Tiptoe through just about any online music synthesis forum and it won't be too long before you stumble across an Analog vs. Digital debate. Both have their legions of dedicated followers, but if you're looking to dabble in some analog waveform manipulation and don't relish the thought of getting tangled up in patch cable spaghetti or having to sell the car and break your back to buy and install something like the Moog System 55, futuresonus has developed a tabletop-friendly analog synth that features digital controls called Parva. The polyphonic synth offers eight voices, each with its own oscillators and filters, and is claimed the first analog synth to boast a USB master port.
"I designed Parva from the ground up with the intention of producing a completely new synth while still maintaining the character of the classics from the 70s and 80s," said the synth's designer Brad Ferguson.
The 10 x 8 x 3.5-in (25.4cm x 20.3cm x 8.9-cm) polyphonic synthesizer features an all-analog signal path that weaves its way through oscillators, voltage-controlled filters and OTA-based voltage-controlled amplifiers, but digital controls allow for saving and recall of patches and the changing of parameters via MIDI. Its USB master port gives Parva the power to connect directly to any class-compliant USB MIDI keyboard or controller. Stereo line-level outputs for each of Parva's voices, 0.25-inch left/right main outputs, a headphone jack and standard USB and MIDI in/out are also in attendance.
Parva has eight voices, each of which sports three digitally-controlled oscillators with independent level controls for sawtooth, triangle and PWM wave forms, with the maker promising accurate pitch and reliable tuning stability. A two-pole state-variable filter double act can be configured for a 12 dB/24 dB low pass or high pass response or split for 12 dB bandpass filtering. The digital controls can reportedly offer up virtually limitless sound design opportunities by engaging the four-stage (Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release) envelope generators and multi-waveform low-frequency oscillators (there are four of each) feeding a flexible modulation matrix without so much as a patch cable in sight. The developer has recently added loopable functionality to the envelopes.
The voice cards are based on Atmel's ATxmega64A1U MCU microcontroller, while the main board gets both an ATxmega64A1U MCU and an AT90USB1287. Panel-mounted analog potentiometers give users access to the synthesizer's most commonly used parameters and there are 512 patch memory slots available on internal memory. Users can keep track of selected settings via 0.96-inch OLED displays to the front, which have four different text sizes to choose from for viewing comfort.
futuresonus has launched on Kickstarter to raise enough funds to get Parva into the hands of analog synth scientists around the world. Each unit will be hand-assembled in Austin, Texas, and an eight-note polyphonic, eight-voice, multi-timbral Parva is pitched at US$999. There's also an expandable monophonic version offered for a pledge of $499 that can be added to as your wallet allows. The campaign runs until April 30 and if all goes to plan the first units are estimated for delivery in August.
Sound demos are available on SoundCloud and the crowdfunding pitch video can be viewed below.
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