Author Topic: I am trying to imagine...  (Read 12739 times)

Ekstasis

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I am trying to imagine...
« on: November 09, 2008, 04:43:10 PM »
Right now when I listen to Steve Roach's masterpiece album "Labyrinth" I really try to imagine what these soundworlds what sounds like WITHOUT the all the effects and reverbs etc, I am simply interested to know what the sourcesounds sounds like...75% of the sound is the expression of effects especially reverbs..I know he use kind of old analogue equipment that I imagine sounds very bad or nothing similar without heavy use of digital effects such as a good amount of reverb...

I want to know how it sounds like under the surface... Mainly I want to know this to improve my own ability to create soundworlds in future...

Also does anyone have a list of the instruments and tools he use to create music ? Reverbs ? Effect Processors ? Ooscillators ? Pitch shifters ?
And have there been any interviews that more in depth describe the process of how he makes music.
I am interested to learn anything, to me Steve Roach soundworlds are SUPERIOR to anything else in the ambient music genre.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2008, 05:32:54 PM by Immersion »

Altus

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2008, 05:22:02 AM »
You bring up the exact same thoughts I've had.  And after doing much testing on my own, I discovered you can take the cheesiest sounding synth and make it sound awesome with effects (for me, that almost always reverb with little to no dry signal going through).  There's obvious tweaking required, especially in the EQ department, but I'm sure you'll agree a good reverb will take you a long way in helping create the soundworlds you're looking for.

I'd also love to hear a "dry" Steve Roach to hear what's going on before the effects.  ;D
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Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2008, 05:51:33 AM »
Yes for sure, you are right. The synths on their own sounds probably very bad, he don't use sample based synths he use waveforms through many ooscillators, LFOS, and and many more modulation layers. It would indeed be interesting to see the whole chain he use to create his soundworlds, I am sure his chain is very long and complex.

Would be fantastic to see how the whole chain evolve step by step, and how the sound does develop...through each step of the chain..that would indeed bring much understanding how he creates the sound...

But as I understand it, he morph the sounds mostly in real-time, besides the mixing process...I also know he really likes to use a traditional mixer board a lot, I think he uses about 20+ layers or so, that is another key to his sound as I understand that, the tremendous amount of layers.

Some more info I found with an dicussion with Loren Nerell.


Quote
I really appreciate you taking a moment to try and answer some questions. I've been working on getting that Timeroom vibe in some of my recordings. I'm getting closer, but I've still got a lot to learn. I know some of the questions about workflow and stuff are just personal preferences and may not apply to me, but I'm still curious how you guys do it.

1) What is your personal workflow like when laying down tracks? Do you spend much time trying to decide which percussion and synth sounds to use before you start or do you just dive in and start layering things kind of freeform and tweaking it later? Is it different when you collaborate with Steve Roach? Does he have a different approach with different artists he works with? Is his personal workflow much different than yours?

We work quite differently, Steve tends to record things in groups, with effects. I tend to record things seperate and dry, then add effects later. Both ways of working are fine its really up to you how you like to work. As far as what to start with, its the idea that drives that at least for me. Sounds can also send you off into new directions. Tweaking, layering, freeform all can play a part. When we work together its usually in his studio so we work his way, I'm not sure how much he differs with different artists, I know some of the work he did with Vidna Obmana that they worked almost live at times.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plaid_emu
2) In the two Timeroom photos I've noticed a few things. I saw an Akai MPC and of course a computer. Also a nice old Soundcraft desk in there. Do you guys do most of the MIDI sequencing with hardware or software? Do you record into the computer and mix inside software or do you run the final mix through the console in real time??

First a word of advice about Steve's gear, its in a constant flux. As I said in that thread he's changed quite a bit of gear since I took that picture including that old Soundcraft. He's always trying new things so its never the same whenever I visit.

