The Switched-On Bach Smackdown: 12 Synths Compared

In this video, Mark Nicholson of Eyepatch Entertainment offers a sort of ‘Switched-On Bach Smackdown’ – comparing 12 synthesizers in arrangements of Bach’s Scherzo BWV844, inspired by the classic ‘Switched-On’ arrangements of Wendy Carlos.

List of synths in order of appearance:

  • Fender Chroma Polaris
  • Moog Memorymoog+
  • Roland Juno 6 (Tubbutec Juno 66)
  • Roland JX3P Kiwitechnics Kiwi-3P
  • Roland JX8P
  • Waldorf Microwave 1 Rev B
  • Ensoniq SQ-80
  • Kawai K3m
  • Dave Smith Mopho X4
  • Roland JD-990 w/ Vintage Synth Expansion
  • Roland JX10 (SE firmware)
  • Korg EX8000

Here are the individual synth renditions:

Check them out and share your thoughts in the comments!

17 thoughts on “The Switched-On Bach Smackdown: 12 Synths Compared

    1. The Ensoniq SQ-80 is like the ESQ-1 with a few extra waves and minor feature tweaks. Two years ago I bought a used ESQ, and I liked it so much I then picked up an SQ-80. They’re not quite “desert island” synths but I use them regularly in contemporary production for gritty polyphonic parts.

      You get 3 oscillators with independent pitch and amplitude modulation, dozens of on-board 8-bit waves, mixed and filtered by a Curtis VCF and a final amp envelope. The waves are mostly pretty brash and/or filthy, and oscillator sync adds animation. Three LFOs and four DX-style time/level envelopes round out the package. Its UI is surprisingly quick and painless for a one-slider synth – once you’ve programmed it you start to wonder why more synths weren’t designed this way.

      it’s probably the most overlooked synth from the 80s. I just love it.

      1. It’s really not overlooked these days. The price is rising, Gearslutz and other sites plug it every chance they get. Not that I blame them, but the demand is there.

  1. This is cool to hear the way each synth’s polyphony sounds, and a little of each of their character. It’s not much of a showdown with all of the patches being so different though – you can’t really compare the sonic characteristics.

  2. top notch video and effort. Love it and thank you. for some reason my sound card produces crackles intermittently. I wonder if the SQ could’ve been better, but nonetheless it was an awesome demo. Hard to say which is my fav. The KIWI Roland maybe. I want them all! Awesome once again.

  3. Microwave sounds awesome. Warm and silky. SQ80 coming close second. Bad patch for the Memorymoog, but I remember it sounded too big in the mix when I had one on loan in my studio.

  4. That’s a great cross-section & it hits the mark(s) pretty well, but it also make me appreciate the clarity of my newer instruments. I sampled most of my hardware’s Best Of patches, which I’d tweaked into shape over several years each. The lower sampling rates make them sound thicker/broader, but also more muddy, from one angle. (E-mu’s gear was so crisp, they were surely using voodoo.) I often end up blending old and new sounds; it makes ’em bark in a way neither one generally manages alone. Its smart to hold onto a couple of your hardware favorites. Some of that magic just can’t be sampled.

  5. The ensoniq did sound great, as well as the Polaris (miss the one I use to own). The JX-10 sound was massive , if a little over the top!

  6. Too Funny, I rarely post but felt the overwhelming urge to do so after I heard the SQ80 only to find Many others with the same sentiments.. Ensoniq Kicks Ass! 😀

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