Analog SUPER MODELS - EMusician

Analog SUPER MODELS

Back in the day, real musicians played real analog synthesizers. Minimoogs, Odysseys, Putneys, and Electrocomps those were true analog machines, subject
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Back in the day, real musicians played real analog synthesizers.Minimoogs, Odysseys, Putneys, and Electrocomps — those were trueanalog machines, subject to constant retuning by hand and all thegroans and the glory of predigital technology. Every time you wanted toplay a new sound onstage or in the studio, you turned the knobs andpressed the switches until just the right combination of elementsfinally produced the sound you heard in your head. When microprocessorcontrol came along to offer an assist, the earliest analogs gave way toProphets, Memorymoogs, Jupiters, and Xpanders — instruments thatmemorized every nuance of an entire bank of tailor-made sounds. Suchcapabilities also made it possible to share your synth patches withother synthesists, as they shared theirs with you.

Yet the sound-generating circuitry remained just that —circuitry. What put the analog in synthesizer? It was the vastcollection of microchips, resistors, capacitors, and circuit boardsthat changed the sound of music, if not forever, then probably at leastfor the rest of your life.

By the 1980s, advances in microprocessor technology led to thedevelopment of digital synthesizers such as the Yamaha DX7 and the KorgM1. Those instruments and their progeny offered alternatives to thesound, expense, and eccentric behavior of the previous generation ofsynthesizers. Unfortunately, one of the capabilities that was lost inthe process was the breadth of control that analog synthesizersoffered. Panels full of knobs and buttons gave way to more economicaluser interfaces: tiny displays with a few buttons for changing pagesand parameter values. Electronic musicians temporarily lost theimmediate, hands-on control that analog synthesizers gave us. After afew years of digital synthesis techniques such as FM, wavetable, andsample playback, we also began to long for the warmth and fullness ofanalog synthesizers.

RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW

Physical modeling now makes it possible to emulate any type of soundproduction that programmers understand well enough to describe indetail to a computer. Instruments that employ physical modelingreproduce the originals by simulating their components using digitalsignal processing (DSP). The computers inside musical instruments havebecome so powerful that musicians no longer need machines that containspecialized oscillators, filters, envelope generators (EGs), andamplifiers. Instead, analog-modeling synthsesizers duplicate thosefunctions digitally.

For this article, I assembled a group of ten analog-modeling synthsfrom Japan, Sweden, England, and Germany. The instruments representevery hardware-based virtual-analog synth platform that was shipping atthe time this was written, though some specific instruments aremissing. Some instruments — such as the Korg MS2000, Nord Rack 3,and Waldorf MicroQ — are available in keyboard and rackmountconfigurations; only one of each was included. Some synths that Iwanted to include were not available at the time of this writing; forexample, the Access Virus B and Indigo had been discontinued, but theVirus C and Indigo-2 weren't shipping yet. Neither were the HartmannNeuron, the Waldorf Q+, or the latest version of the Red SoundDarkStar. In addition, EM was unable to get its collective handson the Novation Supernova II or Alesis Andromeda A6 by the time Ineeded them.

Nonetheless, the instruments we assembled represent a wide range ofwhat's available in music stores today. Nearly half of them —including the Clavia Nord Rack 3, the Novation K-Station, the Red SoundElevata, and the Roland SH-32 — were introduced just this year.The Clavia Nord Modular, the Korg MS2000, and the Roland JP-8080 havebeen around for a while. The others — the Korg Electribe A, theWaldorf MicroQ, and the Yamaha AN200 — first shipped a year ortwo ago. Some are keyboards, and the rest are desktop devices,rackmount units, or combinations of the two.

CLAVIA NORD MODULAR

First introduced more than four years ago, the Clavia Nord Modular($1,999) is a fusion of hardware and software that emulates a modularanalog synthesizer. Unlike traditional modular instruments, the NordModular is extremely compact and doesn't require dozens of wires toconnect a fixed number of modules assembled by hand; you simply connecta huge variety of onscreen modules by clicking and dragging virtualpatch cords with the computer's mouse.

The Nord Modular's hardware is a tabletop unit that you can play(but you can't program) without a computer. Its Velocity-sensitive,two-octave keyboard doesn't generate Aftertouch data, and it lacks anyleft-hand controllers for Pitch Bend or Modulation. On the front panelare 18 assignable knobs, 18 buttons, 32 indicator LEDs, a rotary datadial, a Master Volume knob, and a 32-character LCD (see Fig. 1).On the back are four assignable outputs and two inputs — all ofthem unbalanced 1/4-inch TS jacks — as well as a 1/4-inch stereoheadphone jack, a control-pedal jack, and a footswitch jack. Two MIDIIn and two MIDI Out ports let you connect one pair directly to yourcomputer's MIDI interface and the other to an external MIDIcontroller.

The software half of the Nord Modular is the Modular Editor, anapplication for Windows and the Mac OS, in which you program and modifyPatches (see Fig. 2). I used the Modular Editor with Mac OS 9.1,which requires the use of Open Music System, and I thoroughly enjoyedthe experience. When you connect the Modular to your computer and openthe Editor, all the synth's Patches are quickly transferred from thesynth to the computer. When you change Patches on the Modular, everydetail immediately shows up on your computer's display. Likewise, whenyou open a file on the computer, it is instantly transferred to thesynthesizer.

Programming the Nord Modular is very much like programming a realmodular, except all the modules and patch cords exist only in software,and many more of them are available. More than 100 types of modules areorganized into In/Out, Oscillator, LFO, Envelope, Filter, Mixer, Audio,Control, Logic, and Sequencer categories. When you're creating ormodifying a Patch, you create each module by simply dragging its iconinto the Patch window. Modules automatically line up in neat rows andreposition themselves to make room for new modules.

To connect one module to another, click on an onscreen jack and draga virtual patch cord to another onscreen jack. Initially, you specifyparameter values with onscreen knobs; later you can assign the hardwareunit's knobs to control any parameters you might need to change in realtime. When you click on an onscreen knob, its value is convenientlydisplayed. If you make a mistake, the Editor supports 16 levels of Undoand Redo, which is a real godsend when you're editing complexPatches.

With so many modules to choose from, the selection is extremelyvaried. Among the oscillators, for instance, you can select fromstandard waveforms, FM operators, noise generators, synced noise,formants, percussion, and sine-wave banks. Filters include practicallyevery response and slope you can think of, as well as vocal simulation,a 16-band vocoder, a 14-band filter bank, and parametric and shelvingequalizers. Envelope generators are as simple or as complex as youdesire. Effects processors include chorus, phaser, compressor, delay,and overdrive. Because the Nord is modular, modulation possibilitiesare virtually endless. Many popular types of synthesis are at yourdisposal: subtractive, additive, FM, AM, and ring modulation.

From the factory, the Modular contains 500 Patches that do a finejob of showing off its capabilities. They range from excellentelectronic textures and instrument emulations to 16-step sequencedgrooves and external-sound processors. Almost 1,400 Patches areincluded on the installation CD-ROM, categorized by type. If that'sstill not enough, you can download even more from Clavia's Web site (www.clavia.se) andother online sources. I only wish that each Patch had a text fileattached for the sake of documentation.

The Nord Modular's processing muscle is provided by four DSP chips(expandable to eight) called Sound Engines. Each Patch uses a singleSound Engine, and four Sound Engines make the Nord Modular four-partmultitimbral. Which and how many modules you use in a Patch determinehow much processing power is required and hence the Load on a SoundEngine, which in turn affects polyphony. The Load for each Engine isindicated in the Editor as a percentage.

