West Coast Synthesis With Arturia Buchla Easel V

The latest loopop video takes a look at West Coast Synthesis with Arturia Buchla Easel V, part of the company’s new V Collection 6.

Here’s what loopop has to say about the video:

When Arturia first let me try out the beta of their virtual Buchla Easel, they didn’t yet have a manual ready – so I download the manual of the “real thing” and was amazed at how faithfully they recreated this legendary instrument – most of the manual could be directly applied to the virtual recreation (though the virtual Buchla doesn’t require soldering resistors to save presets)

In this clip, I take a look at the principles of West Coast synthesis: complex waveforms, randomness, fluid timing, the low pass gate, sequential voltage sequencers and more, and how they are implemented and used to create sounds and music on the Easel.

42 thoughts on “West Coast Synthesis With Arturia Buchla Easel V

  1. Purchased this last night. Sounds great. Plus, the collection of presets and sequences (from what I’ve heard so far) are very musical. At $99, a no-brainer for me since I don’t have the $$ for a real Easel and there’s nothing else in the software realm that provides this specific emulation. Nice surprise from Arturia.

  2. Way to go BEMI. You sold the Buchla name to a plugin company. I had much more respect for Arturia prior to this.

    The Easel is all about live performance– I don’t care what kind of Gravity control tomfoolery and Left Hand/Right Hand automation they are trying to implement here. It is a joke.

    Now that BEMI has sold the Buchla name out, maybe BEMI will be able to hire someone to actually answer email from hardware customers.


    1. Disagree with your elitist attitude.

      Making a virtual Buchla in no way takes away from the original. In fact, it extends it by allowing us to think about polyphonic synthesis in new ways, and to have modern patch recall.

      It also allows people who could not afford to spend thousands of dollars on a monophonic synthesizer to try out Buchla’s designs, which is extremely educational.

      I think you could make a valid case that these virtual instruments will never exactly match the originals, and that the user experience will never be exactly the same.

      The I mportant question though, is whether you can make interesting music with tools like these. The only answer is that, if you can’t, it’s not the tool, it’s your creativity and imagination that is lacking.

      1. I have to say I was really surprised at the reaction among Buchla owners here. To anyone upset that any enthusiast with a couple hundred dollars can now get a software version of a Buchla, I would ask this question: Do you think Suzanne Ciani is upset by this? Of course not – she’s invested over the years in her skill as a musician, and her investment in hardware was only to support that. So which are you more invested in: Your music, or your hardware?

      1. lol at the hyperbole, guys

        making Buchla’s designs available to musicians, vs academics and collectors, just might result in them being used for something other than fart noises

  3. Hopefully Arturia makes a special controller for the Easel too. Great way to learn the Buchla without an insane investment initially. Wouldn’t consider this a realistic replacement for a real hardware model though. No need to get upset about this IMHO.

    1. That would be interesting. Making hardware for a virtual Buchla Easel. You could also modify the software and have a variety of different software versions to interact with the controller.

      I will wait for an iOS port for this one. Probably Dec 2018.

  4. iOS please! I seriously considered an easel a couple of years back instead of building a modular – I like the idea of a complete system and I think the easels spring reverb is the ducks nuts.

    But the price in Australia is just too high.

    1. Buchla was the last frontier of unobtainium for the masses. Some of the folks who are fortunate enough to have invested large sums of money to enjoy Buchla’s bonkers designs are clearly miffed at the latest developments.

      The tactile discussion is a valid one, but it’s not strong enough to say they should’ve never made a plugin. I’d much rather get more people trying out west coast sounds, and thinking about dropping the Easel V onto a track, rather than another instance of Massive.

      1. “Analog subtractive is f***ing dead as … dead. Westcoast, it’s coming back in a big f***ing way”.

        The signs have been there that Westcoast is going to be the next big thing in the synth marketing game. We will see software and hardware re-issues, hopefully some new innovations and perhaps even something affordable from Behringer or Korg. Westcoast snobs will hate it 😀

        1. Agreed, subtractive is done to death and people now have the tools to more effectively program, record, and externally modulate more atypical synthesis sources while ensuring the original innovative companies get a lil cash from the inevitable desire for software recreations. All good things.

