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What is it about vintage analogue synthesizers of the ‘70s and ‘80s that engenders such passion in musicians? Why the love affair with those quirky contraptions? After all, they were unstable, undependable and, for a very long time, strictly monophonic.
Time has only made these drawbacks seem more severe, and now we can add that they’re hard to find, hard to afford and even harder to maintain.
And yet the simplicity and raw power of the analogue synth is hard to deny. Bells and whistles be damned, these instruments were easy to use and satisfied the sonic soul in a particular way that the workstations of the following decades never could.
Electronic musicians have always dreamed of harnessing the sonic firepower of the analogue synth and combining it with conveniences like patch memory, dependable tuning and greater polyphony. Enter software synthesizers. They’re stable and reliable, offering total recall, multiple instances and niceties like velocity, aftertouch and tons of polyphony. Better still, they do it for less than what it costs to have the keys on a Minimoog rebushed.
To help you pick the right analogue synth emulation plug-in, we’ve rounded up eight of the best for further scrutiny (they’re listed in no particular order). To keep it focused, we’re leaving semi-modulars (like the EMS VCS3 and ARP 2600) and modulars (like the Moog Modular) out of it. And while it’s true that there are many other emulations we could have included, the eight on test have proven highly popular - if sometimes controversial - and have even won over some diehard retro-fetishists.
All are available for PC and Mac in VST, AU and RTAS formats.