Sonic LAB: Erica Synths DB-01 Bassline

US Monophonic analogue with sequencer      25/03/20
    MP4 19:58 mins    

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The Erica Synths DB-01 Bassline synth is a monophonic synth and sequencer that has a fair few tricks up its sleeve. 

First off lets talk about the voice architecture, we have a single monophonic analogue voice with a sub wave, a detune feature and noise. The oscillator can be either sawtooth, square wave or triangle. The detune feature is actually two bucket brigade delay chips with some modulation to mimic the sound of two oscillators that are slightly detuned. Although this doesn’t sound exactly like oscillator detune, it does have a nice effect to it and it does help to expand the voice of what would otherwise be a very standard mono synth voice architecture. 

The defining feature sound-wise of this synth is most probably the filter. This is a Polivoks filter design that Erica synths have employed before in their product range. We can either use it in low pass or band pass mode. The Erica Synths filter has a very distinctive sound to it. It is aggressive and fairly unusual sounding. I feel it is a bit of a Marmite filter, you either love the sound of it or you don’t. Personally for me the filter is a bit too aggressive. The aggressiveness can really colour the sound. It would be nice to have been able to back off the input into the filter to see how it behaves with a lower input, I’m sure it could be more squelchy than it is. 

We have two envelopes which are simple decay envelopes, one controls the filter cut off and the other controls the vca. 

The LFO on the DB-01 is fairly comprehensive. We have a number of different shapes that are available including some weirder shapes which allows for some interesting modulations on the filter and the pitch of the oscillator. It can be sync’d to the incoming clock source and also reset on a new note. 

The sequencer on the DB-01 is very competent and easy to use. You basically have one layer of menus to dive through. Along the bottom of the sequencer buttons are shift buttons which allow you to access extra sequencer and other functions. The sequencer itself can be programmed in a variety of different ways, including; step input, recording input, via the arpeggiator or via the random pattern generator. The random pattern generator can also be used just to input random accents, slides, filter modulation and pitch envelopes. 

The obvious comparison to be made with the DB-01 is the 303… However I’d say this is definitely not a 303 clone. It can do some acidic stuff but it's not an all out acid box. It has far more to give than just a 303 line. Also some things on the device are just not quite right for 303 style acid. The slide for instance is not the same and the filter doesn’t have the same smooth squelchy weirdness of a 303. Having said that I don’t think you should discount this synth if you’re looking for something that can be a bit acidic but also be a lot more besides. 

The price on the DB-01 is €460 + VAT so it has some stiff competition. There are some absolutely great analogue monosynths out there at the moment. The great thing about the DB-01 however is the size and build quality. It feels solid. I imagine it could be a real workhorse on the road and could really take a beating. The connectivity that this device has is also a big plus.

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