Description

When was the last time you heard a new synthesizer that literally knocked you off your feet and made you ask — what on earth is capable of making those sounds? A synthesizer with the uncanny knack of punching out those vintage analog tones capable of sending a familiar thrill right down your spine one moment and then, when you dial up the next preset, it sounds like nothing you've ever heard before and leaves you scratching your head wondering just how is it capable of making that sound? Well, you've just got to listen to the Solaris synthesizer from John Bowen Synth Design!

Relief at last from the common synthesizer!

Have you ever noticed that most new synthesizers sound pretty much the same as last year's model? Expand the number of piano samples held in ROM memory, add a couple of new features, come up with a new name and that is enough to qualify selling it as a whole new synthesizer! Where is the creativity, innovation and inspiration in that? Fortunately, John Bowen Synth Design isn't like other companies that mass produce product lines for every market segment.

We're on a mission…

From the beginning, the singular mission for Solaris has been to create nothing less than John Bowen's personal vision of the ultimate, dream-come-true synthesizer. A vision that draws upon more than three decades of experience in synthesizer design with legends like Moog Music, Sequential Circuits, the Korg Wavestation series and renowned software synthesizers for the original Korg OASYS and Creamware Scope platforms. And it's a vision to create a truly musical instrument masterpiece that is shared with some of the world's foremost synthesizer connoisseurs like film composer Hans Zimmer who is renowned for always seeking the utmost in sound creation capabilities.

OK, so what's the big idea?

The general concept behind the Solaris synthesizer is to implement something like a giant wall-sized modular system entirely in software where you can select among several completely different types of oscillators and filters, exquisitely modelled after the components culled from a variety of legendary vintage synthesizers of yesteryear and even some current virtual analog innovations of today. With up to four oscillators, four filters, four amplifiers, four four-input mixers, six envelope generators, one looping envelope generator, five LFOs, two vector mixers and still more of these software modules available in each program, the Solaris synthesizer becomes absolutely unrivalled in terms of versatility and programmability.

Aren't modular systems a complete pain to use with all those wires though?

The real wonder of the Solaris synthesizer is in how easy it is to accomplish all the routing, patching and programming of all these modules together. This is largely due to the abundant control surface of six LCD displays plus myriad knobs and buttons, and the exceptional way that they have been laid out to facilitate You'll be amazed and delighted at both the efficiency of the workflow and the wealth of feedback provided with the Solaris synthesizer for even the most complex of program configurations (and not a single patch cable in sight)!

With so much going on, this must be monophonic, right?

No, not at all. Even with a complex program utilizing all four oscillators, four filters, four mixers and healthy doses of modulation, you can still expect 10 note polyphony! This is because the powerplant inside the Solaris synthesizer that actually runs the software code consists of six of the most current, state of the art third-generation SHARC DSP processors. This is up to six times more processing power than is available in the current products of other high-end pro audio companies. Internally, all operations are 32-bit floating point and audio signals and busses run at 96 kHz for pristine audio quality.

Whether you are a synthesizer veteran looking for a modern musical instrument that lets you relive the majestic tones of legendary analog synthesizers or you are a sound designer exploring new sonic realms for games, film, stage or other media, we're confident that the unique and unlimited sound creation capabilities of the Solaris will be the synthesizer that lets you cut through all the clatter and instantly raises you up above the competitition. Now, isn't it time you got your hands on the Solaris synthesizer?

Solaris – Features

If you were to have a synthesizer custom-designed for you, would you want it to have the oscillators from a MiniMoog or a Prophet 5? Or to re-visit another synthesizer favorites from yesteryear, perhaps you would like to have oscillators with all the waveforms from the Prophet VS that gave its sounds such a distinctive edge? How about re-living those unique wavetable sweeps that came from the esoteric old PPG Wave and Waldorf Microwaves? Would you rather depend on sample playback capability for a wide range of sounds or as a concession to newer technology, choose the double saw waveshape available on some of the current virtual analog synthesizers?

With the versatility of the Solaris synthesizer, you don't have to limit yourself to just one kind of these oscillators. Yes, you can have them all. In fact, each Solaris program has four (!) oscillators that you can set to any of these types.

And which was your favorite filter?

Now, what would be your preference in filters for your custom synthesizer? Do you favor the Minimoog ladder filter, the older Prophet 5 series with the SSM filter chip or the later version 3.x models that used the more common CEM chip? Maybe you prefer the two-pole state variable filter (SVF) found in the earlier Oberheim synthesizers or take a walk on the wild side with a comb filter?

