3 Home Keyboards that are Actually AWESOME Synths!

US Not somewhere you usually look...      16/04/24

3 Home Keyboards that are Actually AWESOME Synths!

I've always been a little bit of a home arranger keyboard fan. My teen Saturdays were spent working in a Music Shop near Sutton Coldfield and I played pretty much all of 1995's to 1999's models. Firm fixtures in this class of instrument include; cheesy pop backing patterns, preset sounds (square wave origins, through FM and onto PCM samples) and sometimes, just sometimes, a selection of synthesizer controls for making your own timbres!

Obvious favorites of mine include the Yamaha PSS-390, which includes a series of amusing presets (golf, ghosties, alien) and a fully editable 2OP FM engine. But we can go a little more impressive here I think!

Roland HS-60

We'll start off simple. The HS-60 is literally a freakin' Juno 106 with speakers and a little sheet music stand - such fittings remind me of my days as a student of the Technic's Pop Keyboard Course. Anyhow, the HS60 features 6 voices, 1 DCO + sub oscillator, LFO, ADSR and that magic Juno chorus.

Unlike a 106, it's not hard to imagine someone selling this at a car boot for a fiver! I quite like the slightly dour, brutalist look too!

HS-60 - The Synth With Everything (ES Aug 85) (muzines.co.uk)

Casio HT6000

We've had an analogue board, let's go hybrid. The Casio HT6000 (and it's pictured off-white Hohner sibling: the KS-610-TR) is the king of the HZ/HT series (look them up!) and features (in addition to backing styles ala PCM drums) a unique blend of 4 DCO's, ring modulation, and 8 analogue filters. The waveforms are a pulse output of a clock going to an octave divider. The different waveforms are the result of various pulse levels and tunings - some of them even have some movement baked into them - they can even be shaped to a degree, with the envelopes.

The HT-6000 isn't really a bass-monster, but there's a convincing low-mid presence to the sound. It specialises in sweet bells, analogue swells and unique metallic pad textures.

Casio CTK-1000 IXA Sound Source

Digital now! After 88's VZ series, Casio began to withdraw from the pro-synth market, concentrating solely on home keyboards & educational products. But there was still design talent left in their ranks, the proof - the CTK-1000.

The PCM presets have optional DSP effects like echo, reverb and distortion, yet it's in the "tone editor" mode where the magic happens. You can edit parameters like attack, decay, volume and wave. On 80% of the presets, the 0-9 wave parameter lets you choose 9 different alternative PCM tones for the current sound, whilst keeping the envelope and other parameters (the shape of the sound) in tact - Perhaps a piano tone might switch in a harp PCM instead - nothing too radical.

But on 20% of presets, the wave parameter starts to add waveshaping to the sound (yes, per-key distortion/folding, just like the Korg 01/W!) It gets a little gnarly, but never too much - someone tuned these presets and their waveshaping amounts! Some absolutely beautiful sounds live inside this secret world. I will deep-dive it soon, I promise! In the meantime, here's a pretty little demo:

There are many more home keyboards that feature hidden synthetic depths, tell us your favourites below! For a full rundown on a large range of home keyboards, check out the "Tablehooters" website at: http://www.weltenschule.de/TableHooters/instruments.html

Posted by MagicalSynthAdventure an expert in synthesis technology from last Century and Amiga enthusiast.

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