MATRIXSYNTH: Matrixsynth Review

Showing posts with label Matrixsynth Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matrixsynth Review. Show all posts

Monday, September 05, 2016

MATRIXSYNTH Review and Overview of the Novation UltraNova

Hi everyone, you might remember, back in July I posted some pics of my newly acquired UltraNova, and mentioned that review posts would eventually follow. Well, I’m happy to tell you the first post is here. The UltraNova is one powerful synth, so to make the overall review a bit more consumable, it will be broken up over time. This first section includes an Overview, the Oscillators, and the Mixer sections. When new sections go up, I will be sure to let you know via a new post.

As with most of my reviews, I will say this one goes pretty deep into the synth engine and all editable parameters. If you are the type of person that likes to dissect and explore all of the available parameters on a synth, then this post is for you. I will touch on what each parameter does and will call out any interesting features and limitations as I do so. There are some pretty special parameters on the UltraNova that give you control beyond most other synths. Hopefully this review will give you some insight into what makes the UltraNova special.

Overview & Quick Comparison to Previous Nova Synths

The Novation UltraNova, released back in 2010, is a 20 voice virtual analog & wavetable synth with three oscillators, two ring modulators and one noise source per voice. The UltraNova also features two audio ins that can be assigned to the oscillator section and/or a 12-band vocoder. It’s worth noting that the Novation Nova from 1999 featured a 40-band vocoder, while the Supernova II from 2000 featured a 42-band vocoder. The UltraNova is a monotimbral synth while the 12 voice Nova was six part multitimbral and the Supernova II (24, 36, or 48 voice) was eight part multitimbral. The UltraNova supports up to 5 simultaneous effects per patch. The Nova supported 42 simultaneous effects, while the Supernova II supported up to 56. The Supernova II also supported FM synthesis while the Nova and UltraNova omit it.

The UltraNova, however, is the first Nova synth to feature wavetable synthesis. An interesting side note is that all of the oscillators on the UltraNova are actually stored as wavetables, including the standard waveforms. According to Novation, “The wavetables in the Supernova series are all calculated. The wavetables in the UltraNova, even the standard analogue waves are wavetable oscillators. This change in oscillator generation was first used on the A-Station and K-Station and subsequently in the KS series, X-Station and Xio.” This allows the UltraNova to have some advanced tricks when it comes to the oscillator section, which will be covered in detail below.

I asked Novation about the lack of FM synthesis and they told me, “FM would have been a lovely addition to the UltraNova, but it would have been asking too much of the DSP to be able to run everything the UltraNova can do and also add in FM. The wavetables were a really good way to introduce a new (to Novation) type of synthesis that is able to cater for some of the synth sounds that FM is known for and also to be able to create lush evolving pads.”

The UltraNova features two routable filters per voice with a total of 14 filter types to chose from including 6dB (no resonance), 12dB, 18dB, and 24dB with Lowpass, Bandpass and Hi-pass modes. The Nova and Supernova II lacked a 6dB mode.

As for hardware, although the UltraNova may have fewer knobs per function than its predecessors, it is extremely well laid out and super intuitive to use. Along with both keyboard velocity and aftertouch, the UltraNova has touch sensitive knobs. They literally respond to touch and can be assigned to various parameters. Worth noting, velocity is configurable, however, aftertouch is not. I found the aftertouch to be good, but it does require a little extra force than I prefer; it’s good for not accidentally triggering it, but not so good for subtle, natural performance.

Please note the above comparisons with the Nova and Supernova II were only for quick reference. The UltraNova of course is its own synth with a few tricks up its sleeves that are lacking in the original Nova line, including a level of control over the synth engine often only found in the modular realm. It sounds incredible, and for the price, currently only $599 new, it is an extremely flexible and powerful synth. You get the current top-of-the-line Novation Nova synth engine with new wavetables and more. The UltraNova is both a performance oriented synth as well as a synth programmers dream. It can be configured for easy access to specific parameters for a live situation, or you can dig as deep as you want with a clearly well thought out interface.

That said, let’s dig in.

The following review and overview will essentially go over the signal flow of the UltraNova followed by performance controls including the arpeggiator and the hardware interface. I’ll go into a little detail on what each feature can and cannot do in an attempt to give you a detailed idea of what the synth is capable of. Because my reviews tend to be a bit on the longer side, I will be posting the sections in chunks over time to make it easier on you to consume and for me to compose.

First we start with…

Monday, March 14, 2016

MATRIXSYNTH Review and Overview of the Novation Circuit

Update: Not covered in this review, sample support has been added in the latest Circuit Components update.

