I’ve sat on this tune for a few weeks now. I started writing it because I had just bought a brand new EQ. You can tell because the equalisation of the drums is a bit enthusiastic pronounced than I would like.
Of course, this is popping techno shit with some of the coolest drum patterns I’ve ever written. Everything was sequenced on the MPC4000, so it’s got that classic stiff shuffle feel.
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.
I had wanted a Korg Polysix for the longest time – around 10 years, I think. I mistakenly thought that some of the Luomo basslines were created on it (they had not been) and it had become a bit of a halo item for me. Luckily my mistake lead me down a path to discover this lovely old instrument.
The PolySix has a real electric sound to it. A thick and wonderful, grungy sound, full of character and colour. This makes it quite easy to spot in the mix, it’s not a subtle instrument by any means (especially when used in unison mode).
The sound is very musical, and personally I use it only really for chords and basslines. It’s never used for effects or non-tonal applications. If you’re reading this, you know well all the features (6 note polyphony, arpeggiator etc.), I see no need to detail the functions of the standard instrument. However, if that’s what you’re looking for go here.
What I will tell you though, is that it’s a noisy bugger. There’s lots of hiss and high pitched noise, likely due to aging capacitors. For my applications (horrible noisy techno stuff), it really makes no difference. However, if you’re looking to use a PolySix in a more standard recording, you may need to look into gating and heavy EQ in order to resolve some of this.
The front panel is excellent, everything has an individual control, and the layout is extremely intuitive. It’s an instrument, it’s designed to be played. Build quality, inside and out, is also of the highest standard. Mine is a 1981 model (37 fucking years old!) and is holding up very well. Presets are super easy to save and load. It’s a joy to create sounds on, and can be done on the fly, without digging through endless menus or messing with delicate controls. Certainly in my mind, this is what a synthesizer should be.
As for the Tubbutec midi mods, yeah they seem to work as expected. The add midi in and out, as well as a few other basic features. I don’t really have any issues with it at all, although it is something you’ll need to read the manual for before installing and using. It adds a few milliseconds of delay between receiving the midi message and spitting out noise, but this is consistent so is easily compensated for in your chosen DAW. Otherwise, I’d consider this an essential mod for the old Poly for anyone looking to integrate it to a modern studio.
I tend not to use the built in apeggiator as it feels like it’s not correctly synced to the midi clock, there’s a delay there that I find very distracting. I can simulate a apeggiator from the DAW, but to be honest apeggiators are not really my thing so it’s a feature I don’t use much.
I also added audio in/out for the effect unit inside the PolySix. This allows me to run mono audio through the on-board phaser/chorus/ensemble effects. Again, this is very noisy, but wonderfully thick and interesting sound that can only come from analogue effects.
Being a vintage synth, there is a reasonable amount of maintenance required. I have pretty tight control of humidity and temperature in the studio, but even then it requires tuning before each session. It has never drifted off tune during use, but it’s always best to key in before starting. I cleaned all the pots and audio connection with the wonderful (but painfully expensive) Deoxit. I really can’t recommend this stuff enough – it’s fully repaired things that I thought were beyond saving. Anyway, after cleaning the pots, I’ve had exactly zero issues in two years of use.
There’s also the issue of the leaking internal battery damaging control boards internally. This type of thing is well documented and there are plenty of solutions available – as well as re-manufactured control boards if the one in the synth is beyond saving. What I would say however, is that if you are not comfortable opening and repairing something like this (even if you’re just following a guide on the internet), a vintage synth may not be for you. They all require some maintenance and if you ship it to a third party, the bills will become unmanageable pretty quickly (synth repair around these parts cost ~£75 per hour).
PolySixes are becoming very expensive now, I think you’re looking upwards of £1000 for a good one. However, they have a very unique sound, are well built and easy to maintain. Prices for this sort of thing are only going one way unfortunately, so if you’re interested in one please be quick.
That being said, I think it’s worth every penny. There’s very few instruments that do not depreciate over the course of almost four decades. Nothing else sounds like a PolySix, and it’s unlikely anything every will. There are of course various VSTi emulations of the Polysix but the don’t even come close to capturing the character of the machine, never mind the work flow.
Below you will find some audio files recorded directly from the PolySix. There is no additional processing or external effects used. I am sick of hearing demos of synth with the filter complete removed – to me most oscillators sound the same. I modify the filters and envelopes during play. One file is a monophonic bassline, the other is a chord progression, both looped ad nauseam. I’m hoping to use the same patterns to show the rest of the gear too, so we have a 1:1 comparison.
In order to celebrate the return of the blog, I’ve decided to go through all of my gear, unit by unit, and write a quick review of each one. This allows me to catalog everything I have, as well as give an impartial review of each module.
I use everything frequently, and paid for everything myself so hopefully this is enough to differentiate me from the huge amount of fucking shills on the internet.
In general I don’t believe anyone’s reviews of gear for two reasons:
All these motherfuckers are in someone’s pocket.
None of these dudes actually use the things for music production. And even if they do, they are only interested in recreating the latest bullshit sound.
I’ll do the first review tonight and hopefully manage two or three per week until everything is done. There’s some weird and unusual pieces so hopefully I can offer support to others that have the same gear.
I’ll do instruments first because that seems like a good place to start, then move on to effects, then utilities (interfaces and the like). I’ll also be making audio captures of everything, just simple patterns and chord progressions. I’ll try and work something out so that each module is playing back the same patterns.
Everything will be recorded on a MOTU 24I/O at 44.1Khz 16bit, with no additional processing. Files will then be converted to MP3 with LAME 3.100 @ V0 preset. I can upload .wav files, but I really don’t see the need. Let me know if you disagree.
Oh wait, I think I may be able to do flac with HTML 5 – I’ll check that before abandoning the idea of lossless uploads.
After having the blog grind to a halt, I tried to reinstall everything and optimise things a little. This seems to have worked great, as the site now loads super quickly. Unfortunately it’s fucked up every single post.
I’ve tried reinstalling from a back up, but it’s not the correct format (or something, I dunno). I now need to go back and update all 159 posts, by hand.
I’ve started doing this, but if you not any errors, shoot me and email or a comment.
Gentlemen! Today, my birthday, is a very good day. Via a blog/web magazine that I do not follow, Vladislav Delay has released a new track called “Rakkine (Early Version)”. Better yet, he explicitly states that he is working on not one, but two new albums.
The first one, is the next Vladislav Delay which may or may not feature a new rendition of the before mentioned track. It’s quit a departure from what I was expecting – although V did say he’s completely changed is studio (again).
The second album, the title of which isn’t mentioned, is an experimental drum and bass recorded with Sly & Robbie. The prospect of which has me salivating.
You can read the brief interview here: https://www.xlr8r.com/features/q-a-vladislav-delay
Here’s to the future V.
Edit: I’d like to note that one of the quote in the XLR8R article is yours truly.
Tony Bernardo – XLR8R quoted journalist.
I spent a few days rewiring the studio and replacing my midi interface. A friend suggested that the midi through feature on some of the older synths could be the source of my midi jitter issues. By gum, I think he may have been right.
I also took the time to balance all the signals to minimise the amount of noise I get. I don’t want it to sound crystal clear or anything, but I’ve now killed as much noise as I care to.
I’ve also bought a few new (to me, not in general) synths that I’ll do some write ups for soon (ish).
I bought some old Russian (read Soviet) synths recently – a LELL UDS and a Formanta Polivoks, if anyone is remotely interested. I wanted to make something that really showcased both of these lovely synths. Then I drank some Strega. I am not a complex man.