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Polybrute = Mind Blown

  • Music

I’ll say it again: Polybrute = Mind Blown.

I mentioned earlier in the week, in my post about Korg’s update to the Wavestate, that I’d picked up a flagship-level analog synth. Well, now you know what it is: an Arturia Polybrute Noir Edition. And as I mentioned, this was not in my plan. My plan was to get the ASM Hydrasynth Deluxe or maybe the Novation Summit. The Summit was looking particularly appealing, too, due to it’s advanced hybrid architecture. (You can see a comparison of the Polybrute and Summit here.)

So, why the Polybrute? After all, it’s just a digitally controlled analog synth like the Take 5. Well, because it’s got “secret sauce”, and I got a really good deal (which I did manage to resist for at least a few days), and I’ve finally got it through my skull that I should just listen to my Sweetwater rep. Dammit C*rs*n!

Seriously, Carson McClean is my Sweetwater rep and in seventeen years, he’s never steered me wrong. The times I’ve wanted one thing and he strongly suggested I buy another, he was spot on with his advice. So, I ordered up the Polybrute.

And yeah, I’ll say it yet again: Polybrute = Mind Blown.

I’m not going to do any sort of deep-dive here into the details (they’re all here), other than to call a few things out:

  • Two Oscillators which morph from sawtooth to triangle to square waves with PWM. One’s got a square sine wave sub oscillator attached, and there’s a noise source that’s freely adjustable for anything from white to pink and brown.
  • Three ADSR envelops, two with velocity sensitivity adjustments, and the third with a start delay setting.
  • Three LFOs, each subtly different and all eminently useful.
  • Two filters per voice: one ladder and one Steiner. Oscillators can be routed to either filter, or both (in parallel or series), or neither. The filters can also be frequency modulated — one from the noise source and the other from one of the oscillators.
  • A very nice effects section (digital) with modulation, delay, and reverb effects.
  • Arturia’s very capable polyphonic arpeggiator and sequencer, plus motion sequencing.
  • There’s a nice editor/librarian application called Polybrute Connect that allows access to every setting and function of the Polybrute, including editing the sequence data. The editor can run either stand-alone or as a plug-in that’s compatible with most popular DAWs.
Analog heaven in The Disaster Room: Sequential Take 5 perched above the Arturia Polybrute.

And then, the Special Sauce kicks in:

  • An almost monstrous multi-purpose matrix with a dozen modulation sources, 32 destinations, and up to 64 “crosspoints”; 768 patch memory locations; and 32-step polyphonic arpeggiator/64-step polyphonic sequencer
  • A ribbon controller!
  • “Morphée” three-axis touch controller
  • Aftertouch
  • Real patch morphing
  • Split/layer/morph capabilities (including a multitimbral mode where the sequencer can play the “A” patch while they keyboard plays the “B” patch).

There are dozens of videos on YouTube demonstrating the patches that ship with the Polybrute, so I’m not uploading anything like that, at least for the moment, but I did want to share at least a couple of things that I’ve banged out. The first two use my own patches.

The Polybrute is a great instrument for an ambient and electronic music producer, as well as anyone who’s scoring for film, TV, or video games. The sound design capabilities are deep and vast, and the sound quality is outstanding. I’m thrilled with it, though like anything, it’s not without its flaws.

For one, a synthesizer this powerful deserves a top-quality keybed with polyphonic aftertouch. For that matter, I’m not loving the actual keys, either, but I’ll quickly adapt to them. I think Arturia have used the same keybed as on their Keylab MkII 61, and it feels just slightly “off” to me. I’m not the only one who’s commented that the keys feel like they’re slightly smaller than they should be, and the throw is a little short compared to other keyboards.

My only other issues have more to do with panel arrangement than anything else. I’d prefer it if the pitch bend and modulation wheels were switched with the Morphée. I’d prefer the display and its immediate controls to be centered just above the ribbon controller. And, I’d prefer a little better placement and larger size for the two discrete filter cutoff controls — the master filter cutoff knob is fine.

Finally, and of least concern, I think I’d like all of modulation sources included the matrix itself. In addition to the 12 that are in the matrix, Arturia have scattered a few “hardwired” modulation routings outside the matrix, but it would nice if they were somehow centralized there instead. The destinations in these pairings are in the matrix, just not the sources.

As with all my gear commentaries, there’s a video playlist on my YouTube channel that I’ll add to as time goes on.

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