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Extensive Hydrasynth review.
Old 1st September 2020
  #1
Extensive Hydrasynth review (fully revised, with audio demo).

Extensive audio demo now on pg 5 of this thread, and
here:


Wavetabling demo, many small clips from much longer session, no internal or external fx (other than wavetstack, rotary, and a 'tiny' bit of delay on one bit towards the end):



VA demo, no internal or external fx (other than drive):



[So believe it or not, when I first got the synth, I didn't like it. Go figure. It took about a week to realize that the synth wasn't designed to be fully understandable by simply applying insights from other synths to this one. Gotta read the manual. Also, some things just take learning, like the resonance needs to be balanced by some drive to sound good. Once some initial confusions were out of the way, I came to realize this is quite the awesome synth. So I edited the review below to reflect that. The outraged comments below are for the original review. Comments on this most recent version start after I announce the revision of this review on page 4]

-

THE VERY, VERY GOOD STUFF:

- Really great build quality. Plastic knobs feel a little cheap on the outside, but the encoders themselves feel super sturdy, displays are crisp and clear, aluminum casing is like a tank. The synth looks gorgeous on all levels, the black and orange combo is really great. Also love seeing the waveform morph in real time, though I guess that's only so useful in practice, maybe the screen real estate has more practical uses at times, but sure looks nice doing that.

- The pads on the desktop are incredible! I've never used pads for much, and eventually hooked the unit up to my midi controller for a traditional playing experience. But not only are these beautiful, sturdy, durable feeling pads, velocity and aftertouch sensitivity on them is top notch. And they morph to scales nicely. Impressive.

- A lot of the UI is kinda ground-breaking. Having dedicated buttons for the modules of the synth is just perfect, harkens back to Ensoniq, and should become standard on more synths. The macro knobs are genius, and so it is the mod-matrix assignment method (though there's no way to know about it without reading the manual, so don't expect to get that part just from groking the front panel).

- Hydrasynth does not sound harsh or shrill as some reported. The base tone is warm, thick, rich, full, lush, etc. I guess the synth has a base tone that *ever so slightly* accentuates the upper mids, but it is by no means harsh. The synth isn't a bass monster, but never did I feel the high end was buzzing away or harsh. What's more, the 'analog mode' and built in drive really sound pretty great too. The various ways the synth detunes voices to make them sound lush and drifty in a simulated analog-style way is also nicely done and fully adjustable.

- The built in fx are amazing. That's some lush reverb for a hardware synth. The delay are great, and everything else sounded pretty sweet. What's more, there's many layers of the fx. There's a main level with dedicated reverb and delay, another effects slot before this and after this.

- Panning and stereo-width type stuff are extensive and sounds amazing. There's a ton of pretty sophisticated stuff going on with panning and stereo spread to make the synth sound like its wide, shifting, and moving in ways subtle and dramatic in the stereo field.

- The signal flow hard-coded buttons are great UI design, also the 8 knob, button, tiny screen combo. Being able to jump to anywhere in the signal flow easily at the press of a button is how it should be. So easy to get from oscillator 1 to filter to fx menus. This should become standard in future synths this deep.

- CV connectivity in a polyphonic synth, holy crap that's cool! Not to mention the synth can be used as a midi/cv converter for controlling eurorack and such. Combine with the nicely featured arpeggiator, wow.

- Polyphonic aftertouch (even on desktop pads?!), MPE, ribbon controller. Nuff said.

- The arp is super cool. Lots of modes and tricks up its sleeve.

- The sound is stunning. Seriously, this is a great sounding synth. That's not to say that some setting combos might not get yucky, but with a synth this deep, they chose to maximize options rather than make the synth all 'sweet spot', so that's worth keeping in mind. While it can do biting and harsh, it can also do some very dark, warm, haunting, oozing, throaty sorts of wavetable sounds that can sound quite older than 2020 tech, in a really great way.

- Macros and hands on control of parameters are really cutting-edge, and allow for tons of hands-on morphing of sounds. Eight macro knobs is pretty great, and offer tons of customization options. Mostly I start with a preset, change some wavetables and mutants, and go to town on the macro knobs that have already been set up. I've gotten tons of sounds out of this thing that I've gotten out of nothing else. I'm sure various VSTs do this sort of stuff, but I can't help feeling that the single trip from digital hardware to analog into the interface gives even digital hardware synths a bit more oomph than plugs. Ok, you could run your plugs in and out of your DAW, of course. But hands on interfacing like this is something no vst can do. Morphing four macro knobs with two hands live while a sequence is playing? Tons of fun, and so much tonal variety.

