5 Firmware Updates that Totally Changed the Game

US Revisions that turned synths into brand new machines      09/04/24

5 Firmware Updates that Totally Changed the Game


We've seen some doozy firmware updates over the years. Revisions that added new sound shaping features, workflow improvements or even full-blown synth engines! Here's a few that totally changed the game.

1. Arturia Microfreak

2019's little French synth already offered a staggering variety of timbres. Multiple synthesis engines (FM, Vocal Synthesis, Wavetables, etc) could be brought into play and modulated with LFO's and a cycling envelope. Few people guessed what Arturia's roadmap was for the instrument though, and when v5.0 dropped in 2023, jaws hit the floor.

Not just sampling, but 3 different granular engines (scan, cloud & hit) appeared:

(Samples can be) 24 seconds long in 16-bit / 32kHz / mono format, with a total of 3.5 minutes' worth of total sample storage space.

The Microfreak is still a great choice for a first synth, simply because it's so flexible.

 

2. Waldorf M

Waldorf M

Waldorf's big blue is now quite a different machine to the one originally released. Ostensibly a Microwave 1 clone (8-bit waves, analogue VCFs) with added 16-bit wavetables & ringmod, the M now boasts features such as:

  • Microwave II/XT digital filter emulations, including FM, waveshaping and bit reduction filters
  • Derez - to grunge up those 16-bit waves
  • Interesting modulation sources like "coin flip" and noise
  • Optional smooth-scan interpolation
  • Transition (64kb 8-bit sample) playback with looping - and a bunch more.

 

So instead of being a Microwave 1, the M is now a Microwave 1, most of a Microwave XT (alas, no osc FM or mod matrix) AND can get you into early 8-bit sampler territory ala Emulator II, Fairlight, Mirage etc. What variety!

3. Korg OASYS

Korg's mega-synth became the basis for the Kronos & Nautilus ranges, but did you know that it originally didn't ship with MOD-7? It wasn't until version 1.3 that owners could play with the legendary FM synth engine. Featuring 6 operators of FM goodness, MOD7 adds ring modulation (like the Casio VZ), PCM samples as an additional operator (ala SY77/99), waveshaping (Korg 01/W anyone?), dual resonant multi-mode filters and a bunch of LFO's and envelopes. Gamechanger.

 

4. Poly Beebo

Poly haven't stopped updating their modular-in-a-pedal environment since it's release in 2021. Starting as an impulse response reverb specialist, new modules have been regularly added including a macro-oscillator based on Mutable instruments' code (the Beebo has Midi in/out!) and the wonderful Loopler - an EDP style looper/sample module.

 

5. Korg SQ64

Sometimes it's not about adding new features, but refining the workflow of an instrument. This was evident when Korg dropped version 2.0 of the SQ64. New methods of note input, including a step-recording mode, allowed for a more inviting, playful instrument. Check out Molten Music Technology's review:

There's plenty more examples of game-changing firmware that we can explore in future articles, let us know which updates you enjoyed the most!

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


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