OK so this looks like a dead lose for Reason right off the bat and if we were talking anything before Reason 7 I’d not bet a cent on the software being anywhere in the race without a good knowledge of routing tricks.
The closest I have aver really been to a true analog monosynth was a Realistic Moog which was a cool toy so the chance to poke a few of the new analogs whilst getting a new controller for Reason was too good. MiniBrute was the first I poked, maybe I didn’t give it enough time but seemed too harsh and thin to fit my desires. Then I found the MS-20 Mini. Initially it did very little and I couldn’t make sense of it because those old analogs all had odd architectures. Eventually it started to make sense.
Overall the MS-20 Mini doesn’t have as much scope as Thor from Reason and the filters aren’t quite as even but what a little beauty. This beast has so much body in even a sine wave sound as you can hear in this video demo (not made by me) you can’t help but fall in love. And at AUD699 the price is pretty good.
So how would it stack up against Thor. Well the reality is that Thor’s oscillators just don’t compete with the girth and body of the little Korg but to be fair very little does since synths went digital (or even digital controlled analog). I don’t really know why but even analog emulations don’t get that enormity thing sorted at all. Maybe it is because they aim too much for clean and controlled, but surely someone has some idea past vague buzz-words. I used to make VST instruments and I spent some time making a range of oscillators with lots of noise and drift and they beefed up a bit but the reality was they sounded more tortured than trouser-dropping.
Reason 7 is a nice update and adds something that changes the way you can process your sounds and it through this that we probably have the best hope of getting anything approaching an MS-20 sort of vibe. Now I am NOT going to tell you exactly how to turn a Thor into an MS-20 (or anything else for that matter) as it wouldn’t really be possible but here’s your best shot and it’s a good skill for everything else you do; so long as you don’t overdo it that is.
Reason 7 has a new feature in Parallel Processing. Click on a blank part of your Thor Mixer Channel and choose “Create Parallel Channel”. Wham there is a copy of your Thor Mix Channel that takes the raw sound and sends it to the Master. Now click in the Output area and create a New Output Bus. Assign both of your Thor Channels to the new Bus so that the Bus Fader controls the volume of both.
Now here’s the win in this method. Have you noticed how when you take a sound and EQ it so there is more of one part of the sound like Bass, the rest of the sound becomes reduced, loses impact? You try to add back snap and other things but the harder you work the worse the sound gets. Solo your new Parallel Mixer Channel, turn on the EQ and add a lot of Low Mids; get it so that the sound is so full around the waist that it couldn’t walk. You might even choose to get rid of higher freqs to get that fella right warm. Sound useless now? Good. Un-Solo so you hear your clean Thor and the fat version together. Drop the fat version’s Fader and raise it till it sits nicely inside the sound, as though that was how it really sounded and bingo you have a win. Do this again with maybe freqs at the more cutting Mids and you have a new lease on life for your sounds.
Thor’s 24db Low Pass I has the Filter Drive after the filter so f you want that Sallen Key overdrive then try this but if the distortion becomes too much then swap back to the default 24db LP II. Also not that MS-20 has a Low & High Pass Filter and both in play can really change things up. Thor can do this too.
Make sure you program your initial Thor as though it has a much simpler synth architecture so you don’t fall into methods that only a digital instrument would ever use and you have the best solution. Automation is often a big part of analog synth sounds so be sure to wiggle the knobs. This is somewhere that Thor wins hands down as the MS-20 Mini responds to MIDI Note On and Note Off messages but no more so no sequencer controlled filter sweeps (unless you get some more gear). Also no patches whereas Thor can store as many as you can stuff on your hard drive.
If you need more MS-20ishness then you need to buy one. So far it’s probably just lucky I don’t know where to put it.
Before you ask me if the iPad version is as good, I don’t know as I don’t own an iPad. Kinda tempting but see my earlier comment on digital vs analog oscillators before you dive in.