The PERfourMER is the most modern synth in the studio, and also one of the newest additions. Bought new from Vermona a year or so ago now, it received infrequent use at first.
You see, the PERfourMER is unlike anything else I own. That was the main reason for purchasing the unit (as well as supporting a small synth manufacturer). The work flow of modern synths has become very much standardised – if you can use one, you can use them all. That’s not so much the case for the PERfourMer.
The PERfourMER, as the name subtly suggests, is a four oscillator analog synth. Now that isn’t terribly unique in its self, but there is one major difference. You can address each oscillator discreetly, and each has its own filter, envelope and volume/pan controls.
The routing options for oscillators are very diverse. As well as discrete operation, two or more can be synched together to create a PWM style thing, they can be played as a 4 polyphony synth, or most interestingly, you can automatically cycle between them on mono mode. You can of course, if you’re mad, play in unison mode and have all 4 oscillators screaming at once – again all with individual volume controls and filters.
Where the PERfourMER found its place in my studio is for basslines. I set it to cycle through each oscillator, and use different envelope settings for each – this give the bassline a real feeling of articulation and nuance that’s difficult to achieve otherwise. It excels at doing rubbery, complex sounding bass (and leads, I guess). One of the tricks I use it to ensure that it plays and odd number of notes per bar, thus ensuring that we cycle through different oscillator patterns per loop. It makes for a very interesting sound.
There are some other features that I have embarrassingly not yet used. Namely the internal sequencer (I tend to always program from the DAW) and the trigger/filter inputs. The filter interests me the most because having access to 4 individual filters could open some possibilities. If I ever get the time or inclination I’ll update this post with my thoughts and some samples. I may pair it up with my Vermona DRM mkIII and see what I can do…
The PERfourMER is a very heavy sounding thing. Big, thick, analog oscillators with lovely smooth sounding filters and envelopes. It’s also the least noisy analog synth I’ve ever used, it’s totally silent when not playing. It has a very strong output signal, it’s possible to clip my balanced inputs with it. I’ve found that, in order to get it to sit in the box properly it requires a bit of EQ – generally a slight reduction in bass.
Build quality, as with all Vermona products I’ve used, is excellent. I would have no worries about gigging with this thing (ensuring I had a suitable case) and repair and maintenance is straight forward (not that it’s been required yet). Vermona really seem to know what they’re doing at the moment. I have previously opened a Vermona DRM mkIII (it blew a fuse) and was shocked and how logically laid out all the PCBs were, and the quality of the internal complements was of a very high standard.
Unfortunately there is a steep learning curve to this unit. Whenever I have clients or friends in the studio, it’s the first thing they want to play with. All the controls on display are irresistible. Sadly, tweaking around without fully understanding it’s unique work flow tends to result in loud unpleasant sounds screaming uncontrollably. It’s a machine that takes practice and patience to master. Also, each oscillator has an individual tune control, as well as a global master tune, so setup of the unit takes a couple of minutes. However, since the oscillator tune controls are muddled in among the front panel, inevitably they are accidentally changed, or bumped when using another control – meaning another few minutes are spent tuning. There is a built in 440Hz tone you can use for tuning, but I tend to do it through another external tool, I find it’s more accurate that way.
Personally, I find it very difficult to program in polyphonic mode – the oscillators are always too big and too rough for keys. You can get over this of course by throwing some effects over it, or by actually learning how to program it properly. But I have too many other options for polyphony to have spend much time or effort in this mode yet.
I do really like the PERfourMER – it’s nice to have something in the studio with this amount of depth. Something I need to think about before using. Something that I can’t just tweak randomly or cycle through presets. It’s a synth that makes you work for your money.