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ASM Hydrasynth | demo + sounds


 



 

BUYING MY SOUNDBANK / PATCHES:

Via PayPal:
Please send 26,00 (Euro) to this paypal address: [wcologarb at tlen.pl] writing "hydrasynth sounds" + your email in the title. I will send the presets after I get notified about your payment (max 24 hours).

Via Debit / Credit Card:
Send me an email letting me know you'd like to have your card charged - I will send you a payment request and it will be processed by my Paypal (you don't have to own a Paypal account, your card is enough - here's a fuller explanation).

How many patches?:
You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube video plus extra sounds (200 original sounds + their variations = 234 sounds in total).

Apart from the video demo, here's an mp3 demo of some more (traditional / basic / musical) of my sounds:
http://www.syntezatory.net.pl/jexus_hydrasynth_additional.mp3

What format / import method?:
All my patches come under the name "WCOG" in a library saved in Hydrasynth Manager format (software downloadable from the synth's website) and you need at least version 1.5 of the Hydra operating system.

Any external processing?: I did not use any external FX in the demo; all the delays, reverbs, flangers, panning, loops and other effects are part of the Hydrasynth engine / mod matrix. Some sounds have some slight EQ-ing though.



MY THOUGHTS:

Bought it, unpacked, browsed the factory sounds, then tried to create some new ones and wanted to kill myself. Whatever knob I tweaked, it still sounded like a 2007 VST. Flat, dull cardboard sound. But the amount of features plus the amount of ways to find workarounds kept me glued to the OLED displays and in the end I have to say I'm very impressed by the engine and surprisingly satisfied with the sound. Once you start routing all the abundant LFOs to all the various destinations in the mod matrix, it's no longer flat. Then you can use the onboard effects, filter mixing and "voice" adjustments (things like oscillator drift, stereo spread), and the Hydra sound is no longer dull. Only the cardboard taste is a little bit hard to kill, especially in the wavetable area, but that's just the character of some synths. Virus TI has the same thing going on. On the other end of the spectrum there are Waldorfs and Modals - their waves sound like glassy metal, which is not the best thing in the world either (a matter of taste). While other synths sound "pro" out of the box, I think the Hydrasynth needs the onboard EQ-ing once in a while, and having tampered with it the synth will yield many original timbres. Besides, the "pro" sound is often hard to get rid of - all the Waldorfs and Nord Leads and OB-6 have a certain sameness of their timbre that might get boring after a while, so it's always a trade-off.

I see several synths at once when I look at the HS. The side panels - Roland Jupiter 8. The Module buttons - Ensoniq ESQ-1. The encoders - Clavia Nord Lead 3. The ribbon / aftertouch - Yamaha CS-80. Eclectic! When I look on the inside, the HS most strongly reminds me of Alesis Ion / Roland V-Synth in terms of the directions it can go. But while Ion had a lot more knobs on the panel which made creation / experimentation easy, with the HS you have to imagine the sound first and then tweak it into existence. Some amount of brainpower is needed, and 1-hour-long sessions to sculpt one (deep) sound to push the synth to its seemingly limitless limits were not a rarity at the beginning.

If I were asked to give one most valuable tip before anybody buys this synth, it would be this: you have to realize it's a "floating / seamless modular" engine. If you want to make even the simplest (classic) sounds with the Hydrasynth, you have to adjust your approach accordingly. There's no button for "Oscillator Sync". It only exists as a function of the Mutators. You have to choose who you want to sync to whom. You have to make the connection in the Mod Matrix (Envelope to Pitch, for example). You have to set the force of this effect ("depth"), and the balance of this effect ("wet / dry"). Other example: there's no knob for "Pulse Width Modulation". You have to tell the Mutator to work in this mode, then make the associations in the Mod Matrix to modulate the width, etc. All these necessary connections is what I call the "modularity" of the HS, while the "wet / dry" setting is what I call the "floating / seamless" nature of the sounds. It's not the traditional way of turning it ON or OFF. It can float from 0 to 100%. You can program the macro buttons to keep the 100% value to give you the instant "on/off" effect, but that only comes second in the process. Of course this dry / wet design is great, for the obvious reason that it's better to have one hundred choices instead of just two.

