Essential Guides Guides Soft Synths

10 synths that defined dance music

Orbital with Novation’s Bass Station. Image: Hayley Madden / Redferns by way of Getty Photographs

How brave are we to attempt to decide simply 10 synths that defined dance music from all of the synths ever created, in each hardware or software? The very fact is, although, that there have been some really iconic synths released during the last 40 years of dance music that really have defined its history. Some may merely have contributed to the success of sure genres, whereas others may need created genres however, regardless of the impression, the following machines really have undoubtedly made dance historical past.

We’re dividing the 10 – truly 12, and we’ll come to that – up into five basic hardware machines and five (virtually) basic software program synths, a number of the latter of which have already been with us for a decade or more, and are nonetheless out there! Additionally, that is very much the follow-up to our 10 synths that made synth pop function the place we coated earlier basic analogues, including Moogs, ARPs, Korgs and Yamahas. You can, in fact, argue that these influenced dance music by way of synth pop, however we expect they’ve had their moment in the solar in that function, in order that they don’t appear here.

So, listed here are the 10 synths that defined dance music and the tons of of sub-genres within it…



1Roland TB-303

Roland TB-303

We’ll begin with the basic dance synth; indeed, how might we not embrace this icon of acid? The TB-303 was not truly marketed as a synth: it was classed as extra of a ‘bass machine’ when it was launched in 1981. The truth is, the ‘TB’ part stands for ‘Transistorised Bass’, as it was originally designed as a simple bass accompaniment for guitarists; not many needed it, although, and it was discontinued in 1984.

Nevertheless, producers would decide up low cost second-hand, undesirable 303s in the 80s and utilise the sequencer, slide and accent options to supply that now famous squelchy and slippery sound. It was the right accompaniment, to not guitarists, but the repetitive beats from sister merchandise such as the Roland TR-808 and 909 drum machines – which combined to make the kinds of highs and lows that gave the burgeoning numbers of listeners of techno, home and acid house their highs. The likes of Hardfloor, Marshall Jefferson, Josh Wink and Aphex Twin unfold the word from Chicago and Detroit to Ibiza by way of New York, London and Sheffield… and dance music, as we know it, was born.

FAMOUS USERS Phuture, DJ Pierre, Josh Wink, Hardfloor, Aphex Twin, Mantronix and Orbital.

CURRENT PRICE An unique in good nick with value you around £2,000. Don’t do it, though; there are plenty of clones.

NEW VERSION Masses! Roland has launched dozens of 303-a-likes through the years, by no means fairly reissuing the unique hardware (and you will get an awesome software program version on the Roland Cloud). The most effective version is the Roland TB-03, which may be picked up for simply £315.

2Roland JP-8000

Roland JP-8000


Some synths have helped make genres well-liked, while some genres have made synths common and we’d put the digital analogue JP-8000 within the latter category. In so many trance forums immediately, you’ll still discover many producers recommending the JP-8000 (and the marginally better-featured JP-8080 rack) to wannabe trance-makers. That is largely right down to its mighty supersaw, where up to seven core sawtooth waveforms have been detuned towards each other. It’s comparatively straightforward to recreate and a number of other other manufacturers have taken up the sawtooth baton because the JP was discontinued in 2001, however, like we are saying, the unique continues to be held in high regard as it gave start to at least one sound that defined a style.

Faithless’s Sister Bliss’s JP-8000 is a solid fixture of the band’s setupFaithless’s Sister Bliss’s JP-8000 is a strong fixture of the band’s setup. Image: Andy Sheppard / Redferns

FAMOUS USERS Cascada, Calvin Harris, Darude, Faithless, BT, Paul Van Dyk and lots of more.

CURRENT PRICE As little as £350 might get you the JP-8000 (£600 for the 8080) which feels like a discount but, like we say, there are lots of methods to skin an excellent sawtooth.

NEW VERSION Most trendy polysynths will supply supersaw-like trance sounds so take your decide. Our current recommendations for hardware synths for dance (although not all supersaw) embrace the Arturia MicroFreak, IKM UNO, Korg Mono/Minilogue (or Volcas), Modal Skulpt, Pioneer Toraiz AS-1, Roland Boutique vary or something by Teenage Engineering. Like we stated – lots!

3Access Virus vary

Access Virus range

You may easily argue that the Entry Virus range – and we’ll embrace the vary this time, as they’re all properly regarded – is just another synth that does trance properly. Nevertheless, when it was launched back in 1997, quickly adopted by numerous updated and replacements, it quickly turned clear that this was a ‘best of’ of all of the synths that came before – so it turned some of the sought-after synths, not just in dance however many other genres. Nevertheless, the luxurious pads, rounded basses, hands-on tweaking and superbly crafted presets (and sure, many did use them) gained it followers with most of the dance group’s largest names. Trance? Yes, but in addition so much extra. 


FAMOUS USERS The Crystal Technique, BT, Sasha, Paul Oakenfold, Headhunterz, Darude, DJ Scooter.

CURRENT PRICE There’s some debate over whether the Virus can nonetheless be purchased new – the website is just not up as we write this, however numerous dealers are selling new and used models from £2k downwards, some costs lowered, so perhaps now’s the time to buy.

NEW VERSION Some will inform you that the sound of the Virus has been outmoded by trendy synths from DSI/Sequential, Roland et al, but we’d say totally different. Maybe it’s time to get one of the few new ones on supply, or for more of the various new bespoke synth corporations out there to recreate it.

