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Best synths of 2020

2020 was a difficult year, but it also blessed us with some outstanding new studio equipment releases. As we prepare for 2021, we take a look back at some of the best releases of the last 12 months, picking out our favourites.

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Third place: Pittsburgh Modular SV-1b

SV-1b Desktop 1

An updated take on the SV-1 and SV-1 Blackbox, the SV-1b is Pittsburgh Modular’s definitive take on East Coast semi-modular synthesis, combining 12 modular sections into a compact desktop synth format. It’s a powerful, punchy synth before you even start patching, but exploring the extensive patching options is when things really get interesting. One small box that packs a lot of potential. If you asked us to recommend the best route into (semi-)modular synthesis, this would be a strong contender.

Read our full review of the Pittsburgh Modular SV-1b here.

Runner-up: Buchla Easel Command

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What more is there to say about Buchla? The latest incarnation of the legendary Music Easel format is a unique instrument that reflects the personality and philosophy of Don Buchla, one of the true geniuses of synth history. It’s a synth that inspires a different way of making music, unlike anything else you’ll play. That might manifest itself as acid-dipped ambient explorations, it might be as experimental techno, or it might just lead to a few glorious lost hours of noodling. The Easel Command is special. It’s not cheap, but try one and there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked.

Read our full review of the Buchla Easel Command here.

Winner: Modal Argon8

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Modal’s Argon8 bucked all the trends of recent years. It’s not inspired by a particular vintage synth, it’s not modular and it’s not even analogue. Instead, it’s a showcase of the power of wavetables and virtual analogue, synthesis approaches that have become strangely underrated in a way. The Argon8 is built like a tank and features a high-quality, full-sized keybed. It’s a proper all-rounder with extensive modulation options, eight-voice polyphony, a sequencer, effects and all the bells and whistles. But the reason we like it so much isn’t anything to do with specs. Instead, it’s the simple fact that it sounds incredible.

Read our full review of the Modal Argon8 here.

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