The following is my overview and review of the $329 Novation Circuit.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Exclusive Moog Minitaur Review - All the Bass & More for Less

This is a MATRIXSYNTH review...

A brand new Moog Minitaur will set you back $599, a Slim Phatty, $795, an RME Voyager, $2695. So how does the Minitaur sound compared to its siblings? Pretty darn incredible.

For this review I had access to both a Minimoog Voyager and a vintage Minimoog Model D for comparison, and the Minitaur more than held its own. Actually it was capable of sounding identical to the Voyager with roughly equivalent settings. The Model D, whether due to age or physical design, has a brighter, fizzier, more unstable characteristic to it compared to both. It's kind of like the original Minimoog has a wild beast inside it while the Voyager and Minitaur have managed to keep that beast under control. I used to think of an analogy where the Model D sounds like it has a Tasmanian Devil inside it, while the Voyager has Darth Vader. Well, the Minitaur adds a massive fat bull. All three are extremely powerful sounding synths. The bass the Minitaur produces is as full as it gets and the filter gets wide open. It was a bit shocking when I first heard it. The Minitaur might be slimmed down in price, but sonically it has all the fat you will ever need.

As the Voyager sounded closest to the Minitaur, I primarily focused on it for comparison. For the most part I could get the Minitaur to sound identical, but there were subtle differences. An interesting thing I noticed was that the filter on the Minitaur seemed to open more than the Voyager, but then I realized that on the Voyager the filter opens up more if you apply the envelope to it. Once I adjusted the envelope on the Voyager, they sounded nearly identical. The saw waves were identical and the pulse waves varied a little, but I believe this was likely due to additional pulse width settings on the Voyager that the Minitaur does not have. I found myself spending more time attempting to get the Voyager to sound like the Minitaur vs. the other way around. This was clearly due to the extra parameters on the Voyager, and it reminded me that sometimes less can be more. With pulse waves, the Minitaur sounded a little more rounded, smooth and fuller. In many cases where I couldn't sonically hear a difference, I could feel it. A funny side note is I have an overhead lamp in the studio I did my testing in. The lamp has a metal hood over a small glass dome for the bulb enclosure that rattles with significant bass. It rarely happens but I noticed it happening quite a bit with the Minitaur. I decided to take the Minitaur, Voyager and Model D to town with a rattle test. The Minitaur won. It consistently produced the most intense lamp rattle. :) This is not too surprising considering Moog's reputation for bass, and that the Minitaur is based on the Moog Taurus 3 bass pedals, which in turn was based on the original Taurus I released back in 1975 (note the Taurus II unlike the I & 3 was based on the Moog Rogue - this is significant, and I'll comment on this in the summary). It's worth noting that although there are other dedicated bass synthesizers out there, there are essentially two types - TB-303 emulators and thundering bass pedals. The Minitaur of course is based on the latter, and few synths sound as full. The Novation BassStation keyboard which is also analog, for example, was geared more towards TB-303 emulation and does not really compare to the Minitaur.

Before we get into specs and finally the summary, there are a few things you need to know off the bat regarding the Minitaur:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

M-Audio Venom Review and Interview with Product Manager Taiho Yamada

A quick note: This review is long. You can jump to sections that interest you vs. reading it straight through if you prefer. This review focuses primarily on the synth engine for one single patch on the Venom. The Venom supports Multi mode with up to four multitimbral parts. Not only can you layer sound programs but you can set global parameters for the set. Be sure to see the Multi mode section of "Tips and Tricks via Taiho Yamada" at the end of this post. Taiho is the Lead Project Manager of the Venom and served as my contact during the review. I want to thank Taiho for his help and enthusiastic generosity. He is a true synthesist and the Venom is his baby.

Synth connections: Taiho previously worked at Alesis on the Andromeda A6. The DSP developer of the Venom worked on Radikal Technologies' Spectralis and the Accelerator. People that contributed to the presets via sound design include Richard Devine, Francis Preve, Mark Ovenden (Avid's AIR Instruments, ProTools VIs), Joerg Huettner (Waldorf, Access, Alesis), and of course Taiho Yamada.

*Don't miss the "Q&A with Taiho" section towards the end of the review. Also keep an eye out for "Taiho's Tips and Tricks" throughout the review in grey. You can find the consolidated list below the Q&A section.

Switched On Make Synthesizer Evolution Vintage Synthesizers Creating Sound Fundlementals of Synthesizer Programming Kraftwerk

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