An analog (or analogue) synthesizer is a synthesizer that uses analog circuits and analog signals to generate sound electronically.
The earliest analog synthesizers in the 1920s and 1930s, such as the Trautonium, were built with a variety of vacuum-tube (thermionic valve) and electro-mechanical technologies. After the 1960s, analog synthesizers were built using operational amplifier (op-amp) integrated circuits, and used potentiometers (pots, or variable resistors) to adjust the sound parameters. Analog synthesizers also use low-pass filters and high-pass filters to modify the sound. While 1960s-era analog synthesizers such as the Moog used a number of independent electronic modules connected by patch cables, later analog synthesizers such as the Minimoog integrated them into single units, eliminating patch cords in favour of integrated signal routing systems.
Usage in EDM track composition and performance
Unlike in the past, electronic music production now centers more around the use of MIDI controlled software synths (VST plugins for example). Because of this advancement the industry has for a while turned its attention away from analog synthesizers to digital and virtual synths. The nature of that main focus on digital has resulted in the lack of investment in the study of experimental methods of audio synthesis and sound design from a physical point of view.
When production software was first developed, producers were very excited to work with it because of all various effects that were available. After a while, the sole use of the software alone didn't give some producers the same feeling as using a physical instrument, prompting some to draw toward using analog synthesizers.
Due to technology advancements, analog synthesizers are now being developed to integrate with production software (such as the rig that is used by EDM artist Deadmau5), thus both re-sparking interest from producers and providing a market for suppliers. This allows for features such as MIDI note and automation control from within the users Digital Audio Workstation.
Modern EDM star Deadmau5 (Joel Zimmerman), used analog synthesizers in his track "For Lack of a Better Name". Zimmerman, noted that there is a quality difference between digital and analog. He commented that, while a passive listener may not hear a difference, he believes that true analog provides a more subconsciously appealing tonal quality.
Even more than the tonality though, Zimmerman values analog for its hands-on structure and physical controls because of the advanced degree of precision he can get while doing sound design because of the nature of the transistors.