Inspired by @octatonic
's M1 purchase, I've recently been seeking out and auditioning old synths I'd previously spent some time with in my youth. Mainly for a bit of nostalgia, but also because my midi controller has died and an old synth would be a fine replacement. Fortunately, my circle of like-minded mates have got some nice things they've been kind enough to loan me.
For the most part, this has been largely disappointing. Horrendous user interfaces, broken displays and backlights, sounds I remember being much more specactular than they actually are, and noise. Lots of noise.
One of my mates gave me a D50 and a Casio VZ10M rack module (which I'd never heard of). I always imagined my choice would come down to a D50 or a DX7, and a few hours on the D50 confirmed my choice. I did give the VZ10M a go, laughed at how bad the lame bass and electic piano presets were and put it away again.
When it was due for them to go back, my mate asks for my thoughts about the VZ10M, and when I responded in not very polite terms, he rigged it up and started messing around with it. After a brief tour of the frankly bewilderingingly powerful synth engine he put together a couple of string and pad patches and played some Eno-eque parts through a shit load of delay and reverb. The thing is utterly immense - quite like a DX7 can be if you learn the nuts and bolts, but it's warmer.
There are 8 'modules' (basically an 8 waveform DCO and DCA pair), which are grouped in 4 pairs called 'lines'. Each line can be set up to for the oscillators to be independant, ring modulate or phase modulate. The output of which can then phase modulate the next line etc. It also has an 8 stage envelope generator for each of the modules, the rates and amplitude can be set to
independantly respond to keyboard position and velocity, so patches can
have some real movement.
Up to 4 patches can be combined (at the expence of polyphony) or you can apply a velocity split, keyboard split or a keyboard crossfade. There's multi waveform vibrato and tremolo, aftertouch, pitch bender and two mod wheels and a global 8 stage pitch envelope.
The interface is a joke - it's marginally less hassle to program than a DX7, and there are graphic representations of the waveforms, envelopes etc. but it's not intuitive at all. It's also a touch noisy. Nothing massive, just what you'd hear on something like a DX7II.
My pleas to purchase the VZ10M fell on deaf ears, but I've since managed to source a near mint VZ1 (keyboard version) complete with it's ROM card for not a lot of money. And the backlight still works. Bonus. It's going to take some learning though....