Again we work differently. In my studio I use a Mac computer running Logic and that is my central work station, I don't even use a mixer anymore as I have a sound card wit about 40 inputs so my computer is my mixer now. Midi and audio all work from one system. Steve treats midi and audio seperate. Midi does its own thing and then he records the audio from his midi instruments into his PC as audio tracks. He then sends things out of his PC back out to the board where he can process stuff and then record it back in the computer. When we mixed Terraform we did it in the box, we tried an out of the box mix but we didn't like it as much. Steve really likes to have a mixer, he's very hands on. When he came to my studio a couple years ago he felt very lost. He told me just last week it was like walking into a bathroom with no toiletpaper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plaid_emu3)
I noticed a rack full of Eventide and Lexicon stuff. I just recently purchased an Eclipse as my main effects source in my small studio because of it's high quality and versatility for the price. I know in the Liner notes of David Hudson's "Woolunda" Steve mentions his affinity for the Lexicon PCM-70 for creating the "soundspace". Does he mainly use the Lexicons for reverb and the Eventide for pitch shifting etc.? The reverbs on the Eclipse sound great, but I'm afraid I might also have to buy a PCM-91 or 96 to really nail that unbelievable spatial ambience sound. Any merit to this line of thought?

For years now Steve has been a Lexicon user for reverbs, he has lots of different models from them. But recently he's also started using Eventides quite a bit as well. In truth he's always trying out different things its just the Lexicon stuff is his main verbs. For what its worth I have reverbs by Roland, Sony, and TC Electronics in my studio and they've always played a part in my sound and sometimes make a guest appearance on the work I do with Steve.

Quote:
Originally Posted by plaid_emu
1)Now I have just a couple suggestions maybe you could pass along to him.

I know Steve offers workshops, which tragically I can't attend. I can't really afford to travel cross country or get that kind of time off from my employer. I would love it if he offered some kind of alternative for those who can't make it. Videos or online tutorials or something like that would be awesome. Hell, I'd even pay just to watch him dick around the studio with no narration or anything.

You guys desperately need to collaborate with cEvin Key and his crew at Subconscious Studios. s u b c o n s c i o u s s t u d i o s Any work that came from those sessions would be destined for greatness. Talk about the recordings of the century! I can only imagine.

I will pass that on but the thing with the workshops is he can tailor them around what you need, he can see how you work and show you how to get around any problems you have. Videos or online tutorials have to be very general so you miss that hands on experience which is what he's really selling and is his strong point.

A collaborate with cEvin Key would be interesting. I'm not sure how aware the two are of each other though. I'll send Steve a link to cEvin's website and see what he says.

jkn

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2008, 07:38:58 AM »
Way too many thoughts on this running through my head to type on my blackberry... but a couple of quick thoughts:

Definitely notice Loren's comments that Steve is shifting gear fairly frequently - there's no one way.   I think this is true with all (or at least almost all) artists.  Explore!  Try things out on your own.  Do things the "wrong" way from time to time.

Reverb reverb reverb...  That can be the amazing thing that makes a sound (or soundworld) come to life - or bury it in the murk.   It's all about experimenting and learning and growing.  I don't know Steve personally - but I know he's tried creating his music from many different paths - from synths to modular synths to ethnic instruments to guitar, etc...

Great discussion!
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Seren

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2008, 08:06:46 AM »
The use of effects and sound manipulation is an art in itself, and to paraphrase JKN it can create an amazing and interesting pallette or a washed out brown of sound.

As to what the album would be like without the effects i can only say if its anything like some of mine you'd be listening to all sorts of things including wine glasses, CDs being broken, my own singing, pipes being blown, card being ripped etc etc with some gaps between later filled with reverb and effects..........as in I use these things,not Steve.....

LNerell

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2008, 10:57:59 AM »
Right now when I listen to Steve Roach's masterpiece album "Labyrinth" I really try to imagine what these soundworlds what sounds like WITHOUT the all the effects and reverbs etc, I am simply interested to know what the sourcesounds sounds like...75% of the sound is the expression of effects especially reverbs..

