NAMM Jan 2017

Things are getting exciting as the first Audio-Controlled-Synthesizer (ACS’s) product line is planned to debut in NAMM Jan 2017. These synthesizers will be the first ever, semi-modular, audio-controlled, analog synthesizers.

If you followed our first article you must know that the new ACO chip can extract Control-Voltage signals from an analog audio source while synthesizing a couple of analog waveforms of its own. But along with an envelope follower, a powerful voltage-controlled filter, voltage-controlled amplifier, PWM and flexible routing possibilities, these debut synths earn the title: Semi-modular analog audio-controlled synthesizers. This title may be a lot to digest but Sonicsmith is out to make sure that controlling these synths will be as easy as your own instrument.

Talk to your synths. They actually listen now

Using the ACO chip, jamming with analog synths has never been easier. The smallest of the range (the ConVertor) has 4 CV outputs and 4 CV inputs. This 9V-powered Audio Controlled Synth can synthesize 2 waveforms at the pitch of the input audio and harmonize from it within a five-octave range.

ACS input output flow chart
A general drawing of the ACS inputs and outputs

The Product Family

Thanks to the ACO’s rapid reflex-response, these synths suffer no perceivable latency of their own. This is something to look forward to in this computer-driven age where operating systems, drivers, format wars and latency are issues that need your attention as much as a prima donna Rock-star. A few other benefits include: Analog oscillator that never goes out of tune (the ACO), being able to arpeggiate the oscillator from external CV and dual envelope follower can further modulate any parameter of this synth either with the front panel destination switches or with the CV ENV output minijack.

CV Control

Powered with the ACOs, these audio-controlled synths are able to do what very few analog synths in history (with questionable success) have done: Converting analog audio into analog synth waves while giving you CV representations of the input audio’s Pitch, Envelope, Gate and Trigger for further control. With those CV signals you can control other Eurorack-compatible modules. The envelope follower can be assigned to the internal VCA and gradually change from total square response to fully following the input level. It can also reverse the envelope by turning the ENV-amount knob to the left. An audio side-chain input via minijack lets you play a separate audio input into a second ENV follower to control the output dynamics and generate cool effects such as modulating the amplitude of the synth output while the pitch continues to follow the behavior of the main input audio. 2 CV inputs via a stereo minijack that can control the harmony shift of the source within its range of -2.6 to +2.4 octaves. That Harmony CV input control lets you arpeggiate your input pitch from any analog sequencer if you choose. The Gate CV input lets you plug in an external sequencer’s gate while bypassing the internal gate of the ACO if you want to play around with gated articulation. The synth’s Pitch CV output is 1V per octave, Gate & Trigger CV are 9V and it’s ENV CV out covers a 0-8.5v range that should work with most Eurorack units.

High-Quality Audio Path

The synth’s unique and raw sound character has a lot to do with its ultra-fast tracking behavior and transient response of the analog envelope follower. A high-quality low noise +40 db preamp via instrument jack input ensures clean path for detection from line tape recorders, electrical instruments, and even dynamic microphone levels. A 4-element LED meter shows you the input level from below its -48dBu threshold of the internal gate to maximum +4dBu before clipping. A thru jack output lets you chain more units together or record the source directly for later “re-synthesizing” at the mixdown stage, connected much like an external effect.

Familiar Vintage Design

The ConVertor and The Squaver P1 are designed in a retro style that is especially intuitive to use for those who like 80’s analog synths. The design is influenced by today’s trend of modular synth control.

Interesting highlights:

  • 2 models give you analog pitch tracking and synthesis with CV control
  • Works with 9V standard effects pedal power supplies or a 9V battery
  • Output waveforms can vary smoothly between square and sawtooth waves.
  • Low noise preamp of 40 dBu range can handle line, instrument and dynamic mic levels
  • Both models are equipped with dual Envelope followers so one can control the internal CV destinations or can be fed from a side-chain audio input for switchable alternative envelope.
  • 4 CV outputs: Pitch, Envelope, Gate & Trigger are Eurorack compatible. Squaver P1 adds an expression pedal CV out.
  • 2 CV inputs control Octave and Harmony shifts for external CV arpeggiation.
  • External gate CV input for extra modulation effects in addition to the input-controlled gating plus VCA.
  • Thru jack copies the input for direct recording or further chaining of other audio-controlled synths without the need for a splitter.