Sonic LAB: PWM Malevolent Synthesizer Review

US Angry little feller      26/08/22

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How can we not have Nick review a synth made by PWM (Paul Whittington Music)?
The Malevolent is an analog 2 oscillator synth with a Sallen-Key filter (same as MS20), two envelopes, single LFO, post filter drive, apreggiator and joystick.

NOTE: We will have some extra content from questions generated by our Patreon supporters and any others that come in via the comments on here or Youtube. Those points will hopefully be addressed in that exclusive video - but we also had a visit from Finlay Shakespeare of Future Sound Systems, who collaborated with PWM to make the Malevolent:
for more information on this read this post.

Its got a mini 32 key keybed (no aftertouch) and a MIDI Cv/Gate/Velocity interface built in.

With the Oscillators, there are Saw, Triangle and Square waves with wave shape modulation.

One thing you need to be aware of right away is the this synth runs hot! Anything higher than around 50% level anf the filter really starts to burn, and I mean really burns, the resonance is suppressed and there's audible saturation. Additionally there's a fairly apparent noise floor when you drop the oscillators lower, so you do need to be aware that it really lives in the burning hot synth rather than a sparkly, clean synth - and that's not necessarily a bad thing as it certainly has some character.

The filter  is a Sallen-Key filter with monster resonance and can get pretty uncontrollable pretty quickly, with inputs for LP (default) Bandpass and High pass. 

One thing that I found a little problematic and this seems to be something that is common in budget instruments and that is the parameter scaling - particularly noticeable with modulation depth - wave shape, pitch modulation and filter modulation - dialing in small amounts of of modulation is tricky as often a little bit is still too much.

LFO offers Triangle and Square, there's also a digital vibrato LFO on the joystick - up for depth, L+R for speed. Speaking of the joystick, its designed to offer a playable instrument  - and as such there's a button for vibrato mode and also when that is not pressed, the joystick applies portamento. This sounds great, but unfortunatley given than any downward joystick move engages the lock/hold function. I would have preferred to see portamento on down/left/right and vibrato on up left/right, but its probably a matter of taste.

There is also a USB-C connection with offers MIDI i/o - which is nice to have.

One fun fact - the end cheeks are clipped on with magnets, which means you can make your own, or just remove them and the Malevolent can be rack-mounted.

Overall, I enjoyed the sound - if I had to characterize it, I would say that its hot and driven which if that's what your after it does well with plenty of low end and character.

Malevolent is available now priced at £425 UK and around $520 US

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