MATRIXSYNTH: Upcoming John Bowen Solaris v2.0 Update Adds Yamaha FM & Casio CZ Phase Distortion Synthesis

Friday, February 28, 2020

Upcoming John Bowen Solaris v2.0 Update Adds Yamaha FM & Casio CZ Phase Distortion Synthesis

John Bowen dropped by the other day with the Solaris Desktop prototype. Not only did I get a peek at the new design, but I was able to take a look at the upcoming v2.0 OS, which adds both Yamaha style "FM synthesis" and Casio's CZ Phase Distortion synthesis. It also adds multi-part support. You'll find a few pics in this post. Apologies for the lighting but it is dark in the studio. :) Below you'll find a few angled shots of the desktop. In person it's not as large as I had expected. It's similar to an Oberheim Xpander which seems appropriate considering their similarities. Both have multiple displays and have been described as essentially modulars in a box. From what I understand, the Solaris is a bit more flexible as you can essentially re-order the signal path. It's a pretty amazing synth. John Bowen opted for a high resolution 96kHz signal path and you can hear it. The Solaris sounds absolutely astonishing. It has four oscillators with a vector joystick to morph between them. You can also cycle through oscillator waveforms up into the audio range with the unique "Rotors" feature on the Solaris. Click here for a full list of current features. Note the v2.0 features aren't yet listed.

The Solaris has four oscillators allowing for a 4-OP FM synth. If you are familiar with Yamaha FM synthesis you know you select how each operator modulates the other from various algorithms. On the Solaris, however, you can freely map oscillators any way you like, including back into each other. The Solaris is essentially modular, allowing you to freely route components of the synth engine. Aside from FM and Phase Distortion, the new OS also adds an assignable 4-part multi mode. Assignable not only by patch, but by number of voices allocated to each part. The following is what John had to say about the upcoming OS:

"v2.0 OS will add a new Oscillator Type called Phase Mod. This allows for true 'DX style FM,' which is actually phase modulation. With four oscillators, you can create 4 Operator algorithms. It also includes waveshapes emulating the CZ Phase Distortion series. The modulation destination which normally shows as LinFM changes to PhasMod when this oscillator type is selected. For the CZ series, the Shape parameter controls the amount of phase distortion.

The new Multimode code allows for 4-part arrangement. Each part shares a common 'voice pool' of 5 pairs of voices (total of 10), and you decide how many voices can be assigned to each part, with 2 voices in a part as the minimum assignment. (Using identical presets with the new Solaris Voice Expander module adds another 10 voices.)

The Multimode structure converts old presets into a larger preset structure that holds the parameters for all 4 parts. All edits to any parameter are stored separately, so any preset used to populate a part from any other preset is not affected, and remains a separate object. Each of the 4 parts provides control over velocity and key zoning, volume level, pan position, transpose, fine tuning, arpeggiator function, and a number of other MIDI controller settings."

You can find additional posts including demos of the Solaris here.


  1. This posting is Feb 28. John Bowen's site says, on Feb 25, that the tabletop project as been put on hold. I would assume this article and pictures were compiled before that posting. Which is the actual state of affairs at the moment?

    1. The pics are from Wednesday. I would go with the site, but if you are interested in a desktop it doesn't hurt to let him know. The Desktop is currently on hold. The OS update applies to all versions.



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