- Aside from wavetables, it's also a really excellent VA synth. I must say that at first the filters didn't wow me. First, the parameters aren't limited to the ranges of a typical analog synth. What's more, at first I also I didn't realize that basically whenever you increase the resonance, you also have to increase the drive, otherwise, it gets this annoying overly fizzy top end. For typical resonance sweep sounds, I find that I need to have the drive up around 42-44 or so. More than that it gets too midrangey. I find the drive parameter overall sounds nicer to my ears than the 'warm mode'.

- Lots of wavetable options. Holding down shift and turning the first wave in a wavetable moves all the waves up by one, making all sorts of intermediate wavetables between sets. Really smart way of doing things. You can of course also make a custom wavetable, and the UI is great for that, but it can take a while. So many options here, really great. The wavestack effect is also amazing at providing a certain edge to it.

- Mutants. A lot of the reason I bought this synth was this innovative new approach. Squishy-stretchy pwm, wtf?! Now in practice, a lot of the wavetables don't all sound great with all the mutants, but a ton do, it just takes some sifting through and tweaking. There's so many ways to modulate the mutants as well, but it can take a bit to figure out what works best. These mutants are also really deep. I've never seen stuff like ratio or feedback on pwm before.

- The mod matrix layout is about as good as it can get (without larger screens and such), and making mod matrix assignments is super fast due to some shortcuts that are really ingenious.

- Super flexible. There's so many little things here that just provide extra options. The lfos and envelopes have the ability to function as each other, and there's so many of each. Three types of pwm with feedback, ratio, and more on every wavetable?! And that's just scratching the surface.

- Great manual. Seriously, prob the best synth manual I've encountered yet. Quick, straightforward, clear, user friendly, and useful.


THE LESS THAN GREAT STUFF (minor issues, really):

- Hydrasynth is a plugin in a box. Then again, it's a damn good one, and those macro knobs provide an interface for live tweaking this vst in a box that is hard to beat.

- The presets are often kinda murky. But most synths have such 'same-ishness' to their presets.

- Raw saw wave sounds great, but getting two to sound great together when detuned isn't as easy. I found this a bit odd. The basic saw wave initialize patch sounds incredible, but as soon as you detune two of these, it can sound a bit phasey and more like pulse wave of some sort. It requires a bit of tweaking stuff to develop convincing saw pads with no resonance and open filter because of this. Maybe time will tell of a way around this.

- There are a few crucial things about the UI that aren't immediately apparent from the front panel alone, so you've got to read the manual no matter what. The most crucial oversight is there should be a button or light or something that indicates you're in preset/macro mode, or edit mode. Without knowing that the eight mini-displays are macro-controls when you play a present, but that as soon as you hit a dedicated module button to change a parameter, that you've left macro mode for edit mode, well, a lot of confusion can arise. It certainly did for me, and to be honest, my first interaction with the synth was baffling, and that's not due to lack of experience with synths. Just knowing this simple fact, that the synth defaults to macro mode, with the eight main knobs controlling macros, and then goes into edit mode when you change parameters (though you can return to macro mode by hitting the 'home' button), would have saved me tons of time at first go.

The second big UI issue that isn't apparent at first go is the trick about how to make easy mod-matrix assignments: hold down the module button for a source, and while keeping this held, hit the button for the destination module, and hydra just makes a mod-matrix assignment for you, and takes you to the mod matrix page to tweak it. It's genius and makes editing super fast, a rare feat for a mod matrix, but there's no way to know this from the front panel alone. Perhaps a mod-assign button would've made that easier. Whatever, it's super easy to edit once you learn it from the manual.

Finally, holding down shift makes a lot of tasks easier. Scrolling through presets goes faster, and if you hold shift and just turn the knob for the first wave in the wavetable, the synth scrolls through all the waves in cascading tables. No way to know this without the manual, but certainly beats assembling your own wavetable from individual waves each time, even though this remains a great but slow option.

- The preset knob can erase a patch you are making?!! Nooooo!! Don't hit the big shiny knob in the middle while editing a preset, for any reason, or you will erase your hard work, noooo! I've done it too many times already. Please ASM, fix this in the next firmware somehow? Maybe you need to press shift and the shiny knob to change a preset while editing, dunno.