The UI is fantastic for a deep digital synth of this sort; basically the synth is one big shortcut. There's the Module Select section with its buttons, the Master Control section with its knobs, and practically speaking that's just it - there's no deeper level to go into, you just have to change pages:) Easy. The buttons have nice resistance, the encoders have LEDs around them. As I've said above, the designers have done their research in the history of synth design and picked what was best. One thing I don't quite understand, though, is... who needs all these effing ARP knobs there? Do you really tweak the ARP SWING or ARP DIVISION values live (especially when the values of these knobs cannot be seen from the perspective / angle of the player)? Or do you need instant access to it during sound design?  I think it would be better to hide the arpeggiator options under the macro encoders and use that space for other features... like the non-existent sequencer, for example;)

I had contact with the invention called "ribbon controller" during my time with Yamaha AN1x and Oberheim OB-12, and the length of the ribbon was around / no more than 15 cm. In Hydrasynth, the ribbon spans 4 octaves. On the one hand, it's fantastic. On the other, it can be problematic. I find it tricky to apply the necessary force continuously and slide across the entire length of the ribbon to tweak the effect from 0% to 100%, or the other way round. Many times, if I lose my awareness and loosen my grip, the modulation effect goes awry. It's ok with "wild" modulations, but it's quite an issue when I want to control the pitch. The necessity of applying force endangers / kills the subtlety that is needed for accuracy. Also, it's sad that the ribbon controllers need to be made of this specific material - whatever it is. When I slide my finger too fast or too much, my skin kind of burns as if I was rubbing it against sand paper ;P OK, not that much. But it's a little bit unpleasant (maybe I should spread butter or some other lubricant on my finger to ease the friction?;P) So if you want to buy this synth mainly for the ribbon, and you want to paint the sound with your finger the same way you travel the world effortlessly by sliding it across the world map, think it over. It's not so effortless.

To sum up: at the beginning, being used to the flood of cheap crap all around us I thought the price of the HS was quite high. But after discovering that it is able to deliver 90% of imaginable sounds (the remaining 10% reserved for granular synthesis and other wonders), and after appreciating the UI with its displays and encoders, but most importantly the poly aftertouch and the ribbor controller, plus the ongoing company OS support & upgrades, I think it's totally justifiable. It's a great deal. Is it a great synth? Absolutely, but "great" is not the right word. I'm thinking about... "epic"?. I think epic would be fine if only the sound was a bit more juicy, but I'm not really sure if I'd like to change it, because more juice would mean a more Roland-esque sound, while more "density" would mean a more fatiguing sound which does not sit well in the mix. Also, if I forget about the Hydra and then once again listen to the sounds after a couple of days, I am surprised as if I was hearing them for the first time, I like them and I am no longer offended by the cardboard tone. Maybe I've managed to dial it away? Once you pass a certain threshold, there's just something hard to nail down or define about the nature of this creature. It's a chameleon. It sounds original, like no other synth, so that's good. I would even put the HS next to Yamaha DX-7 in my museum of the best synths in history. I said in my writeup why the DX-7 deserves such place. Hydra deserves its place, because it's one of the most "synthy" (cooperative & modulatable) synths while at the same time it retains the ability to sound organic and natural, thanks to its rich engine and interface solutions. It's a true & innovative instrument, not another fart machine or a reissue of a classic. We needed somebody with this kind of vision among the synth companies.

Just remember: despite its awe-inspiring versatility, it does have its innate cardboardy / dry sound that is present from the start and if you don't like it, it will take some time to maneuver around it. It might make you un-inspired. I think this is what people mean when they complain that HS "sounds harsh" and I see that this issue ignites some emotions, especially with the current owners who fell in love with the HS. But let's be honest; the majority of synth aficionados get into synths and buy them - or should we say - live for two words: "ambient" and "reverb", and the HS is a dream synth for them, because it excels at ambient sounds, and the reverb is really cool, especially with its "freeze" feature and what not. It can do the Blade Runner sound really well, so it deserves all the respect and d-fens, no discussion about it. But do YOU really want to make these sounds on one of the "most powerful synths in history"?:D Also, I guess a lot of folks love the poly aftertouch keyboard. It has been absent for so long on the market, that this feature alone might sway some people into buying the HS and use it not only as a synth, but also as a controller. Praise may come from various directions.

So let me wrap it up somehow. The HS is the furthest thing from instant gratification, but at the same time it's the most gratifying synth out of all the deep synths I've come across in my hobby / career as a synth tweaker. It does not have any idiotic quirks that you have to "learn" from forum nerds with oscilloscopes in order to make the synth into something proper (like "turn this option off, don't use that feature, and use this output instead of that output" = see Alesis Andromeda). But you do need a different approach and some time to build the sound, because it's not right there on the panel. It's one inch underneath it, and several inches deep down in your brain. I think it's rational to say the synth is a no-go zone for total beginners; however, if you understand the path of building a sound from scratch and have some experience with tweaking synths, or you really want to start learning it, you'll probably agree with me that after the first three or four days spent with the HS and its UI, the tweaking sessions are a joy, not a chore. Finally an electronic instrument has arrived to this world that is incredibly deep, yet playable. I think a synth of this sort comes once in a decade, and if it hasn't set a new standard already, in the future its appeal will only grow.
 

 
 

 

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