There’s no way to predict exactly which directions synthesis will take in the future, and it’s highly possible that someone will come up with something mind-bendingly different that we’d never have dreamed of. However, there are definitely a few things that we can see happening over the next few years. Firstly, analogue emulations will continue to get better as the ability of computers to crunch numbers improves. Hopefully, though, this will be used in new and interesting ways that don’t seek simply to copy the designs of yesteryear. It’s only a matter of time until one of the big guns finally delivers on our dreams and brings out a true polyphonic analogue hardware synth (we’re looking at you, Moog, and we don’t care if it costs as much as a car!).
Dave Smith’s new Prophet 12 is on the right track but it’s not 100% analogue. Someone will also make a hardware synth with an iPad Dock for complex editing, arps and sequencing, offering the best of both worlds. This could potentially have a pure analogue output from the unit or could be routed through the iPad for additional processing. As we’re becoming more accustomed to touchscreens and multi-touch gestures we can see this being incorporated into synths as a way of controlling multiple parameters with as many fingers as possible, along with hands-free control using technology similar to Microsoft’s Kinect system. This could also lead to exciting new interfaces where you push different shapes together to form sounds. We’re already seeing a lot of cheaper mini-synths and DIY kits, and it would be great if these smaller companies adopted a standard along the lines of the 500-Series Lunchbox for interfacing modules on a smaller scale. We’d love to see a mini-modular whereby items like the Korg Monotrons could be slotted together to build a larger, more complex system. Similarly, you could have a modular iPhone/iPad system where each one does its own processing, with individual oscillators, filters, modulators and FX. In the more immediate future it’s analogue all the way. Last month we looked at some of the new synth releases coming up – the Bass Station II (see also p6), the trio of Korg Volcas and the Nord Lead 4, all announced at Frankfurt. The first two are pure analogue, while the latter Nord represents the best of virtual analogue, so for the foreseeable future we’re looking to the past in terms of sound. We’ll be reviewing these in upcoming issues.