Affordable desktop/Eurorack synth voices 28/10/22
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We're looking at a pair of desktop synths (also mountable in Eurorack) from Cre8Audio - as in previous releases, these are made in collaboration with Richard Nicol from Pittsburgh Modular - he knows how to make great sounding Oscillators, Filters and Wave folders, in fact the core technology of the East Beast (subtractive single VCO synth voice) comes from the VCO, VCF and VCA of the SV-1 Blackbox - which we think sounds pretty fine. The West Pest however has the VCO, Wavefolder and Dynamics from the highly prized Voltage Research Laboratory System - with a rich Wavefolder and resonant Low Pass Gate for a more West Coast sound.
Both are fairly simple voices with a single LFO and a digital Multifunction generator - (MIDI map, LFO, Random and Envelope). While basic it's nice to have those additional modulation sources, both also feature a step sequencer and arpeggiator, MIDI to CV and Gate convertor and a one octave, button trigger keyboard which also doubles to access the various functions and features.
The East Beast has a single VCO with Sine, Triangle, Saw, Square (and combinations of each) and noise into a multimode VCF with LP, BP, HP and combinations. Its essentially a classic single oscillator subtractive synth voice with a patch bay.
The West Pest has Sine, Triangle and Saw into the Wavefolder which occupies the largest knob on the unit. There's also a resonance control which shapes the harmonics for some wild (or subtle) tonal variations. This is more of your classic West Coast style synth voice.
The West Pest would be characterized with plucked or bongy sounds due to the fixed nature of the Dynamics section which is a Low Pass Gate. For anything less "bongy" you'll need to patch some external control into the DynMod input on the patch bay. I feel they missed a trick with not providing any Multifunction envelopes with a slower attack.
Ultimately both sound pretty good. They are built to a price and so miss a couple of things you might like to see like LFO waveforms on the East Beast (Triangle only) but for the price, you are essentially getting core technology from much more expensive Pittsburgh Modular systems plus all the other features. Cre8Audio have nailed how to manufacture to a price and these are made in China.
So far I'm liking what I hear, though there is one anomaly, which is that the lowest C on my Keystep Pro would not trigger a note below 48 midi value. I have discovered some keyboards treat C0 as MIDI note 24 which means in the case of these units, does not get to the lowest available pitch using MIDI - using a DAW with a compatible MIDI source (Keystep original). Over CV it's fine. Cre8Audio say that a Firmware update can fix that - so it should be sorted.
I'm keen to see what else they have coming down the line as, these sound great as does the Capt. Big-0 Oscillator (see our review)
Both units are available now, priced at £229/$249 each.