Two alternate versions of the Nord Modular provide functionalitythat's similar to the original. The Nord Modular Rack ($1,899) isidentical, minus the keyboard, and works equally well as a tabletop orrackmount device. The Nord Micro Modular ($749) is a much smaller modelwith only one Sound Engine; it offers less polyphony, no multitimbralPerformances, and a much lower price. All three models feature the samevoice architecture, Program compatibility, and superb sound.

CLAVIA NORD RACK 3

Last year Swedish synthesizer-maker Clavia released the Nord Lead 3.It was the third in a series of keyboard instruments that began withthe original Nord Lead, which introduced the world to virtual analogsynthesis in 1995. As promised, this year Clavia introduced the NordRack 3 ($2,499), a rackmount version of the Lead 3. Except for the lackof a keyboard, Mod wheel, and Pitch Stick, the Rack 3 is identical tothe keyboard model, with the same architecture, user interface, andexternal connectors. Consequently, the majority of my comments apply toboth models.

Like all Nords, the Rack 3 is housed in bright red rolled steel (seeFig. 3). If you choose not to install the rack ears, the Rack3's sloped front makes it quite comfortable to use as a tabletop unit.Most parameters have dedicated knobs, buttons, and indicator LEDs onthe front panel. All but 5 of 31 knobs are of theinfinite-rotary-encoder variety, each with 15 red LED segments thatencircle the knob like the spokes of a wheel and indicate the knob'sposition at a glance. A larger rotary data dial is available to changePrograms and parameters that appear in the 32-character LCD, and fourSlot buttons below the display let you select any of four Programs in amultitimbral Performance.

Accompanying almost all of the 42 buttons are green and red LEDsthat indicate their status. Either LFO Rate knob, for instance, has tenLEDs that indicate waveform, sync status, and other parameters. On adarkened stage, the Nord is lit up in red and green like a Christmastree. Among the instruments in this article, the Nord 3 definitely winsthe prize for providing the most visual feedback.

Like its predecessors, the Nord 3 combines virtual analog with two-and four-operator FM synthesis to produce a varied range of timbres.Two oscillators generate the usual four basic waveforms, as well asnoise and synced noise (variable pitched waves with fixed formats).Oscillator 2 also generates dual sine, a combination of two sine wavestuned an octave apart for use in FM synthesis. The harmonic content ofmost waveforms is continuously variable by means of either theOscillator Shape knob or a modulation source. A 3-character LEDdisplays oscillator pitch data such as frequencies, intervals, and FMpartials.

In addition to lowpass, highpass, bandpass, and band reject, theNord 3's two filters offer two other filter types. Classic is a lowpassresponse with a nonlinear rolloff slope varying between 12 and 24 dBper octave, and its resonance peak is only half that of the standardlowpass filter. Another filter type, distorted lowpass (Dist LP), is a2-pole filter with an oversaturation control. You can switch thelowpass, highpass, and bandpass slopes between 6, 12, and 24 dB peroctave. The two filters can be combined into more complex filter types,including a Multi Peak type that works like a comb filter. All thosechoices greatly contribute to the Nord 3's tremendous timbralvariety.

Eight Banks of 128 Programs contain an immense range of synthesizedsounds, and 256 Performances contain multitimbral combinations inlayers and splits. All locations are in RAM, so you can replace any ofthe factory Programs and Performances with your own.

The sound of the Nord Rack particularly impressed me when I realizedthat it had no effects processors. Most of the sounds are rich andcomplex, and many make good use of the onboard arpeggiator. Aninnovative Sub Arpeggio feature can play a separate pattern for everynote you play in a chord, creating much more complex arpeggios thanprevious Nord arpeggiators could.

Using a feature called Morph Group, you can simultaneously controlas many as 26 parameters with a single modulation source. By setting upthe right combination of parameters and defining their ranges, you caneffectively morph from one sound into another using keyboard range,Velocity, Aftertouch, the Modulation Wheel, or a control pedal.

Practically my only criticism of the Nord Rack 3 is that itgenerates too much heat, so you need to give it lots of space in yourrack setup. Extra space is also required because all the connectors areon top when it is mounted in a rack.

Clavia calls the Nord Rack 3 an advanced subtractive synthesizer.Incorporating FM as well as virtual analog synthesis, it's a fineinstrument for developing new sounds from the ground up. Its largecollection of factory Programs are consistently high in quality, itsdepth of hands-on control is exceptional, and its timbral versatilityis outstanding.

KORG ELECTRIBE A

The Electribe A (EA-1; $399) is the analog-modeling component ofKorg's Electribe line of budget-minded groove machines. It's also theleast expensive synth in this roundup by far. As such, it lacks many ofthe bells and whistles you might expect to see in a modern synthesizer.No bigger than an average phone book, the EA-1 still provides enoughfront-panel control to make it highly interactive in real time (seeFig. 4). Although its synthesis capabilities are limited, thecompact EA-1 provides extras such as a Motion Sequencer and Tap Tempo.Its real strength, however, is pattern-based sequencing.

You can store as many as 256 Phrase Patterns in memory and arrangethem into a maximum of 16 Songs. Each Pattern can be up to 64 steps and4 measures long. Like other groove boxes, the EA-1 begins playing aPattern when the previous one is complete. You can enter notes eitherby step sequencing or by real-time loop recording. If you record inreal time, of course, your input is automatically quantized to conformto the 16 steps of each measure.

The EA-1 is two-note polyphonic and two-part multitimbral, so eachtimbre is monophonic, and there's no need to distinguish programs fromperformances. Programs don't exist separately from Patterns, and eachcombination of a synth sound, Pattern, and Motion Sequence is called aPart. To edit a sound, then, you need to select the Part that containsthe sound you want to edit. Each Part is assigned to its own audiooutput.

A Part has two oscillators, a lowpass filter, an amplifier, andthree simultaneous effects. Each of the oscillators generates eithersawtooth, square, or triangle waveforms. You can offset the pitch ofone oscillator relative to the other, and you can control the balancebetween them. In addition to oscillator sync and ring modulation, atype of modulation called the Decimator resamples Oscillator 1's outputat Oscillator 2's frequency, which effectively adds grit to the sound.A knob in the oscillator section controls the rate of Portamento.

You can process external sounds by routing them into the Audio Injack. You can route audio through the effects, of course, but you canalso decimate and ring-modulate external sounds, for example. If mixerchannels are in short supply, pressing the Audio In Thru button routesthe external audio signal through the EA-1 unaffected.

Instead of a multistage envelope generator, the resonant lowpassfilter has knobs for EG Intensity and Decay. EG Intensity changes thefixed envelope's modulation depth and is capable of negativemodulation, effectively closing rather than opening the filter. Withnegative modulation from the envelope, the Decay parameter controlsAttack time. The Amplifier section has a Level knob for controlling thePart's output and a Distortion button; distortion can be turned on oroff, with no control over distortion level. The Amplifier provides noenvelope modulation whatsoever.

The Effects section offers Tempo Delay and Chorus/Flanger. TempoDelay provides an echo that can sync to Pattern tempo or an externalMIDI Clock. When you select Chorus/Flanger, turning the Depth knobchanges from one effect to the other. The effects are nothing fancy,but at least they add animation to the sound.

By pressing the Keyboard button, you can play notes and triggerPatterns using the row of 16 buttons at the bottom of the EA-1's frontpanel. Whether you play the buttons or a MIDI keyboard, the Electribedoesn't respond to MIDI Velocity or Aftertouch; all notes haveidentical Velocity. When you write a Pattern, though, you can selectnotes to accent.

