Quadruple quadruple your refreshment, quadruple quadruple your enjoyment… sorry, I started quoting old Doublemint Gum jingles. As expected, Dave Smith has released his Tetra (“Tetr4” in the l33t speak on the case). The name says it all: the Tetra takes the popular Mopho synth and packs four of them into a single, compact case. The Mopho was featured in the CDM Winter Guide and was one of the favorite reader products of 2008. Its strength is that it’s a great-sounding synth in a small box with all the basic analog goodness. The Tetra simply takes that design and squeezes four of them into a box. That’s four voices, each with two oscillators (which in turn come with sub-octave generators), one Curtis low-pass filter, and feedback loop per voice. You also get the step sequencer and arpeggiator features.

theothertetraThe Tetra also shares a name with the badass pirate version of the Princess Zelda from recent Nintendo games.

Now, the Tetra, like the Mopho, still remains a terrific choice for people wanting some simple analog goodness. But as noted in the Winter Guide, Dave Smith still has some tough competition …from Dave Smith. The Evolver’s digital oscillators may not appeal to analog purists, but they allow Frequency Modulation and Ring Modulation effects. And the Evolver has a digital highpass filter. Of course, the Evolver now has to stand up to the Tetra’s additional voices, which enable routings that weren’t possible before. But I’m hoping increased Mopho and Tetra demand may lead to some cheap used Evolvers on the market; I badly want one. Even from Dave Smith direct, at US$599 on sale I think the Evolver is still worth a look, even if it loses on voice count and doesn’t have those cool, accessible front-panel controls.

The Tetra is priced at US$799 direct from Dave Smith, or at your local reseller. And Evolver comments aside, it’ll clearly be the synth to beat – it’s a pretty amazing investment in an analog synth for $800, and it’s small enough to toss in a backpack – no flight case needed. You can route audio input into it with feedback. And the design eschews the psychedelic looks of the Mopho for a more grown-up, handsome look. Correction: The Tetra seems to lose the audio in present on the Mopho – one reason the Evolver and Mopho are still strong alternatives. You do keep the feedback routing, but there’s no audio in. (Thanks, mcpepe in comments – so it’s not quite like having four Mopho’s in one case; they had to cut something!)

I think Dave Smith’s work has a reputation for being favored by analog snobs – you know who you are. But it’s clear that these make nice hardware synths for computer fans, too, especially thanks to its compact size. If you pick one up, readers, let us know how it goes and how you use it.

Dave Smith Tetra

…and the oldie but goodie: Dave Smith Evolver (now, could we have a Quadvolver, perhaps?)

  • dead_red_eyes

    Haha, Peter .. I love how you put up a picture of Tetra from The Wind Waker. I know a game nerd when I see one!

  • wow…might be time to upgrade. i'm currently using the Waldorf Pulse. Mopho and Blofeld were on the list but this is even better news!

  • mcpepe

    Hi Peter! I think you cannot route audio input into it. There is no audio input!

  • Andrew

    Woah, huge spoiler there about Tetra dude…

  • From the picture it looks like the Tetra has a huge upgrade over the mopho: real knobs for the filter.

    Now if only we could get real knobs everywhere else…

  • shamburglar

    The Evolver Desktop is the only hardware synth I own… its a wondrous machine especially with the editing software. It makes sounds you could only dream of with softsynths. I'm glad he's still making new desktop synths… now that him and Roger Linn have parted ways on the Lin Drum… how about a Dave Smith drumsynth… plz!

  • Of course, there's nothing really stopping you from programming your own "drumsynth" of sorts using this…. but yes, I agree.

  • what the hell is the evolution?

  • Adrian Anders

    Nice. Should be pretty rad for D&B "Hoover" and other Unison sounds.

  • Sorry, "Evolution" is the opposite of what happens to my brain after spending the last 24 hours doing server admin.

    It's the "Evolver."

    Evolution was the name of the UK controller manufacturer bought by M-Audio years ago (I think even while they were still Midiman).

  • gwenhwyfaer

    This is an Evolution (EVS-1).

  • DO WANT.

    there will be no LinnDrumII, rly? sad

  • The LinnDrum II is supposed to still happen, but possibly more Linn than Smith, and definitely delayed. That's the official word from Roger and Dave, respectively.

  • @gwenhwyfaer: Yeah, Evolution made some really quite nice synth and other kit back in the day. Their absence is a reminder that it's tough to keep a truly independent business going in the music tech market.

