Seeking Alternatives to a Boss SY-1 was: Synth pedal

Anyone find a good option to avoid buying a Boss SY-1 or similar pedal for the guitar or bass? I checked all the plugins and pedalboards but have been unsuccessful. Thanks all!

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Hey NYC!

So I’m looking at the SY-1 and it does seem simple to use for guitar.

My studio is ripped apart right now because I had to convert it into an office space while I have been in driving school (passed all online stuff, tomorrow I head south to attend on road classes) so I can’t look at my plug-in options.

As a synthesizer player, sound design is a big deal, but it takes a lot of work.

A mapping in my brain that I have to potentially accomplish what you would like to do would take considerable work.

What I think might work, is finding a plug-in that listens to the incoming audio note, and converts it into a midi message.

From that midi converter, you should be able to patch it into a separate midi chain that consists of however many VCO’s (voltage controlled oscillator) you need (monophonic, duophonic, paraphonic, or polyphonic) and what wave shape (Saw, Sine, Pulse, triangle, waveform, etc…) while being mindful of cpu usage.

This raw VCO signal will need a few more plugins.

A mixer for the VCO’s if you are working with voices greater than monophonic.

Envelopes that can do Attack/Release, or Attack/Decay/Sustain/Release. These help shape the way the sound behaves. Slow attack, long release for pad sounds etc… ADSR envelopes are preferable for certain sounds, and is what I recommend to use.

You will most likely want a modulator like an LFO for automation. The more LFO’s the more complex you can make your sounds. But it will chew up the CPU most likely.

A lot of people apply LFO’s to the filter for automated filter sweeps, or to the VCO’s themselves for timbre change, etc…

If there is a VCA (voltage controlled amplifier) plug-in, put this in before the filter. You can also apply an envelope or LFO on the VCA for volume control and swells.

And finally, one or two filters (High pass/Band pass/Low pass) with either a 6,12, or 24 dB filter. This allows you to control the “brightness” of the sound.

A single HP/BP/LP filter would be enough, and I know that plug-in exists. But I also use a hydrasynth that utilizes 2 filters in my audio path, with 17 filter types to choose from.

This should allow you to build your own personal synth sounds with a bit of envelope manipulation.

Then I’d recommend putting a stereo cross fade plug-in at the end of the chain, and patch your dry signal and synth output into it to control your wet/dry mix on the output.

You can also patch that stereo cross fade out into your effects chain and then to your device output. That way you have a synth with effects.

Now I’m not exactly sure how you’d be able to create or save the “synth presets” that you built, since the oscillators control your timbre, and envelopes control your sound (pluck, pad, bass, lead, etc…) so those would be the primary things that would need to be saved.

It might be cumbersome to save each built sound as a board, and use snapshots to swap between them. But in theory that will work.

The order I listed these plugins should be close enough to a synthesizers signal path.

It’s a lot of work, and is dependent on plugins that may or may not even exist yet, but that is how I’d try to do it if I was going to experiment.

Hope that helps!

Edit: Oh! To find out how to build specific sounds like plucks, leads, pads, bass, etc… hop on YouTube and search for how to build (xyz) sounds on synths. There are some great synth channels that have great tutorials on sound design.

I also recommend one LFO and Envelope per VCO for complex sounds, but you can generally be fine with one LFO and Envelope for 2 VCO’s. You can get away with one envelope and LFO with 3 VCO’s but recommend that you sync 2 of the oscillators.


A good question and a very detailed answer by Elk_wrath. But I’m afraid that the answer is a bit too complex for the question :-). I haven’t found a pure solution via plug-ins yet either. At the moment I’m experimenting with both a SY1 and a Fishman Triple Play. Both solutions that you can go. From the variability and Trackiung has the Fishman PickUp a clear advantage, especially since you have here, as it provides midi signals with the Dwarf much more influence on the sound. The big disadvantage here, however, is that in contrast to the SY1 you get a hold function only implemented with the thick FC-1 foot controller from fishman. That restricts. Disadvantage of the SY1 is that it can not save sounds. So you can not just change the sound in a song without having to play around with the knobs. Here, the soon to be released SY200 from Boss would be the better alternative, especially since it also seems to track a little better and can change the patches via Midi.

But as you already feared, these are all external solutions, which of course cost money and space on the board. So quite at the end of my search I am also nciht arrived.


