Call it the Mutable Fun Pack. The Synth Happy Meal. The Family Variety Bucket. The Anushri doesn’t have quite the sound design depth that Mutable’s Shruthi-1 does, but in its place, you get a whole mess of different features. It’s an analog synth, with an additional digital oscillator. It’s got its own step sequencer/arpeggiator. It’s got an 8-bit, bit-crushed drum machine. And it has analog connections for modulars in addition to MIDI, so modular lovers can put it into a Eurorack if they like.
In fact, it seems to bring some of the compact, lovable features of Roland’s 101 and 202 into a do-all-that-on-steroids modern format.
The news has been out for a bit, but now’s the perfect time to mention it, as creator Olivier Gillet now has added sound samples and video.
At 199€ (plus 60€ for the enclosure), it’s a pretty terrific bargain, if you don’t mind assembling it as a kit. (As with the Shruthi, I’d suggest if you’re not used to assembling electronics, you start with something much simpler. But if you’re looking for the sweet smell of melting solder, of course, this is a plus, not a minus.)
Anushri demo from mutable instruments on Vimeo.
It’s also a rarity in that it is fully open source hardware, from firmware to electronics, with no restrictions on commercial use and complete access to the innards that make it work.
Full specs are now up on the site, but here are some highlights:
One analog oscillator, switchable to saw, square, pulse width/PWM waveforms
Secondary digital oscillator (use as FM source, VCO sync signal, or mix with the analog oscillator)
1- or 2-octave sub oscillator
Mixer with external audio input
ADSR envelope, plus one simple one-parameter envelope
LFO with eight waveforms
LFO syncs to arp/sequencer
Arpeggiator: up, down, up&down, random
SH-101-style note sequencer with step recording
Internal clock or external MIDI clock or trigger
Digital drum machine with bit-crusher; 10 MHz audio resolution, 1-bit
Algorithmic drum pattern generator (so you use the knobs to shape generated patterns, or trigger them with MIDI or x0x-style MIDI programming)
MIDI in and out
External audio input
For modular/analog fans: CV in and out for the oscillator (though that means you have to manually calibrate), filter, amplitude, PWM, gate, and external audio input
Separate drum machine audio output
Update firmware over SysEx, or use an AVR programmer
It’s definitely a kitchen-sink approach to synths – which I think is what forum fans like most about Mutable. Given a choice between a and b, the answer was yes. But it’s also lovely to see hands-on control and some of the sonic and usability features that make the SH-101 so popular. Just be aware that going analog modular has a price – manually calibrating oscillators when you connect CV in, for instance, and losing out on additional oscillators and sound design features. On the upside, if you use this without connecting to the CV in, the synth can internally compensate for temperature and stay in tune for you across a wide range.
And the combination does look like a lot of fun. I know some friends already lined up for ordering. Here’s how it sounds:
Looking at Mutable’s lineup side-by-side, I think we have one of the most compelling boutique synth designers out there. You just may still want to consider the Shruthi if you would rather bring your own step sequencer and/or drum machine and focus on sound. As seen earlier this year, the Shruthi-1 has become a rich sound box, hiding rich sound possibilities behind minimalist controls. But having the choice is itself quite nice.
And, oh yeah, don’t forget the insanely useful-looking MIDIpal, which we covered in some depth this summer.