THE FUTURE?

- For a first synth by ASM, wow. Of course, their team has some real veterans on it. But still. Killer, killer synth.

- Requests for future/firmware upgrades? Some simple indicator that one is in macro/preset or edit mode would really help first time users. An indicator of the 'hold down a source and while pressed hit a destination and it will create a mod matrix link' would be great too. Rather than even a firmware fix, if ASM included a decal with these two points on future versions of the synth, that would make it so the synth is fully usable from the front panel without having to read the manual. I know manuals are great, but this synth is 'soooo' close to be fully useable without needing the manual, it's hard not to see wanting that as a goal.

Seems there's also an issue with legato playing that has come up on p 5 of this thread. I'd like to see 'warm mode' developed a bit further. Right now it still sounds a bit too mid-rangey for my taste, and I find it often sounds better to just use the drive parameter, but I spend a lot of time tweaking the drive versus the resonance.

A warm mode that increased drive as resonance increased with a scaling relationship would be super useful, I think.

I've seen people wish for some sort of step-sequencer alongside the arp, not sure how difficult it would be to implement in a firmware upgrade, but always nice to have this, and in conjunction with the arp, could extend its flexibility.

It would be cool if the list of mutants grew over time too. A wavefolder mutant would be cool, for example. A 1p filter mode, like on the Oberheim Xpander, would also be cool.

Lastly, would be great if there were ways to 'mix up' the order of the waves in the wavetables, maybe not fully random, but with degrees of reordering or randomization. Something between the slower process of creating a wavetable by hand, and the shorter one of going with the possible sequences provided.

It would also be super cool if the effects section had something added that digitally alter/degrade whatever wave was sent to it, like sample rate/bit rate decimation, but perhaps also modes which mimic directly the sort of digital grunge or grit of some past synths of old.

Extend max/min cross-over points in the eq effect matrix.

These are all minor, but of course, can't hurt to ask!

- Template patches. This synth is soooo vast and deep, that a bunch of template patches would be super helpful. While it's possible to use the current presets in such a way to some extent, this also often requires stripping a way a lot of other stuff to make it work, when a relatively bare template (ie: FM sweep, Sync sweep, etc.) would be much easier. Having a dedicated group of template patches (bank F or something so it doesn't wipe anyone's user patches?) would be super useful for speeding things up. Templates would also give users ideas for using the synth that they might not think of at first, but which the designers had in mind and want to show off.

A few VA templates would be great too, kinda like Yuno 60. Many classic analog synths could have extended the range of their parameters much further, but chose to 'curate' the ranges of the parameters to emphasize certain sweet spots, and this was crucial to the 'sound' of each one. Having a few templates of this sort would be super useful too.

- Eventual Deluxe version? Analog filters, vcas, drive, internal power supply: Of course, it's hard not to imagine a 'Hydrasynth Deleuxe' or something with analog filters and VCAs, and analog drive. It's likely this would require bringing t the power supply inside the synth rather than wall-wart, but that's a good thing anyway, though likely to increase the cost some.

The difficulty is always whether or not stereo filters for a synth like this. Clearly you don't want to lose all the panning stuff the synth can do, which requires stereo filters, but that's costly.

I could see it being more 'budget friendly' to have a single analog and a single digital filter per each of 8 voices, with a few modes to use these. In full eight voice mode, the analog and digital filters could be run in series or parallel for 8 voice mono (but into stereo fx), OR, digital and analog filter panned left and right for 8 voice stereo (into stereo fx). For full stereo with the analog filters, you'd go down to four voices. A 'super deluxe' version could then have 2 analog filters per voice for stereo, and allow splits and layers (ie: novation summit).

Then there's the issue of AD/DA conversion after the analog stage. Please ASM, whatever you do, don't take the approach of Waldorf Quantum (as great a synth as it is), where there's no way to bypass the final DA/AD stage that converts the analog filtered sound back to the digital fx board, with no way to bypass this to get direct audio. Please, please have a direct audio out from the filters, before any AD/DA stage into digital fx, which can be mixed with that going to the digital fx board, maybe in wet/dry mode, but it's gotta allow direct out from the filters, please!!