Nonsynthesis parameters, such as Pattern and Song settings, areselected with the aid of a front-panel matrix. You maneuver the matrixusing up and down buttons and a row of four buttons that are labeledPattern, Song, Global, and MIDI. Once you select the parameter you wantto edit, you simply need to turn the data dial in order to change itsvalue. If the Pattern parameter is selected during playback, you canuse the data dial to change Patterns on the fly.

The Electribe A is so squarely oriented toward dance music that Iquestion its suitability for any other musical style. Just try a few ofthe factory Patterns and you'll see what I mean; most of themdefinitely put the “electronic” in electronica. The factoryPatterns, which can be rewritten by the user, make good use of theinstrument's limited resources.

If you're accustomed to programming sounds with complete controlover the envelopes and modulation routing, the EA-1 will probablydisappoint you. The idea is to create sounds within a limitedarchitecture. Indeed, most of the timbres do sound rather primitivecompared to what all the other synths in this roundup are capable ofproducing. Nonetheless, the EA-1 sounds modern, and it makes soundsthat might be hard to reproduce using more complex synthesizers.

KORG MS2000

The MS2000 ($1,150) is a physically modeled instrument that wasdesigned to combine the personalities of the Korg MS-20 analogsynthesizer, VC-10 vocoder, and SQ10 analog sequencer made in the late'70s and early '80s. The MS2000 is 4-note polyphonic and 2-partmultitimbral, and its 44-note keyboard transmits MIDI Velocity but notAftertouch. A version without the keyboard, the MS2000R, operates as adesktop or rackmount device and provides a Keyboard button to enableentering notes using the 16 Program buttons.

The MS-2000's well-organized front panel contains 35 knobs and 49buttons for hands-on control of synth timbres and sequencer functions(see Fig. 5). Buttons that light up, dozens of LEDs, and abright, 32-character LCD contribute to the abundant visual feedback.Printed on the front panel are a list of all editable parameters andseveral handy block diagrams that illustrate signal flow in thesynthesizer and vocoder.

Programs are arranged in 8 Banks of 16. You select a Bank withincrement and decrement buttons and then select from a row of 16Program buttons. In LCD Edit mode, you use the same 16 buttons toselect parameter pages. Whenever you turn a knob or touch a button, theaffected parameter is instantly shown in the LCD. If the synth is inProgram Play mode instead of LCD Edit mode, the controls react to yourchanges, but the parameter values aren't displayed. When you return aknob to the position of any parameter's programmed value, however, anOriginal Value LED lights.

Two oscillators generate traditional analog waveforms, as well as aVox wave, which emulates a human voice, and Digital Waveform GenerationSystem (DWGS) wavetables, which were the foundation of the Korg DW-6000and DW-8000 synthesizers in the early '80s. Oscillator 1's Control 1knob provides a means to modulate the waveform using pulse-width mod,cross-wave mod, and the like. The Control 2 knob routes the LFO tocontrol that function, but you can apply other mod sources, as well. Apair of 1/4-inch Audio In jacks lets you process external sounds or usethe MS2000 as a 4-voice, 16-band vocoder. A switch toggles betweenline- and mic-level input.

The resonant filter provides lowpass response with 12 or 24dB-per-octave rolloff in addition to bandpass and highpass responseswith 12 dB-per-octave rolloff. You can change filter cutoff with anymodulation source, and the filter can track the Mod Sequencer as wellas the keyboard.

The front panel's Virtual Patch section provides buttons forconnecting eight modulation sources to eight destinations. Four VirtualPatch knobs let you control modulation depth for four selected sources.When you turn a knob, LEDs light to indicate the modulation routingbeing affected.

Two effects processors provide delay and modulation effects but noreverb. Modulation effects are chorus/flanger, phaser, and ensemble,and the delays are StereoDelay, CrossDelay, and L/R Delay. To changeeffects types, simply press the Mod FX button and select an effect froma parameter page in the display.

Using the Mod Sequencer, you can store one 3-track sequence for eachProgram. Each track controls pitch, step length, filter cutoff,panning, or 1 of 26 other parameters. Specify the track's length, andthen adjust each of as many as 16 knobs to specify the value of eachsequencer step. Using the step sequencer is intuitive enough, but justas it was on analog sequencers in the 1970s, specifying pitch withknobs can be tedious. If one track is controlling pitch, playing a noteon the keyboard transposes the sequence as it plays. The Mod Sequencerprovides a degree of sound-shaping control that distinguishes theMS2000 from most other synthesizers.

A feature called Motion Rec lets you record front-panel knobmovements into a Mod Sequence. Rather than continuously recording knobturns, however, Motion Rec records a knob's position at the beginningof each step.

Thanks to the miracle of physical modeling, the MS2000 sounds warmerand fatter than some real analog synths I've played. Although most ofthe factory patches have a dance-music orientation, there are enoughclassic analog timbres to satisfy almost any electronic musician. Thebass sounds alone are sufficient reason to want an MS2000 in yourstudio or onstage. I only wish the polyphony exceeded four notes;fortunately, a MIDI overflow mode lets you link two MS2000s togetherfor additional polyphony.

NOVATION K-STATION

The K-Station ($899), one of the latest models from U.K. synth-makerNovation, is a compact, eight-voice, analog-modeling instrument with atwo-octave keyboard (see Fig. 6). Although it is based on thesound-generating engine of Novation's flagship Supernova II, theK-Station is not multitimbral, and it lacks the Supernova's extensivemodulation routing, multimode filters, and overall complexity.Nonetheless, the K-Station is full of great sounds. Despite itseconosynth status, the K-Station's architecture offers some unexpectedextras, including three audio oscillators per voice, a 12-band vocoder,and the ability to process external audio more flexibly than mostsynths.

Like compact synths in days of old, the uncomplicated K-Station isrefreshingly straightforward to operate. You can control dozens ofperformance-oriented parameters with the front panel's 25 knobs, 4sliders, 29 buttons, and Pitch-Bend and Mod wheels, and they all add upto an effective hands-on user interface. Every control transmits MIDIControl Change (CC) or nonregistered parameter number (NRPN) messages.When you turn a knob or push a slider, the 16-character LCD instantlyshows you the precise value of the parameter you're changing. Pressingthe Menu button accesses pages that range from Program-specificparameters such as arpeggiator patterns and effects settings to globalparameters such as Pitch-Bend range and Velocity curve.

Each of the three identical oscillators produces the four basicanalog-synth waveforms — sine, triangle, sawtooth, andvariable-width pulse waves. All waveforms except the pulse can bedoubled within an oscillator, producing a thickening that sounds likeeven more oscillators. Just as you can modulate pulse width, you canmodulate the phase offset of doubled waveforms. Ring modulation and FMprovide inharmonic timbres, and a noise source generates unpitchedsounds.

Another sound source is external audio. Because the K-Stationresponds to input levels, audio signals can trigger note events. If youplug an amplified drum in to the audio input, for example, you can setthe sensitivity threshold so that every beat you play will trigger theenvelopes, which in turn will open the filter and the amplifier. Ifyou'd rather use the K-Station as an effects processor for externalsounds without triggering events, you can do that, too. Combined withthe vocoder, such capabilities make the K-Station's input stage quiteflexible.

