ROBOTSPEAk - Analog Synths, Drum Machines, and Insane Gadgets

ROBOTSPEAk - Analog Synths, Drum Machines, and Insane Gadgets

May 22, 2019

By Brennan Ko

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Where would electronic music be without the synthesizer?

Since its inception the instrument has been perhaps the single most important invention in terms of modern electronic music and its history. Often mistaken for a keyboard, the synthesizer is capable of imitating traditional musical instruments such as piano, flute, vocals, or natural sounds such as ocean waves.

It was synthesizers that defined the sound of the 80’s and helped birth genres like dub-step, ambient, and techno. Now, they are as influential as ever and if you are a music producer you can’t avoid using synthesizers in your productions.

Learn the language of analog synthesis

So where would electronic music be without the synthesizer?

That’s the question to ask before you step foot in ROBOTSPEAk - San Francisco’s premier location for synthesizers and music production equipment. Since 2002, ROBOTSPEAk has been providing musicians with modular synthesizers, analog and digital synths, drum machines, effects, insane gadgets, boutique controllers, music software and all kinds of electronic music related gear. The stores location in the Lower Haight at 589 1/2 Haight Street is next door to Vinyl Dreams, one of our favorite record shops, which sounds like the perfect afternoon outing for music heads.

If you are thinking about buying anything, as a rule of thumb, you want to try it first. For synths and drum machines, ROBOTSPEAk is the place to go. You could easily spend hours and not try out everything that they have to offer.

In addition to stocking and selling all of your favorite gear, Robot Speak is a significant steward of synthesizer culture. The shop hosts weekly in store modular synth performances every 3rd Saturday at 3PM.

To learn more about the shop check out our short interview below with its owner, Steve.



Q: When did ROBOTSPEAk open in its current location and what was your inspiration for opening the store?

ROBOTSPEAk Opened its doors inn October 1st 2002. Our inspiration was the gear and sound and the understanding that the Bay Area need a Synthesizer shop!

Q. How did you get interested in synths and music?

I started playing guitar in high school but was drawn to synthesizers in rock and experimental music early on.

Q: Any weird or interesting stories from the shop or interesting people who have come and visited?

Yes, about 12 years ago a guy stopped in claiming that he used to live in/where ROBOTSPEAk is now. He claimed that the store location was a brothel back before he lived there in the 70’s and that right near where my desk was, was where he slept. He said he would frequently wake up and see the ghosts of the ‘workers’.


Q. What are the best synths for beginners and what are the best synths (or most popular) for house and techno?

The word “best” being very subjective, a notable few synths might be the Korg monologue for under $300 (monophonic) and for a Polyphonic Synth, the Korg Minilogue at $499. I’m not being Johnny Korg -this is just one way of many to go. Any Synthesizer is great for House or Techno just run it through some of our METASONIX modules & filters.

Q. Why should people care about analog synths when digital plug-ins have advanced so much?

Software plugins are sounding great at this point in time but there is no substitute for the real thing. There is something about not being in front of me computer that has been inspiring me for the last few years. Tactile patching and unending modular possibilities all clocked to a bunch of Analog synths and no computer is the way to go. Until I realize for the 1000th time that I should have multi channel recorded that last jam that I just played-to clean it up and move some parts around. For that commercial hit.  Oh well next time.

Written by Brennan Ko-Madden