I must say I also luv a synth with built in BBD 'analog' stereo
chorus like the juno. Of course you can reach for a pedal, but is it stereo? Do you have cables handy? By that time, your idea has vanished, nothing beats just hitting a switch and its there. And while digital chorus is great, nothing sounds like BBDs. If that doesn't drive up the price too much, tasty, tasty.

Last edited by fromthepuggle; 8th September 2020 at 09:24 PM..
Old 1st September 2020
  #2
Here for the gear
 

Man I really don't understand the whole UI bashing and not wanting to go into the mod matrix. As you found out later, you literally have to press the Lfo/env button and the button of what you want to assign it to... It is literally 2 buttons. If people can't hack pressing 2 buttons on a synth this deep and complex then I don't know what to suggest haha. Personally think after reading the manual, no other synth compares to the UI and workflow, it is so so well thought out and quick. You can make sophisticated patches at such high speed. Also I get that you don't like the filter/resonance, did you try all 16 filters?
Old 1st September 2020
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jilalmomo View Post
Man I really don't understand the whole UI bashing and not wanting to go into the mod matrix. As you found out later, you literally have to press the Lfo/env button and the button of what you want to assign it to... It is literally 2 buttons. If people can't hack pressing 2 buttons on a synth this deep and complex then I don't know what to suggest haha. Personally think after reading the manual, no other synth compares to the UI and workflow, it is so so well thought out and quick. You can make sophisticated patches at such high speed. Also I get that you don't like the filter/resonance, did you try all 16 filters?
Yup. I think the ui on the hydra synth is pretty awesome.
Old 1st September 2020
  #4
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goony's Avatar
The UI on the hydra is one of the easiest to get around. Something the op didn't grasp very well at all.
Old 1st September 2020
  #5
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Yoozer's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
- Hydrasynth really is a plugin in a box and little more. Should I have expected otherwise? Maybe not, but I did. I haven't played a purely digital modern synth in ages, since the last time I spent quite a bit of time with a Blofeld in a music store like 3-4 years ago.
The "it's a plugin in a box" complaint is voiced often, but there's nothing wrong with it - and that's because the code that runs the Hydrasynth (and is responsible for the sound generation and the effects) is not available as a plugin. If you were comparing a Novation K-Station with the V-Station plugin, that's a bit more fair, because the (supposedly) identical code should yield identical results. It's a testament to how much the UI of a synth contributes to the price.

Quote:
What I really like about the old Yamaha/Korg FM is the individual voices are created by individual voice chips
The voices in a Yamaha DX7 all originate from two chips - the YM21280 and an envelope generator (YM21290). The mixing is done at the digital level, and all of the data is pushed into a D/A converter.

I'm reasonably certain that @ acreil has already posted about this with the actual correct information, but this is something you can check in the circuit diagrams - any analog mixing section would show up there

Korg FM synths licensed Yamaha tech, so they also have single YM-something or OPL-something voice chips.

However, the general sentiment of what you express, I can relate to that, and to me that's a sign of technology slowing down (and likely aging, too).

A DX7 blew people's minds, the D50 did it again, and the M1 did it again as well - and every new advance has either been numerical (more memory! more polyphony! more effects!) and/or incremental (more multisamples! more articulations!). In a sense, it's good - it just means that the ball is back in the artist's court to make mindblowing stuff.

Last edited by Yoozer; 2nd September 2020 at 08:11 AM.. Reason: Novation V-Synth, what the hell
Old 1st September 2020
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
[...]

My guess is that I'd likely have had a similar experience with many other similar 'new digital' synths, so not trying to single out ASM here, it's just this one was what I bought. My original plan was to shoot out Hydra with Argon. I'm guessing I'd have a similar experience with Argon, so I'm rethinking my plans. I wouldn't expect anything by Roland or others making digital-only synths these days would be that diff. [...]
That's as ludicrous as saying that all analog synths sound the same

You should definitely check out ACB/SYSTEM 8 to hear what "new school" VA can do in an intuitive package.

Also a Reface DX for a modern clean take on FM (it's the only easy to use non-VA/pure digital synth I can think of right now).