  5. I don’t quite get it. As far as I know cloning Buchla (or Serge) was some sort of an initiation right among synth engieneers for decades. A lot of people got into Buchla only did so because they really liked their clones by Verbos or RomanF or whoever (and Buchla clones aren’t cheap at all). Now there is an ‘official’ vst clone. Big deal? Outrage? I don’t see why.

    1. >> I don’t see why.

      Because now the plebs can make the exact same bleepy bloopy noises for less than |”real” Buchla owners paid for a power cable…

      Here’s a challenge…

      5 people with HW easels make a track with your typical amounts of reverb and delays. At the same time, 5 people make a track with this plugin with similar amounts of reverb & delay etc…

      I’ll bet bitcoins that 99% of the people that listen to all 10 can’t get do better that 50% (i.e. random) in a blind listening test what was hardware and what was software.

      Hell I bet if the skill levels of the HW & SW people were even, even the 10 people that MADE the tracks could not tell.

      But continue gnashing that the priests of the Buchla temple have lost control of their magic box.

  6. A couple points: First, I don’t think Don would object to a virtual music easel. He may be responsible for some of the synth world’s more esoteric, rare and expensive gear, but I don’t think he was an elitist about it at all. In the late 90s, I attended a lecture and demo he gave at my alma mater. My take away: not an elitist bone in the man’s body. Just the opposite in fact. He demoed his thunder and lightning midi controllers and then talked about creating musical instruments and instrument interfaces that anyone, even non musicians could use. I got the impression that Don’s enthusiasm for music technology and education far outweighed his enthusiasm for the business side of what he did.

    My other point is that, at the end of the day, the music easel is another 40 something year old monosynth. Is it really so special? DIYers have been cloning it for years. Eurorack is littered with Buchla-esque modules. What’s the big deal? I say bring on the clones! Analog or digital, expensive or cheap, it’s all good at this point in history. Same deal with the Minimoog. People who think that only Moog should be able to clone a Minimoog are pretty near sighted. I doubt there would even be a reissue Model D from Moog if Bob Moog were still alive. Both Bob and Don were usually looking forward not back when it came to their creations. Moog and BEMI are simply trading on the cult legacy of their respective namesakes. There is nothing sacred about either company.

    1. I was with you til the last couple of sentences.

      Nobody that’s worked with Buchla’s new sequencer or Moog’s Animoog or Mother-32 would suggest that their just coasting.

      1. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just asking some questions about the idea of brand loyalty and the ethics of a business exploiting the legacy and/or name of a dead person. The quality of the merchandise has got nothing to do with it.

        1. “Moog and BEMI are simply trading on the cult legacy of their respective namesakes.”

          That’s not ‘asking some questions’, that’s making a statement. And it’s an offensive statement, if you know anybody that works at those companies, or even if you just have a passing knowledge of the gear that they’ve put out in the last couple of years.

          It’s easy to trash companies that make high-end gear. But you never hear musicians who really play their instruments doing it.

          1. I’m not trashing these companies. I own and enjoy some of the post Bob products from Moog and I hope for their continued success. I just think exploiting the legacy of someone who is dead for profit raises some ethical questions. And both of these companies do just that very thing. You think they’d be as profitable if they changed the company names and stopped using Bob or Don in their marketing? I doubt it.

            1. No offense guy but you really are totally trashing those companies at the end there, like it or not. BEMI is not that big of a company and never has been, even in the B&A days it was not large at all. Despite the hype around the name, the margins on many Moog products are not the Ferrari downpayments people think. Look at Don’s last few modules, look at Animoog, M32, the 200e… lots of innovation people are still unpacking. I think you should read a little more on Don & Bob, and learn a little more about them- Don was a strange and funny man, but don’t pretend like he was some anti-business person, just because he was a small business. He was pretty vocal about the clones as is well documented! He tried for ages to licence out the tech of those MIDI controllers you watched being demonstrated before they were made into “lightning”. He designed many instruments for money too. One only need look at the “buchla garage sale” listings from back in the day and see he wasn’t selling PCBs for $10 a pop, dude.

  7. The issue here is not that Arturia has modeled a Buchla. The issue is Arturia has modeled a Buchla that is still being sold in hardware form.

    Take a look at the ‘vintage’ synths they have modeled. With the exception of the Minimoog D (which technically is a re-issue), the designs are long out of production.

