Okay, time for an update. I'll talk about the Deepmind 12 in a moment, but first: So, the previous drummer ended up quitting the band. Meanwhile, we auditioned a few people, and as of this month of October, we now have a new drummer. Nice guy, just lives a few minutes away from our bass player, it turns out. Listens to the rest of us well, and keeps a pretty consistent pocket. So we're doing some extra sessions to get him up to speed on our material quickly, because our band is pretty hot to trot to hit the stage at this point.
I also bought an analog poly-synth to inject some analog flavor into my keys rig.
(Deepmind 12 mini-review)
I got a Deepmind 12 for pretty dirt cheap. Used but mint/like-new condition. Yeah, I know, it's Behringer, but it's still a 12-voice poly analog synth for just over $500. And the build quality is pretty solid with the internals at least partly designed by Midas. Knobs are absolutely fine, and the faders, while the caps are a bit wobbly, the faders themselves are fine....certainly as good as the faders on my Mackie Onyx board if not better. Replace with tighter caps, and they'll probably feel a bit nicer. The keybed feels fine to me as well. I definitely prefer it over the Nord Lead 2X keybed. The body did have a little bit of flex, but as per another persons's suggestion, I tightened the screws a bit on the wood end pieces, and it's absolutely fine now.
The menu diving, while existent, isn't that bad. The screen layout is pretty intuitive (at least to me), shortcuts are logical, and you can also just use the PC editor or load up the iPad editor app for the synth.
For various styles that I find inspiring and the types of music I work with, the Deepmind suits me just fine. I can coax some vintage style pads and leads, and the bass is pretty good through a PA (a pair of 15s certainly push out a lower end than my little 6.5" nearfields!)
The DCOs are a little limited, but so were the Junos they were modeled after. By limited, I simply mean the saw/square being the only waves. But you can use the trick of using the Filter resonance to create a sine wave, tune it to the DCO, and you've basically got a near sine wave to work with in addition to the Squares and Saw. Using that and modulating some parameters like the noise generator can get some real nice chime pads with a little bit of creepy undercurrent when you modulate the pitch and push an LFO up into audible rates.
I wouldn't say it's going to be to everyone's taste. Certainly not vintage purists who thumb their noses at anything not Moog, Prophet or Oberheim, Arp, or Juno 60 or 106. The Deepmind is more of a cleaned up or tamed Juno with a little more grit/dirt in the low end. Upper harmonics aren't as present at higher notes, so to some it lacks a little character/buzz, and has a little cleaner sound. But in and of themselves, the oscillators are fine. It is a solid, capable, inspirational synth in its own right with plenty of sonic depth and detail if you treat it right.
The only thing it really lacks is the famous (infamous?) Juno Chorus effect. But otherwise the deeper editing and mod matrix make this thing a Juno on steroids with a heavy dose of caffeine. With the many different ways you can route the FX to taste, running the signal through 2, 3, or 4 chorus type fx, I'm sure you could get some interesting possibilities or even get a little closer to the Juno chorus, though not identical. (probably why TC Electronics is releasing a hardware Juno Chorus pedal soon).
For checking out demo videos, don't rely on the preset patch demos. They're kinda nice, and many presets and pads are quite usable. But the real magic happens when you look at the "from scratch" demos with people creating their own patches, especially when it's basically a design tutorial. I've already programmed some of my own, getting into brassy Vangelis territory, as well as going more modern/thinner Nord Lead type sounds, a pretty nice EP/Wurly sound, and pushing the VCF resonance as an additional wave can get you into a little bit of Radiohead territory. (or so my wife thinks, and she's a Thom Yorke fan).
Here are some videos I found particularly useful and inspiring.
I'm still keeping my Nord Lead 2X though. The Deepmind 12 compliments it nicely, IMHO.
If you want a synth with more balls, and a bit more character, and you don't need the polyphony, I'd say check out the Neutron semi-modular paraphonic synth, or the Model D clone. They are reportedly pretty solid as well, and the oscillators are a little more interesting. Otherwise, in similar price ranges, the Korg minilogue and monologue synths are worth looking at.