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
- I heard nothing in Hydrasynth that isn't beat out by good contemporary plugins like Serum or Dune 3, or old but quality VA stuff like Microkorg. I briefly owned a Microkorg XL (I think that's the MS2000 engine repackaged) and a Minonova. Great classic VA, but very 2005 in their ways.[...]
microKORG XL uses the RADIAS engine, not MS2000.
Old 1st September 2020
  #7
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Can the theremin be used on the desktop version with the mod wheel on a keyboard? (or some other way)

I love the desktop, but no theremin always makes me back out.
Old 1st September 2020
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
What I really like about the old Yamaha/Korg FM is the individual voices are created by individual voice chips, and I think that's mixed in the analog realm.
let's stick to facts. How many DACs are in a DX7? one. There is interesting stuff going on with how voices are extracted from one DAC. They are not "summed" in the analog realm but rather multiplexed/interleaved.

What's inside a DX7
Old 1st September 2020
  #9
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Have to say I'm a bit weirded out by this. I mean you bought this proudly deep and digital synth, end up disappointed that it doesn't perform that well doing mostly basic VA stuff in terms of UI and sounds, and not only do you feel this is something reviewers should have warned you about, it's something the manufacturer should try and address...

Man, you're going against the grain here. It's clearly not your kind of synth and that should have been obvious from day one.
Old 1st September 2020
  #10
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acreil's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoozer View Post
The voices in a Yamaha DX7 all originate from two chips - the YM21280 and an envelope generator (YM21290). The mixing is done at the digital level, and all of the data is pushed into a D/A converter.

I'm reasonably certain that @ acreil has already posted about this with the actual correct information, but this is something you can check in the circuit diagrams - any analog mixing section would show up there

Korg FM synths licensed Yamaha tech, so they also have single YM-something or OPL-something voice chips.
Right, there are exactly zero FM synths that use "FM chips per voice". All of them use time multiplexing to generate multiple voices from the same hardware. The closest would be the stuff made by Elka/Orla/Dr. Böhm that use up to 8 or 12 or even 16 3 note polyphonic YM2203 OPN ICs with YM3014 DACs. As far as I can tell, that was only done because the OPN ICs were cheap (sold for use in arcade games and home computers) and/or Yamaha refused to sell their better performing ICs to competitors. I don't think the Elka/Orla/Dr. Böhm designs would have any particular advantage over getting 3-6 Yamaha FB01s and putting them through a nice string ensemble chorus (which is pretty much what Yamaha did in some of their own low end Electone models).

The Synclavier has a separate DAC per voice (which I don't expect would significantly affect the character of the sound). The DX7 does technically mix the voices in the analog domain because the DAC is time multiplexed. But this is only done to improve the dynamic range of a not very good DAC. The Korg 707 and DS-8 definitely mix all the voices digitally, just like the FB01, DX100, DX27 and DX21. I haven't heard anyone complain that the Yamaha GS1 or DK Synergy are somehow lacking in "mojo" because all the voices are accumulated digitally and converted at the same time. I think the hype over "analog mixing" is completely overblown, at least until someone can rigorously and unambiguously prove otherwise.
Old 1st September 2020
  #11
Gear Nut
 

Clearly op has a lot of respect for this piece of gear, and may have gelled more with the UI if they had held on a little longer

I have not tried one in person but from the reviews and demos Hydrasynth definitely seems to have a lot to offer. I skipped it for the Argon 8 and also have a Kodomo Essence FM, both of which sound great in a very non-analog way. If I didn't already have too many synths I'd also go for a Twisted Electrons MegaFM, which has some older chips that might float your boat. Wouldn't write off modern digitals based on the hydrasynth alone.

Although I probably wont buy a Hydrasynth, I am very curious to see what ASM comes up with next
Old 1st September 2020
  #12
I stand corrected, the Radias R3 engine is in the Microkorg XL. To my memory (not having the XL or Blofeld in front of me anymore), the hydra filters sound no better, if not worse, than these synths.

Regarding vintage FM and individual voices, I didn't realize it wasn't a chip per voice! will adjust my review for both these concerns, many thanks to those that pointed this out. So Acreil, as the resident expert on all things vintage digital, why is it that the vintage FM sounds 'like' the voices are mixing in the analog domain? When I play 'most' modern digital synths, I don't hear that sort of separation and heft to each voice that I hear in classic FM synths. That said, I did hear this in the Preen FM2. What's going on there?

To those who find the UI workflow intuitive. Are you doing things differently than I describe? Are there productivity hacks, or shortcut keys of some sort that make things go faster (ie: like the holding down a button while pressing another to make a mod matrix link)? I think that latter productivity hack is so major in impact it should be listed in bold somewhere.

