MATRIXSYNTH: Synthesizers.com Box11 Pics & Overview

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Synthesizers.com Box11 Pics & Overview

Update: video here.
Some images of my new Synthesizers.com Box11 System. Click on the pics for the supersize / wallpaper shots.

Three things stood out when unpacking this beauty: build quality, attention to detail, and oddly, how surprisingly svelte the system is. Yes svelte. It's thin, beautiful and sleek. As most of you know Synthesizers.com modular systems are in the larger 5U Moog format which are not typically known for being sleek. The Box11 is and it is beautiful.

As for length and width 5U systems do take up more space, and the Box11 is no exception, but what you get in return is a solid system that feels more substantial in terms of build quality and interface.  You get full size knobs and full size 1/4" jacks with zero cable movement when you patch them. There is no give, no patch wobble, just a rock solid connection. The knobs feel substantial and there is plenty of space not only to see things, but to also feel what you are doing, whether you have larger or smaller hands. Some people swear by the larger 5U/MU format. I understand why. [BTW, if you are confused by the 5U vs. MU format. 5U refers to 5 units of height. Think of a thin rackmount unit like the Yamaha TX81Z, or the various Emu Proteus line of racks. They are 1U, so 5U is the same height as five of them stacked one on top of the other. MU is 5U in height, but the M stands for Moog format which means modules in MU format like Synthesizers.com are compatible. There's also Synthesis Technology/MOTM's 5U format which has the same height but different horizontal spacing for the mounting screw holes. To see them side by side along with other modular formats, click on the image in this post.]

From left to right, the Box11 comes with the following modules:

One Q174 MIDI Interface which includes some interesting advanced functionality for a MIDI module: "Three modes of operation offer a variety of outputs for one or two MIDI channels. Outputs include standard 1V/Octave Pitch outputs with 10-octave ranges, 5V Gates, Trigger pulse, On and Off Velocity, Channel Pressure and several Continuous Controller outputs. Complete control over Note Priority and Gate modes provide virtually any type of keyboard response emulating virtually all vintage and modern keyboards along with some that are unique."

Two Q106 Oscillators which include Sine, Triangle, Saw, Ramp, and Pulse waveforms with pulsewidth modulation from any patchable modulation source. There's Hard Sync to synchronize the oscillator to other sources, not only to have oscillators in sync to prevent beating, but also to produce some interesting effects. There are two frequency mod sections, Linear Frequency with one input jack and level knob, and Exponential Frequency with two 1V/Octave inputs and a third input with level knob. The Q106 will also go into LFO range to act purely as a mod source.

One Q150 Transistor Ladder Filter which is based on the famous Moog ladder filter. Both 12db and 24db slopes are available via a switch and one pole and three pole settings are available via a jumper internal to the module. What's interesting is there are two audio inputs and two CV inputs with level knobs for each. This allows you to bypass a mixer for the two oscillators on the Box11 and plug each directly into the filter with the ability to adjust the levels for each. In addition to the two CV inputs with controllable level, there is a third input for 1V/OCT. This allows you to use a keyboard to scale the filter while still having two additional modulation sources adjustable by each level knob.

Two Q109 Envelope Generators with standard ADSR (Attack Decay Sustain Release) settings. The release is set for 12 seconds at max value but can be set to 30+ seconds via a jumper internal to the module. Attack and Decay can also be extended to 30+ seconds. A nice added feature to the Q106 is a Gate button which allows you to trigger the Envelope on it's own. This will be great not only for sonic exploration of drones sans MIDI controller, but also for manually triggering envelop effects on things like filter cutoff or pitch. Note the top Gain knob in the VCA will also bring in volume without the need of a trigger.

One Q108 Amplifier with two audio inputs, two CV inputs, and two audio outputs (one inverted). There's a switch for linear vs exponential response curves of the control inputs. The top Gain knob can be used to open the VCA without a trigger for drones.

Finally we have the Desktop Box11 case with two sets of four way multiples. There is also one blank panel where you can install an additional module of the same width.


Note the above is just a high level overview of each module and how you might make use of them out of the box. For a more detailed overview of each module as well as additional modules see Synthesizers.com

BTW, you might notice one of the pics has the system lying flat on a table.  Call me crazy, but one thing I wanted to try is using the Box11 as a lap synth up close while relaxing on the couch/recliner.  With the wood panels attached it was about an inch or two too wide for mine.  When you remove the wood panels the sides are exposed so I used some construction paper to cover them.  One other thing to note is the power cable connects to the back of the unit so you will need the side panels or other for support if you plan to lay it flat on a table (I'll be using a pillow for the recliner).  Synthesizers.com does offer straight panels in addition to the angled panels I have.  Personally I prefer the angled panels as that allows the Box11 to stand upright while patching in the studio.

A few side notes: in one of the pics you can see an iPad.  That's an iPad Mini Retina, not a full blown iPad for scale.  I love the iPad for sequencing on the fly so I was testing out the system with StepPolyArp (a nice feature with the app is it has a built in keyboard you can play with the sequencer off).

In regards to attention to detail, be sure to see the pics of the cables and packaging.  The cables are high quality and have Synthesizers.com logos on them. I thought this was a nice touch and added to the overall cohesiveness and quality of the system.

The packaging included detailed notes on each module.  Many manufacturers would just refer you to the website, so  I thought it was worth calling out as a nice added touch.

Sticky rubber feet to put under the wood panels so you don't scratch them were also included.  Note the panels do ship intact, so you do not need to do anything but plug the Box11 in and patch it up when it arrives.

The Box11 truly is a beautiful system.












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