Our friends electric – definitive 80s synths

Featured, Industry News — By on November 28, 2012 08:30

Like it or not the 80s are well and truly back, the fashion, the music and here in the UK it seems the politics too! The 1980s is a decade that divides opinion especially when it came to popular culture. Some people love it and embrace it in all its flamboyant over-the-topness.

Others, like myself, believe that it had to happen in order to get where we are now, ie the technology wouldn’t have advanced without going through this initial transition into the digital era. This is especially true of the music scene though I don’t necessarily want to hear it again.

For those of you who do love the music from that era though this is the post for you. Music Radar has lovingly put together this list of the top ten most pivotal synthesisers from the 1980s and given examples of where you can find their dulcet tones including artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince and lord of the synthesiser Gary Numan.

So here’s the rundown in all its glory:

1. Linn Electronics LM-1 Drum Computer (pictured)
2. E-MU Systems Emulator
3. Fairlight CMI
4. Yamaha DX7 Synthesizer
5. Ensoniq Mirage
6. Roland Jupiter-8 Synthesizer
7. New England Digital Synclavier
8. PPG Wave 2.2/2.3 Synthesizers
9. Roland D-50 Synthesizer
10. Oberheim DX/DMX Drum Machine

Check out the article as they’ve provided lots of links to YouTube clips demoing the synths and giving a little history. In an age of soft synths you certainly appreciate how much money and space you needed to use the hardware to create electronic music in the 80s if nothing else.

Let us know your opinion of these synths or any experience you’ve had using them.


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  1. Simon Carter says:

    I remember many of these well and have particularly fond memories of the Oberheim DX as it was my first introduction to drum machines. I’ve still got a D-550 (modular version of the D-50) in my rack, alongside a few other gems from the late 80s/early 90s and despite having a computer full of soft synths I tend to use these bits of vintage kit far more often than the virtual stuff that’s available. In fact, my drum programming is still done almost exclusively on a combination of a Roland R-8 and Alesis D4.

    Is this a testament to the build quality and versatility of these older synths or am I just stuck in the 80s – who knows?!

  2. Tim Goodyer says:

    I’m not sure the Mirage or PPG are that deserving.
    Where is the TR808 or TB606? Their sounds live on way beyond the machines themselves (although my 808 must be one of best-kept examples on the planet).
    Minimoog? Odyssey? Akai S900?
    I think there’s a more definitive list to be made. Anne we know how we all love lists

  3. Mike Reddick says:

    For me, the synths of the 70s were more interesting, for example the Mimi-Moog and the Modular Moog.

    I do rememeber the Yamaha DX-7 though because Keith Emerson used one. Again, I preferred his work on Hammond Organ and Moogs though.

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