But seriously folks, how do you get wavescanning/pwm/sync patches to 'start moving' quickly? I'm more than happy to be shown I'm wrong here. Is the fastest way the 'hold down button mod-matrix' fix?
Old 1st September 2020
  #13
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Synthpark's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
- I heard nothing in Hydrasynth that isn't beat out by good contemporary plugins like Serum or Dune 3, or old but quality VA stuff like Microkorg.
The Microkorg filter is excellent. Korg understands modelling analog filters quite well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post

- Once again, not slogging ASM here. Hydrasynth SOUNDS GREAT. There's no doubt a bout it. It's not shrill or harsh (despite a 'very' mild upper mid emphasis in the tonality', but this is super mild, it's a rich, warm, gorgeous basic tone, though the filter resonance, eek.).
In other words, the sound fails, ok.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
One final thing that almost no synth manufacturers do these days, but seems so worth it sonically. MIX THE VOICES in the ANALOG DOMAIN.
As if that helps. Helps only through soft saturation. The Hydrasynth is no FPGA, and the company is new. Why should they model filters better than Korg and Roland. It is not a bad synth, of course, just not special in the VA domain, but that is not surprising.
Old 1st September 2020
  #14
I cannot imagine writing that long of a review, or expressing such firm opinions, after “a long session” with a “brand new synth”, especially one as deep as Hydrasynth. I have no horse in this race, and tried to stay open-minded after the “plugin in a box” hand-wringing, but the entire review should be taken with a grain of salt. The brilliance of the Hydrasynth UI seems to be the only thing most people agree on with this synth.
Old 1st September 2020
  #15
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you lost me at

"VST in a box" - grow up and stop propagating this ridiculous fallacy (talking to much of GS here not just you)

"Argon , blofeld, DX7ii " - take more care to justify why these benchmark synths? You didnt make an effort to do so. instead you raise the implication that perhaps your experience is not deep enough to be authoritative (not saying this is true). Argon particularly seems like huge recency bias. Why not last year's darling the Peak? Why not the V-Synth? etc.

"Analog filters" - slapping analog filters at the end of the signal chain is not!! the norm, and synth designers should not be expected to prove "why not" analog hybridization. It is a cool gimmick but it limits your options, architecturally, and adds a lot of expense. I am happy to have it on a couple of synths, but music is not all "filters" per se, and certainly not limited to the one or two kinds of filtration that please analog fundamentalists.

I kind of agree with your UI comments, but my biggest issue with my HS is not the UI, it is simply justifiying another pretty-good synth in my room. I feel like HS is in some ways less than the sum of its parts, expecially if you have the desktop like I do. I have other expressive control hardware, and more on the way, so I didnt order the keboard. I have poly AT, I have ribbons, and the HS skews heavily towards sequenced and heavily effected patches, which is fine, and not abnormal, but it is often lost in the mix, which I feel weird typing.

I am giving it more time. This is specific to my practices and tastes, but when my system 1m, k2500rs, emu P2500 and Kronos (partial list) are standing out more week in, week out, in my daily journal recordings, I have to wonder.
Old 1st September 2020
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ihearanewworld View Post
I cannot imagine writing that long of a review, or expressing such firm opinions, after “a long session” with a “brand new synth”, especially one as deep as Hydrasynth. I have no horse in this race, and tried to stay open-minded after the “plugin in a box” hand-wringing, but the entire review should be taken with a grain of salt. The brilliance of the Hydrasynth UI seems to be the only thing most people agree on with this synth.

Hydrasynth keyboard owner here...

To be fair, there are a number of pages in many of the sections. Without memorization or constant referral to the manual, it becomes a hunt-n-peck operation *sometimes* when you're doing deeper sound design.

If there's a shortcut key combo to jump to page 4 or page 9 of the system menu, I'd like to know that (as one random example). Since it is a complex synth and it's not 1 control per parameter, there are going to be times when you're searching across the system (like looking for ways to turn off effects) and down through the pages and that can sometimes feel somewhat tedious.

I've worked with Randy Lee for years back in the Alesis/Akai days and he writes a good manual and is organized, so I will say the manual is an excellent reference when you do need to look up where something is located.

After some time now in the hands of users, I'd imagine the ASM team is assembling a list of UI/doc/patch improvements to make the experience even better.

