Xena 6-voice Hybrid Polysynth Based on Ambika

US Michigan Synth Works revisits a Mutable classic      26/11/23

Xena 6-voice Hybrid Polysynth Based on Ambika

Michigan Synth Works are an interesting company. Previously they've sold Eurorack sequencers, MIDI controllers and clones of niche classic synths like the Pearl SY-1 Syncussion and the Roland CMU-810 (an MC202 in a sexy/bleak beige computer box).

Now they've taken on the mighty Ambika from Mutable instruments. This 2012 concoction is kind of akin to a modern Ensoniq ESQ1, gritty digital waves through Analogue filters, only there are even more options in each respective area. On the analogue side, there's a choice of which filters are installed (perhaps a Roland-inspired 4 pole, or a multimode SVF) and digital-wise; many different waveforms including VA, wavetables, FM, vocal & "bitwise anarchy"(!)

The synth has been available for some time hand-built, from many builders; people who make small batches of these open-source synths and sell them via Etsy or eBay. Being open-source, many case styles have been available. Usually, a clear plastic Ambika would set you back around £300, still very good value for a Hybrid Poly, with a metal-cased version coming in at closer to £500. This sweet demo features the metal version, and gives you an idea of the user-interface experience:

Now, in a move that may upset many smaller builders, Michigan Synth Works are opening pre-orders for their Xena, a re-worked, machine-assembled Ambika in a metal-case for a mere £323. It's a nice looker and the sub-£350 price bracket might take it into "Christmas pressie for myself" territory.


Here's what M.S.W. have to say:

Xena is a rework of the legendary Mutable Instruments Ambika DIY synthesizer.   Now fully machine assembled with an updated layout and an improved modern power supply.  Available with all original 3 voice cards and compatible with 3rd part operating systems.

Xena Features:

  • 6 voices with individual outputs.
  • 2 digital oscillators per voice, with 36 oscillator algorithms/wavetables.
  • 1 sub-oscillator, also configurable as a transient generator.
  • Pre-filter overdrive and bit-crushing effect.
  • Analog 4-pole filter (or 2-pole multimode filter depending on the type of voicecard used) and VCA.
  • 3 ADSR envelopes, 3 patch-level LFOs, 1 voice-level LFO.
  • Modulation matrix with 14 slots and 4 modulation modifiers.
  • 1 arpeggiator, 1 note sequencer and 2 step sequencers per part.
  • Flexible mapping of the 6 voices. A single patch with 6 voice-polyphony, 6 independent mono parts, 2 layered patches with 3-voices polyphony, a 3-voice unison bass line on the lower half of the keyboard with a 3-voice unison lead on the upper half... all are possible!
  • MicroSD storage allows the storing of a life-long of patches, programs and multis, along with the history of editing operations for undo/redo.
  • Easy to change voice cards


It should be stated that M.S.W. are not offering Xena with the most exotic of Ambika's voice cards, the wild & interesting Polivoks filter. So you'll still have to ask your local eccentric tinkerer to build you one of those:

You can find out more about Michigan Synth Works and their cool designs here:


Posted by MagicalSynthAdventure an expert in synthesis technology from last Century and Amiga enthusiast.

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