Dave Smith Instruments Mono Evolver Keys
Dave Smith Instruments Mono Evolver Keys

Mono Evolver Keys, Hybrid synthesizer from Dave Smith Instruments.

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namnibor 12/15/2012

Dave Smith Instruments Mono Evolver Keys : namnibor's user review

« The Synth that ate my brain! »

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This synth has to be best invention Dave Smith has created under the DSI incarnation! The keyboard's action is top-notch and incredible aftertouch responsiveness, which on a machine in which you can modulate anything with everything, having aftertouch to further "evolve" sounds is really ideal. It's monophonic but sounds nowhere like a typical monophonic or any other synth, period! I actually owned the Evolver Desktop firstly and decided I wanted all the hands-on control of the MANY knobs and buttons and to use in a polychain set-up. I now have two desktop evolvers polychained to the MEK. It's worth noting that while using the polychain midi out, the midi out is still able to send note data in same number of notes allowed in polychain set-up; three notes in my case, but you can have up to 20 Evolvers polychained. EACH Evolver, while remaining monophonic, possess 2 analog DCO's and 2 digital wavetable oscillators, of which come from the infamous SCI Prophet VS. The signal path is divided in a true stereo path, with one DCO and Wavestable Osc on each side. Each side has their OWN analog Low Pass Filter and each path has a digital High Pass Filter, and of course each path has own Analog VCA. There's SO MUCH in-between and before each path's output that it would behove one to go to DSI website and look at signal path and of course lay your hands and ears on an Evolver because the simplicity on paper of these signal paths leaves logic because it really is THAT deep!For instance, there's 4 LFO's and all the envelopes, all of which bipolar/loopable, etc, etc. Personally cannot even imagine having any more than I do because of nature of this beast makes this quite a wall of intricate sounds. Now, seeing how EACH monophonic Evolver has even the brevity of signal path explained above; imagine what happens when you add Evolvers or have the four Evolvers under the hood of the Poly Evolver Keyboard? Openning a sonic wormhole is best way to even explain it!!


Editing it very easy and much easier than the desktop evolver. There's still a few menu-deep in programming but huge majority of all controls have dedicated knob or button. What's cool is you can actually isolate and play/program each of 4 osc per evolver, individually. Can even press the analog or digital osc's buttons to play massive real analog that in my opinion sound much more FAT than DSI Prophet 08's osc but then you also have two osc's with all the Sequential Circuit's Prophet VS wavetables,which can be played/programmed and isolated/played, and the mix of the two is what makes such intricate sounds that truely EVOLVE into whatever you want over any period of time; with real anolog low pass filters on both sides of sound path, upon which you can select 4 pole for self-oscillation madness! The manual is fine and assumes one already know more than basics about programming synths. A labor of love was put together by Anu Kirk called, "The Definitive Guide to the Evolver", which is a free download and is indispensable to wrap brain around this incredible synth.


There's basically no limits aside from one's creativity in what this synth is capable of. I dare say that have had ALOT of "happy accidents" and also fact the Evolver DARES YOU to even attempt to get her to "play nice". (Yes, I just personified her) Her "happy spot" is that weird transition where a back scratch starts to be painful yet feels so good!! Best to watch your volume levels lest your studio cat wants to permenantly be wearing a woofer collar! The presets are actually quite good and very good starting points for making your own and in a polychain set-up, any edited sounds saved on MEK also saves to any polychained Evolvers. Delay and distortion are effects built-in and need no other because there's FOUR LFO's, etc. to modulate anything and the 16x4 step sequencer allows for both note and modulation sequencing--at same time. The external input allows for many more possibilities in one's set-up. When not using the polychain midi output, it should be noted that it acts as a second midi out. The MEK only transmits sysex data so anything other than additional evolvers polychained and connected to midi out like say a Mopho desktop or anything external, you would have to make changes on that external unit's interface rather than from the MEK evolver's knobs. It also should be noted that while making parameter changes to MEK via knobs/buttons in a polychain it of course affects all other evolvers in polychain but not say the Mopho connected via midi out from MEK nor would changes made on the Mopho affect the Evolvers BUT it *may* require placing that Mopho (in provided example) to be placed on it's own midi channel.I have recently learned that originally, all the controls sent and responded to System Exclusive messages only. Now there are over 40 MIDI Controllers that the Evolver responds to, which is ideal when you want to drive it from an external sequencer. Usefully, you can now address the cutoff frequency and resonance of both (left and right) analogue filters as discrete modulation destinations, which is ideal, whether you're processing external signals or just creating dynamic stereo patches. Lastly, if you have as I do, three evolver's polyphonic (three notes can be played simultaneously), any instrument also connected via MEK's midi out while plychained will ALSO be sent same number of voices. I have ONLY scratched the surface here and it is like trying to describe what color blue is to someone that's been blind all their life...it's THAT deep but at same time the signal flow shows the brilliant simplicity therein!!


Love everything about MEK and it was offically discontinued in June, 2012, however technical support from DSI is pretty awesome that other companies, big and small should take note of as an example of a company with true passion for what they create. The Poly evolver and desktop are still in production. I purchased the MEK now because this is destined to be a future classic and although I will never sell mine, they are holding their original MAP $ even second hand.
If anything were to happen to mine beyond repair, I definitely would replace it quickly!! Know that the build-quality is top-notch and I actually PREFER the endless encoders and have had not issues with jumpy parameters but DSI still offers the PE (Potentiometer Edition) changeover as well as I have, the Prophet 08 black with silver ring knobs on mine as love the feel and it looks pretty amazing as well! This is like alien technology used to make an instrument or simply an alien musical instrument reverse engineered from Roswell, New Mexico in the 50's....so much time goes by while working with it I have had to remind myself of need of food and water. Did I mention I really love the Evolver?

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