Considering Analog Four as First Hardware Synth

Hi All, I am just getting into music production (currently working with Live and mbp 15 right now). I am very interested in synths, and have also been working through a kadenze course on Reaktor 6. What I am finding is that, while all of this is really interesting and motivating me towards creating the sounds I want to hear, working solely in the computer is not as inspiring as working with a physical instrument seems to be.

So, I am wondering if the analog four (mki or mkii) would be a good first synth, particularly considering integration with live, the fact that I have Reaktor 6? How steep is the learning curve? Would this compliment live/reaktor or would it be redundant?

Basically, talk me out of or justify this purchase for me!

Either the A4 or MKII are great to pair with Live using Overbridge. The MKII enhancements and better UI are really nice. The A4 is a really well rounded workhorse with a compact/versatile UI.
That said, the A4’s sound is nice, but it’s really not too far off from what you can do sonically with software, and it’s not a knob per function kind of device.
For a first synth, I would consider something a bit more basic that makes sounds you can’t achieve in software and has more of a knob per function layout.
Maybe a Moog Sub 37, Prophet 6, DSI Oberheim, Korg Monologue, Korg MonoPoly, PolySix, or something in that realm.


It was my first analog synth as well and I really love it every since I bought it. Granted, I don’t use it for everything but it’s a very versatile tool to have. It has a bit of a learning curve so make sure you read the manual before you try do anything. These days I’m actually using it as a synth with Live and Overbridge and directly control the sound from there. Previously I used the sequencer heavily and was inspired by it. So all in all, it’s a great synth, but it requires some dedication and effort in order to get the best out of it. Good luck with your purchase!

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this makes a lot of sense. first figure out the sound you want - then look at the options.


The A4 could be a great beginner synth for a couple of reasons.
First of all, instant gratification, it is really easy to tweak random shit or take a few presets and make a banging loop.
Second, learning process. It can be as deep as you need it to be but you can take patches ‘left to right’ and work on the basic building blocks of synthesis, from Vcos to modulation. All nicely laid out in separate blocks.
It can give you great results without a computer, so you can just turn it on for a quick five minutes session before going to bed.

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It’s a perfectly fine synth, but I would recommend a one-knob-per-function synth as your first one.

The analogue four is great, but in terms of immediacy, doing sound design on it might still feel a bit halfway between working with software and working with a physical instrument.

I’d also recommend starting out with something not too expensive and not too complex. Nobody ends up buying or using just one synth, so you might just as well start fun and easy. :wink:

My current favorites:

  • Korg Monologue
  • Roland SH-01A
  • Roland SE-02
  • Korg Minilogue

A4 is an amazing synth.
But I’d also recommend one knob per function.
Try to find out what sound you like, in which direction you want to go. Would a monosynth fit your needs, or do you want to play pads, chords etc.?

I started on a Nord Rack 2. The sound is not for everyone (I really liked it), but the Interface is great. You can get the Rackversions extremely cheap on ebay.
Minilogue would be a great starter analog Polysynth.
Depends really on how much you want to spend as well

Go for it.

Have friends bought it as first synth and sold it on as too complicated for a learner

It comes down to the sounds you would like to create.

The A4/AK is a modern analog synth with a huge potential of various modulations and crossmodulations, if we talk only about one single voice. It’s like having four independent synths, each with a rich functionality, a high quality sequencer and a wealth of FX. BUT … it has it’s own character, which I love, but I wouldn’t call it a typcial classic analog sound. There have been plenty complaints of users, which obviously didn’t check out the sound before buying an A4/AK that this machine does not sound like the Moogs, Oberheims, Dave Smith etc. you name it. Exactly this difference in sound was the the reason I got one. … Well, got and love the others too :wink:

I would like to add to the advice of @Hans_Olo, who says, get something you won’t get with software. And he posted a list of good examples. I would like to add an idea.

There is one particular sound creation concept, which software does not execute in the same quality as analog machines … at least this is my experience … and this would be audio-frequency-modulation of VCOs, VCFs or other modulation destinations (to be clear here, I don’t mean FM-synthesis in the sense of a DX7). If you ever tried this with software, compare it with an analog synth … completely different, more flexible, more alive… just better in my opinion from an “analog angle” :wink:

If you are not shy of building sound-generators in Reaktor, why not check out something “analog” and “classic” like the following:

  • Analog Solutions Fusebox, (pure analog)
  • or some of the Dreadbox synths, (pure analog, I think)
  • or a Moog Voyager, (analog sound engine, digital control)
  • or an Arturia Micro/Mini Brute (mostly analog)
  • or an Arturia Matrix Brute, (analog sound engine, digital control)
  • and there are others for sure :wink:

This said … the A4/AK is also something, you wouldn’t find as a software :wink: If you like it’s sound and concept, get one :slight_smile: I never regretted it.

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I had one for a few years. Liked it, and found it actually taught me a thing or two about some of the synths in Ableton, particularly Analog, when I went back to them. Ultimately for me, coming from Live in the first place, while I very much liked the sound and controls of the A4, and screwing around with p-locks and the sequencer, things like 64 step limits and 4 voice polyphony I wound up finding frustrating. Its possibly my own fault, because i loved having the thing running live into an Ableton set. I probably should have recorded things in more: But coming from digital, where voices and step length are basically infinite, I’ve realised I’m much happier not having to deal with workarounds. it depends on what you can afford. If i was a super rich guy I’d permanently have an A4 at my place. But unfortunately I’m not and I have to sell things for money sometimes. The MKii looks and sounds amazing and I would go for that if buying again, 100%.

