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Sonic LAB: PolyBrute Full Review
6 voice analogue brute 22/09/20
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There were rumours, but nothing concrete until - wham! There's the PolyBrute. The 6 voice analog poly synth based on the MatrixBrute architecture.
Poly synths are like cars, you expect a steering wheel, indicators and other regular features that make it recognizable as such. And Arturia went for that but also added some interesting features we've not seen on a poly before. Including what I would say is the PolyBrute's super power: true, modulatable, patch morphing. This can be controlled with the other unusual feature - the Morphee - it's an X/Y pad with a Z axis as well. Looks a bit like the Touche, but it's quite different.
We also get the 8x12 Mod matrix with 4 pages of routings, each dialed in via the main data knob - like the Matrix. And three high quality digital FX and a ribbon controller. 5 octave Fatar keybed with channel aftertouch wraps things up. Build quality is good. The panel doesn't flip like the Matrix, but I'm not missing that tbh, it feels solid and well constructed.
2 Oscillators Both use rotary crossfaders between, Saw and Triangle, then a second between the output of that and Square. Triangle also has Metalizer wavefolding (which in settings can be applied to all VCO 1 waves.
Osc 2 is the same, but without the Metalizer, instead you get the Sub Wave (sine -1 Octave)
They sound beefy, like monosynth beefy which is interesting, yet also work as poly voices. You also get Osc sync 2>1, FM 2>1.
Two Filters Like the MatrixBrute - we have the Steiner Parker filter morphable Lowpass, High pass, Bandpass - full resonance and the Brute Factor drive - which is a feedback loop that gets wild with high resonance, gain staging from the OSC outputs will affect the resonance and drive.
The second filter is a 24dB Ladder - Moog like, but with bass compensation when the resonance is added - thanks for that. The drive is more subtle but still burns well.
They can be routed series through parallel. They also sound good, the more angry tones from the Steiner-Parker balanced with the creamier ladder.
3 Envelopes/3 LFOs Hardwired VCA and VCF envelopes (with velocity depth) plus a mod envelope with a delay control. All are loopable - in fact this is a neat feature - any control with a small yellow circle has additional settings available via the large LCD.
3 LFOs, multi wave 1+2, 2 has a fade in, LFO 3 has a morphable Sine/Triangle wave with curve and symmetry and a one shot mode.
Morphing Each patch (768 total) is controlled by a discrete Morph knob A/B. When set to either side (A or B) modifying any front panel parameters (except poly, split mode, FX algorithm choices and Matrix source/destinations routings but not levels) is stored in either A or B depending (hard right or left). Essentially this can create two completely different patches which can then be morphed between using the A/B control, or the Moprhee X/Y or indeed any modulation source you choose.
It's very easy to use and very satisfying in it's results. You get to places, you'd never think of, but also you can copy settings between A and B to create more subtle variations. It's not like any other morph I've tried and is frankly, brilliant.
Modulation It's as simple as the MatrixBrute, but this time all 32 destinations can be user assigned from most any front panel control - including FX parameters, much more comprehensive than the matrix, but with no external CV io. It's possible to modulate the depth of a path as well as just direct wiring. A very simple and elegant modulation system.
FX These are a great improvement over the Matrix - there are three - Modulation (chorus, phaser, flanger, ring mod, bitcrusher and downsampler) Delay (BBD emulation, Ping Pong, Karplus, and variants) and Reverb (hall, plate, spring, Dream) provide short to massive shimmer type stuff - they all sound pretty good, but the deeper parameters are hidden, only and intensity knob for modulation - which will adjust multiple parameter depending on the algorithm chosen.
Bi-Timbral Patches can be split or layered using the A/B sounds, so in a split, Layer A will be the lower area of the keys (user definable) and B the upper. They will share FX and the sends are common to both sounds at the same time. Layer is similarly set up, layering A/B as you wish. It's useful but with only 6 voices, you can quickly run out.
Sequencer/Arp A poly sequencer with up to 64 steps (and a metronome!) works well, though there are also only 3 three lanes of parameter recording, which does seem a little stingy - you can record just params for additional modulations. Note, when in split or layer mode - Sequencer only sequences sound A, not both halves or sides of the morph.
Sum of the parts Ok, so this does sound great, as a mono, unlike many poly's, it can sound enormous and be a true bass monster, but in Poly mode, you get some really beautiful lush pads, and washes - especially with those FX, but can also do the more classic polysynth tones - yes I did try a Jump style patch...
It's not a synth made for the cost conscious, but I also don't feel that it is overpriced, I mean there's a lot to it. The firmware is pretty well advanced - the tuning and tracking are impressive, it is just so much fun to play and explore. A really impressive instrument, that if you are in the market for a poly, will have just made your decision even harder. I'll be sad to see it go to be honest.