Each voice contains a resonant lowpass filter (which Novation callsa Warm Liquid filter) that can be modulated by an ADSR, a dedicatedLFO, and key tracking. A switch changes the filter's cutoff slope from12 to 24 dB per octave. For hands-on control, both EGs share the sameset of four sliders. The remainder of the K-Station's modulationrouting is minimal but effective.

I was very pleased to discover that the K-Station's effects sectionprovides seven effects simultaneously. Delay, reverb, chorus/phaser,distortion, panning, vocoder, and one band of EQ each offer between twoand eight programmable parameters — not an overabundance ofparameters, but enough to contribute to sound design.

The LCD is small, but it's bright and easy to read. When you changePrograms, instead of displaying each Program's name, it reads“Prog Number” followed by a 3-digit number ranging from 100to 499. On an instrument capable of displaying 16 characters, Iexpected to see names instead of just numbers. I hope that Programnaming will be addressed in a future update. Half the Program locationsare blank, so there's plenty of room to store your own timbralcreations. I imagine that the K-Station will sell well enough thatplenty of third-party Programs will soon be available, but I wish thatNovation's programmers had already filled the slots.

Novation obviously sacrificed features to keep a ceiling on theK-Station's cost. Perhaps the most bewildering shortcoming is the lackof footswitch or pedal inputs. Fortunately, every parameter receivesMIDI CC or NRPN messages, but that doesn't help you if the K-Station isyour only MIDI instrument. At the price, though, the K-Station's fatsound and intuitive user interface make it a definite winner.

RED SOUND ELEVATA

From the British company Red Sound, the Elevata ($899) is ananalog-modeling synthesizer with an unusual name and shape. Thecombination rackmount and desktop unit gets its name from itsadjustable, “elevating” front panel (see Fig. 7).With the base chassis lying flat, the front panel swings up to one offour angles, from parallel to perpendicular. The 45 and 60-degreeangles are convenient for desktop use, and the 90-degree angle turnsthe Elevata into a 3U rackmount device.

The rear panel is on the back of the base chassis, where you'll findthe power button, two main and four assignable analog outputs, and MIDIIn, Out, and Thru ports. Also on the rear panel are a pair of 1/4-inchanalog audio inputs, an input for the optional 11-band Vocoda ($49),and a DIN connector for the optional external joystick ($49). Thechassis contains EPROM bays for future expansion. Because the Powerbutton is located in back, it can be difficult to reach if the Elevatais rackmounted.

On the front panel are 21 knobs, 39 buttons, a joystick, and an8-character LED display. Because of the unusual typeface on the frontpanel, most of the labels are difficult to read. You can simultaneouslychange two assignable performance parameters with the x-yjoystick, which has a Hold button to freeze its value at any position.The ⅛-inch stereo headphone jack on the front panel seems like anodd choice when you consider that most studio headphones use 1/4-inchplugs. As you'll soon see, it's not the only odd choice in theElevata's design.

You can change Programs and selected parameter values with a knobjust below the LED display, but when I first turned it to changePrograms, nothing happened. I discovered that you need to push it everytime you want to change Programs, but not when you change parametervalues. My initial confusion quickly became annoyance. I expected thatwhen a Program was shown in the display, turning the knob would changethe Program number, and when a parameter was shown in the display,turning the knob would change its value.

Most of the front panel is divided into functional sections:Oscillators, Mixer, Filter, LFOs, Envelopes, Output, and MultitimbralParts. Each section has a Menu button to access parameters that don'thave a dedicated knob or button. You step through the menus with thesame two buttons used to Save and Compare, which sounds ratherhazardous, but I never encountered any problems.

There are dedicated buttons for the basic 7-pattern arpeggiator andfor the Sound Wizard, a feature that randomizes parameters in anattempt to suggest new programming possibilities, kind of like tossingthe dice to see what comes up. One nice twist is that you can choosewhich parameters are randomized. You can select whether the Auditionbutton plays a single note, a bass pattern, or a chord pattern, butwhen you change Programs, Audition always defaults to playing a lownote.

The Elevata is 16-note polyphonic and 8-part multitimbral. It stores128 factory ROM Programs and 128 User Programs, but because it doesn'treceive MIDI Bank Change messages, you can change only User Programswith Program Change messages. There are 10 preset multitimbral setupsand 80 user-programmable multitimbral setups; the manual never mentionshow to save or retrieve them, but it's no more difficult than saving orretrieving Programs. Eight dedicated buttons conveniently let youselect individual Parts for editing within a multitimbral setup. Inconjunction with the Menu button, you can quickly change parameters foreach Part.

Two oscillators produce a waveform that's continuously variable fromsawtooth to pulse wave. You can change the waveshape either by turningthe Waveform knob or by modulating it with one of two ADSR generatorsor two LFOs. You can vary pitch and pulse width in the same manner, andthe Oscillator menu lets you select additional waveform variations. Youcan also sync the oscillators and apply ring modulation.

One downside is that the Elevata's output level is considerablylower than that of any synth I've heard lately. For most sounds, I hadto boost the signal at least 6 dB to get it to match my other synths.As a result, signal-to-noise ratio might become a factor when you'rerecording multiple layers of Elevata tracks. You can improve thesituation by editing the Volume levels of individual Programs and thenresaving them.

The Elevata shares a problem with the Novation K-Station: thedisplay is large enough to read “PROG 128,” but Programnames are not displayed. Although the Elevata has programmingpotential, not one of the factory sounds cries out, “Take mehome!” The 12 dB-per-octave filter sounds a bit thin and anemic.To put it bluntly, the Elevata won't be your first choice when you'relooking for thick, juicy sounds, but it might present a nice timbralcontrast to your other, fatter synthesizers. It definitely has its ownpersonality, and among synthesizers, that's a plus.

ROLAND JP-8080

Like the original Clavia Nord Lead, the JP-8080 ($1,595) isconsidered one of the granddaddies of analog-modeling synthesis.Descended from the JP-8000 keyboard synth and first introduced in 1998,the standalone module focuses firmly on emulating an analog synthesizerby means of physical modeling, and it does that well. The JP-8080 isten-note polyphonic and two-part multitimbral, and it offers a widerange of features such as an arpeggiator, a vocoder, external audioprocessing, sound morphing, real-time loop sequencing, and SmartMediastorage.

The JP-8080 is a 6U-rackmount unit that works well as a tabletopsynth if you remove the rack ears (see Fig. 8). On the backpanel, two 1/4-inch inputs, two 1/4-inch outputs, three MIDI ports, andan IEC power-cable jack are recessed deeply enough to accommodate thenecessary plugs in a rackmount configuration. The logically organizedfront panel is densely populated with 30 knobs, 60 buttons, 12 sliders,69 indicator LEDs, and a clearly backlit, 32-character liquid-crystaldisplay. Like many of the other desktop units, the JP-8080 features aPreview function that lets you play an octave of notes from thefront-panel buttons.

For the most part, the JP-8080's architecture is typical of ananalog synthesizer: two oscillators, a multimode filter, two LFOs, andthree envelope generators. Three Banks of 128 Preset Patches aresupplemented by one Bank of 128 User Patches. Anyone who's seriousabout synth programming is going to wish for additional User locations;fortunately, the SmartMedia card slot makes user storage practicallyunlimited. There are 192 Performances and 64 user-programmablePerformances. Each Performance contains two Patches and parameters suchas the key mode and arpeggiator settings. Because the Patches are savedas part of a Performance, you can edit them without affecting otherPerformances that use the same Patches.