4Novation Bass Station

Novation Bass Station

Controversy time! Within the early-to-mid 90s, the very founding ethos of dance music was beneath menace: to make music on Roland gear, because it was low cost. With Roland refusing to reissue it – and only 10,000 303s ever made – costs of the original gear soared, so those 90s producers have been screaming out for something that screamed. Ultimately (and it took them some time – trust us, we have been there), third-party hardware producers received the message. Nowadays, in fact, dozens of smaller producers have 303 clones – more on these another time! Novation was one of the crucial successful, with the dual-oscillator Bass Station synth. With additional options similar to real-time MIDI transmission, tweaks might be made so it performed and recalled the 303 sound nicely sufficient for a number of hundred thousand models to be bought. How Roland should have kicked its 1993 self.

Orbital incorporate a wide variety of synths into their live rig, with the Bass Station (and its successor) providing one of their go-to sounds Orbital incorporate a wide variety of synths into their stay rig, with the Bass Station (and its successor) offering considered one of their go-to sounds. Picture: Hayley Madden / Redferns by way of Getty Photographs

FAMOUS USERS (of the BS vary which included additional rack models) Jimi Tenor, Laurent Garnier, Large Assault, Underworld, Orbital, Apollo 440.

CURRENT PRICE Less than £100 for the unique keyboard; £200 plus for the more featured rack.

NEW VERSION There was truly a reasonably respectable clone of the Bass Station out in software program but, truthfully, you’d be better off choosing up the much better-endowed Bass Station II for a mere £325.

5The holy trinity: Yamaha DX7, Roland D-50 and Korg M1

Yamaha DX-7

Yamaha DX-7

The ultimate hardware entry is definitely a trio of synths that appeared in the mid-to-late 80s, just as dance music was really starting to discover its ft. Their influence on dance music was twofold: they bought gazillions between them they usually delivered sounds that dance producers either liked or loathed – an affect, whichever method you take a look at it. We speak, in fact, concerning the Yamaha DX7, Roland D-50 and Korg M1. This was the last word three-way synth setup for old-skool keyboard legends and session players in the late 80s and early 90s, but in addition gave dance producers access to an enormous range of quality sounds to layer over their analogue bubbles.

Keep in mind all those membership dance tracks with piano leads? They have been Roland D-50, DX7 and (principally) M1 presets, the latter pretty much proudly owning house-music leads within the 90s and delivering an reasonably priced workstation so you might produce complete tracks from one synth. So, while not one of many three actually deserves a single place in our countdown, this trio of digital ‘synthstations’ actually does benefit inclusion.

The Pet Shop Boys are big lovers of the Korg M1The Pet Store Boys are huge lovers of the Korg M1. Image: Mick Hutson / Redferns

FAMOUS USERS DX7: Brian Eno, Underworld, BT (in fact), Beastie Boys and Orbital.
D-50: 808 State, Apollo 440, Eat Static, Art Of Noise, Prince, New Order, LTJ Bukem.
M1: Black Box, Snap!, 808 State, The Orb, Plastikman, Pet Shop Boys.

CURRENT PRICES DX7 £400; D-50 £320-450; M1 £230-420

NEW VERSIONS Each firm has stored the character and sound of these well-known synths getting in vast ranges of merchandise, from software (Korg’s Legacy Collection and iM1 app and Roland’s Cloud), to re-imaginings (Roland’s Boutique D-05 and Yamaha’s Reface DX). You’ll also find most of the sounds and functionality within the big workstations from each company (Yamaha’s Montage being a very good example of DX updating).

And in software…

Let’s not overlook that the world of software has given us some basic dance-music synths. Listed here are 5 that rock the ground…

6Lennardigital Sylenth1

Lennardigital Sylenth1

It’s unimaginable that Sylenth1 is a dozen years previous and still going robust – you’d hardly get that on the earth of hardware, let alone the quick world of software. But that’s testimony to the synth’s energy, sound, features and ease of use. Dial by means of the presets and also you’ll have a dance monitor moving into minutes (although, with that history, someone else has in all probability achieved it already).

Worth €139

7Native Devices Large

native instruments massive

Large was one of many synths that helped outline many a dance genre when it was released properly over a decade in the past. With powerful hands-on features and unimaginable sounds, it has added wobbles, screams, glitches and searing to something and every part. Its long-awaited greater brother, Large X (not a successor, in response to NI), has simply been announced.

Worth £129

8Reveal Sound Spire

Reveal Sound Spire

There are such a lot of prime producers who advocate Spire and, with an inventory of options that consists of 4 multi-mode oscillators, a huge unison engine, character filters, large modulation and built-in results and arpeggiator, it’s straightforward to see why. They’ll be talking about this one in 20 years…

Worth $129

9U-HE Diva

u-he diva

Described by some because the truest analogue-digital synth out there, Diva adds a wealth of options into the combination – and easily doesn’t mind admitting that it’s borrowed the most effective bits from synth history – to make it arguably the most effective all-round synth for dance.

Worth €179

10Xfer Data Serum

Xfer Records Serium

Stroll by means of any dance-music forum to seek out out what producers are utilizing – which we do, quite a bit – and you’ll see this crop up again and again. Serum has now turn out to be a contemporary synth basic, because of its wavetable structure and skill to create and synthesise as fast and deep as you want.

Worth $199

For extra important guides, verify right here.

Earlier articleMeet ReClouder, a transportable recorder that syncs to the cloud