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ASM Hydrasynth | demo + sounds


 

 



 

BUYING AND LOADING MY SOUNDS / PATCHES:

Please send 26 (Euro) to this paypal address: [wcologarb at tlen.pl] writing "hydrasynth sounds" in the title. You will receive all the sounds from my 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 / musical of my sounds: http://jexus.id.uw.edu.pl/download/jexus_hydrasynth_additional.mp3

My library will come to you in Hydrasynth Manager format (software downloadable from the synth's website) and you need at least version 1.5 of the Hydra operating system.

I did not use additional FX in the demo, all the delays, reverbs, flangers, panning, loops and other effects are part of the Hydrasynth engine / mod matrix.


MY THOUGHTS:

Bought it, unpacked, browsed the factory sounds, then tried to create some new ones and wanted to kill myself. Whatever approach I took, 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 are Waldorfs and Modals - their waves sound like glassy metal, which is not the best thing in the world either. While other synths sound "pro" out of the box, I think the Hydrasynth needs some 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. A lot 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 "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%. Of course 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.

The UI is great for a deep digital synth of this sort; basically the synth is one big shortcut. There's the Module Select with its buttons, the Master Control 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. But tell me... 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 of the player)? Or do you need instant access to it during sound design?  I think it would be better to hide the ARP 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. 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 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, 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, and more "density" would mean a 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. 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 review why DX-7 deserves such place. Hydra deserves its place, because it's one of the most "synthy" (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.

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 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.

The HS it is the furthest thing from instant gratification. It does not have any idiotic "quirks" that you have to "learn" from 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.

After the first three or four days spent with this synth 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 I think that in the future its appeal will only grow.

 

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