Unfortunately, there’s no plugin available that allows you to do this. We are making some research on this, but the results are not yet there.
The rest is all super accurate Synth 101 toolkit :wink:

As @in5y372 suggested, the Triple Play is probably the best solution to get MIDI out of a guitar and input it on a MOD device.


Thank you all so much!! I think I’m going to go the route of a Boss pedal, having looked at other options and wanting to have a relatively simple onramp for this work.

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The issue here is the nature of the SY pedal. It takes the analog signal of the guitar, unscramble strings and converts it to a voltage that then triggers its internal synth. It does not convert to midi or even output CV.

The SY series – just refreshed with the new SY-200 – is like the Electro-Harmonix 9 series, the Enzo Meris, Source Audio’s C4, and the Future Impact. They are all self-contained synths with no outputs except for audio. (Exception here is the Future Impact, which also doubles as a midi expansion unit, and it’s a hell of a crazy pedal!)

To use any of the generators inside the MOD, you’ll need to input notes either as MIDI or CV. For the latter, follow @in5y372 and @jon advice and go for a Triple Play.

Now, if you input midi and want to drive anything Control Voltage-based, then ask @Elk_wrath. He is the man, the Alpha and the Omega.

Now, the real question is: if you need the SY effects and/or another external box, then you might as well get one, as the TriplePlay will cost about that much and will also need some serious setup and perhaps some playing adjustments on your side – type of picks, string gauge, and even your technique. Guitar pitch-to-midi systems are all sensitive, touchy beasts. They need a cleaner and more decisive picking.


Oh yeah my explanation was definitely way more complex than what was needed. My bad.

I was trying to create a solution within the pedal to build something that would replicate the functionality of the SY-1 without spending the money on it.

However it sounds like the idea could work in theory, but the tech isn’t there quite yet haha

Although now that I have the theory, one of my projects with the duo X is to see if I can build a synth like that.

@SillySovietNYC sorry I couldn’t help you, totally took the question wrong as I thought you wanted to build your own to save money lmao but thank you for making me think through the signal path so I can build one when I get free time again!

I’ve never heard what a guitar synth pedal sounds like, but I recognized the knob functions of the SY-1 pedal and knew it was a synth if some kind lol.

@QuestionMarc you’re too kind, I don’t consider myself an authority on any of this lol I just have a different knowledge base that would be helpful for building a synth pedalboard. That being said, you could all probably build a basic synth in the dwarf now and use a midi keyboard to play it if it ever struck your fancy.

Synthesis is a lot fun, come to the dark side :smiley:


@QuestionMarc I can’t believe I have to check out yet another pedal (the Future Impact) and spend time on that. Boohoo… LOL!!! Seriously, thank you for the underscore regarding strings, gauge, technique, etc. That’s the reason I want to stay away from the Fishman, even though it will open @Elk_wrath 's dark side, which sounds like a blast.

@Elk_wrath , I definitely / always want to save money, but once I saw the price of the Fishman, combined with @Jon 's response about the plug-in being unavailable and the fact that I had to read your advice multiple times as if I were taking a class in a new language I didn’t understand :slight_smile: I figured the SY-1 or -200 would be a little faster path to making music.

Thank you all again. I’m going to come back to this thread when I have more time for dark side things!


Haha no worries broham!

When I get a chance to build the pedal board I was describing, I’ll share it on the website so it can be visually looked at and played with!

@Elk_wrath Please keep us updated!

Currently I’m using Fishamn Triple Play Connect and Sonuus i2m, they work great but it’s true that you have to adjust your playing. I also add a velocity filter to avoid undesired notes. And the response depends also on the synth or soundfont you’re using.

I’m planning to upload soon a pedalboard recreating Metheny’s GR-300 synth sound.


Well, DO spend a good time checking it out before making a decision. It’s very powerful and flexible but a nightmare to set up and its editor could not be any more cumbersome. I am not quite there yet. In terms of features it outdoes the competition by far, but the C4 is immensely easier to use and the Boss and Electro-Harmonix units are as plug-and-play as it gets.

(By the way, the Future Impact was designed by Andras Szalay, the very creator of the Fishman Triple Play and the Axon before it, also Akai’s EWI, the Shadow, and the Musix in the 80s. Guy is a mad genius.)

