOME restoration, thanks bro!). The Pro One is Betty, the ARP is Veronica, if you know what I mean. You know you’re going to marry Betty, she stays in tune and actually syncs to things. But Veronica … rrrroww!

  41. Tough one !
    Between the A4/OT couple, the OP-1 and all those DIY synths (shruthi-1, LXR, …) I built myself including the modular, really tough choice ! None of them are really complete without the other ones, the 3 first ones are too expensive to let go and the DIY took too much love and time…

    I’d probably keep the Octatrack, Analog Four and the LXR so I’d still have a sampler/MIDI Sequencer, an analog synth and a drumbox, nothing I couldn’t do with those 3 :p

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