Digital and Proud of it - is how the Belgian based manufacturer has been promoting the Modor NF-1 synth. In the flurry and excitement around true analogue instruments, this may seem rather counter, but the truth is, DSP based synthesis offers a huge amount of perfectly acceptable sound sculpting.
So the MODOR NF-1 is just that, a DSP based Virtual Analog, but with plenty of digital synthesis options too. It's an 8-voice poly, mono-timbral - no splits or layers here.
Physically, it's desktop format, with rack ears, and wooden end cheeks in the box too if that's your preferred option. It has an unusual layout, with slanted sections, multi-edged knob caps and a selection of nice, positive buttons.
At the heart of the NF-1 are three digital oscillators with 10 waves:
Saw. Square, Triangle, Sync, Additive, Sonar, Wind, Arcade, FM and FeedBack FM.
I won't re-explain all of these here, there's a run through in the main video, but suffice to say that it has plenty of tonal variation with a broad palette of analog style waves and more unusual digital sources. The FM capabilities are particularly interesting with single oscillator FM possible due to some clever DSP code.
Filter - is a resonant multimode filter (LP, HP, BP and Notch) with additional drive parameter for the smudge factor - this doesn't provide some burn, though it is a tad digital in character.
Formant filter - an unusual addition to the synth sound with a three stage, editable formant transition, it can be run in series or parallel with a dedicated mix control. As well as the vowel sounds and modulation of those, static filtering can result in some unusual harmonics when combined with the VCF (or not!)
LFOs and Envelopes - there are four ADSR envelopes with additional time control between A and D phases, plus two additional Level controls - this gives you plenty of shaping. The first three envelopes are loopable with a double click on the button, the fourth is not. Default routings are env1-> Pitch, env2->Filter, env3->formant, env4->VCA
Three standard LFOs are available, with an additional S&H LFO, these are multi-wave, though there's no one shot mode available.
Chorus/Flanger - provide extreme or subtle stereo effects, with the Delay section giving up to what sounds like around 800ms of delay with feedback. Modulation of the FX parameters is possible, though time modulation is rather steppy. I like the fact that they are relatively simple and effective.
The mod matrix is organised in wires - each of these is a slot with a single source and destination. There are many, many options in here which is great though it is where the OS does creak a little bit, menus and selection of values taking a little getting used to.
One thing that was missing was velocity to filter envelope depth - touch responsive sounds being a forte of that routing, but you can modulate so many things it's down to your imagination.
The front panel certainly encourages you to tweak, there are a vast array of sounds to be explored here and stored in the 500 or so slots. I think where the NF-1 shines is in the unusual digital areas. For convincing mono analogue type sounds it's not quite there, but for pads and dark evolving harmonically rich sounds, it's got a lot to offer.
I would like to have seen some kind of multi-timbrality and the OS is definitely a little unfamiliar, and I would have liked to see the LFO speed indicated via LED, but its not a hindrance. The other area I would like to have seen is the smooth modulation of time values for the effects, I don't know if this is possible via some clever maths and an OS update - which are periodically available via Modormusic.com
As I conclude in the video, I'm not sure it's your first choice for your only poly or VA, but as a new area of sounds it can certainly take you places other synths don't.
Currently priced at €995 Euros, we hear this may be set to increase as it heads out to dealers worldwide.
A synth worth exploring.