Novation the synth manufacturer looks to be back with a vengeance.

In addition to the new Circuit Bass Station as its mono/paraphonic synth offering, the company has a new polysynth flagship. The UK company says they brought in Chris Huggett, the creator of the Bass Station, Supernova, and OSCar.

What you get is sort of an 8-voice synth inspired by the Bass Station II. You get eight full-featured new Oxford voices with a hybrid analog/digital sound – numerically-controlled oscillators that behave like analog oscillators, plus 17 digital wavetables for the full palette of digital sound. You can also use these as FM sources either way, and even cross-modulate for more sounds. (I’m hoping to grab some audio samples of that soon.)

Note – that is digital. These are numerically controlled oscillators, which I suspect is generating some confusion. Also interesting: Peak has a 1-bit digital architecture. These are topics for a follow-up story, maybe, to explain what that means in engineering terms to those interested. But the point is, you get an analog-sounding synth without some of the inflexibility or cost that are sometimes associated with that.

And there’s full-featured modulation, too, with a 16-slot modulation matrix.

Each voice gets three ADSR envelopes and two LFOs each.

“Animate” gives the synths some live performance features.

There’s some unexpected flexibility here. Not only do you get resonant multi-mode filters on each voice, but there are three distortion points for each – pre- and post-filter and global.

All the expected extras are there, too: reverb, delay, and chorus, plus an arpeggiator, USB, MIDI DIN, and CV.

Components software for patch storage will work with this as on the Circuit line.

peak_overhead-hr

peak-plus-stand_3quart-left_v2-hr

peak_rear-hr

I haven’t had the chance to write it up yet, but Waldorf’s own polysynth announced at Musikmesse was out of reach to a lot of us, given that instrument will be “no less than” three grand. Novation give us a poly synth with wavetables and lots of features, at a price that’s easier to swallow.

This also means the competition with Behringer’s synth offerings is on a more level playing field than you might have imagined. Behringer’s synths can’t compete on price alone, given DeepMind and Peak each hover at around a grand. You’ll invest in the instrument you like better. And that seems like how it should be in the first place, particularly with some talented synth designers behind each. (Behringer is also at Superbooth this week, in a departure from what began as a very boutique-minded show.)

That said, what this isn’t is analog. So expect some forum debates about whether “true analog signal path” matters or not. Novation are quick to say this “sounds analog” but benefits from digital functionality. And I think that’s really the bottom line – if it sounds good, it is good. We’ll take a closer look this week in Berlin, so let us know if you’ve got questions.

Available in May. Pricing:
US = $1299.99 ex. tax
Germany = €1429.99 inc. 19% VAT
UK = £1249.99 inc. 20% VAT

There’s also a nice stand for around a hundred bucks, though that’ll be later this year.

Ask.audio have some terrific in-depth videos:

  • Armando

    really nice review, quick and to the point. thanks for the heads up peter!

  • Chris Huggett has come a long way since these days:
    http://www.muzines.co.uk/articles/the-mono-man/3381

    Peak looks great!

  • James Tillman

    The price they are asking for it is revolting. It completely loses any sense of value. I’d much rather just purchase a Moog at the price they are asking. Mark my words there are not a lot of people willing to plop down 1.3K for a Novation branded desktop synth. It has a great sound and looks intuitive but the price kills it for me and probably a lot of other people as well.

    • Wait a minute — just to be clear, the problem with the value proposition here is the fact that it says Novation on the outside?

      • FS

        i’m not quite sure which Moog 8 voice poly you’re looking at that costs 1.3K. all this means is more options and i think we could all be fine with that. i have been waiting to pull the trigger on a desktop module poly and the longer i wait the more interesting the market gets. it is getting pretty competitive. i would say if there is a problem with the price of this it will be because of the Deep Mind 12 module version and hopefully a Rev2 module in the future. but VCO’s or DCO’s the proof is always in the pudding, how does it sound?

      • Neil

        The Supernova 2 rackmount was £1199 at launch and sold *loads*.

    • And yet, to my mind, it seems much more attractive than plopping $1000 on a DeepMind 12, which feels like its most obvious near competitor. It’s tipping towards SC territory, but I don’t think that’s a problem, if it sounds right. It does feel like you have some issues with the brand, rather than the product?

      • Yeah, I mean the DeepMind does more … but leaving out Novation versus Behringer for a second (if that’s possible), I think there is a question of something that does more versus something that’s more focused.

        People are making a bit deal of the price I think without considering where other desktop workstations sit in price – and most of them sit higher, not *necessarily* adding more “prestige.” (Being more expensive doesn’t make you more prestigious, obviously!)

        The fact that Novation now has offerings from free mobile app to low-end controller to mid-range controller to drum machine to mono/duosynth to polysynth says you can’t really fault them on that. They’re at every point in the market from entry level up, and yet I think at least to some people “Novation” is still a respectable synth name.

        There’s no real direct comparison here, to me. They’re in a unique position. And there’s plenty of room for differentiation in the market.

        • Miles Buckley

          “There’s no real direct comparison here, to me. They’re in a unique position. And there’s plenty of room for differentiation in the market.”

          Agreed. Synth heads really freak out when it comes to brand names and price points. Based on what I’ve seen so far, I think this is a great product for them. They have a track record with similar products and (FWIW) they have a legendary synth architect on board as a consultant.

          • I have a powerful 9U eurorack system and I think this is a great-seeming synth. I have to just laugh when I see all these VST-heads who are used to an “everything for free” attitude but don’t actually seem to know much about quality or user interface claiming how expensive this price is; it’s a damn steal, especially compared to the modular world!

          • Chris Bauld

            Right on!