Asking Steve to produce his sound sources without effects is sort of like asking a fashion designer to put on a fashion show only in their underwear.  ;D As I said in that interview the way Steve works he treats the effects as part of the whole sound, so his tracks are recorded already with verb and other effects as part of the track, he doesn't add much later so it would be difficult to hear just the original sound sources.

I know he use kind of old analogue equipment that I imagine sounds very bad or nothing similar without heavy use of digital effects such as a good amount of reverb...

Bad sounds? I think maybe this was maybe a poor choice of words? Reverb can certainly help a sound but I don't think it can fix a bad sound. As they say garbage in, garbage out.
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2008, 04:44:24 PM »
Just a follow up, here are a couple of articles that talk about how Steve works in the studio.

http://mixonline.com/recording/mixing/mixing_outside_lines/index4.html

http://emusician.com/mag/first-take-sacred-space/
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2008, 05:00:48 PM »
Right now when I listen to Steve Roach's masterpiece album "Labyrinth" I really try to imagine what these soundworlds what sounds like WITHOUT the all the effects and reverbs etc, I am simply interested to know what the sourcesounds sounds like...75% of the sound is the expression of effects especially reverbs..

Asking Steve to produce his sound sources without effects is sort of like asking a fashion designer to put on a fashion show only in their underwear.  ;D As I said in that interview the way Steve works he treats the effects as part of the whole sound, so his tracks are recorded already with verb and other effects as part of the track, he doesn't add much later so it would be difficult to hear just the original sound sources.

I know he use kind of old analogue equipment that I imagine sounds very bad or nothing similar without heavy use of digital effects such as a good amount of reverb...

Bad sounds? I think maybe this was maybe a poor choice of words? Reverb can certainly help a sound but I don't think it can fix a bad sound. As they say garbage in, garbage out.

hehe, alright I see what you mean about the underwear stuff, etc, but again, too me that is what is the most interesting for me right now to see the naked sound under the surface of effects. As I sad mostly to learn how the ideal sound is to work with before you add multi effect processors into the chain/layer.

Also interested to know how he does compose the music itself, the tonal aspects of the music,  I have never seen him play the keyboard in recent times, I can imagine he did that more before on the 80s and 90s albums, but does he play keyboard nowdays ?
Or those he form the sound with mainly with Eventide pitch shifters through midi nowdays ?
And if so what interface does he use to control the pitch shifter, is it possible that he use the mixer board
to do that ?

I can imagine that way of creating sound would give him a more "free hand" then composing through a keyboard interface, I can't really imagine that for instance the "immersion" series has been played at keyboard at all, it has a very circular spiral-like sound, deeply dimensional....

Regarding my comment on old analogue vintage synth, I hope I did not offend anyone, but what I meant was
that they require mordern sound processor to make them sound modern, so I have nothing against analogue synths at all, even though I need to learn more about it.

btw steve has a good sense of humor, the "toilet paper" part did make me laugh :)

Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2008, 05:04:38 PM »
Just a follow up, here are a couple of articles that talk about how Steve works in the studio.

http://mixonline.com/recording/mixing/mixing_outside_lines/index4.html

http://emusician.com/mag/first-take-sacred-space/


Thanks for digging up these articles, I will read them

Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2008, 01:29:06 PM »
Alright have read the articles now, brings some really interesting information

Alright adds these to my wish list :)

Oberheim - Xpander
Oberheim - Matrix
Lexicon - PCM-91
Lexicon - PCM-70
Eventide 4000
Eventide 3000
Korg Kaoss Pad
(did I miss something ?)

I guess the Oberheim's are very hard to get, and expensive, but he has described them as the "core" in his sound,  Is there any cheaper alternatives that will give very similar results ?

