Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Discuss John Bowen Synths - Solaris
Post Reply
niversen
Posts: 47
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:29 pm
Contact:

Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by niversen » Tue May 17, 2016 10:48 pm

This remains a wonderful instrument. I have never regretted the wait, the purchase or the price.

1) It sounds better than any softsynth or VST I own or have tried, including stuff like Diva. It is not close. There is a harmonic richness and chime that quality analogs have (like the new OB-6). You can feel the beat frequencies in the harmonics of chords and things like on an acoustic piano. I don't know what to chalk this up to, but it is a "real" instrument in this way. VST's just don't do that - they sound great, but there isn't that visceral harmonic interplay. If you also play acoustic instruments like piano, guitar, drums, etc, this is a big deal.

2) There's enough "stuff" to do almost anything you can imagine. Crazy signal routing (like a modular), really out there modulation possibilities, very subtle control of every parameter, lots of control over each phase of the envelopes, loop EG, arps, sequencer, rotors - it is just endless. John writes in the manual that he hopes it has many hours of exploration in it. Safely accomplished. It is years and years worth of exploration.

3) its like having all the major synthesizers (except a DX-7) in one unit and getting to mix and match. Waldorf, VS, Moog.... it's crazy flexible. Vector synthesis while scanning through four Waldorf wavetables is easy - do you control it with a joystick, a loop envelope, a sequencer? Manually, by time, or by clock? Put it in a rotor? dump all that in a mixer and blend with the four wavetables? Processes each wavetable with its own filter and envelope? There's just no end.

4) the joystick and mod-wheel are wonderful. they are precision instruments and can be positioned EXACTLY. Subtle control is quite possible.

5) It cures a lot of gear lust. Most any subtractive synth on the market has a fraction of the capabilities of the Solaris. There's literally no reason to buy them, unless there's some standout feature worth the price of admission.... the continuously variable filter in the new OB-6 is calling my name..... very sweet. Think about it - 4 OSC, 6 LFO, 6 ENV, 4 Filters (each capable of many types), 4 VCAs, 4 mixers, 2 rotors, Loop EG, vector synthesis, wavetable synthesis, AM synth, FM, lag processor, envelope generator, arps, 4 sequencers, long ribbon.... You can find 2 OSC + Sub OSC designs, but four full OSC? with >8 note poly? It is like a polyphonic modular.

6) I put it in Omni mode and play it from a Roli Seaboard with full Poly-AT control. This is the kind of expression that synths were made for. Just gorgeous.

7) even from the keyboard, there is so much modulation potential that you can make VERY playable, and expressive sounds that you control with your hands. It is a great "players" instrument in that way. You can go deep on making it responsive and subtle, which is very musical. The keyboard is a very high-quality synth action. I don't know if it works for the DJ crowd, or the EDM crew, but for playing a keyboard instrument it is very nice, and the feel can be customized for each patch if you put the time in.

8) The UI is deep, but very well laid out and consistent. You can get very fast at diving into things and get at exactly what you want quickly. Much better than a single tiny screen. The layout makes a lot of sense if you spend time working on the instrument.

Solaris #142 has a very happy owner.
Last edited by niversen on Fri May 20, 2016 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

John Bowen
Site Admin
Posts: 1592
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 3:00 am

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by John Bowen » Tue May 17, 2016 11:40 pm

Wow!!! Thank you for writing this - I’m almost embarrassed :-)

But really happy to read it!!!!

koenig
Posts: 58
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2013 2:03 am
Contact:

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by koenig » Fri May 20, 2016 11:29 am

Well written indeed.

One thing in particular really caught my eye though.
niversen wrote: 6) I put it in Omni mode and play it from a Roli Seaboard with full Poly-AT control. This is the kind of expression that synths were made for. Just gorgeous.
Please tell me more about this. I am very close to pulling the trigger on a Seaboard 49 and your comment about the Seaboard and a potential thing with my Solaris really got my attention. I never even thought about that combination!

K
Last edited by koenig on Wed Jun 29, 2016 12:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

niversen
Posts: 47
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:29 pm
Contact:

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by niversen » Fri May 20, 2016 7:33 pm

It is really pretty easy. Solaris has PolyAT in the mod menus. Just add it to modulate the VCA and you are set. You can use velocity and pitch bend as well.

The Roli keyboards are very configurable. You can have them simply send PolyAT for each note on one channel. You can have the keyboard play monophonically and just map pressure to channel pressure. You can set it to be polyphonic and send each note on a separate channel, mapping the pressure of each note to the channel pressure for that note. Even on a synth that doesn't support PolyAT (which is a note message, not a channel message), you can put a multi-timbral synth in OMNI mode and then each channel will still have unique pressure information in it. This is how you use the Seaboard with something like Omnisphere. Load up 8 identical sounds into eight channels and you have a 8-note polyphonic AT sound, even though Omnisphere doesn't support PolyAT directly.

chowderdoof
Posts: 15
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:15 am

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by chowderdoof » Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:13 am

niversen wrote:It is really pretty easy. The Roli keyboards are very configurable. .
Just found your words posted on the homepage which are really inspiring about your experiences with the Solaris but especially the use with the Roli controller. I thought the Roli keys looked pretty interesting but was turned off by the default synth and mostly cheesy sounding demos (except for a few) designed for full use of the system.

However, using it with the sounds of the Solaris I could only imagine would be a somewhat amazing!

Is there any chance you could elaborate on using it with the Solaris including programming complexity, setup and use of poly-at but also if there are any other interesting patches or modulations you might have discovered along the way I love to know more.

thanks

niversen
Posts: 47
Joined: Sat Jun 01, 2013 7:29 pm
Contact:

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by niversen » Mon Jul 04, 2016 6:12 pm

It really couldn't be easier. The Solaris responds to PolyAT natively. it is in the modulation routings for every parameter that can be modulated on the synth.

There are other ways to do it, but I made a super simple Max7 patch that took MIDI output from the Seaboard and piped it out a physical MIDI port right into the Bowen.

That gives me all the Note-on (Velocity + pitch), Note-off messages, and polyAT. Set the filter, resonance, and/or VCA to respond to PolyAT and velocity in varying quantities and you can make some amazingly expressive patches. Set the pitch bend on the Solaris to an octave up and down, and you are in business. Slides, vibrato, pressure, pitch - all under a finger. Very, very cool.

This is scratching the surface, of course. PolyAT is ONE of the modulation sources. You can use PolyAT to control OTHER modulation sources - really it is about limitless. But for playing solo/lead voices, you can definitely get to an acoustically expressive sound.

To test this, I recorded myself playing with modwheel, and a pedal and trying my best to be expressive. Then I played using the Seaboard. No contest. The Seaboard allows a natural vibrato - smooth pitch gestures, and nuanced note expression that you can't get from a standard synth action.

A Seaboard and a Solaris are significant investments put together, but you won't be disappointed in the sounds you can make.

chowderdoof
Posts: 15
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2016 2:15 am

Re: Still thrilled and learning after two years with Solaris

Post by chowderdoof » Sun Jul 10, 2016 6:37 pm

niversen wrote:
That gives me all the Note-on (Velocity + pitch), Note-off messages, and polyAT. Set the filter, resonance, and/or VCA to respond to PolyAT and velocity in varying quantities and you can make some amazingly expressive patches. Set the pitch bend on the Solaris to an octave up and down, and you are in business. Slides, vibrato, pressure, pitch - all under a finger. Very, very cool.


Wow thanks for breaking that down, very inspiring stuff and mabye just enough to have another look at the Roli. :mrgreen:

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest