The oscillator, in my opinion probably the most important
electronic component ever designed, ever; this component is the basis of every
synthesizer (well…. the good ones anyway!) we know and love and without it,
well – we simply wouldn’t have those timbres we’ve become so accustomed to.

As you the reader probably know, there’s been a huge surge
in the popularity of “analogue” synthesizers recently being favoured for the
rich fat sound and pleasing tweakability that analogue instruments offer, and
this “mass appeal” and resurgence all started back in 2006 when 
Dave Smith released the Mopho module;

A relatively inexpensive desktop monosynth, with a digital
control interface the mopho brought analogue synths back into the limelight at
a price point similar to some plug-in suites but with far more playability and
fun factor!

Companies like 
Arturia and Korg caught onto this new wave of
and began to release low cost analogue instruments of their own, with probably the
best example of a unique, high-quality analogue instrument being the Minibrute
which is now only £299!)

Again, another unique analogue instrument, but this time from
software pioneer Arturia. 

The Arturia Minibrute;

Arturia Minibrute

This synth was obviously inspired by the
Roland SH-101, with is grey hue and slider interface. Whilst this synth was a “budget”
synth it provides a pretty interesting approach to sound creation, check out
the video below from our friends Source;

One of the latest and best analogue synths to come out in
the last few years is..

The Dreadbox EREBUS;

Dreadbox EREBUS

A hand built two oscillator semi-modular analogue
synthesizer from Greece, its paraphonic includes a digital delay and a extremely
cool patch panel for creating new patches and sounds like on a full modular
system – I love it, it’s really flexible, unique, educational and moreover

It’s hard to express how much potential there is inside this
little box, it is like carrying around a small modular in your laptop bag!

More and more companies have been releasing analogue
instruments based on new and old designs, more notable entries include the
Monotron, Monotribe (my all time favourite analogue synth), MS-20 Mini and
Volca series from Korg – I’m sure many of my fellow synth heads can’t count the
amount of times they’ve watched this video;

But what makes an instrument analogue? The popular theory is
that the sound source or the Oscillators need to be Analogue; that means that
there is no digital signal processing involved in the sound creation process,
generally speaking the rest of the instrument needs to feature analogue
circuitry – these rules are not being bent as such, but we are starting to see
some very very cool synths emerge (even from good ol’ blighty) that use a
hybrid of both digital and analogue technology;

The Modal 002;

Modal Electronics 002

In my opinion the best large format synthesizer ever built.
And I mean that. The first time I ever heard this synth I was absolutely blow
away with it’s incredible detail with bags of low end and when I finally got to
play with one I was not disappointed, feature rich with a comprehensive UI and
a really simple, pleasing workflow – plus it’s constructed in the UK and built
like a tank!

The 002 uses Hybrid subtractive synthesis architecture to
create its sound, what that means is that the oscillators in this particular
synthesizer are not actually analogue, they are instead a unique design called
NCO, which stands for numerically controlled oscillator. Unlike analogue
instruments the 002 produces both analogue waveforms and complex digital
waveforms (most of which are derived from the Waldorf PPG) over 12 voices,
whilst the rest of the architecture remains completely analogue – melding the
digital and analogue worlds beautifully.

The Meeblip Anode;

Meeblip Anode

Another smaller
hybrid synth that’s found favour with quite a large bunch of synth heads is the
Meeblip anode;

This inexpensive little box blends a digital oscillator with
an analogue filter to create a Frankenstein synth with tonnes of sounds and
plenty of bang for your buck.

So where are synths heading? Well the EuroRack boom is right
on top of us – More and more manufacturers are coming out of the woodwork and
some really interesting modules and systems are starting to emerge;…

Because of the open nature of the format the sonic possibilities
are pretty much limitless, blending a complex digital oscillator like the 
Waldorf NW-1 with something more standard like the Doepfer A-110 instantly
creates something unique and special that we’ve probably never heard before –
and this is all before we’ve even entered the depths of 
modulators and sequencers.

Where do I see it going? Mainstream. – Even Coldplay own a
modular system;

And with big name manufacturers like Roland are starting to
get onboard with the latest 
AIRA modular series;

I can’t see this format staying niche for long! Does that
mean that modular isn’t “cool”……if you got into Eurorack because it was cool well……then
you’re reading the wrong blog.