Two oscillators offer variable pulse wave, sawtooth, triangle, andnoise waveforms. Oscillator 1 also generates Super Saw, Triangle Mod,and Feedback Osc. You can continuously modify each waveform's harmoniccontent and other parameters with two Control knobs; their precisefunctions depend on which waveform is being modulated. For example, forthe pulse wave, they control pulse width and pulse-width modulation;for noise, they control a dedicated filter's cutoff and resonance.

The resonant filter operates in lowpass, bandpass, and highpassmodes, and you can switch the slope from 12 to 24 dB per octave. Thefilter and amplifier have dedicated ADSR generators, and a two-stage EGmodulates pitch. The Effects section includes Bass and Treble knobs, aMulti-FX Level knob, and Delay Time, Feedback, and Level knobs. Thetone controls and delay are applied globally to the JP-8080's output,and the multi-effects are applied to individual Patches in aPerformance.

Instead of selecting the Multi Effects Type in the Effects section,you make the selection in the Patch menu, like most other parametersthat lack dedicated controls. Considering that there are only 13 typesof effects, I'd much prefer to see a rotary knob or at least adedicated button to step through the effects choices. All themulti-effects types are variations on chorus, flanger, phaser, anddistortion.

Like many of the synthesizers in this roundup, the JP-8080 iscapable of processing an external input. A pair of line-level inputs ison the back panel, and a 1/4-inch mic-level input is on the frontpanel; a front-panel switch selects the source. Using the ExternalTrigger function, an external audio signal can trigger the envelopes asthough they had received a MIDI Note On message. The external inputsalso provide access to the Voice Modulator, which is Roland's name fora stereo 12-band vocoder. When you use the Voice Modulator, polyphonyis reduced to eight notes.

The Real-time Phrase Sequencer (RPS) lets you trigger a sequencedpattern by playing a single note, either on your MIDI controller or bypressing a front-panel button in Preview mode. When you record in RPS,you can overdub notes into a loop as it repeats. An RPS loop can befrom one to four measures long, and you can control the quantizationand gate time of patterns you play back. The JP-8080 makes it easy torecord, edit, and copy RPS patterns. As long as you have enough notesto spare on your MIDI controller, RPS lets you do practically anythingyou can do with a real analog step sequencer and more.

A function called Motion Control records any knob and slidermovements you make into a sequence. The maximum length of recording iseight measures, and a sequence can be either played back once or loopedindefinitely. Like RPS, Motion Control lets you overdub, so you canlayer control data over previously recorded data. The JP-8080 has twostorage locations for control sequences (which are called Motion Sets),but you can store four more on a SmartMedia card. Every control on theJP-8080 sends MIDI CC messages, and every function responds to them, soit's also easy to record every nuance of control with an externalsequencer.

ROLAND SH-32

The SH-32 ($595) was designed to be a 21st-century update of the SHseries of synthesizers Roland made in the 1980s. With its lab-whitemetal housing and cluttered front-panel graphics, the SH-32 is atabletop unit that looks more like medical test equipment than amusical instrument (see Fig. 9). Sporting 8 knobs, 17 sliders,and 55 buttons, the SH-32's front panel is jam-packed with real-timesound-editing controls. In Manual mode, every parameter is defined bythe controls' positions, which is useful for creating new Patches fromscratch.

At the heart of the SH-32 are two oscillators that generate 67waveforms; most are variations on the traditional waveforms mostcommonly used in subtractive synthesis. The SH-32 organizes them intogroups such as saw, square, pulse, triangle/sine, and noise in additionto a group of more complex waveforms classified as Spectrum. Asuboscillator is also available, but using it disables pulse-widthmodulation, ring modulation, and oscillator sync.

Other elements of the SH-32's analog-modeled architecture include amultimode filter, three EGs, and two LFOs. The filter offers lowpass,bandpass, and highpass types, as well as a peaking type that boostsharmonics around the cutoff frequency. You can switch the filter slopefrom 12 to 24 dB per octave and invert the filter's response to itsdedicated ADSR generator.

The SH-32 provides one processor for insertion effects and anotherfor global reverb and delay effects. A choice of 35 insertion effectsincludes EQ, autowah, overdrive, distortion, compression, limiting,chorus, and flanger. Some of the more unusual effects are Slicer, whichchops a sound into rhythmic slices, and Isolator, which can cut aselected frequency range by as much as 60 dB. Most effects have fouruser-variable parameters. In Performance mode, you must select whichinsertion effect will apply to all four Parts.

The SH-32 contains two banks of 64 Preset Patches and two banks of64 User Patches, but the User Banks are identical to the Preset Banks.Apparently, Roland is in the habit of providing redundant data just incase users accidentally delete their favorite Patches stored in Userlocations, but creative timbre programming is one reason people loveRoland synthesizers; I'd much rather see another 128 Patches. You canreplace any of the 64 Performances, each of which combines either fourPatches or three Patches and a Rhythm Set.

The Rhythm Sets operate independently of the analog-modelingsynthesis. Each Rhythm Set contains 88 drum and percussion sounds, butthere's a lot of duplication among the four Sets. Two Preset Sets andtwo User Sets are heavy with TR-808 and TR-909 sounds, with a fewTR-707, CR-78, and original percussion sounds thrown in for goodmeasure. Synthesized percussion effects have names such as Zap, Zing,and Blip. In the Roland tradition, the Rhythm Sets sound consistentlyexcellent.

The SH-32's Arpeggiator is more elaborate than most, providing 64preprogrammed Styles that you can overwrite. Most Styles are rhythmicmotifs rather than simple patterns containing notes of equal length.Some play only one note at a time, whereas others can turn a chord intoa complex theme that can inspire compositional ideas. Many Performancescombine arpeggios with Rhythm Patterns that are applied to a RhythmSet, forming instant grooves you can play by holding down any note orchord.

By pressing the Preview button, you can enter notes on the twobottom rows of buttons as though they were a one-octave keyboard.Unlike many desktop synths, the SH-32 lets you specify the Velocityvalue of notes you enter in Preview mode by holding a note and pressingthe Value up or down buttons.

Pressing the Chord button accesses a feature called Chord Memory, inwhich each note plays a complete chord. Sixty-four Chord Forms areprovided, enough for just about any chord you'll need. If you need achord that isn't preprogrammed, you can replace any of the factorychords with your own. Because there's no quick way to switch from onetype of chord to another (unless the one you want just happens to benext on the list), Chord Memory seems useless. When I asked about theapplications of Chord Memory, Roland said that the feature isn'tnecessarily for the musically literate. Chord Memory provides aninstant musical vocabulary that's especially useful in combination withthe Arpeggiator.

Roland calls the SH-32's synthesis engine the Wave AccelerationSound Generator; it is said to be the end result of analyzing andemulating vintage synths, analog-modeling synths, and other music gear.Nonetheless, the SH 32 doesn't sound like any analog instrument I'veever heard. Instead of imitating analog warmth, its overall timbralcharacter is decidedly cold and digital; that's not necessarily a badthing, but if sounding analog is the goal, the SH-32 falls short.

Radical sounds abound in the SH-32. Although many of the timbres areappropriate for throbbing, in-your-face dance music, others are finefor styles that are more traditional. Many of the Patches make good useof stereo panning to give them animation. Among the clangorous effectsand trance-style arpeggios are some nice pads and sweeps, but don'texpect them to sound warm and creamy. The SH-32 makes some of therudest, harshest musical sounds I've ever heard, but that might be justwhat you're looking for.