About the effect processors, I am not sure I for instance need two of these super expensive Lexicon processors, as I understand it, PCM-91 is the newer version, but maybe they both do complement each other I am not sure...

And Regarding the Eventide I am not sure, of course If I want to be sure to get close I should just buy the exact same equipment, but I of course want to investigate further if something better is available right now...and if it is really necessary ...to achieve this sound..

Also, Eventide and Leixcon processor are all very expensive...in all seriousness..this would take me many years to afford all this.. also really wonder if the plugin versions even can compare..

Currently I am using "Halls of fame" , which is 32bit impulse reverbs from the legendary L96 and T600C units...
I consider these reverbs very good..especially for its price..but I need to investigate more how they compare with the hardware units.


« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 01:39:07 PM by Immersion »

LNerell

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2008, 02:33:13 PM »
Alright have read the articles now, brings some really interesting information

Alright adds these to my wish list :)

Oberheim - Xpander
Oberheim - Matrix
Lexicon - PCM-91
Lexicon - PCM-70
Eventide 4000
Eventide 3000
Korg Kaoss Pad
(did I miss something ?)

Steve Roach gray matter transfer?  :P ;D

Actually what you are missing is the point. You don't need to copy Steve's gear list, you need a better understanding of how he does what he does. A lot of people make this mistake with other artists that use technology, they think the technology is the key, but once they get the tools they are lost. The real answer is in how one uses these tools.
Take care.

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mgriffin

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2008, 02:41:12 PM »
I was about to type the same thing Loren just did. 

If you buy all the same gear as Roach that doesn't mean you're going to sound like he does, and you shouldn't be striving to sound like him anyway.  Plenty of people have the same gear and they don't all sound the same.  You've got to learn to program the gear you buy, whether it's synths or effects or whatever, in a way that's distinctive and interesting.  It's more important how you work with your gear, than what gear you have in the first place.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 03:52:35 PM by mgriffin »
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Seren

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #12 on: November 12, 2008, 03:49:47 PM »
I was about to type the same thing Loren just did. 

If you guy all the same gear as Roach that doesn't mean you're going to sound like he does, and you shouldn't be striving to sound like him anyway.  Plenty of people have the same gear and they don't all sound the same.  You've got to learn to program the gear you buy, whether it's synths or effects or whatever, in a way that's distinctive and interesting.  It's more important how you work with your gear, than what gear you have in the first place.

And to find your own sounds within the gear you use......

Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #13 on: November 12, 2008, 04:14:23 PM »
Alright have read the articles now, brings some really interesting information

Alright adds these to my wish list :)

Oberheim - Xpander
Oberheim - Matrix
Lexicon - PCM-91
Lexicon - PCM-70
Eventide 4000
Eventide 3000
Korg Kaoss Pad
(did I miss something ?)

Steve Roach gray matter transfer?  :P ;D

Actually what you are missing is the point. You don't need to copy Steve's gear list, you need a better understanding of how he does what he does. A lot of people make this mistake with other artists that use technology, they think the technology is the key, but once they get the tools they are lost. The real answer is in how one uses these tools.

Yeah I realize that tools is tools, the tools does not create the music for you, even though the tools reflects  what the artist create with the tools.

I have never used an analogue synth, so I have really no idea how an Oberheim compares with other similar synths, of maybe a fraction of the price. If I had the money I would just buy one instantly, to try it own and test it myself...but..you can get it for under $2500 used here in Sweden, that is a lot of money, but it might be worth it of course..

I agree, of course, just because that I have the exact Steve Roach gear it does not mean I will sound exactly like him. But I see nothing wrong to take inspiration from him and the tools and the way he create music...
But I do not expect the tools to write the music for me...and more over...Roach's music is one of the most complex..so there is a lot to learn.. if you really want the full understanding of how the soundworlds are created.
And from what I know only a few artist like Amir Baghiri and Robert Rich come close to the same type of supreme sound quality.

