Do you have any idea what synths actually sound like...

...because I don't. Znarf Electronix' Synthesizer-Hörtest is a very simple blind test for different synths. It has 46 sound files of different synths playing the same sequence. You have to guess which synth is which. It's really interesting, and I failed utterly. I was completely unable to even recognise synths I own myself. To see if Music Thing readers have better ears than I do, I borrowed some samples from their site and edited five of them into this [800k mp3] short file. The five synths are all mainstream, well known machines from big manufacturers. Some are analog, some are digital, some are software. They range in age from 1982 to the present day. They have a total value of about $4,000. Guesses in the comments, please. If anyone can even reliably spot which are analog and which are digital, I'll be impressed. I'll post the answers in a few days. And if you get into blind synth tasting, be sure to also visit Stefan Trippler and Georg Müller. (Pic via Synthmania)
UPDATE: Here are the answers.

The woman counting down sounds analog...
wow that is pretty cool & interesting...gunna have to try!
Paulo's studio/museum needs a makeover.
Paolo needs a makeover himself...
I think most everybody is gonna fail this miserably but here is my guess

1 Absynth - Digital/software

2 Access Virus - Digital/hardware

3 sh101 - Analog

4 Novation Kstation(or supernova or whaterver) / Digital/hardware

5 No clue sounds digital though (I can hear what sounds like some aliasing)
You got one company right (but wrong product and wrong analog/digital)
And you got one type of synthesis right (i.e. analog/digital/hardware/software) - but wrong company.
well the first sounded like my waldorf pulse (analog hardware) ... hehe, somebody will have to hold my hand when i learn its a software freebie.
Simple guess:-
1,3,5 Digital
2,4 Analog
Reeced: You're 20% right.
Anonymous: You'll be pleased. But you're not right.
1 is manufactured by Korg(digital
2 is Moog Manufactured(analog
3 is Nord Manufactured(digital
4 is nord manufactured(digital
5 is alesis manufacured(digital
I'm not even going to try to ID the manufacturer:

1 analog
2 digital hardware
3 digital hardware
4 analog
5 digital software
Go Todd! 60% correct!
Void: Two analog/digital guesses right
Hey, I bought an ESQ 1 from that guy.
I have no chance of getting any right, so won't.

I listened through all the samples on the Hörtest, some of the clips sounded really dreadful, especially the Casio and Oberheim synths. Some of the Waldorf and Logic synths sounded best to me. The Pulse in particular had really great attack.
even after seeing the other page i still cant say for sure. i bet 4 was the juno ... anyways i may not know, but i know what i like.
This shows what I've always thought: If you've heard one synth, you've heard them all. Synth buyers have a strange hobby if they can't differenciate between those samples themselves... :-P
Roby: 60% on analog/digital

Anonymous: 60% right, but an interesting, different 60%
I didn't place the models, but I was very good (at least 7 out of 10) for guessing digital oscillator vs. analog oscillator. I was about 7 or 8 out of 10 for identifying analog filters (you can hear that they 'bounce' more as frequency changes, where as digital filters track much more linearly). You can tell early digital samplers since they just pitched up the same waveforms by playing them faster, and you can hear something that may be aliasing frequencies. I was pretty good at guessing 'this is 80's or early 90's'. The only synth I for sure got right was the Andromeda, as I have one, and it's pretty distinctive. I even got the minimoog wrong! The synth which threw me for a loop the most was the Kawai 5000 (and I have one of those too!). Since it's additive and not subtractive, it presents a very different timber.

Oh, and you can also tell which are soft-synths vs. some older midi keyboards based on accuracy of clocking. Soft-synths are spot on, but older midi synths are looser. Some synths you can tell aren't midi driven and you can hear arpeggiator errors from a person playing -- quite cool.

Finally, there was some noise in out-board synths. I was thinking one was more vintage, since it was noisy, but it turned out to be a bad recording of a Virus.

So you can rank them by:

1) Is it an early sampler? listen to harsh high notes.
2) Is it an analog filter? listen to dynamic bounciness and nonlinear thumping.
3) If no analog filter, it might be digital - if it's got harsh high's it's probably early digital keyboard, if smooth high's, it's probably a soft synth. I found the soft synth filters to be the weakest in general.
4) Is it outboard? static and midi quantization can help identify it.
5) Does it sound unlike anything else? It may be a Kawai.
6) That which remains is a anyone's guess.

This page needs to capture statistics, for it's quite good for ending a lot of 'analog/digital' arguments -- let's focus on which sounds best.
OK, I have got to go with anonymous on this one 4 sounds like a Juno to me.
1. analog
2. digital
3. digital
4. analog
5. analog

1 is the toughy. Sounds more real than not. Maybe a Polysix.

2 and 3 could be anything. 3 could be Korg's MS20 software.

4 sounds like a Mini.

5 sounds like a Juno 106
C'mon! Make with the answers! Nr. 2 sounds like an Alpha Juno to me. But I'm nearly deaf, anyway.
This test is totally irrelevant. Both analogue and digital examples are digitised for computer playback, negating the true smooth liqiuidity that analogue can produce when heard through a totally analogue signal path with a decent amplifier. Analogue rules! everything in the real world is analogue, guitars, vocals, drums etc. Soft synths are merely toys used by wannabe musicians.
Please, I hope you are kidding.

Although, I was, as well, going to note that everything, technicly, was digital. I don't believe you would be able to distinctly tell the difference between a great emulator and the real thing when it comes to data compressed audio files. CD audio, possibly. DVD/SACD audio, yes, if you really knew the instrument. I guess you could note the difference in the clarity of signal? Unless emulated, the circuit noise/contact noise would be a sure sign.

Oh, and yes you are a fool to believe that vocals and drums are "analogue" (I'll give you guitar in the case of many electric guitar components). I suggest you look in a dictionary and find out what the word means. Also, don't start talking about the perfection of tape, the medium (or is it media, always have the two confused), to the best of our development, does not have a perfect freq. range. Not that tape ain't great. When it comes to the "instant fix", better than a BBE any day of week. As in, we take advantage of tapes FAILINGS to make things sound 'better', especially when pushed to the brink (ie tape compression).


Well I'll guess anyway, tell me, is the second an analog synth? It has that "characteristic" sound to it (mostly the range of low and mid freqs coming out of it which, I may stand corrected, are the overtone characteristics produced in tubes and transistors). I would be curious to find out the truth. It sounded like one or two of the examples had some very early PCM or additive synthesis going on, or maybe even modern PCM soundsets you find on a groovebox. Of course, just guessing that there was a at least a subtractive, an emulator, and a PCM
would likely get me 3/5's of the way there from my understanding of the lesson to be taught.

Somebody mentioned the pulse, what a great synth. So many ways to detune, though, to get the best out of it, I don't know if the average synth nut would have the know-how to harmonize with such a beast. Great though.

Nice test. You need more different sounds in order to determine which is analog and which is digital/software. If you really sit down and try each synth yourself and experiment with it and make your own presets I'm sure you will be able to tell the difference. A lot of the sounds made on software synths sound similar but lack the depth in timbre I think analog has. I've used softsynts for years because I haven't had the money for an analog but I am always very unsatisfied with the sounds they make, because they lack real depth. I've heard digtal hardware synths that sound real good so I would go for that if I couldn't get an analog. But one day not too soon I'm going to buy the great Andromeda A6!
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