In the end, the SY units (1, 200 or 300) are much more “streamlined” and there’s some grievance to be saved as opposed to entering a FI or C4 world. The Future Impact can be powerful, but power is not all one needs. Consistency and reliability come first for the gigging/paid musician. I haven’t put the FI on the road to see if it withstands the hardships of travelling gear.

Someone in this forum is about to earn my eternal love! :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart:

I guess more than one will. :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart: :heart:
(I am hoping forum polygamy is OK…)

oh… oh… oh… I can fell it calling me!
Maybe you are my father? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


@QuestionMarc In fact I started learning about synths a few months ago and that’s an easy one, basically a saw wave, and playing with cutoff and attack. But I would love to have more opinions to get closer to his sound.


I’ve just been browsing the Mod Devices Pedalboards and a user called Michl has uploaded a few boards that use the Audio to CV plugin to create some synth sounds with guitar. It may not replicate exactly what you want to do, but it is worth exploring.


Thanks @MyShadow46_2 for that tip! Will check it out.


Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this but have you tried Midi Guitar 2? Check it out at . The Midi guitar III update (free for customers who have purchased Midi Guitar 2) is suppose to be out by the end of the year. I have this and have had good success. I also have an SY-1000 and an SY-1 (hope to trade in the SY-1 for an SY-200 whenever they are available for the preset and MIDI control capabilities). I would wait for the SY-200 if you don’t have an immediate need and if you don’t like the Jamorigin route…Hope this helps!

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Midi Guitar 2 is quite nice, but you have to use it with a laptop (or a iphone). In my oppinion it is for a normal user (withou 20 roadies) it is not very practical to use it in a band enviroment. And also nor hold-button like the boss sy1 (and sy200). But I agree that waiting for the sy200 is recommendet. The SY1 is great but you have to fiddel around a lot with it the change the sounds, because you can’t store them und switch them via midi.

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Welcome to the forum, @netproclaim.

Midi Guitar is nice and powerful (I own it), but it brings the need for laptop + audio interface as @in5y372 pointed above. If one wants less footprint, then the SY unit does a good job. Can’t wait to try the 200 version. Might be worth the wait for @SillySovietNYC and others here.

The SY-1000 is in a league of its own. I have a GP-10 and it’s already very powerful, so between MOD and the 1000 you’re probable set. That’s a killer setup – and with a modest footprint, come think of it. The Headrush and Helix units alone probably take that much space, if not more.

If Jam Origin could port Midi Guitar to LV2 plugin and if the MOD could run it smoothly, we’d be the happiest of all guitar players! Maybe v3 will be native ARM? That would accomplish part of the mission.

(MOD OS and ARM experts please weigh on this one!)


@QuestionMarc I’ve seen a way to run vst on a raspberry pi, but I’m not sure if it will work, how much latency, etc). But when I saw that I thought about running Midi Guitar on the raspberry too! When I have time for that I’ll try and see what happens.

At the moment Midi Guitar is only available for PC and Os X as VST, and android/iOS, so I guess they would have to rebuild it entirely.

If I remember correctly, nhier had already asked members there and learned that they have no ambition to make a LV2 plugin out of it. I would be surprised if that has changed. I guess the market is too small to justify the effort.

Technically, using a VST host for Linux (including @falkTX’s own Carla) that runs on ARM processors could make that happen. Haven’t tried myself, but Muse’s frontman Matt Bellamy had his Arturia synth running on a prototype board with Elk OS. So it’s surely doable.

Now, if you think of the nuts and bolts of doing it versus acquiring a SY200 or C4 that works right out of the box, the latter is an immediate solution. Of course, the former carries many many many more possibilities, but soundcards for RPi are still in short supply, there aren’t that many, some have non-passive-instrument friendly input impedances (PiSound is 100kOhm only), and so on.

(My reason for picking a MOD is precisely because it’s more powerful as a musician’s tool and more efficient straight out of the box, be it as a stompbox, as a synth, and even as an on-the-fly mixer. Plus, it’s an open platform, so your dream-come-true plugin might exist one day.)

I can understand that, and even agree.

In some other thread I mentioned that I dream of the MOD being able to host VSTs one day, but that is a mountain of work.

The tech folks here can explain that better, but being VST alone isn’t all. It has to be for ARM processors, and not x86. Reaper has Linux versions for both, I use the ARM with my RPi.