Dreadbox Murmux Semi Modular by thermal
I bought this beauty almost two years ago after hunting for a “proper” analogue synth for a while. The synths I’ve owned are Roland Alpha Juno-1, JD-990, Kawai K4R, Nord Modular, Crumar Bit01, Access Virus B, Novation Bass Station Rack. I’ve also done synthesis using samplers like Akai S1000 and S6000, Yamaha A3000 and E-MU e5000 Ultra. Not to mention the wealth of softsynths out there which sound good, but not “alive” like I want them to. However, none of that hardware (except the Crumar, which is polyphonic and a completely different animal) had that organic tone I needed in my arsenal. I needed something with real mojo, like the Korg MS10 I played with at my cousin’s studio. My musical style is pretty varied but I do love me a bit of drum’n’bass, breaks, house and the like, in addition to some more commercially viable stuff.
I considered a Moog, Dave Smith, a Eurorack skiff and various vintage synths, but in the midst of all this I discovered the Semi. The cool local website Syntesaiser.no had put out a video clip of it being tweaked (funnily, it’s the exact unit I bought). I thought, this sounds pretty cool, BUT THEN the waveform of an unfiltered oscillator playing a deep note was switched from saw to square. BZZZ! At that moment I knew I had to buy it. SO full and heavy. I have heard a million square waves before, but the Semi’s was something else. Just the ticket for my high end low end needs. The saw is great too, just doesn’t have the same low-end content. It’s pretty cool that both oscillators have sub-oscs and that they have separate glide controls, and the pitch knobs are smooooth! Osc sync is good to have sometimes and I coaxed some really filthy leads out of the tweed-covered box by patching in some sort of cross-mod between the oscillators, can’t remember exactly what I did as I don’t have the unit in front of me.
The LPF is a 24 dB/oct affair, quite Moogy I suppose. With no resonance the bass is immense. It thins out quite significantly once you pile on the rez, but boy, how lovely liquidy it is (if I want bass that is both squelchy and heavy I just make two tracks with different settings and layer them). The HPF is more distinctive – get close to self-oscillation and the not-very-precise tracking of the filter leads to some wild, distorted leads that sound great (if you want a sine wave off the filter it tracks somewhat in tune for just one octave, but that’s cool). Back the resonance off a bit and it can sound pretty similar to the timbre of the DJ Zinc “Super sharp shooter” lead. No fancy modulation matrices or anything here, it does simple stuff and oozes sound quality doing it.
Of course it can also go into wacky modulation territory with a bit of creative programming/patching, and you can definitely make some nice noises this way. Did I say it has a noise module? And S&H? Nothing very special about that , except they are patch sources. A nice, subtle trick is to trigger the 4stage module from the envelope and have slightly different pitch or filter settings for each step. However, comparing it with my digital Nord Modular it has a very restricted palette, so it would benefit greatly from an extra LFO or envelope in a small Euro case sitting beside it…but for now, I am chuffed with the simple, beautiful tones coming out of this thing. It has real presence, although sometimes it can take a little work to fit into the mix. It has no MIDI CC control and lacks some technical bells and whistles…so what? This is a living instrument that should be played in real time, with feeling, not a robot.
It was a bit pricey (and costs almost twice as much now than when I bought it), but je n’ai regrette rien – especially after John @ Dreadbox modded it and added PWM to both oscillators. DANG that sounds good! Go Dreadbox :-)