« Last Edit: November 12, 2008, 04:36:12 PM by Immersion »

Phaenon

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #14 on: November 12, 2008, 09:42:04 PM »
Good discussion. And long list, too. ;)
I've started crafting soundscapes quite recently, so I feel your pain.
I didn't want to be second Roach, I was searching to find my sound. Still searching...
Mainly looking into myself and "feeling" the sound I like, I feel, I am missing in someone's music.
Listening to others' music was like searching for the sound matching your inner-sound.

I agree with others, I don't think you need all that equipment to create your own soundworld... Sure it can be an inspiration, but I'm sure you can get similar results with other gear not listed here. It's just a part of the chain, maybe even not the most important.
I think music is similar to cooking, the right ingredients and right amount of them can change the taste drastically.
And how you cook then later, so "reverb before or after mixing" question remains... ;)
I'm certain mixing is the key to have great sounding track, especially in ambient music.

I don't think you need Oberheim to create your music. Other brand would offer you similar results, just in a different way.
I guess it's a "habit" for Steve Roach to use it. He likes the sound, timbre, and and it's great modulations capabilities which is one of the key factor to obtain complex and evolving sounds. I assume he's been using it for many years so you can hear it on many tracks, one way or another.
Maybe the sound stays well in the mix, cuts through well.
It's like custom flutes in Robert Rich's music. Or like Klaus Schulze using JD-800 in the concerts, since it's easy to change sounds quickly using sliders, etc.
Speaking of them, they bring another example of what Loren and Mike and other were talking. Look at Rich's "Trances/Drones". Prophet-5, bamboo flute, lap steel guitar, some bells and WHAT an effect...
And pioneering Schulze and his Irrlicht, Cyborg. He didn't even have  full-blown synthesizer, just "mistreated" organ, VCS-3 synth (great for FXs), orchestra tapes and again, what an effect!
Or Tangerine Dream with early albums, like Zeit and Atem. Idea and execution. Or extensive improvising.
All those albums seem to be "simple" in tools, but so powerful in results...
You see, they didn't have all those fancy reverbs, and effects, but somehow the results are spectacular.

I guess once you have an idea for the great composition, you will find a way to record it.

Well, I don't want to sound like preaching, just some couple hundreds words of encouragement. ;)

P.S. Maybe field recording is your way? It gives infinite source of unusual sounds, specially great for inharmonic samples.
You would have 1000 synths just outside your house. Or inside it, for that matter... ;)

Good luck!
Szymon

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2008, 02:44:56 AM »
For me it is about playing and finding the sounds that inspire me and going with those, exploring, pushing, transforming them.

Along with a healthy dose of everynow and then trying something different and see where that takes me.

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2008, 09:36:15 AM »
If you're really anxious to try an Oberheim synth you could get a used Matrix 6R for not much money and get most of what you'd get with a Matrix 12 or an Xpander (which is basically a Matrix 12 without a keyboard)
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Scott M2

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2008, 10:15:11 AM »
I'm thinking that Steve's long-long-time relationship with his Oberheims and their fairly complex modulation capabilities led to them becoming an early foundation of his sound that he can return to or build on. For me it's the Roland JD/XP/JV series that I can't live without and for someone else it might be AbSynth or a lap steel.

While Steve's greatbiggiant reverbs are a major element in his work, I also think his choices of chords and voicings have  been a very significant part of defining his "sound" since the early years.

Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2008, 02:20:05 PM »
Good discussion. And long list, too. ;)
I've started crafting soundscapes quite recently, so I feel your pain.
I didn't want to be second Roach, I was searching to find my sound. Still searching...
Mainly looking into myself and "feeling" the sound I like, I feel, I am missing in someone's music.
Listening to others' music was like searching for the sound matching your inner-sound.