    Obviously I miss them, since I'm inserting their name into unrelated things…

  • ah, OK. Maybe not the "analog" with the DSI synth then?

  • That hasn't been officially announced one way or the other, so it's impossible to say.

  • Joe

    Big up the Zelda massive 🙂

  • Birds Use Stars

    Well this is quite neat, as compact desktop synths so often are.

    @andrew I think it's okay to drop spoilers for games that came out 6 years ago. : )

    Spoiler alert: Sephiroth kills aeris and Rosebud is the sled

  • James R

    As part of my "quest for affordable studio," I bought a DSI Mopho about a week ago…with nicer pots! When I read about the Tetra, I was anything but annoyed…so happy that I can add it later on (when I've saved some of my coffee and cigarette money) and have five of those dull, brassy voices (I've had friends compare some sounds to Vince Clarke, others to Cevin Key) I've fallen in love with. It's amazing how a monosynth w/ a gated sequencer, a couple of subs and a bunch of lfos and envelopes can give you such deep sounds. Considering five voices will give me an analogue instance of kick, snare, hi hat, bass and lead sounds without having to commit to audio…I'm so excited.

    And if Dave Smith and co/ ever released a four voice Evolver in desktop format, I'd be all over it. My friend/collaborator had the Poly Keyboard and it was amazing.

    It's also great that they're incorporating user feedback like improving the encoders (and adding pots for filters).

    As for no audio in, well, that's a reason to have a Mopho, I guess, other than its charming yellow casing 🙂

  • Zoopy

    I just bought my Evolver Desktop and am in love with it.. really fun shit to tweak… crazy depth.. my god..

    but I kind of wish the envelopes were snappier and they click a little bit and it has some funny CLICKING aliasing problems with the step sequencer and some other crazy things going on with it.. it's hard to get it not to sound trashy but when you do.. it's great.

  • I love how the O's of Program, Combo, and Global are the LED light for that mode. 🙂

  • shamburglar

    @zoopy… I love the trashy sounds… theres nothing like them.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    <blockquote cite="Birds Use Stars">@andrew I think it’s okay to drop spoilers for games that came out 6 years ago. : )

    No. No, it isn't.

  • @ gwenhwyfaer / @Andrew – ha!

    I would normally agree with gwenhwyfaer except that I think you haven't been able to spoil a Nintendo game since the first time Samus — okay, never mind, just in case you're on Virtual Arcade.

    Everything, else, though, here's the spoiler: you won't be surprised.

  • The evolver desktop is probably my favorite synth of all time. I'd by a QuadrEvolver in a SNAP.

    Dave is one of the only people that makes the synth market interesting.

  • Good products and tough choice between the evolver and tetra4, but this is the price I paid an old MS-20 and I am not sure these modern synths can compare with the grainier side of older equipment (if that is what you are looking for in analogue gear)

  • CH

    You're missing the huge features that put it over the Prophet '08 and the Mopho…

    1. USB over MIDI. No soundcard needed!!

    2. Feedback knob is now digitally controlled, so you have individual feedback gain and volume for each voice

    3. Multi and combo modes! You can play each voice using a separate MIDI channel and have it come out a separate out

  • Brandon Murphy

    I have to say, this is a total win for Dave. Analog, poly, arp, gate seq, sub oscs, feedback loops, usb, little and cheap (ish).

    The only thing I can see people bitching about is no audio in.

    Hats off.

  • Brandon Murphy

    @ Document 02:

    I used to have an ms-20 as well and you know just as well as I do that they fetch over $1600 now. Not really a apt comparison.

  • As someone else said, the Evolver is the only hardware synth I own. Nothing has been able to touch it in terms of modulation options. Great to see this new synth out, might have to give it a closer look in a shop sometime.

  • David Koresh

    Its official, DSI wins.

  • gwenhwyfaer

    Document 02, it's hardly surprising that the only way to get the authentic sound of three decades of age-related decay is to, er, wait three decades…

  • yo……

    just got to mess with this today…

    one of dave smiths employees brought it into work….

    a prototype he had been working with…

    it was all the same as the release… except different preset voicings and it was all yellow….

    i must say…. this thing is really really fun…

    it sounds incredible (of course)

    and the sounds are incredibly tweakable

    the software editor is really fresh and complex….

    they are seriously working on making the editor a VST…

    so you could tweak the analouges with software…


    doods are really cool at dave smith…

    keep the support goin…….

    bong bong!