One more example - I can't recall how many times I've lost a bunch of edits because I accidentally turned the Patch knob when I wanted to adjust the value of a parameter. Now, I never touch that knob for any reason.
Old 1st September 2020
  #17
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Every digital hardware synth is a plugin in an expensive box, essentially. I mean, to each their own of course, but ... there is that.
Old 1st September 2020
  #18
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acreil's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
Regarding vintage FM and individual voices, I didn't realize it wasn't a chip per voice! will adjust my review for both these concerns, many thanks to those that pointed this out. So Acreil, as the resident expert on all things vintage digital, why is it that the vintage FM sounds 'like' the voices are mixing in the analog domain? When I play 'most' modern digital synths, I don't hear that sort of separation and heft to each voice that I hear in classic FM synths. That said, I did hear this in the Preen FM2. What's going on there?
I don't think there's anything particularly special happening. Depending on the model, the sound might be affected to varying degrees by the sample rate, lookup table resolution and DAC distortion, and this can add some apparent brightness and aliasing to the sound. Most modern hardware or software wouldn't do that because it doesn't necessarily work the same way or explicitly attempt to emulate anything, but there's no reason why it can't by definition. Something like Plogue Chipsynth MD should have pretty much the same sound as the Korg 707 (although not exactly the same because it's emulating a different DAC - I usually say DACs aren't that important, but it's important here because the DACs in these cases are terrible).
Old 1st September 2020
  #19
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abruzzi's Avatar
 

It seems the "plugin in a box" criticism is really shorthand for "Why spend $1500 when I could do most/all of the same stuff for a $50 download." And that is a perfectly reasonable choice. But today, plugins are at a point that they are effectively emulating analog to an extent that most people couldn't tell the difference. So, in my opinion, today, most if not all all analog synths are just plugins in a box.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #20
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I have no idea why you would purposely not read any complicated machine’s manual unless you intended to not to like the machine you’re using. I also have no idea why you’re so scared of the modulation matrix. Modulation matrices are great and they put all of a synths parameters in one neatly organized area. It’s way easier to use a matrix when you have 5 LFO’s and 5 EG’s you can route to basically whatever you want. Obviously you’re an analog purist and you want everything to be like old 1-knob per function fixed architecture synths and anything that isn’t is just a Virtual Studio Technology Instrument inside of a box. (Which would be an instrument)
Old 2nd September 2020
  #21
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string6theory's Avatar
Here's my review summary...

At the end of the day, the entire Hydrasynth experience is phenomenal, from stunning sonics to versatile & musical modulation capabilities, all wrapped up in a hardware tank with the most expressive interface on a synth in some 35 years - PAT keyboard (or PADS), MPE-ready, extra-wide Ribbon controller with multiple modes, CV connectivity, audio inputs, excellent PW/MW bend box controls and a brilliantly implemented easy access UI panel of crisp screens, back-lit buttons and solid, great-feeling knobs. The real-time oscilloscope is the visual feedback icing on the cake!

Can some things be improved? YES

Is there anything really preventing someone from making incredibly emotive and expressive music on this unique and well-implemented instrument? NO

Affordable by any measure? YES

My rating; 9.75 out of 10. A+
Old 2nd September 2020
  #22
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droolmaster0's Avatar
 

I couldn't read all of this.

I find the notion that you knock it because it is a 'plugin in a box' to be absurd.

I mean, isn't a good part of the reason that people buy hardware digital synths the fact that they like the experience of working with hardware, and the type of ui they get? I suppose that I'm talking about myself, in that I like the flexibility and sound of some software synths, but I just hate (reasons are constructed after the fact) constructing sounds on the computer.

So, wtf? it's a plugin in a hardware box. That is the entire idea to me.

if you want an analog synth with a great interface and tons of modulation, look at the motas-6. More of a plug for that than anything else.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #23
Taking the time to set up preset templates helps immensely. One for pwm, another for wave scanning etc...The first one I did was to rid myself of the built in Vibrato that's always way too much.

What I really want are shortcuts for those mod sources that don't have buttons. (Velocity, Mono and Poly Aftertouch, Modwheel) Something like hitting a key to select velocity, moving the modwheel to select the MW maybe while holding a button.

I don't know, you purchased the module knowing full well that there would be more menu madness than the keyboard version? And then you complain about one of the fastest and easiest interfaces on the market???

It's an all digital synth...What else could it be but a plugin in a box? A very nicely built box with excellent knobs and healthy, satisfying buttons.

