Odd Connections

I crossed another synth off my “acquire” list this week, the Korg DW8000. If you read about it, you’re unlikely to be overly impressed. It came out in the late 80s and is a digital/analog hybrid with sampled waveforms and a nice analog filter. I played around with one in college and remember teaching myself “Coming Around Again” by Carly Simon with a stock electric piano patch. I couldn’t afford to get one when they were new and, like so many others, forgot about synths when I got my first sampler.

Ultimately, it was on my list (I really should write that list down…) more for sentimental reasons than anything else. I wasn’t quite sure if it would live up to my memories. Until I plugged it in.

I love this synth.

Ok, to be fair, there aren’t many synths that I don’t love, but there’s something about this period in synthesizers that I find satisfying and the DW8000 sits squarely in the “tweener” age group of synth history. It’s got digital grit, but that analog presence that you just don’t get anywhere else. As with so many things, it’s the unique constraints and features that make this keyboard special. Want more than eight note polyphony? Tough. Need that arpeggiator to use a custom pattern? Forget about it. Up and down, that’s it, buddy.

But there’s also a dedicated unison mode that stacks all eight voices at a touch. A cool auto bend parameter that makes notes just slide into place. A portamento pedal jack. And the sound is actually better than I remembered it. The bass is full and thick. It can be delicate and digital, but it can also bark and growl.

What struck me the instant I started playing, though, was how I immediately connected with the sound. It just made me happy, and that was both odd and surprising. I’m always “happy” when I get a new toy, but this was something more. This was Happy.

I’m relearning how fantastic it is to have an actual keyboard under my hands instead of a master board with soft synths. I also picked up a Roland D-110 module this week, but it’s going to have to wait. The DW has my full attention this weekend.

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