With Solaris, you can now mix and match…

With the Solaris synthesizer, your dream synthesizer won't be limited to just a single type of oscillator wired into a single type of filter. Instead, you have accurate computer models of all of these vintage synthesizer components available and then you can mix and match among them simply and freely. Do you want to have the sounds of a vintage Prophet 5, Rev. 3 or go for a completely unique Prophet 5 with the CEM oscillators but the earlier SSM filters? How about trying out completely different, unheard of combinations like the digital waveforms from a Prophet VS routed through that Oberheim state variable filter or the digital PPG wavetable sweeps feeding into those warm MiniMoog filters? With the Solaris synthesizer, you really can have it your way.

Series and parallel routings

You can also try different routing configurations too! You can have one oscillator feeding up to four different filter types simultaneously in parallel and then mix the filtered results back together afterward. Or do it the other way around and put the mixer in front of the filters and feed them a dynamic mix of up to four different oscillator types. You can even chain together multiple filters in series (i.e., cascaded), one after another. Now you can hear what it sounds like to set a MiniMoog filter into self-oscillation and then filter it with another MiniMoog (or a different) filter. On a Solaris synthesizer, your creativity and imagination are unbounded.

Modulation

You can also add more life to these oscillators, filters, mixers and amplifiers with modulation. There are four Low Frequency Oscillators (LFOs &emdash; which can extend up into audio frequencies) plus one LFO dedicated to the oscillators as a Vibrato LFO, six envelope generators with five stages (Delay, Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release) and a Looping Envelope Generator (with eight stages). There is also a step sequencer with four rows of sixteen steps. For performance controls, there are two wheels (pitch and modulation), a joystick, a dual-zone ribbon controller and a 61-key weighted, (monophonic) after-touch sensitive keyboard. These can be assigned to modulate a wide variety of destinations throughout the Solaris synthesizer's modules.

Now insert effect(s)

The Solaris synthesizer has chorus/flanger, phaser, delay, and 3-band EQ as selectable effects. A flexible assignment system is in place to allow a variety of FX routings. Parallel routings of the four selectable effects blocks are available with the programmable output page. 

Rotors? When did rotors enter the synth vernacular?

We all know that an oscillator basically takes a waveshape and cycles it continuously. The more complex the waveshape used, the more interesting the resulting cycles will sound. Now select four sound sources (including the external inputs and all the oscillator types mentioned previously) and play these repeatedly in a looped sequence one after the other. This is what a rotor is and Solaris has two of these as additional sound sources that can then be further mixed, filtered and modulated. Still can't imagine what a rotor sounds like? Check out this example: WeirdRotor1Poly

AM? Solaris has radio tuners built-in?

Not quite though we are talking about Amplitude Modulation in both cases. There are two of these audio-rate modulation sections available in Solaris, combining together a carrier and a modulator sound sources for ring modulator and other clangorous types of effects.

Vector Mixers

As you would expect from someone like the company's namesake who was integrally involved with legendary synthesizers like the Prophet VS and the Korg Wavestation, the Solaris has to include a Vector Mixer — there are actually two. These allow you to create a dynamic mix of up to four sound sources where the individual contributions can be preset and/or modulated along the x and y axes via modulation sources like the LFOs, the envelope generators, the looping envelope generators, the step sequencer,the built-in joystick, the ribbon controller, etc..

 

  • 4 Oscillators, each with several types available:
    MultiMode, WaveTable, CEM, WAV (sample playback),
    VS (single cycle waves), Mini
  • 4 Filters, each with selectable Inputs. Filter types are:
  • MultiMode Lowpass, 24, 18, 12, 6 dB, Highpass 24, 18, 12, 6 dB, Bandpass 24 dB, Comb (2 types), State Variable 12 dB LP, HP, BP, & BR,SSM Lowpass 24 dB , Mini (Ladder) Lowpass 24 dB, Vocal Formant
  • 2 Vector Mixers, 2 Rotors (special 4-step waveshape sequences),
    2 AM sections (includes Ring Mod)
  • 6 DADSRs, 1 8-stage loopable envelope
  • 4 free LFOs, 1 Vibrato LFO. Each LFO features delayed start,
    fade in and fade out times, key sync and Phase control
  • Phaser, Chorus/Flanger, Phaser, Delay, 3-band EQ effects

Solaris – Specifications

Oscillators Four (4) oscillators. Each can be of the following types:

  • MultiMode (standard waveshapes, combinations, plus saw stack)
  • WaveTable (wavetables 1-64 from the Waldorf Microwave synthesizers)
  • Sample playback (.raw format)
  • CEM VCO chip model (like those used in the later Rev. 3.x versions of the Prophet 5)
  • All of the waveforms used in the Prophet VS
  • (temperature stable) model of the oscillator used in the MiniMoog.
Rotors Two (2) rotors which are special sound sources, implemented as a looping wavesequence of four (4) assignable inputs, played successively.
Amplitude Modulators Two (2) Amplitude Modulation sections that multiply the two inputs, carrier and modulator. The four algorithms are Shift, Clip, Absolute, Ring
Filters Four (4) filters. Each can be of the following types:

  • a MultiMode filter with 23 different modes, including 4, 3, 2, & 1 pole settings of Lowpass and Highpass, several Bandpass and Band Reject (Notch) plus some series combinations. This filter design is based on the CEM VCF chip model (like those used in the later Rev. 3.x versions of the Prophet 5)
  • SSM VCF chip model (like those used in earlier Rev. 1 and Rev. 2 versions of the Prophet 5) – this filter does not have gain compensation
  • model of the MiniMoog 'ladder' filter
  • model of the Oberheim State Variable Filter (found in earlier Oberheim synthesizers), Lowpass, Highpass, Bandpass, Band Reject (Notch)
  • Comb filter (two types, with positive and negative feedback).
  • Vocal formant filter (a set of 5 vowel sounds that can be crossfaded)
Mixers Four (4) mixers, each with four inputs. The Inputs are freely assignable using any audio source. Insert Effects can be inserted post-mix before these feed into their respective filters.
Vector Mixers Two (2) separate vector mixers, each with four (4) inputs assignable to the cardinal points of the built-in joystick for manual blending.
Envelope Generators (EGs) Six (6) EGs, each with five (5) stages – Delay, Attack, Decay, Sustain and Release.
Looping Envelope Generator One looping envelope generator, with eight (8) stages. Variable Loop Start and Key Off (Sustain) points. Times and Levels can be modulated, and output is bi-polar.
Low Frequency Oscillators (LFOs) Four (4) LFOs plus one (1) LFO dedicated (i.e., already pre-wired) to oscillator frequency as Vibrato LFO. Each LFO offers control over delayed start, fade-in and fade-out times, MIDI clock, key sync and phase control.
Arpeggiator The Arpeggiator has a wide variety of modes, and can be transposed from the keyboard using an assignable switch function.
Four Row Step Sequencer Four (4) rows of step sequencer control – Seq A, B, C, & D. Values are +/- 127, or Rest for Row A, which controls the rhythmic pattern for all 4 rows, however, each row can be set to a different step length of 1 to 16 steps. Each sequence row's output is freely assignable through the system. Sequences can be stepped through via key event as well as normal and non-retriggering modes.
Lag Processors Four (4) Exponential Lag Processors to smooth out control signals.
Key Tables Four (4) programmable Key Tables. Users can set a value from 0-127 for each MIDI Note number/key. Values are interpolated where they are not specifically entered by the user.
Effects Phaser, chorus/flanger, delay, and 3-band EQ effects are available. The series order of the FX is user-definable. There are also three (3) Insert Effects, which can be pre- or post-filter. These are Decimation, BitChop, and Distortion.
Audio Inputs & Outputs Four (4) External analog inputs. Eight (8) analog outputs, configured as four stereo pairs. 1/4” jacks, balanced. S/PDIF optical In and Out. All inputs (including S/PDIF) can be selected as Audio Sources throughout the synthesizer for further processing or use as modulation sources.
Keyboard Fatar manufactured TP-8, 61-key weighted, dynamic bubble contact, monophonic after-touch strip
Performance controls
  • two wheels (pitch and modulation)
  • joystick
  • 750mm ribbon controller
Main display one (1) 240 x 60 backlit graphic display
Section displays five (5) 2 x 40 backlit character displays
MIDI In/Out/Thru jacks
USB you can use USB instead of MIDI. the Solaris will be recognised as a MIDI usb device
Power 120-240V (AC)
Dimensions 39" x 16.73" x 6" (WxDxH) 98 x 42.5 x 15 cm (WxDxH)
Weight approximately 33 pounds (15kg)

Here are two links to check for the latest audio examples:

 

1) GreatSynthesizers.com – Select Solaris in the Listening Room: http://greatsynthesizers.com/listening-room/?

2) Solaris SoundCloud site – http://soundcloud.com/solaris-synth/sets 

Most of these feature the work of Ken Elhardt. All sounds are synthesized, with no samples being used.