WALDORF MICROQ

From veteran German synth-maker Waldorf, the MicroQ ($995) packs alot of synthesizer into a relatively small package (see Fig.10). For this review, I borrowed the keyboard model; a rackmountversion and a scaled-down MicroQ Lite are also available. Unlike therack, the keyboard version has a three-octave keyboard, Pitch-Bend andModulation wheels, buttons for octave transposition, a Program Selectsection, and sustain pedal and control-pedal jacks. A 1/4-inch stereoheadphone jack is on the keyboard model's back panel rather than on thefront, as on the rack model.

Of all the instruments covered in this article, the MicroQ is themost complete standalone synthesizer. With features such as 25-notepolyphony, three oscillators, two multimode filters, four EGs, twoeffects processors, extensive modulation routing, a sophisticatedarpeggiator, and a 40-character display, there's nothing micro about itunless you compare it to Waldorf's flagship synthesizer, the Q.

The MicroQ's program RAM contains 300 Sounds, 100 Multis, and 20Drum Maps. (Although I usually favor standard nomenclature, I'm gladthat the MicroQ's sounds are called Sounds rather than programs orpatches.) As many as four Instruments are layered into each Sound, andas many as four Sounds are in each Multi. Multis are ideal for use withsequencers because you can play 16 Instruments on 16 MIDI channels.

The MicroQ is one fat synthesizer. Kicks have plenty of thump, andleads cut through the thickest mix. Basses are laden with bottom, andpads are appropriately atmospheric. The MicroQ's Sound library isobviously the product of deep and creative patch programming. Mostmanufacturers put a synthesizer's signature sound in the first memoryslot; instead of a creamy pad or a bodacious bass, Sound A001 on theMicroQ is a thunderous kick drum with plenty of reverb calledLosAngeles2019. On many Sounds, the Mod wheel produces some wonderfulvariations — so many, in fact, that I wish the instrument had athird wheel just for vibrato. One of my favorite Sounds, the kotolikeMeteor, has an acoustic complexity that kept me enthralled for whatseemed like hours.

The MicroQ has some of the juiciest filters I've ever heard. Bothresonant filters offer lowpass, bandpass, highpass, and notch modeswith 12 and 24 dB-per-octave cutoff slopes. A fifth filter typeprovides positive and negative comb filtering, which produces soundsthat most synthesizers can't achieve. Additionally, a Drive controllets you oversaturate the filter for warm distortion.

Although I loved the MicroQ's sound, I was frequently perplexed byits arcane user interface. I had to consult the manual just to turn thepower off (hold down the Power button for four seconds). None of theknobs are dedicated to particular functions. You navigate your waythrough a maze of parameters by referring to a matrix of 50 parameternames printed on the front panel. (Half the lettering is gray on a darkblue-gray background, so it can be difficult to find what you'relooking for until you learn your way around.) Six knobs and a datawheel rotate infinitely, and their functions change depending on theselected parameter. Not until you turn a knob does the affectedparameter appear in the main display. Four cursor keys assist inmaneuvering through the matrix.

Thanks to its thick sheet-metal housing, the MicroQ is asurprisingly heavy ten pounds. Its relatively sharp, hard edgesprotrude as if they were rack ears, but the MicroQ is almost fourinches too wide to mount in a standard rack. Waldorf might want toreconsider its design with product liability in mind; if someone wereto accidentally fall on one of the protruding metal corners, they couldbe seriously hurt. (When my brother was a small child, he had a badrun-in with a coffee table.)

At the 2002 winter NAMM show, Waldorf announced a 75-voice versionthat is called the MicroQ Omega. A 50-voice expansion for existingMicroQs is also forthcoming.

YAMAHA AN200

A component of Yamaha's Loopfactory series, the AN200 ($630) is acombination analog-modeling synthesizer, phrase-based sequencer, andsample-playback rhythm machine. Yamaha calls it a Desktop ControlSynthesizer, but you might call it a groove box. The AN200 has 5-notepolyphonic analog modeling — enough to play chords — and32-note polyphonic AWM2-based sample playback. Almost all the sampledsounds are percussion, bass, and synthesized effects that you can usefor backing tracks.

Most knobs on the AN200's front panel are devoted to editingvirtual-analog Voices (Yamaha's term for programs), and most buttonscontrol the sequencer (see Fig. 11). Sequences are assembled ina linear fashion, one Pattern after another. Each of the Patternscontains one synth track and three sampled rhythm tracks, and you canplay each track's sounds using MIDI. If you don't have a MIDIcontroller handy, just press the Keyboard button to play thePattern-Select buttons as though they were keys on a one-octavekeyboard.

I had great fun just running the AN200's sequencer and changingPatterns on the fly. Each Pattern finishes before the next Patternbegins on the downbeat of the next measure. The AN200 stores 256 PresetPatterns and 128 User Patterns. The excellent library of presets runsthe gamut from Aphex Twin — like ambiences to instantKraftwerk-in-a-box. During playback or editing, you can transposePatterns and change their tempo, and a Swing function changes theirrhythmic feel. To create your own Pattern, enter notes in step time byturning the bottom row of eight knobs or loop-record in real timeeither by pressing the buttons or by playing a MIDI controller.

Each Voice is stored within a Pattern. To edit a Voice, you mustfirst select the Pattern that contains it. You can't select Voicesseparately from Patterns, but you can copy a Voice from one Pattern toanother. The Scene buttons let you switch between two variations on thesame Voice. Turning the Scene knob morphs from one Scene to another andallows you to select numerous stages between the two Scenes.

The AN200's analog-modeled architecture is simple andstraightforward, and its sound is warm and fat. Two oscillators providea handful of basic waveforms. A single resonant filter offers lowpass,bandpass, highpass, and band-eliminate responses, and you can select12, 18, or 24 dB-per-octave lowpass slopes. You can apply the filter tothe rhythm tracks as well as the synthesized Voice. The filter andamplifier each have dedicated ADSR generators, and you can applynegative envelope modulation to the filter. The effects, in addition todistortion and EQ, let you choose from delay/reverb, flanger/chorus,phase-shifter, or guitar-amp simulator.

Free EG is Yamaha's name for a sequencer that records controlchanges in real time. When you enable recording, play a Pattern, andbegin turning knobs, Free EG records any live edits you make to theVoice. A maximum of four knobs are recorded, each on a separate Free EGtrack, or if you prefer, you can record four separate takes of turningthe same knob. Because all the AN200's knobs transmit MIDI CC messages,you can record control changes into an external sequencer without theone-knob-per-track limitation.

The AN200 ships with a dual-platform CD-ROM containing the AN200Editor application with its own 72-page PDF manual. The Editor presentsan onscreen control panel that's more detailed than the hardware unit'sfront panel (see Fig. 12). Rather than the 18 knobs on the AN200itself, the software user interface provides 45 knobs for Voice andPattern editing. Using the Editor on your computer, you can create andedit User Patterns and assemble them into songs, one phrase at a time,and then transfer them to the AN200 for playback.

The AN200 owner's manual is a little unusual in that it's organizedinto 92 tips and an appendix. Such a tutorial approach, although quitehelpful when you're learning to use the AN200, takes some getting usedto. When you're simply scanning the manual for information, findingquick answers can sometimes be difficult. I'd prefer to see a manualthat offers a tutorial section and a reference section.

