6 More Synths in Need of a Reissue

Recently, we highlighted six synths that we thought were in need of a reissue. After all, reissues of classic models are common in the world of guitars, so why not synths? The main argument against reissuing synths is that synthesizers should be about progression, not regression. However, we feel there's more than enough room in the market for envelope-pushing, bleeding-edge technology as well as official remakes of tried-and-true models.

Reissues can sound just as good as the original units and their more modern competition. Does a listener really care if a song's bassline comes from a hyper-digital quantum oscillator with a Hadron Collider firmware upgrade or a Korg ARP Odyssey? Most only care about how good it sounds—and isn't that what it's all about?

So without further ado, here are six more synths that we think should be reissued. Again, we're avoiding clones and digital remixes (such as the Roland Boutiques) and are asking for official re-releases. Of course, we wouldn't say no to upgrades like MIDI, but, in general, we'd like to see reissues remain as true to the original instrument as possible.

Still think we missed some synths that should be reissued? Let us know in the comments. And if you're trying to find original units as they pop up on the vintage market, add any of the following synths to your Reverb Feed by clicking the "Add to Feed" buttons beneath each photo.

Roland Juno-106

In the mid-1980s, music technology was changing. Synthesizers were becoming cleaner-sounding, shinier. The digitally controlled oscillator, or DCO, was starting to replace the voltage-controlled oscillator in some synths, bringing down the price and sharpening up the sound. In addition, MIDI was finally allowing machines made by different manufacturers to talk to each other. Into this new environment, Roland's Juno-106 was born.

Released in 1984, the single-oscillator Juno-106 may not look like much on paper, but that simple signal path belies a gorgeous six-voice polyphonic sound. Whether you need leads, pads, or strings, the 106 can do it all. With a noise generator and self-oscillating filter, it can even do percussion. And, thanks to a sub-oscillator, bass duties are also in the job description. And then there's that chorus, a lovely two-speed circuit that is closer to magic than modulation.

Maybe you think the Juno-6 and 60 sound better than the 106. We won't argue with you, although we tend more towards the 106. Although the earlier Junos are also deserving of reissues, we went with the 106 mainly because of the tendency for its voice chips to fail, necessitating expensive repairs or upgrades, not to mention issues with the chorus circuit and its high-pass filter. A new batch of stable 106 models would be most welcome.

Oberheim Matrix-12

In the mid-'80s, the game-changing Yamaha DX7 and its many variants were convincing everyone that digital was the way forward. Everyone, that is, except Oberheim, which steadfastly continued with what it did best: making gorgeous analog synths.

Released in 1985, the Matrix-12 was the ultimate synth (or at least Oberheim's ultimate synth), a 12-voice behemoth that doubled down on the already massive six-voice Xpander of the previous year. With VCOs and multimode filters courtesy of CEM chips, the Matrix-12 was a bit more cinematic and a bit smoother than the OB-Xa and other Obie efforts of the past.

But, thanks to a bewilderingly large amount of modulation options, it was—and is—a sound designer's dream come true. With its modulation matrix (a first!), five LFOs, 15 filter variations, robust envelopes, and plenty more, it could do just about anything you could imagine and quite a bit more as well.

The Matrix-12 is something of an ultimate synth, and while Arturia's software emulation is very nice, there's nothing like the sheer grandeur of this musical instrument. Tom Oberheim, a Matrix-12 reissue is what the world needs now.

Electronic Dream Plant Wasp

Not every synth needs to be gargantuan. Sometimes a smaller footprint is just what the studio ordered. Enter the Wasp, a diminutive and quirky digital/analog hybrid from 1978. With its touchplate keys, plastic housing, and striking black and yellow color scheme, every inch of this boutique machine is original.

It was released in 1978 by Electronic Dream Plant (EDP), a British startup—and designed by Chris Huggett, who would go on to do the OSCar, the Novation Supernova, and more. The Wasp was a buzzy (sorry) two-oscillator monosynth. It featured digital oscillators (a real rarity at the time) plus a unique, switchable analog multimode filter. This combination of digital and analog gave the Wasp a unique, characterful sound, one that—helped in no small part by its low price—quickly found its way into the fledgling synth pop scene of the time.