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Personally I don’t find the A4 very good when working ITB. Sound wise it struggles to compete with VSTs plus the levels being a lot lower doesn’t help things. Also, when working ITB there is no requirement to use the sequencer (and overbridge does not address the sequencer).

I find it much better to use the A4 either standalone or in conjunction with other hardware (I particularly like using it with my Electribe).

If you’re not afraid of Reaktor, you can go for it.


I’ll echo what others have said, and recommend a knobby synth. I’ve been playing with the AKeys recently and I love it’s sound but I do not find programming it an intuitive experience. Time with it will of course improve this, but I think a good, intuitive hands on interface is really what sets hardware apart from software these days.

My first real synth was a nord lead 2 and I can’t recommend that enough for getting into synthesis. It’s more or less a knob-per-function synth, it’s laid out intuitively (to my mind), it sounds pretty good, it’s surprisingly versatile given the fixed architecture, and it can be had cheap. I also love it’s simple approach to multi-timbrality.

This can be said about a few VAs from that period, and maybe even something like a prophet 8 (not that cheap tho) but the nord has a special place in my heart :slight_smile:

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Yeah, after a bit more thought, there’s a bunch of modern synths that have knob per function.
As some have stated, there’s even a few nice VA’s that could be gratifying and not break the bank,
like an MS2000.

Still though, I would hunt for something with VCO’s instead of DCO’s.
A SlimPhatty is a fairly good example. It doesn’t have knob per function, but it’s simple to understand in it’s compact design.
The sound is what you’ll fall in love with though.
After years of scrolling thorough software patches looking for sounds all night, when you get a Moog you’ll be like “Oh THERE IT IS!” right away every time.

I hadn’t really thought of it like this, but YEAH!
I need to get some Moog and DSI back in my life though.

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As always when this discussion comes up, I’ll recommend the Roland Aira System-1 - it’s knobby, it’s sensibly laid out, it sounds good, it’s not expensive, it works extremely well with a computer, and you get 4 note poly with the native engine.

The Korg Minilogue’s worth mentioning as well.


welcome you will have a lot of virtual friends on that one. including me :slight_smile:

it’s more close now with the MK2 for me…

I think there’s a compromise on the road you start to take. Learning Sound Synthesis can be very rewarding because you will design your sounds according to your hears and your taste. If you know precisely what you like, what you want to make, and where you want to go… You will also end to shape your own sound signature in your tracks and that’s a major parts in the Music Creation. (To me it’s essential) Of course, you can take presets, samples, go fast go furious probably no-one will take care, notice it’s not really from you… they will see the whole picture and if it’s excellent… well… good for you.

I would like to insist on something though there’s science and technology in electronic music, but the most important word in my sentence is MUSIC. So we are Musicians and our goal is to make Music. And for that the most important advise is don’t lost yourself.

To not lost yourself, although you need to know your goals… you certainly need to focus and i would advise here to limit the number of Synth, whatever they are Software or Hardware.

If we consider the Sequencer part of the Analog Four, this 4 Parts Synth is a Real Beast. If you associate it with overbridge and Ableton Live you can save the sound, bounce, free up the synth and continue to move forward in sound design but in the context of building a track. And this part is essential too.

Buy an analog Four is also a bet on the long term because you will discover the synthesizer at your pace and it will not stop to impressed you in terms of possibilities that no other synth can bring you (the sequencer is there for many it must be admitted)

I have no complain at all with what other people said with one knob function, the MKII have a more accessible layout and fast access to all essential functionality.

The modulation matrix is by far one of the most powerful i have ever seen on a hardware analog synth.
I would go for an Analog Four MK2, i would FOCUS on it to try to recreate firstly all the sounds you already like before to find yours… (you will eventually save iterations in the process : sweet spot…)

When you know this beast as well as your own house. I would buy a Digital Poly Synth with Wavetable to to complete the A4 mkII… and you will not need another hardware synth anymore… you will be able to achieve every timbre you want to reach or recreate.

Now if you more a scientist rather a musician, and you want to build ensemble to sell on internet, or starting to program app… it’s a full another story and a lot of Synth Programmers start on reaktor or Max nowadays before to build there own synth. Personally I’m not interested at all and I will consider it as lost time

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Definitely, it’s so interesting how different the character of some “subtractive” synths can be. Wouldn’t like to give away any of those :wink:


That is interesting to know … and this makes sure that I will not give away my MK I :smiley:

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I will specify more, I would say in the behavior and possible timbres you can get in the low spectrum
Also the LFO for FM’ish is kind of different to me.

Cuckoo said also they are both interesting on the Character part of the Filter and Overdrive…
Reworked analog circuitry delivering very deep and defined bass / Enhanced analog overdrive for more bite and growl = NO DOUBT you get what they said :wink:

Of course Moog filter is Moog filter :slight_smile:

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