Yamaha was an early pioneer of physical-modeling synthesis,including analog modeling. Consequently, I'm somewhat surprised thatthe AN200 is Yamaha's only current model devoted to analog modeling. Icertainly hope the company has plans to introduce an instrument toreplace the popular AN1x keyboard. Fortunately, most of the AN1x'sfeatures are available on the AN200, but in a desktop form factor. Ifyou already own an expandable Yamaha synth such as the S80 or CS6x, thePLG150AN plug-in board can add most of the AN200's synth engine tothose instruments. If I were in the market for a groove box, though,the AN200 would probably be at the top of my list.

THE SUM OF THEIR PARTS

Like real analog synths, every instrument in this roundup has a verydistinct personality. None of them closely resembles the others, andall of them have features that make them stand out from the crowd.Granted, all things are not equal; most notably, prices range from $399to $2,499. Some, such as the Novation K-Station and the Waldorf MicroQ,are amazing instruments for the price; others, such as the Clavia Nordor the Roland JP-8080, are simply amazing instruments.

More than half of these instruments are sound modules that lackkeyboards, but they aren't necessarily the least expensive models; at$2,495, the Clavia Nord Rack 3 is the most expensive of the lot andworth every penny. The Red Sound Elevata module, though priced the sameas the K-Station keyboard, is the biggest disappointment in the bunch.The Korg Electribe A and the Yamaha AN200 are groove machines withsynth engines that focus their functionality on built-in sequencers.The Clavia Nord Modular is a timbre-programming powerhouse that shouldprovide years of making sounds that no other instrument is capable ofproducing.

If you're looking for acoustic piano or any other sample-basedsound, analog-modeling synths are not for you. They have a timbralcharacter that's out of place in certain styles of music and perfectlyat home in others. If you love the sound of analog synthesizers, youmight discover a new love in the sound of virtual analog.

I WANT ONE OF EACH!

Almost every instrument in this roundup is worth owning, some forbetter reasons than others. When I'm shopping for a virtual analogsynth, I want something that can do everything a real analog synth canand then some. I want an instrument that sounds great and offersjaw-dropping factory programs, plenty of hands-on control, and flexibleprogramming capabilities.

If I had to narrow my choice down to just one synthesizer, it wouldbe a tough decision. If I had enough money, it would probably be atoss-up between the Nord Modular, the Nord Rack 3, and the JP-8080.They all sound fabulous, and they all offer wonderful programmingdepth. I really wish I could afford all three!

If I had less than $1,000 to spend, I'd have a difficult timeturning down the K-Station, but I'm a knob tweaker at heart, and theMicroQ offers tremendous bang for the buck. I'm not too crazy about itsuser interface, but its programming depth would make it worth learningevery detail. If I had a little more cash, the Korg MS2000 wouldcertainly enter the running. All three instruments sound great.

If I were on a really tight budget, I might choose the Roland SH-32,but more likely, I'd keep saving up for a MicroQ or a K-Station. On theother hand, the SH-32 offers a lot for the money, and you might likeits sound and its looks better than I do. If I were in the market for agroove box, I'd happily choose the Yamaha AN200; I love its sound, andit's a lot of fun to play.

The choice you make comes down to what kind of music you play, howmuch programming you want to do, and what you can afford. With thepossible exception of the Elevata, there isn't an instrument here thatI wouldn't recommend; the exact model would depend on your needs. Realanalog synthesizers have their place, but today's virtual analogsynthesizers can do just about anything a real analog can do and muchmore.

Geary Yeltonis an associate editor forEM.He's gradually making the transition from owning a ton of gear tohaving a totally virtual electronic-music studio. Special thanks toGeorge Rendulic and Michael Ragan of Guitar Center in Charlotte, NorthCarolina, for the loan of the K-Station and the MicroQ.

CONTACT SHEET

Armadillo Enterprises

tel. (727) 519-9669; e-mail info@armadilloent.com;
Web www.armadilloent.com

Korg USA

tel. (516) 333-9100;
Web www.korg.com

Novation USA

tel. (888) 782-3166;
e-mail salesusa@novationusa.com;
Web www.novationusa.com

Roland Corp. U.S.

tel. (323) 890-3700;
Web www.rolandus.com

Waldorf

tel. 49-2636-7001;
Web www.waldorf-gmbh.de

Yamaha Corp. of America

tel. (714) 522-9011; e-mail info@yamaha.com;
Web www.yamahasynth.com

SYNTHS AND SENSIBILITY

One obvious trend that I've observed is smaller instruments. None ofthe synths that I gathered for this article had a full-size keyboard.Even if I had acquired a synth with a 61-note keyboard, I don't thinkit would have given me a richer synthesizing experience than some ofthe instruments I played. Nearly half were tabletop models with nokeyboard at all. Their tabletop design is significant in that it hasbecome so common; even models with small keyboards are quite at home ona tabletop or packed tightly together on a keyboard stand. Mosttabletop synths are designed to be rackmountable, as well, but only theRoland JP-8080 comes with rack ears installed (they are removable).

As front-panel controls have grown more numerous, synthesizers havestill managed to become smaller. Instruments that are more compact havemany advantages, not the least of which is that you can pack more ofthem into a smaller space and thus put more of the knobs you need toturn and buttons you need to press within easy reach. A three-tieredkeyboard stand, instead of holding three full-size keyboards, can nowhold from six to nine instruments.

Another common thread running among these instruments is that theirdisplays are all rather small. Not one of them has a generous display,but then again, neither do real analog synthesizers. A detailed displayis a lot less necessary when the front panel is filled with dedicatedcontrols. Kudos go to the Waldorf MicroQ for the densest display in thegroup. Also, when the MicroQ has been dormant for a while, the LCD runsanimated screen-saver graphics. The MS2000's 32-character, brightyellow-green display is the best balance of density and legibility. TheElevata's red LED display is actually larger, but it shows only eightcharacters. The K-Station's light-blue-on-bright-blue LCD is thebrightest of the LCDs, but it displays just 16 alphanumericcharacters.

A more disappointing observation is that none of the synths havedigital-audio I/O of any kind. The older instruments can be forgivenbecause digital-audio ports have only recently become features thatusers expect, and most of the newer synths in the roundup are economymodels that cut corners whenever possible. I just hope that whateverreplaces the higher-end synths includes digital-audio outputs.

Analog-Modeling Synthesizer Specifications

(Clavia-Novation)

Clavia Nord ModularClavia Nord Rack 3Korg Electribe AKorg MS2000Novation K-Station

Retail Price$1,999$2,499$399$1,150$899Maximum Polyphony(32) notes(24) notes(2) notes(4) notes(8) notesMultitimbral Parts(4)(4)(2)(2)(1)

