Sonic LAB: Dreadbox Typhon Review

Desktop analog with Sinevibes FX      15/07/20

Dreadbox have released another collaborative instrument in Typhon - it's an analogue monophonic desktop synthesizer with two oscillators and 3 digital effects engines with algorithms supplied by Sinevibes - these are operating at 32bit 96kHz. It also has 256 memory locations and an external audio input.

If you watched any of the amusing launch videos, you'll know that Typon is USB powered, with a large USB-B connector for a robust connection. 

They say you can run it for 60hrs on a 20,000mAh battery, which is cool. Though I did find that you need to make sure there are no ground loops in the USB setup, for instance, I powered the Keystep and Typhon from the same USB power supply and got an unpleasant whine, switching the Typhon to it's own supply solved that.

USB is currently for power and firmware updates only, there are  full size MIDI in and Out connections, you also get 2x 1/4 jacks for LR out, plus headphones and a mono minijack input for external signals.

Build quality feels good, with knobs and faders plus a small, but easily readable LED display for parameters.

Oscillators
These are morphed faded using a single large knob which starts at FM (saw carrier, SQ modulator), through 2:Tri only, 1:SQ  2:Tri, 1: SQ only, 1:SQ 2:Saw, 2:Saw only, 1:Saw 2: Saw. 

Positions in between change both level between oscillators and morph shape, so PWM and shape modulation is entirely possible. OSC 2 has a +2 octave tuning range.

They sound like Dreadbox oscillators, in so much has they have weight and buzz - did not disappoint.

Filter
This is actually a 4 pole Low pass , previous Dreadbox Filters have been 2-pole or a couple of 2-poles. This still seems to have the same deep resonance with it's own voice and also has that Dreadbox thing - can be self oscillating and will track over 2-3 octaves.
There's also a routing of Oscillator 2 into Filter Freq Mod, which can yield some lovely throaty tones as well as some more broken driven type sounds, a nicely conceived filter for a simple synth layout.

Envelopes
There are two fixed routing envelopes - VCA and VCF and not are ADSR types - hit the EG button and the faders become ADSR. There's a nice twist with bot VCA and VCF having dedicated Time multiplier/Division knobs. An interesting choice given there are only 8 knobs on the unit (Cut off, Resonance, EG level, Oscillator morph, Osc2 tune, Volume, Amp Time, Filter Time) - but it's actually pretty useful, range can turn a very snappy filter envelope into a much longer legato sound with release - quite useful for radically changing the sound while performing.

 

Modulators
Here's where we get into more digital control and things get more complex. There are three Modulators, each can be one of the following:

  • LFO - multi-wave with fade time and send level (+ or -)
  • EG - A D/R S - send level (+ or -)
  • S+H - rate, lag, probability, level (+ or -)
  • 32 Step sequencer - level per step, overall level (+ or -),  tempo governed by master tempo

Destinations: CV, CV1, CV2, Wave, cutoff, resonance, filter env level, VCA, FX1 level, Filter Frequency mod level, FX2 level, Delay (FX3), FX3 level.

I was pretty happy with this and thought that was enough, then I realized that each modulator has it's own discrete level for all of those destinations at the same time. So extremely complex modulation routings can be set up. Although it is quite hard to manage and oversee that, it's still very deep.

The current firmware doesn't allow for any other LFO sync settings other than key on start, I would really like to see these be able to link to the master tempo or each other -  (LFO1 at 1/2 speed of LFO2 etc). I think that this is something firmware updates may address. 

Something nice to try is sequencing the CV of OSC2 and routing that to the filter, some lovely angular and melodic stuff to be found.

Effects
Three discrete FX engines (FX1-3). Each has it's own FX types.

FX 1 is dedicated to distortion, drive and bitcrushing with: 

  • S-Curve (my favourite for saturated analog stuff)
  • TRI-CLIP - a more extreme distortion
  • SHRED - even more extreme, 
  • BIT CRUSH- sample reduction, 
  • HARD CLIP and FOLDBACK
  • These are pretty good sounding and can really transform the sound.
  • The send level of OSC2 to Filter is also in this FX1 page

FX 2 is more for modulation effects:

Chorus, Ensemble, Flanger

All are capable of gentle widening to extreme screaming feedback type modulations

FX 3 - Delays and reverb

Stereo Delay - with independent L+R delay times can be extremely short for tuned feedback

Ping-pong - as it says on the tin

Reverb - from shorter realistic spaces to the massive cavernous frozen spaces - yummy.

Currently there is no way to sync delay times, but I believe this is coming in a future firmware.

They sound pretty good to be honest and can transform a relatively simple, though already good sounding mono synth into a massive, complex, stereo monster. I approve. From soaring leads to huge sound design cinematic textures - it's all there.

External input - this unfortunately is hard wired through the filter and VCA - it's not possible to just go directly into the FX, but you can still use it as FX only - by setting a modulator in step mode (1 step) to open the VCA it will just be on. It is possible to turn off the Oscillators into the VCF. It is a mono input.

Sequencer
Yep, there's also a 32 step note sequencer, with each step offering Octave, note, gate, velocity, length, division, probability and Swing amount. It's a useful tool though it's a bit fiddly to program as is, especially if you are using all 32 steps - I hope we can see MIDI note value input and Sequencer transpose in a future firmware update (we're told this is on the roadmap)

Conclusion
First up, the basic synth sounds good. The corners that were cut to get this in at €349 (Dreadbox's most affordable desktop synth) don't seem to have compromised on the sonic qualities. 

It's not all perfection though, no MIDI over USB as far as I can tell, no LFO or delay sync. The only turd on the lawn is the fact that on power up it sends out a burst of noise which at high volumes could do damage. You definitely need to watch out for that.

Yes it is a little menu-ey, though it's pretty simple to learn,  not hard to navigate, and of course many parameters can be mapped to fixed MIDI CCs -  there's even a helpful item in the setup menu listing all of these.

But Typhon can sound huge, plenty of low end. Adding the modulation routing and effects just makes it even more capable. It's nicely conceived and executed as Dreadbox have a habit of doing. This instrument should inspire you, if not, you may need some professional help.

Available now (though in short supply) priced at €349 Euros

 


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