I agree with others, I don't think you need all that equipment to create your own soundworld... Sure it can be an inspiration, but I'm sure you can get similar results with other gear not listed here. It's just a part of the chain, maybe even not the most important.
I think music is similar to cooking, the right ingredients and right amount of them can change the taste drastically.
And how you cook then later, so "reverb before or after mixing" question remains... ;)
I'm certain mixing is the key to have great sounding track, especially in ambient music.

I don't think you need Oberheim to create your music. Other brand would offer you similar results, just in a different way.
I guess it's a "habit" for Steve Roach to use it. He likes the sound, timbre, and and it's great modulations capabilities which is one of the key factor to obtain complex and evolving sounds. I assume he's been using it for many years so you can hear it on many tracks, one way or another.
Maybe the sound stays well in the mix, cuts through well.
It's like custom flutes in Robert Rich's music. Or like Klaus Schulze using JD-800 in the concerts, since it's easy to change sounds quickly using sliders, etc.
Speaking of them, they bring another example of what Loren and Mike and other were talking. Look at Rich's "Trances/Drones". Prophet-5, bamboo flute, lap steel guitar, some bells and WHAT an effect...
And pioneering Schulze and his Irrlicht, Cyborg. He didn't even have  full-blown synthesizer, just "mistreated" organ, VCS-3 synth (great for FXs), orchestra tapes and again, what an effect!
Or Tangerine Dream with early albums, like Zeit and Atem. Idea and execution. Or extensive improvising.
All those albums seem to be "simple" in tools, but so powerful in results...
You see, they didn't have all those fancy reverbs, and effects, but somehow the results are spectacular.

I guess once you have an idea for the great composition, you will find a way to record it.

Well, I don't want to sound like preaching, just some couple hundreds words of encouragement. ;)

P.S. Maybe field recording is your way? It gives infinite source of unusual sounds, specially great for inharmonic samples.
You would have 1000 synths just outside your house. Or inside it, for that matter... ;)

Good luck!
Szymon


First of all, I own your CD "Submerged" from last year, I love it, really feels like you are getting sucked into a black hole when you listen to it in bed at night :)

I agree with most of what you say, and I agree..music is like cooking in a sense...but in the kitchen to make good food you also need certain ingredients, you can't make cheese pie without cheese for instance...same with musical equipment, you can't create something just from the void, you need some fundamental tools...

But despite what tools you use to create your music your own personal taste is what will color the music most of all..and I am sure..I do not need the exact same gear as Steve to produce similar sounds..but since I do not know where to begin..it seems logical to find out what Steve himself use to create such superior soundworlds..I must begin somewhere..

And yes you mention that in the old days the did manage to create spectacular music..well time change
You do no longer need big modular synths like Steve or Robert use anymore, but I give them respect for being able to use such complex synthesis, but luckily for me we live in easier times now :)

Regarding field recordings, yes I adore field recordings, both steve roach and robert rich use it alot..
All good ambient music I listen to use it more or less..so I must look over this also..all I know is that outdoor microphones for field recordings like that are very expensive...
I will definitely invest in a microphone sometime in future.. but again everything cost money so this is going slow...
I wish I could just buy all I did need for my studio right away..but it will take years unfortunately..








Ekstasis

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Re: I am trying to imagine...
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2008, 02:30:37 PM »
If you're really anxious to try an Oberheim synth you could get a used Matrix 6R for not much money and get most of what you'd get with a Matrix 12 or an Xpander (which is basically a Matrix 12 without a keyboard)

Thanks, yes I could definitely need some guidance in the Oberheim Universe, I am really not sure what is the difference between them all..or for that matter the similarities... I assume the Xpander is their flagship ?
And how those the Matrix series compares with the "OB" series for instance..

Anyway...I have read some reviews on harmony central...it gives me a quite good insight of what I can expect...
I have still not find it for sale somewhere...but how much money are we talking about ?

The only thing that worries me with the Matrix 6R is...

"All in all it is a risk to buy one of these now because it is very flakey and the chips it uses are very hard to find now"