Sonic LAB: Behringer Neutron Analog Desktop Semi Modular Review

How good can a $300 synth sound?      05/04/18
    MP4 20:35 mins    

Buying Choices

Behringer’s synth announcement schedule is hard to keep up with, their intention to create numerous clones  has flooded the news channels in recent months. However whilst this is going on the team at Midas HQ in Manchester have been working on a new, original synth in the form of Neutron - a desktop semi-modular analogue, with a 56 point patchbay. And now it's here - or at least is very close to being here.

It's the same form as the Model D - with built in MIDI CV, MIDI through, 12v DC 1A power - and it can be Eurorack mounted (see the Flux 302 video).

Based around two 3340 analogue  VCOs - you find these in many classic synths  - Behringer are now making their own - the patents having expired.

They sound good - with Sine, Triangle, Saw, Square and folded Square Waves with PW mod  they have plenty of weight to them, the default mode is wave morphing mode, though you can set this to hard switching if you wish. The fundamental harmonic is strong and provides a lot of low end (and I mean a LOT)

Range is 32, 16, 8 (+/- 11 semitones) plus a wide range setting for LFO type operation.
PW is  normalized to the LFO via Attenuator 2.

The other main factor in determining the sound of this synth is the Moffatt Filter - an in-house designed 2 pole multi-mode filter. But it doesn’t sound like a 2-pole, there’s a lot of low end harmonics available with it  - bass sounds are frankly delicious and dare I say it - fulsome.

It does run pretty hot though so you need to be careful with the levels, there’s quite a lot of distortion in the signal path once the resonance comes up. Keytracking is on or off (100%) - yes you can play the filter on the keyboard, though you will need to plug a dummy patch cord into the filter input.

More analog circuits  - the two ADSR envelopes are analogue - and as such can provide some real whip and snap for percussion sounds, and those hard nosed bass lines come up a treat. The overdrive is also analog and can make an already hot sounding instrument scream - with the additional tone control which works whether drive is engaged or not - so if you happen to need more bass, then you can have it.

Analogue BBD delay,  around 1 second or so, but it's crunchy and low bandwidth which is a lot of fun, high feedback and short delay times plus a bit of patchbay delay time modulation and things can get crazy fast. One thing, there is noticeable crosstalk from the delay, you need to set the time and feedback to 0 as well as the mix to ensure you can’t hear it.

LFO is the only digital aspect of this synth, multi-wave (sine, tri, saw up, square, saw down) again with morphable control (or switched if desired) it auto senses MIDI clock (you can’t disable this at present) for sync, but when in free running mode it goes way up into audio rates - you could use it as an Oscillator of sorts at a pinch. But those Yoyyoy filter articulations - check. Key trigger option for cycle reset on key down .

Patchbay and utilities - they’ve clearly thought about the patchbay here, with 56 points you access  almost everything - except the OSC mix (A/B) control. 

Slew rate limiter, S&H generator with glide (clock in), SUM 2 in 1 out (x2), 1 Mult (2 outs), Inverter, LFO unipolar out, add plenty of options.

There’s also an assignable output which can be routed from VCO1 or 2  CV out, Modwheel, velocity or aftertouch.

The question is, how good can a $300 synth sound? The answer is pretty darned good. Those VCOs are plenty big enough and the filter is very musical (if a little hot). I can’t think of many people who would be disappointed with this for the money.  

It does make you wonder, if they are capable of building original instruments like this, why not do more? Maybe they will..

Neutron is scheduled to be released this Spring at $299 US/ 300UK

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