    Does anyone realistically believe that Dave Smith would commission a plugin version of the REV2 while still selling the hardware? This would create a massive uproar across REV2 owners.

    Should the response be any different for the few thousand of us that have made an actual investment in Buchla?

    Brands create value for their customers in part, by not intentionally devaluing their investment or harming their trust. They do the right thing by creating new value (and hopefully new product) and they leverage that to build and enhance loyalty.

    What BEMI has done here is they have devalued the investment of a segment of their clients in order to achieve a temporary bump to the bottom-line. This is called cannibalization. Secondary market pricing of the hardware will be the true test of this statement.

    It won’t matter for me as I’ll never sell my hardware– but for those that just climbed into this boat, I can see how they would be fuming.

    Now, it is easy to mistake anger for elitism in this case. Elitism is the feeling that other people are unworthy– my personal belief is, I have made a strong commitment by purchasing a Buchla– if you made the same commitment, let’s jam! The more the merrier!

    We all know there are clones of very high quality out there. I am totally fine with that as they are mostly individual components of a larger system. The Easel on the other hand was always intended to be a self contained live performance instrument.

    I have auditioned the demo and they have done some cool things– the sound isn’t the same but who really expects it to be?

    Truthfully, I hope everyone enjoys the emulation– if you can get your hands on a hardware unit you will be even more enamored.

    Polyphonic it ain’t– and I am very grateful for that.

    1. No you’re actually being a bit elitist. Implying that people who buy the vst are not committed (code for not enough money since you don’t work hard enough) is reductive to say the least. Considering some of the highest end Buchla reissues are about as traditionally analog as a Korg volca synth in terms of signal path purity, this is hardly the first time they’ve compromised to fulfill marketplace desire.

      Also, since there are more Buchla inspired virtual synths than ever, including some on iPhone, it’d be silly for them not to have something similar to compete, plus if the argument is that hardware is superior than it shouldn’t matter what the software is modeled on.

      I’ve owned some decent old gear, but software synthesis serves a completely different purpose especially if you can take advantage of programming languages. Just my 2 cents..

  8. I think this is great. I doubt I would ever own a real Easel ……… maybe that’s the point though & why people think an emulation of such a mythic & out of reach (to most people) machine is offensive? My take is that it’s a great way to give people the opportunity to have a taste of what this amazing machine is all about. I don’t think it could ever detract anything from the original device. I’d still love to own an original, even more so after playing around with this emulation. For me it just makes the original device even more interesting & desirable.

  9. I think that the people who would buy a hardware version are not the same that would buy Arturia’s V Collection. If Buchla is licensing the name/design it’s just a way for them to make more money exploring a different market than usual.

  10. As an Easel owner I’m happy that others get the chance to explore this wonderful instrument and a different method of synthesis. I wish they would do a 200e system as affording one of those is a long way off. It’s not going to replace the real thing as there is always a tactile element that is missing from software that is hard to replace with controllers but its a great way to get to know instruments before you buy them.

  11. Super interesting development!!
    I had been looking into buying a used Easel at some point, but there’s no way I’d buy one now. Glad (and relieved, like many others, I suspect!) to see the plugin companies finally taking an interest in this part of the analogue sound palate. Thanks Arturia!

  12. I bought this Buchla plugin, but I’d still rather have the actual physical devices, if/when I ever get enough money to afford one. I see the software versions as good learning tools, not a replacement for the real thing.

  13. Just to throw my two cents in… I understand what @Daring is saying about having an emulation out for a still-in-production synth, but it’s a synth that is really out of the hands of most people, so I think this is a great way for people to learn the concepts of the Music Easel, and West Cost synthesis in general.

    I’ve dreamed of owning my own, actual Buchla Music Easel someday, and when I heard about this Arturia update, my first thought was “maybe its time I update my V Collection 4 to version 6…” but by an unexpected, yet very fortunate series of events this past week, I just paid my $5000 for an actual Music Easel today! BEMI starts the build on Monday and it will be delivered direct to me in two weeks!

    I could have easily just got the VST version instead, but for me, it is about the hands-on experience, and the raw analog sound… but that shouldn’t take away from having a virtual version out there in the world; so as many people as possible can explore the wonderful concepts of Buchla’s West Coast sound!

Leave a Reply