You’ll probably have noticed that we have a review of Roland’s Fantom-G6 on MusicRadar – the latest version of the company’s well-established synth workstation.
In the face of competition from computer-based setups, you might have thought that products such as this would have died a death by now – there’s no denying that you can achieve pretty much everything you can with a Fantom with a laptop and some choice bits of software – but there are several good reasons why workstations are still relevant.
For a start, there’s convenience. I love having a studio’s worth of gear inside my laptop, but it didn’t come fully formed. My computer and the applications/plug-ins that it runs all had to be sourced separately, and I’d be lying if I said I’d never had any compatibility problems. With a workstation, you know that everything will work right out of the box.
Usability is also an issue. Having a computer certainly gives you much more screen real estate to play with, but some users are still, understandably, a little scared of software. They don’t really understand it, and feel much more comfortable sitting in front of a keyboard-shaped production system (and in the case of the Fantom-G, one that can actually be navigated with a mouse).
But perhaps most importantly, there’s the immediacy of workstations. Today’s models might be packed with functionality, but one of their great assets is that they can also be turned on in a second and played, which puts them at a key advantage over computer-based systems.
I know from experience that, when your whole setup is built around a computer, it sometimes feels like a considerable effort to sit down, fire the machine up and boot your software if all you want to do is hammer away on a piano for a few minutes. If you’ve got a keyboard with built-in sounds, you’re much more likely to power it up on a whim.
So, if you’re a Mac- or PC-based producer who feels that they don’t need a hardware synth or workstation, I’d encourage you to think again. Sometimes, it’s better to leave the computer turned off and just play.
By Ben Rogerson