As you get older you invariably become less concerned with the whole "analog vs digital" debate and certainly don't purchase gear based on how it looks or what others think of it. I find you need a solution that works and inspires you.
A large part of my sound comes from a primary hardware front end and DSP/DAW based back end and I must confess to being quite partial to using hybrid synthesis systems a lot these days. The magic happens most when analog, digital, fm, sampling and d.s.p based processing methods collide.
Ideas are always more important within the framework of the creative process where ingenuity will invariably overcome obstacles caused by what is lacking on a technological front.
For what it is worth here is what I use below or more importantly a list of what works for me. It isn't what you use but how you use it.
Kilpatrick Audio Phenol - I jumped on the Kickstarter project for this rather early as I won't be able to grab a decent format semi-modular at this price anytime soon. Great features, great price, great manufacturer and Canadian to boot (so it's always great to support local talented synth manufacturers). I've even created a few demo's for it right here via soundcloud
Elektron Music Machines - Superb pieces of European based synth design from Elektron. Monomachine - Based around numerous synthesis "Machines" that cover everything from FM, to Drum Synthesis, SID emulations, Vocal Formant Synthesis and so on, this little beast has a superb sequencer and is far deeper than meets the eye on first introduction. A real box for all you tweakers out there. Once you discover parameter locks, the multitude of LFO's, EG's, inter-track modulation possibilities and the external device sequencer control I am sure you'll fall in love with this gem of a studio tool. I use the Analog Four with two Monomachine SFX60 Mk II units.
Madronna Labs Aalto - Aalto is a superb semi-modular synthesizer for PC and Mac platforms that owes more than a debt of gratitude to the likes of Don Buchla. I'll never be able to afford a Buchla system so this his is about as close as I'll ever get for now and it is a thing of wonder indeed, a joy to program and sounds fantastic to boot.
Roland Synths - The new TR-8 with 7x7 expansion and an original V-Synth with V2 OS have made their way into the studio. I have upgraded to a Studio Capture for tracking everything now and am very pleased to announce it integrates seamlessly with OSX and Logic X, sounds fantastic and is very flexible indeed. The addition of Roland's hybrid crossover synthesizer the JD-XA which marries elements of several of their synths into one. With a 4 voice Analog Engine, 64 Voice Digital Engine, excellent Vocoder and the ability to cross polinate sound design through both engines it is equal parts analog polysynth, D50 and a JD800 for a new generation. This is all rounded out nicely with the addition of the Boutique TB-03 and the new advanced ACB Roland System-8 with incorprated modelled Jupiter 8 and Juno 106 engines. I currently run mine with the System 100 Plugout in slot 3 for extra semi-modular action.
DSI Evolver - Hybrid synthesis is really where it is at for me these days. I foolishly sold one of these a few years back and really missed what it brought to the studio and have since purchased a second unit. It is a synth with a unique sonic footprint and it does everything from warm analog to biting digital with sizzle and grit. Having the original VS waves on board and a compliment of analog oscillators makes for interesting sonic vistas indeed. I am often amazed at how "modular like" its patches can sound in context. Way more than just another monsynth with a nix of sizzle, bite, mellow and growl in all the right measures.
E-Mu Audity 2000 - Bit of an oddity this one as it has 50 filters a virtual patch bay and arp's up the wazoo. Everytime I go to sell it I remember how truly unique, hard and cutting it can sound in a mix and it really is far more synthesizer than rompler in so many ways. It also has some great drum kits you don't hear anywhere else that augment my TR8 and Monomachine perucssive workouts quite well. Al in all I'd say she's a keeper and a bit of a secret weapon in my studio arsenal.
Reaktor - I tend to use this as an audio processing tool only as it is very easy to loose focus in both its complexity and user library scope. That said it can make for a very esoteric DSP back end for your hardware and can be as simple or complex as one needs it to be. Very good for dynamics processing, creative delays, granulations, sample ,mangling and all other sorts of esoterica besides. Highly recommended and well worth the investment.
Molekular - About as close I'll ever get to an Eventide when married with some good reverb. Its a complex modular effects processing beast that really comes into its own when you dig deep and makes for a fantastic tool in any sound designer or producers arsenal.
U-he ACE - "Any cable everywhere" as it is affectionately known is a wonderful little modular audio unit that does a wonderful job of recreating the modular programming environment of old into a virtual instrument. Truth be told it is quite a different beast to madronna Lab's Aalto in much the same way that you see people favouring "east coast" over "west coast" modular working methods and programming techniques. The quality output does come at a significant CPU cost but I don't rely on many audio units in my production aresenal so that has never been much of an issue. Fra cheaper than Zebra and Bazille but to be fair they are totally different beasts and comparisons really should not be made. It stands on its won quite comfortably as it is and is a welcome addition to my studios virtual techonology side.
Studio Capture 16x10 - I recently upgraded my audio interface to one of these. Great drives, great sound, felxible routing, super low latency and a wonderful full and detailed sound make this a great all round studio essential. The autosense functionality, dynamics per channel and routing options made this one a no brainer purchase wise. It integrates really well with Logic X and OSX. Having SPDIF in + 16 input and ten output channels makes it one incredibly flexible little beast indeed.
Absynth - I am not the biggest fan of working solely "in the box" and prefer a hardware front end with a DSP back end approach as it gives me the best of both worlds option wise. That being said Absynth is a pretty cracking Audio Unit that is a go to for anything ambient, pad, granular and textural in quality. Far to many features to list hear and I am sure it is a favourite of many of you out there for all the reasons I love it as well. It also makes for an excellent audio processing tool (particularly if you love using resonators). If you haven't given it a spin perhaps you should.