Modal today released another in the Cobalt range - the Cobalt 5S. This is a five voice version of the all DSP Cobalt engine (see our review) with the same oscillator section using the Extended VA engine, modeled 24dB Ladder Filter, three Envelopes, 2 LFOs (reduced from 3), twin fixed FX (chorus and delay) and Sequencer and Arpegiator.
The Cobalt 5S also has a 3 octave aftertouch enabled medium sized keybed (C to C) and an X/Y/Z pad in place of the joystick.
While it's been built to meet a price, the extended VA engine is the same with 32 Algorithms and a good selection of tonal sources. Also each of the two oscillators features the same spread function which can provide up to 8 oscillators per voice for a total of 40. It's also got a decent build quality to it.
The form factor does require a new layout and many of the rotary encoders have dual or triple functions, but all of the synthesis functions can be accessed via the front panel. The included editor makes that a more visual and easier to navigate experience - it's available for Mac/PC/iOS/Android.
Ins and outs: 1/4 L+R jacks, Larger MIDI I/O, USB A (MIDI and power), sync in and out - 8th jacks for 64 step sequencer and arpeggiator, Headphones 1/4 stereo, sustain pedal. Missing is the external stereo input of the Cobalt8 - was handy for running into the FX engine.
Sonically the 5S is still capable of some lovely tones, there don't seem to be any compromises there, except for the lack of 3rd LFO. Though unfortunately you can't move patches over from the Cobalt8. It can do deep modulated basses, and interesting pads as well as pure, more analog sounding tones. The FX, while limited are pretty flexible, though I do miss the reverb of the Cobtalt8.
One downside I found was that the size of the display was pretty small, even though it's very sharp, I would struggle to see it without my specs. But overall it's got a good feel to it, you can also use it as a controller with the encoders sending MIDI.
For the street price £379/$449 it seems pretty reasonable - I would even suggest with a couple of strap studs you could use it as a keytar! (I'll get my coat....)
But the MPE mode and controller suitability make this quite a nicely positioned budget instrument with a decent sound engine.