Moog Voyager 10th anniversary

The most expensive synth in production

Retail price: €15,000

Vintage classics might dominate the discussion in this feature, but there are still a few modern products which can hold their own. There’s one clear winner when it comes to the most lavish synth on the market: the 24-karat gold-plated 10th anniversary Moog Voyager is an icon of completely unnecessary but utterly brilliant extravagance. At just under £11,000, the 10th anniversary edition makes Moog’s next most expensive synth, the £4,549 Voyager XL, seem a bargain in comparison.

Sure, even without going crazy with a Buchla 200e order form it’s possible to spend staggering sums of money on new synthesisers in 2013, but it’s worth remembering that modern synths represent incredibly good value in comparison to their vintage counterparts. As synth design icon Dave Smith acknowledged in our recent interview, you get more bang for your buck now than ever before. Smith’s flagship Prophet 12, for example, is firmly placed in the top tier of synths on the market. It retails at $3,299 in the US (£2,275 in the UK). In comparison, the Prophet-5, the flagship synth manufactured in the late 1970s by Smith’s former company, Sequential Circuits, retailed at $4,495 (£3,395 in the UK) in 1978, which equates to around $16,000 or £16,500 today, taking inflation into account.

And just because a synth was originally expensive doesn’t mean it’ll retain its price. The ultra-rare Yamaha FX1 cost £36,000 in 1986. Adjusting for inflation, that’d work out to around £90,000 today, but if you were lucky enough to afford one in the mid 80s you’re probably regretting it now; one sold on eBay for $3,499 (a little under £2,200) a few months ago. Why? Firstly, it’s not very well known. Secondly, very few famous artists used it.

An association with a particular artist, a specific track or an entire musical movement isn’t a guarantee of value, but it usually helps. So what if you could buy the actual synth which was used by your favourite artist? After all, provenance is the reason why your average ’68 Stratocaster is only worth about £5k, but the Olympic White ’68 Strat which Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock last changed hands for $2m. Peter Forrest acknowledges that provenance can be important, but warns that it’s still not a guarantee of future value: “Brian Eno’s EMS Synthi AKS wouldn’t have gone for £17K years ago if it hadn’t been used on classic records like [David Bowie’s] Low – but often enough provenance doesn’t make that much difference because there are two separate sorts of people wanting something – the collector and the musician – and they don’t often fight over the same thing.”

Eno’s Synthi represents growing interest in 1970s rock from serious collectors, and it’s probably inevitable that interest will eventually shift to more modern forms of electronic music (although we wouldn’t be surprised if hip hop memorabilia appreciates quicker than house and techno items), but perhaps there’s a more important lesson to take from all of this?

Despite the high asking prices for classics like CS-80s and Minimoogs, very few synths or drum machines have actually appreciated in real terms since they first went on sale. If you were lucky enough to stock up on analogue gear before prices began to rise in the 90s, you’re one of the lucky few. For the rest of us, electronic music gear represents a misguided financial investment at best. All of which places the emphasis back on a much more important point: investing in classic synths and drum machines probably isn’t going to make you rich. The solution? Don’t buy gear in an attempt to make money; buy it in order to make music.

Author Greg Scarth
30th September, 2013

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