To each their own.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by fromthepuggle View Post
My rule when exploring this synth was to do so without looking at the manual. If I decided to keep it of course I'd study the manual. But for me, if you can't grok the basics of a synth from the front panel UI without a manual, something's not right.
How is this an "extensive review" then?

I found it amusing that you veiled your lack of effort as some kind of highbrow synth virtue. I stopped reading.

just read the comments, i guess i wasn't the only one.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #25
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string6theory's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobustAmerican View Post
...

What I really want are shortcuts for those mod sources that don't have buttons. (Velocity, Mono and Poly Aftertouch, Modwheel) Something like hitting a key to select velocity, moving the modwheel to select the MW maybe while holding a button.

...
+1 This would be a huge time saver.

Along with immediately shutting off Voice vibrato on every patch, like you (it's completely unusable even at 1... and there are other areas of the synth when setting up vibrato modulations where this unmusical range is unable to be tweaked down to more subtle levels... it needs fixing), I also go straight to the Mod Matrix and setup my desired PAT and M/W modulations, many times muttering under my breath how I wish there was an even quicker way, so that these parameters could have the same mod slot auto-fill capability as the other sources and destinations - which is at the push of a button or two.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #26
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I'm sorry to say, but it sounds like you (TS) are pretty of biased against digital synths to start with.

The "plugin in a box" argument doesn't make sense at all as digital processing doesn't matter where it takes place: on a computer as a plugin or in a piece of embedded hardware. It is about WHICH calculations are being made, not WHERE they are made.

It is also funny that you say the UI is both a good point and a not so good point :p It seems that you don't really "get" the UI. For instance: since the last 1.5 update, adding movement to ANY parameter (for example PWM depth) is as easy as holding a mod source button (like LFO1) and press the button of the parameter you want to modulate. Then adjust the modulation depth and you're done! I think this is genius.

I do agree that wavefolding would be great! But I think ASM is pretty dedicated about updates, so they might add it later. Also, I love the various PWM options, which makes the Hydrasynth really unique to me.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by droolmaster0 View Post
I couldn't read all of this.

I find the notion that you knock it because it is a 'plugin in a box' to be absurd.

I mean, isn't a good part of the reason that people buy hardware digital synths the fact that they like the experience of working with hardware, and the type of ui they get? I suppose that I'm talking about myself, in that I like the flexibility and sound of some software synths, but I just hate (reasons are constructed after the fact) constructing sounds on the computer.

So, wtf? it's a plugin in a hardware box. That is the entire idea to me.

if you want an analog synth with a great interface and tons of modulation, look at the motas-6. More of a plug for that than anything else.
I skimmed the op and noticed the bolded bits. Some have described Nord Lead 3 as a vst in a box. I had a NL3 and wasn't impressed by the sound so I understand the vst in a box thing. I think it means a synth that is not particularly distinctive or impressive as far as sound. I guess the Hydra is in a similar league.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #28
Lives for gear
 

i don't get the "VST in a box" thing either.

But to the TS's defence: we have left-brained and right-brained people in the world. "Feeling", "gelling with" and "understanding" a UI has a lot to do with this. F.e. when working with the Ableton Push, i get lost all the time, it seems my way of thinking is very different from the UI designers at Ableton. On the other hand I gel completely with the RM1x UI.

Imho it often has to do with "access anything from anywhere" vs "a hierarchical tree structure" where you can move up/down/left/right through a tree of options.
Old 2nd September 2020
  #29
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Synthpark's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by olafmol View Post
i don't get the "VST in a box" thing either.
I do understand the "VST in a box" feeling. If the hardware does not stick out at syntesis and sounds better than software, it is like a VST in a box. Also, if latency is an issue.

On the other hand, the hardware was there before VSTs arrived. Some analog filters cannot be matched by software, or only rarely. In this case, no VST inside!
Old 2nd September 2020
  #30
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpark View Post
I do understand the "VST in a box" feeling. If the hardware does not stick out at syntesis and sounds better than software, it is like a VST in a box. Also, if latency is an issue.

On the other hand, the hardware was there before VSTs arrived. Some analog filters cannot be matched by software, or only rarely. In this case, no VST inside!
huh? i guess there are 2 schools here: hardware is for great and direct control. And another school that believes hardware should sound better. (i'm not getting into a DSP vs FGPA vs VA vs Intel/AMD debate here LOL).
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