I got off the proverbial pot on the weekend and picked up a synth — I went with the Waldorf Blofeld. I’ve spent a few hours poking at it, but I’ve really only scratched the surface of it so far. I’ve auditioned perhaps a tenth of the 1024 presets on the thing, and there’s some great stuff in there, but I’m sure it’ll really shine once I have a good grasp of how to program it.
I’ve already spent a little while editing some of the preset sounds and designing new ones from scratch, and it’s awesome fun. The matrix of buttons and knobs on the right gives you quick access to the most common parameters, and while you have to dig in to menus on the LCD to get access to the deeper parameters, it’s all quite straightforward. The LCD has its own controls, separate from the matrix, so you can use both independently.
Getting it set up was a piece of cake, too. It’s designed for use with a computer, so it uses USB for MIDI connectivity — I plugged it in and it Just Worked ™. I still have my old keyboard synth there as a controller, and it took just a few seconds to route the MIDI out from that in to the Blofeld through the PC. There was new firmware to install, but it was just a case of playing a special MIDI file to it from the PC.