Dave’s got a new keyboard, and the headline gives it all away: it’s a Mopho, but adding keys and more control, all for $800.

There’s a myth out there that the computer music user and hardware synth lover are two different people. Au contraire, mon ami. Thanks, indeed, to Dave Smith himself, the computer and the synth get along just fine. But if you’ve got scant few dollars, which synth is really unique enough, elegant enough in use to justify those dollars?

Dave Smith Instruments is on the top of the list. They’ve got personality, accessibility, and terrific sound. And the DSI instruments are even starting to look like they themselves recognize the invention of the computer, with the addition of USB MIDI and software editors. Oh, yeah, and Dave Smith’s creations are also uncommonly good values: analog synths the everyman can afford. The new Mopho keyboard is in late prototype phase, and it already looks to fill that mold.

The Mopho keyboard has all the analog sonic goodness of the mopho synth module, an overwhelming CDM reader favorite in 2008. Like the Mopho module, you get a rich monophonic analog synth on a budget. That voice is roughly the equivalent of a single voice from the Prophet ’08, but with the addition of sub-octave generators and audio input and feedback options. Because you can input audio signal, that makes the Mopho a doubly-interesting possibility alongside a computer, as basically a big modulation source. (The Moog Little Phatty has earned some fans for the same reason.)

The one thing I didn’t much like on the Mopho module was its minimalist controller section. The keyboard is different, as you can see in our rough video walk-through. There’s a clever set of controls that let you manipulate either oscillator 1, oscillator 2, or both simultaneously. The knobs themselves feel lovely, too, and you have a lot more onboard programmability. There’s MIDI-controlled feedback. And there are pots everywhere, without any menu diving – nearly everything is accessible via shift keys.

What I also love about the Mopho is its compact size; it’s easy to carry and lift.

As always, some of the biggest competition to Dave Smith’s synths are other Dave Smith synths. So you do have to weight the Mopho keyboard against the Mono and Poly Evolver keyboards. Those have deeper sound architectures (even on the Mono Evolver), and while they don’t have 100% analog signal path, you don’t (cough) really need that, necessarily.

There aren’t any specs up on the Dave Smith site, and even the final appearance may differ slightly. (I liked the little bit of yellow peeking out from beneath the more refined wood and front panel; I hope that makes it onto the finished model.) But you can expect the Mopho keyboard very soon, some time this spring, at MAP US$799. Stay tuned.

Dave Smith Instruments

(PS, I’m blanking on the name of the gentleman in the video and I neglected to photo your name badge as I should, so since my memory is worse than a preset-less early analog synth, please drop me a line.)