Stand-alone sound design

I’m wondering what people think of as the ultimate sound design device? Some qualifications and thought

  • being elektronauts I know octatrack will be the first on people’s mind. I’m sure it would win in the ‘device which does everything including sound design’ category, but would it win in the ‘just create sounds, doesn’t need to do all that sequencing malarkey’ category

  • when I think of sound design I mean ‘creating whatever sound comes into your head’ rather than ‘here’s a subtractive synth that makes sound design easy’ if you know what I mean. I guess I think you need to be able to include samples in there, or create a really wide palette, rather than - say - a Lyra, which is really inspirational and original, but nt so great for creating some types of sounds.

  • no modular systems suggestions! Mainly because it’s a bit of a foregone conclusion that modular can do anything.

I honestly used to use an OT as a sound design device using things like single cycles and a lot of layered effects with lfos. The sequencer is really useful for creating evolving sounds by using slide trigs and p locks. However the limitations on the OT made me move away and use just a computer to do sound design.

A noise sample and Octatrack can create almost any sound if you are determined enough.

But really I guess it depends on what the end goal is, lots of ways to approach sound design, and that is half of the fun. I quite like platforms like Organelle and Axoloti for sound design, pretty open ended and almost unlimited.


i dont think you’ll find that one holy grail device honestly… i think an Octatrack + some sort of virtual modular environment like the Zoia can pretty much do anything you could ever want though… the Blofeld is also a contender- it can do samples, wavetable, and a bit of FM as well. paired with a good multi FX unit like Zoia it’s a sound design powerhouse. just speaking from stuff that i’ve owned though.

usability and intuitiveness is very important though. you might find something that can technically do it all- but will you enjoy using it?

Excluding Samples, the Modulation Matrix of a Synth tells a lot about its Sound design. From the Synths I know and own, Hydrasynth is a very capable Sound designer.


Pro 2 is really great, it offers up a lot of unique options. Stuff like smoothly modulating between serial and parallel filters, lots of lfos lots of envelopes, lots of delay lines. Big mod matrix, 16 track sequencer that can be used like custom lfos. I don’t think I have ever run out of modulation on it.

The Syntrx comes to mind also (essentially EMS Synthi in its set up), having a system with fully open signal path is pretty dang cool, even though it has less of everything compared to my Pro2, I still prefer it for when I am trying to do something a bit out of the normal. They both have audio input for really great signal processing sound design based stuff.

I haven’t used it but I kind of assume the Waldorf Quantum is the more or less deepest sound design stand alone synth currently.

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Electribe 2 might be worth a shot.

Iridium is hands down the most versatile synth I’ve ever used. It really does it all, va, fm, granular, karplus, wavetable and more. Plus it has an insane amount storage memory. There’s like 7,000 patches on there preinstalled.

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I think the Octatrack has a couple of major limitations for sound design. 1st the limited octave range and 2nd the lack of polyphony. Otherwise it’s a great tool for sound design and exploration.

Axiloti looks awesome - getting into a YouTube rabbit-hole. Thanks!

Iridium is a beast. If I was spending those bucks I’d go modular I reckon. I just find the idea of investing so much in a touchscreen controlled device totally scary.


Drambo for iOS is pretty much an Octatrack with modular built in. Not as polished but it covers all the bases. Sample mangling, fm, subtractive, wavetable, fx.

You could argue its somewhat ITB, but its designed to be much more immediate than a laptop.

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By “Stand Alone”, do you mean, hardware, not a laptop? I gave up the computer after decades in favor of hardware, but still, a laptop will do more than any single other device. That’s exactly the problem.

As for hardware, I’d have to agree about Iridium.

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Truth be told a 6u 104hp modular set would cost way more than the Iridium. In my experience modular is nowhere near as reliable as desktop synth.




The ultimate sound design device is the one you love to use, and enjoy and have fun using.

Anything less than this will leave you GASing for something else.

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Akai Z8 and a Digitech Studio Quad

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Kyma Paca

It does require a computer to control it though.

Richard Devine uses one as far as I know.