Synth connoisseurs typically prize an instrument’s character over its versatility. Case in point: The Minimoog wasn’t the most flexible monosynth of all time, but its sound made it immediately identifiable. With this in mind, I’ve become enamored with the character of the MeeBlip Triode ($149; meeblip.com).
With its straightforward knob-per-function front-panel, the Triode provides a high degree of tweak-ability in both studio and performance settings. Like its predecessor the Anode (read the review at emusician.com), the Triode’s digital waveforms and resonant analog filter can create sounds that cut through a mix in a distinct way. Yet unlike the Anode, the Triode offers three waveforms (sawtooth, pulse, and pulse with pulse-width modulation), a square-wave sub-oscillator, and three banks of eight wavetables that you access by switching firmware during power-up.
The Triode has a 5-pin MIDI connector, rather than USB, and responds to MIDI on channels 1-8: Velocity controls filter envelope, mod-wheel sets LFO Depth, and CCs 48 through 70 are mapped to other parameters, including ones without front panel controls such as LFO Randomize, Filter Envelope Modulation, and Oscillator Pulse Width. In other words, this little synth is ready for real-time performance right out of the box.
If you noticed that the front panel has only Decay knobs for the amp and filter envelopes, it’s because the attack parameters are controlled via MIDI. Moreover, when Sustain is switched on, the Decay knobs set both sustain and release times.
And in typical MeeBlip fashion, the Triode has an open-source architecture. (The product is a collaborative effort between James Grahame of blipsonic and Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music.) Anyone interested in hacking the Triode need only visit meeblip.com to get the source material.
Overall, the Triode’s sound palette is going to be a big draw for artists who gravitate toward nasty, in-your-face timbres. For more subdued productions, the Triode is like adding a dash of habanero sauce to a track, making it perfect for attention-grabbing accents. (Hear audio clips at emusician.com/meeblip.)
Most importantly, at this price the Triode hits all of the sweet spots and is small enough to fit in your pocket—definitely a winning combo.