    • Miles Buckley

      …so it gains a “sense of value” merely by charging more? And what Moog is 1.3K? And I for one am absolutely one of those “people willing to plop down 1.3K for a Novation branded desktop synth.”

      Nothing in your post makes any sense.

    • First, Moog does not have any poly synth in their portfolio at the moment. So you’d be comparing apples and pears to start with.

      Second, look at other desktop module competitors in this range:
      – DSI OB-6 or Prophet 6, 6-voice analogs, new 2400-2500€
      – DSI Prophet 12, 12 voice hybrid, new 2000€
      – DSI Prophet ’08, 8-voice analog, used 1200-1500€
      – Access Virus TI2, 10-year-old DSP technology, new 1600€
      – Behringer DeepMind 12, 12 voice analog, approx. 1000€
      – Futuresonus Parva, 8 voice analog, approx. 1000$
      – Novation Peak, 8 voice analog, approx. 1400€
      And that is only looking at the number of voices and basic sound engine concept. Now, what exactly makes the Peak overpriced in this range, seriously?

    • Chris Bauld

      Revolting? That’s a bit strong. This is hardware. Look after it and it will be running in 20 years. Can you say that about any plug-in you are running today. The cost of this synth is on a par with what I paid for my first big ticket synth in the eighties – a DX7. Followed by an ESQ-1 and then a Juno 6. I would have killed for a Wavetable synth with analogue style programming and filters such as the Peak at this price. I think we have been spoiled by software VST features vs pricing.

      What do other readers think about our perception of value for money in hardware vs software?

      By the way, my first synth was a used white face ARP Odyssey for 400. UK pounds in 1981. I sold it a couple of years ago for about 800. dollars CND!
      My buy second was a Crumar Performer string synth for 360. UK pounds. My first polyphonic keyboard till the DX7 years later. It still works!
      Anyone want to buy an old PPC Mac 7100 and Logic 4, and 5, and 6, and 7, and 8 …..? Heck, I remember paying $1400. to buy Logic Audio version 1.5 and almost 4 grand for the Mac! – We have it sooooo good now.

      One thing is for sure – over the years I have spent more on computers & music software (& upgrades) than I did on music/audio hardware, and most of the software is no longer usable. $2000. for a Digidesign Audiomedia 2 card (only stereo in & out and digital IO). I really think we have it easy as far as value for money is concerned. Again, what do others think?

    • foljs

      > The price they are asking for it is revolting. It completely loses any sense of value.

      Every checked similar products for other vendors? Even simple ROMplers from Roland et al? If anything, this is cheap for what it does.

      > Mark my words there are not a lot of people willing to plop down 1.3K for a Novation branded desktop synth.

      You’d be surprised.

  • loyal reader

    > Peak has a 1-bit digital architecture

    Ah, so (I’m guessing) it’s 1-bit with a sample rate in the MHz range, à la DSD? I was wondering how they managed to get away without antialiasing oscillators. They’ve just pushed the problem up where it’s inaudible. 🙂 Kidding, but that’s how it works in my imagination. Waiting for the juicy technical details.

  • StanleyBrothers

    If this were down in the sub $800 range I would pick it up without a second thought, but I am a little bit skeptical at the current price.

    • It will be after 6 months.

  • R__W

    $1200 seems like a tough price point. It’s too expensive to be an impulse buy and too cheap to be a prestige/luxury product.

    • Right, but if you want an impulse buy, you’d buy a monosynth. Also… if it were $999, that’s an impulse buy? Investing in any synth, I’d want to be particular about what I was buying. Heck, even a cheap one.

    • foljs

      Then again, it’s on the lower end of the price range of similarly capable analog/digital products (from Dave Smith stuff to Nord Lead etc).

  • James Fahy

    I have a personal experience with Novation (in the UK). My Novation Supernova II Pro-X 48 Key Synth had issues after my cat (love him to bits) floored it at high velocity whilst climbing its frame, no exterior damage, but no sound output after. I took it to their UK headquarters and it was fixed for a less than £60. I was going to offer it for someone to disembowl. So glad I did not. You get what you pay for, imho. I love Circuit and I have a couple of their controllers, a K-Station also. Rock solid. I don’t gig though. Just my opinion.

  • Gatsby’sPool

    Novation is on point these days. I won’t get this, but it sounds brilliant.

  • chaircrusher

    The ‘1-bit digital architecture’ thing just means that the signals are generated with pulse-density modulation. This is what is used for DSD audio recording. There’s a lot of DSP theory dealing with conventionally sampled digital audio, I don’t know if there’s a similar set of algorithms operating on pulse-density signals.

    There’s mention of 24mhz oversampling, which makes sense if you’re just talking about the PDM signal generation; the DSD standard sample rate for SACDs is 2.8224mhz. I doubt the whole architecture runs at that 24mhz rate though.

    If I had to guess, they use the FPGA to generate the digitally controlled oscillators, but then convert to normal pulse code modulation for the filters and envelopes. That would give you superior waveforms with minimal aliasing for the oscillators themselves but allow for more conventional DSP to do everything else.

    • Right, that’s my understanding, as well. I should have a chat with the engineers to get this exactly right, though.

  • Now, if only it was multitimbral to be able to run two different sounds out of it, because what else should I do with eight voices anyway? But yes, this synth looks and sounds great.

    • foljs

      > because what else should I do with eight voices anyway?

      Chords?

      • Newsflash: I don’t always need 8 voices to play a chord. Sometimes, 3 or four are enough. And then I can play a monophonic bass line and a chord at the same time, and still not necessarily run into sound problems with voice stealing. You know, not everyone will use a synth like this for complex musical harmonies, so it would be nice to have flexibility.

  • Max

    Gee, “17 digital wavetables for the full palette of digital sound” is that from the novation pr team? ^^