Sonic LAB: Norand Mono MKII Review

US Quirky Analog FPGA hybrid synthesizer      06/11/23

We're looking at the Norand Mono MKII, we first saw this at Superbooth earlier in the year and were impressed with the unique approach to modulation.
The analog oscillators and 3 pole filter are at the heart of the sound, and in addition, there's an FPGA processor that allows for complex manipulation and routing of the control voltages.


This is primarily in the form of X-MOD and X-ENV, which are per parameter, and in the case of the X-MOD can go into hight audio rates as well as performing regular LFO duties.
In the case of the X-ENV - its an Attack/Release  envelope that can be triggered from note on and also used to have sequenced triggers as well as be used to set the depth of the X-MOD.
The results are pretty compelling, the Oscillators (Sine/Tri/Square/Saw) have a decent heft to them and can sound pretty darned beefy.


In addition there's a Through Zero Frequency Modulation (Osc1->Osc2) and sync option for additional tones. Osc wave shape, pitch and level are all assigned an X-Mod and X-Env too.
As we get to the filter, its a 3-pole SVF with a sensitive input, you can get clean or fairly hot signal into it, indeed below 50% level is better for clean, but the stauration can be added to quite a high level.
X-Mod of the filter mode gives some really nice sonic character as well.
Finally there's a pretty deep post filter drive.


But where the fun really starts is the sequencer, with up to 64 steps and full parameter recording with a very high resolution playback of those parameter moves and you can get some very complex sequences.
Memory structure is 64 projects (stored on microSD), each project has 64 sequences, each with its own sound patch, and also there's an additional 40 Mod Notes - these can store a pitch value, but also a complete sound patch and can be sequenced, allowing for extremely fast patch changes, great for percussion and drum sounds for instance.
Sonically, its a great synthesis playground even though there are some quirky areas - for instance bi-polar square wave mod of Oscillator pitch will rarely reach perfect intervals due to the calibration required to reach the impressive 7/8Octaves of key tracking.


The manual also needs to be fleshed out as there are a few areas that are not well documented, IO spoke with Mathieu (you can see excerpts of this in another exclusive Patreon post)
I couldn't get around to all of the features  - there's also a interesting Morph feature which works between notes and sounds of a pattern.


Also, I did find a few little bugs, such as the MIDI input deactivating when in external MIDI sync mode. However I think they will address this pretty sharpish, the small team are pretty responsive.


Overall, I really enjoyed the sounds the Norand Mono MKII makes, and even though much of its synthesis is tied to the sequencer, its got a lot to offer the inquiring mind. Imagine this as a four voice poly...


Currently available prices at around £749/€839
https://norand.io/monomk2



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