There were a number of variations released, including a Deluxe version with metal and wood body, and the one-oscillator Gnat, but it was the original that remains coveted. With its plastic body and odd keys, reliability can be an issue, which is why we really need to see a reissue. The Wasp arguably paved the way for today's mini synths (Arturia's MicroFreak is an obvious descendant), so why not make some room in the market for the original? I'm sure Novation could be convinced to do it—after all, it has an emulation of the Wasp's filter in the Bass Station II.

Alesis A6 Andromeda

It may seem odd clamoring for the reissue of a synth that ceased production only nine years ago, but that's just how special the Alesis A6 Andromeda was. First shipped in 2000 and in production for 10 years, it had delicious analog VCOs, onboard effects (both analog and digital), and filters inspired by the SEM filter and Moog ladder. It's both reminiscent of past great machines and yet also very much its own beast.

Like the Oberheim Matrix-12, the Andromeda was a massive analog synth released at a time when analog synthesis was unpopular (it bucked the trend of virtual analog, opting instead for the real thing). Similarly, it featured a comprehensive modulation matrix, with 71 sources and 92 destinations. And, most importantly, it sounded heavenly: airy, profound, celestial, soaring, rich. You get the picture.

Although Alesis is still around, it's no longer making synthesizers per se. And with some Andromedas suffering from issues related to the proprietary ASIC chips, buying one used can be a gamble. Really, the best option for everyone considered would be for Alesis to start up production of this legendary machine again.

Sequential Circuits Prophet-5

In 1978, a fully programmable polyphonic synthesizer with the ability to save patches was much like a YouTube comments section with civil and respectful dialogue—just a dream. However, Dave Smith had the smart idea of putting a Z80 microchip in a synth, and the result was the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5, and history.

The Prophet-5 may have just been a Wikipedia footnote if it weren't for its fantastic sound. Full and musical and yet surprisingly deep, the Prophet-5 was an instant success and found its way into a number of hit records in the late '70s and into the '80s. With two sync-able oscillators, a four-pole low-pass filter, and the flexible poly-mod modulation section, it could do just about whatever you needed. (Check out Japan's excellent Tin Drum album, which is practically a Prophet-5 demo record.)

The Prophet-5 went through a number of revisions, with many people preferring the sound of Revision 2, with its Solid State Music chips, to Revision 3 and its Curtis CEM chips. Since we're asking for a reissue, why not provide switchable oscillators and filters? We're sure Sequential could whip up some new, stable Revision 2 chips. And while we're taking a stroll through fantasy land, why not the famous keybed from the Prophet T8 too? Ah, sweet dreams are made of synths.

Eminent Solina String Ensemble

In the 1970s, you bought a string machine because it sounded like strings. These days, you buy a string ensemble because it sounds like a string ensemble. And the original is the Eminent Solina String Ensemble, marketed in the US as the ARP String Ensemble.

The Solina was fully polyphonic (with two monophonic bass presets) and—thanks to its bucket brigade delay circuit—absolutely excelled at creating spacey, gorgeous, soaring synth strings. Originally available as part of the Eminent 310 Unique organ (see Jean-Michel Jarre), it was such a hit that it spawned a legion of copycats. But if you want the sound of Pink Floyd, Air, Elton John, and even Joy Division, you're going to need the real thing.

Eminent is still around, manufacturing high-end organs for refined tastes. The sound of the string machine is coming back in vogue, thanks to Waldorf's Streichfett and of course Behringer's VC340. Perhaps Eminent could partner with Korg, much like ARP did with its Odyssey, to give the venerable Solina a new lease on life?


About the author: Adam Douglas is a musician and synthesizer fan based in Tokyo, Japan. He writes about synths on his blog, Boy Meets Synth.

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