Oscillators
(per voice)

almost unlimited(2)(2)(2)(3)Suboscillatoralmost unlimitednonenonenonenoneOscillator Waveforms(4) basic, noise, synced noise,formants(5) basic, noise, syncednoise(3) basic(4) basic, (64) DWGS, noise(4) basic, noiseOscillator
Sync
yesyesyesyesyesRing Modulation/
FM
yes/yesyes/yesyes/noyes/yesyes/yesFiltersalmost unlimited(2)(1)(1)(1)Filter Typeslowpass, static or dynamic multimode,vocal, vocoder, resonant bank, parametric and shelving EQlowpass, bandpass, highpass,band-rejectlowpasslowpass, bandpass, highpasslowpass, EQFilter ResonanceyesyesyesyesyesFilter Slope (dB /octave)12, 18, 246, 12, 24, nonlinear1212, 2412, 24Envelope Generatorsalmost unlimited(2) ADSR, (1) AD(1) D(2) ADSR(2) ADSR; (1) ADLFOsalmost unlimited(2)none(2)(2)LFO External SyncyesyesnoyesyesNumber of Keys/Note-EntryButtons(25) keysnone(16) buttons(44) keys(25) keysVelocity SentyesnonoyesyesAftertouch SentnononononoAftertouch ReceivedChannelChannelnoChannelChannelPortamentoyesyesyesyesyesLeft-Hand Controllersnonenonenone(1) Pitch-Bend wheel; (1) Modulationwheel(1) Pitch-Bend wheel; (1) ModulationwheelSequencer32-event, 16-step control;16-notenone(256) user patterns; (16) songs; (65,500)events; tempo tap16 steps x 3 tracksnoneArpeggiatornone(4) preset patterns, SubArpeggionone(6) preset patterns, Mod Sequencercontrol of pitch(6) preset patternsEffectsmodules include: chorus, compressor,delay, expander, overdrive, phaser, waveshaper, ring modnone(1) distortion; (1) tempo delay orchorus/flanger(1) modulation: chorus/flanger, ensemble,phaser; (1) delay; (1) EQ(7) simultaneously: delay, reverb,chorus, distortion, EQ, panning, vocoderVocoder16-band vocodernonenone16-band vocoder12-band vocoderSingle Programs(500) RAM(1,024) RAM(256; inseparable frompatterns)(128) RAM(400) RAM (half are blank)Drum Kitsnonenone(256; inseparable frompatterns)nonenoneMultitimbral Programsnone(256) RAMnonenonenoneAudio Outputs(4) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(4) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) ⅛"stereo headphoneAudio Inputs(2) unbalanced 1/4" TSnone(1) unbalanced 1/4" TS(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS(1) unbalanced 1/4" TSController Inputs(1) sustain footswitch; (1) assignablefootswitch;(1) sustain footswitch; (1) “Not inUse”none(1) assignable footswitch; (1) assignablepedalnoneMIDI Ports(2) In, (2) OutIn, Out, ThruIn, Out, ThruIn, Out, ThruIn, Out, ThruSpecial FeaturesModular Editor softwarenoneMotion Sequencer; external audioprocessingMod Sequencer; external audioprocessingnoneOptionsDSP expansion ($499)nonenonefootswitch, pedalnoneDisplay16-character x 2-line backlitLCD16-character x 2-line backlitLCD3-character LED16-character x 2-line backlitLCD16-character backlit LCDPowerfixed 3-pin ACremovable 2-pin AC9V wall wart9V wall wart9V wall wartWeight14.5 lb.13 lb.2.75 lb.15.6 lb.8.8 lb.Dimensions18.6" (W) x 3.5" (H) x 10.4"(D)19.00" (W) x 5.00" (H) x 6.25"(D)11.8" (W) x 2.1" (H) x 8.9"(D)28.8" (W) x 5.8" (H) x 14.5"(D)21.00" (W) x 3.25" (H) x 12.00"(D)EM ReviewAugust 1999February 2002 (Nord Lead 3)November 1999August 2000n/a

Analog-Modeling Synthesizer Specifications(Red Sound—Waldorf)

Red Sound ElevataRoland JP-8080Roland SH-32Yamaha AN200Waldorf MicroQ

Retail Price$899$1,595$595$630$995Maximum Polyphony(16) notes(10) notes(32) notes(5) notes AN, (32) notes AWM2(25) notesMultitimbral Parts(8)(2)(4) synth or (3) synth and (1)rhythm(1) AN, (3) AWM2 rhythmtracks(16)

Oscillators
(per voice)

(2)(2)(2)(2)(3)Suboscillatornonenone(2)nonenoneOscillator Waveformscontinuously variable from sawtooth topulse, noise(6) basic, noise(7) groups, (64) types, (63) rhythmwaveforms(12)(4) basic, (2) wavetables,noiseOscillator
Sync
yesyesyesyesyesRing Modulation/
FM
yes/noyes/yesyes/nono/yesyes/yesFilters(1)(1)(1)(1)(2)Filter Typeslowpass, bandpass, highpasslowpass, bandpass, highpasslowpass, bandpass, highpass,peakinglowpass, bandpass, highpass,band-eliminatelowpass, bandpass, highpass, notch,combFilter ResonanceyesyesyesyesyesFilter Slope (dB /octave)1212, 2412, 2412, 18, 2412, 24Envelope Generators(2) ADSR(2) ADSR; (1) AD(2) ADSR; (1) AD(2) ADSR(4) ADSRLFOs(2)(2)(2)(1)(3)LFO External SyncyesyesyesyesyesNumber of Keys/Note-EntryButtonsnone(13) buttons(13) buttons(16) buttons(37) keysVelocity SentnoyesnonoyesAftertouch SentnoChannelnonoChannelAftertouch ReceivedChannelChannelKey, ChannelChannelKey, ChannelPortamentoyesyesyesyesyesLeft-Hand Controllersnonenonenonenone(1) Pitch-Bend wheel; (1) ModulationwheelSequencernonereal-time loop recording (RPS); (48) userpatternsnone(16) step; (256) preset patterns; (128)user patterns; (10) songs; swing; reverse; tempo tapnoneArpeggiator(7) preset patterns(4) preset patterns; (90)rhythms(32) steps; (64) user Arpeggio Styles;(64) user Rhythm Stylesnone(16) steps; (15) ROM patterns, (1) userpatternEffectschorus, flanger(1) 2-band EQ; (1) delay (5 types); (1)multi (13 types)(35) insertion effects; (10)reverb/delay(1) distortion; (1) EQ; (1) multi: delay,reverb, flanger, chorus, phaser, amp simulator(2) processors (7 types: chorus, flanger,phaser, distortion, delay, sample reduction, overdrive)Vocoderoptional24-band Voice ModulatornonenonevocoderSingle Programs(128) ROM, (128) RAM(384) ROM; (128) RAM(128) preset; (128) user(256; inseparable frompatterns)(300) RAMDrum Kitsnonenone(2) preset; (2) user(1) preset(20) RAMMultitimbral Programs(10) ROM; (80) RAM(192) ROM; (64) RAM(64) RAM(inseparable from patterns)(100) RAMAudio Outputs(6) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphone(6) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" stereoheadphoneAudio Inputs(2) unbalanced 1/4" TS; (1) 1/4" TSvocoder input(1) unbalanced 1/4" TS mic-level; (2)unbalanced 1/4" TS line-levelnonenone(2) unbalanced 1/4" TSController Inputs(1) external joystick DINnone(1) footswitchnone(1) sustain footswitch; (1) assignablepedalMIDI PortsIn, Out, Thru(2) In, (1) OutIn, OutIn, OutIn, Out, ThruSpecial Featuresx-y joystick; SoundWizardMotion Control; SmartMediastorageChord Memory (64 user chordforms)Free EG; computer softwareRandom SoundOptionsVocoda conversion kit ($49); externalremote joystick ($49)nonefootswitchnonenoneDisplay8-character LED16-character x 2-line backlitLCD3-character LED4-character LED20-character x 2-line backlitLCDPower9V lump-in-the-lineremovable IEC 3-pin AC9V wall wart12V wall wartremovable IEC 3-pin ACWeight10 lb.9.94 lb.4.25 lb.3.5 lb.10 lb.Dimensions19.00" (W) x 2.00" (H) x 8.25"(D)5U x 3.5" (D)11.9" (W) x 3.6" (H) x 9.0"(D)13.31" (W) x 2.04" (H) x 8.22"(D)24.5" (W) x 13.0" (H) x 3.7"(D)EM Reviewn/aJuly 1999n/an/an/a