Sonic LAB: Behringer Poly D - 4 Voice Analog

Paraphonic D keyboard      25/11/19
    MP4 20:56 mins    

So another big surprise from Behringer in their frenzy of 30 years celebrations. This one is the POLY D and yep, it's a pretty heavily “inspired” instrument, that coming from the Minimoog of course.

But with quite a big difference, and the clue is in the name, well sort of. The Poly D is a four voice paraphonic MiniMoog voice, with additional features. Paraphonic as in it can play four notes, but they go through a single VCF and VCA.

Poly D  is an analog synth with the circuitry more or less from the Model D, though not quite. The filter is a 4-pole Ladder with additional  High pass mode, there’s also a Neutron style distortion - though you can’t use the Tone control without adding drive (like you can with the Neutron), and a Juno Style Chorus for stereo widening, complete with vintage noise.

Build - it's nice, feels solid, has real wood case, the panel flips up like the Mini and it has a three octave aftertouch equipped keyboard.  It's a nice thing, though I can’t help but feel that’s not really down to them but thanks to Dr Moog.

Poly D operates in three modes - Mono - all four VCOs to one voice, Unison - VCO’s split between number of voices played : 1 = 4 osc, 2= 2 osc, 4= 1 osc per voice, and Poly - 1 VCO per voice. We’re told that this was inspired by the venerable Korg Mono/Poly which has similar modes.

Sound - well now, those VCOs do sound pretty yummy and when stacked up, in chords they do play together rather nicely. I  would like to have seen some wave modulation - -sadly no PWM on this one for me!
But it “works” as a poly instrument when played within it's paraphonic limitations. 
It's got some lovely tones in there, add some chorus and you have a nice wide sound. 

The fourth VCO can be used as an LFO and routed to filter and pitch - though all VCOs go from Lo to 32’ up to 2’  (not sure why you’d need Lo mode in the other three?) and there’s also an extra LFO (Tri/SQ wave) by the Mod and Pitch Wheels. This area of the synth handles the modulation and performance with Glide, Octave 1/2/3, LFO rate and wave (Tri/Square), plus two mod busses Left side (Osc 4/Filter EQ), Right side (noise/mod source  and LFO). It's simple but effective although I would like to have seen extra destinations - PWM for the win!

Indeed, this synth has the same or similar limitations to the Mini, but you can find lots of sweet spots, it just takes a bit of perseverance.

Filter - the Ladder does what it does, add resonance, lose low end, but it does sound pretty creamy. Nice harmonics from the resonance too in both low and high pass modes..
One thing - the gain from the VCOs to the filter  is reduced due to headroom, that extra oscillator would have introduced clipping without dropping the levels overall, so you can’t add burn by turning them all up. Add a reverb or external effects and it can sound really yummy. Which begs the question why chorus and not delay?

Uli told me:

We did a lot of research around what effects people would prefer and even built a version with an included delay instead of the chorus. 

However, everyone clearly preferred the Chorus version because they wanted the “fattest” Model D synth sound of all times. Of course we chose the analog Juno Chorus which is considered the best sounding chorus ever built. Adding such a chorus is like multiplying all your voices. 

I guess thats a matter of taste.

Also included are a 64 Step sequencer with 64 patterns, yes it will record poly, though you can’t adjust the clock division  as far as I can see and the tempo doesn’t go slow enough for 1/4 notes for me.
Yes you can record chords in the sequencer, though you need to hit all notes as one to ensure they are recorded.
Would be nice if it was possible to play the sequence and then play additional notes via the keyboard, but it will only transpose art present.
There is also an arpeggiator mode.
I should add there’s an app for configuring options such as mono note priority (mine was fixed at low), will probably mean some of these functions can be added with firmware updates.

Connections  One thing that is cool is the ability to output Velocity and Aftertouch as control outputs and patch them physically into modulation input on the top edge - so After-touch to VCF, or velocity to VCA will work.

Connectors

  • USB- MIDI
  • MIDI in/out/through
  • Outputs for:
  • Aftertouch (with depth control)
  • Pitch (keyboard)
  • V-Trig (gate)
  • Velocity (with depth control
  • External Input (Like a true Mini - yes headphones out to this add extra drive)
  • Sync in out - for Arp/Seq
  • L+R outputs
  • V-Trig in
  • Loudness (VCA control)
  • Filter 
  • Oscillator (CV in)
  • Ext Mod (modulation source)
  • Headphones on front panel with level

Overall - I liked it, it has an appealing sound with a full tone and a great vibe to it - way more impressive than the Mono/Poly. The oscillators are much nicer, though without those interesting Xmod and sync options of the Korg.

And that’s where we start to see the limitations, as a mono synth, it sounds impressive,  like an ahem, Model D with “Warp Drive”, and in some instances it shines as a poly. But it lacks features that other polysynths offer at around the same price.
It's similar in cost to the  Korg Minilogue XD which is a true poly synth with a lot of features.

At $699 (at least at the time of the review what we’ve been told) it’s more pricey  than you’d expect from Behringer and perhaps a more realistic one  - for a nice thing with a decent wooden case and solid build.

Hey, if you are into the Mini and want something that really looks the part as well as having the 4 voice capability, this could well be your next synth. But if you want a poly synth specifically and more features, there are other  options out there.

Available soon? Price $699 (tbc)

Update: Uli Behringer's reply in full:

1. Why did we design the POLY D?
Our goal was to design a synthesizer that would take the original MiniMoog to a whole new level, while strictly retaining the legendary sound signature as well as the valuable built by means of metal and wood construction. We wanted to create an inspiring instrument that musician would also take on stage - the result is a MiniMoog on steroids with no efforts spared.
Nothing has been changed in terms of original audio circuitry and we simply added a 4th oscillator and the ability to play polyphonically. We adapted the well-appreciated MonoPoly voice logic which allows for 3 modes, including a 4 note polyphonic mode. This is the first time the Model D can be played in a polyphonic/paraphonic mode. Achieving this with an legendary instrument, was not easy and we spent over two years on this development and building six different versions until we were satisfied with the result.

2. Why did we chose a Chorus?
We did a lot of research around what effects people would prefer and even built a version with an included delay instead of the chorus. 
However, everyone clearly preferred the Chorus version because they wanted the “fattest” Model D synth sound of all times. Of course we chose the analog Juno Chorus which is considered the best sounding chorus ever built. Adding such a chorus is like multiplying all your voices. 

I suggest you listen for yourself - imagine a polyphonic Model D sound with 4 voices and analog Chorus plus distortion. Initially people thought we were crazy to design such a unit, but when they heard the POLY D they literally fell off their chair. When we asked people to describe it, their feedback was “this thing is insane”. 
I like to take the opportunity to thank all our synth experts for their immense help and patience. It was worth the effort and hopefully we can make lots of musicians happy with the POLY D. 

Uli

z

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