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Discuss John Bowen Synths - Solaris
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John Bowen
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Post by John Bowen » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:33 pm

Now that the Solaris is finally getting into the hands of customers, I’m getting some email responses, and I thought I’d start a topic where I could post these for others to read. (I’ll probably make a page on the regular site for these as well.)

During all of this time, I was hoping to provide a musical tool that incorporated the best of old and new - and the response from Howie describes exactly what I had hoped to accomplish. My thanks, again, to all of you who waited so long for the Solaris!

John Bowen
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Re: User Comments

Post by John Bowen » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:33 pm

From Howie:

Hi John,

Thanks for the prompt response. So I gather it wasn't just my instrument that shipped without a sticker?

Well, in the greater scheme of things that's not a big deal. The build quality is superb. It really feels and plays like a top pro instrument should. Compared to many of the other product-of-the-moment workstation synths being sold by Yamaha, Korg, and Roland that feel like you are playing a PC with keys (the Jupiter-80 is an embarrassment and a real sign of where those big companies' priorities are), the Solaris really has the feel of a true musical instrument that draws you in. I feel like I'm learning how to coax the potential of the machine out through practicing with it rather than being forced to learn how to program a new computer. You did an amazing job refining the interface that captures the middle ground between the one knob per function panel of a vintage synth and the tremendous depth over sound shaping possible only with a digital synth.

I think the best thing I can say about my Solaris in the short time I've had it is that when I think about what instruments I'd compare it to I don't think of other DSP machines like Virus or Waldorf Q and how well or poorly I think they do "analog", but instead think directly about my Memorymoog, Jupiter-8, and Matrix-12. Not because of the sounds necessarily (although I love the analog-like saturation the Boost parameter in the VCA section adds) but in terms of the Solaris feeling like you're interacting with a real musical instrument. Again, the sounds are incredible (and I admit it's fun doing A/B comparisons of Memorymoog vs. Solaris w/ 3xCEM saws and Mini VCF) but the really impressive part is the interface that presents so many options without impeding creative workflow. In some sense the Solaris out-VSes the VS and out-waves the Microwave because it provides those instruments' defining characteristics much more intuitively than the original front panels of those synths ever could.

I'm looking forward to other oscillator and filter models that you may implement. In particular, any talk of getting the Creamware Odyssey models in there? Or how about emulation of the Yamaha CS-80 VCOs and VCFs? I don't think about the Solaris as a direct replacement for any of those (nor a replacement for my Memorymoog, or my real VS and Microwave for that matter) but having those models in the Solaris would be such wonderful raw material.

Arturia had a great and intriguing idea with the Origin hardware synth, but the execution was wrong. It ended up being a computer that felt like a computer. It's great to see how right you got it with the Solaris, how it allows you to forget it's a computer and instead invites you to explore a modern synthesizer with the same transparent connection between creativity and sound that makes those vintage synths I've mentioned above so classic and sought after.

Congrats again for pulling it off.

Howie

John Bowen
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Re: User Comments

Post by John Bowen » Tue Nov 29, 2011 3:39 pm

My first impressions:
the sounds OMG, my Andromeda weeps
the knobs feel great
the keyboard action is perfect

Can I post pics on the forum?

You have done a fantastic job!
Rick

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Re: User Comments

Post by John Bowen » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:40 am

More comments from the Forum here, plus some private emails:
by matocaster » 29 Nov 2011 05:14 pm

Solaris #29 (white) arrived yesterday also! A friend who came over for a visit, had never heard of Solaris and was blown away by the sound of it!
He immediately recognized how vintage and futuristic it sounds all at once. Needless to say, I was up until five this morning and up at nine ready for more!
What can I say but thank you John Bowen for dreaming big and for succeeding!!! Nothing out there can compete, but if you're reading this you already know that
Hello-

Solaris #28 arrived tonight. Dark.

To echo what I've heard in this forum over and over, the wait was worth it. The sound quality is beyond reproach. So far I'm just paging through presets and then fiddling with those. Tomorrow, I'll try starting from scratch.

Amazing
WOW!!!

This thing is awesome .. real clarity and grit (I'm up to patch 30). I'll write more on the forum.
Could the prototypes have made this sort sound?
#19 is here .. just going through the presets and I'm really impressed with not just the clarity and sound quality, but also the aggressive grittiness most digital synths (in my limited experience) lack. I had the privilege of having a prototype in my studio on two separate occasions and made a few demos that were shared here on the forum, but I did not hear then what I'm hearing in the production model now. The presets (I've only been up to 52 so far) are really deep and complex. They really showcase the 'Solaris' sound which of course is John Bowen's sound. And they are very useful presets!

This is the newest piece of gear I have by decades (not including the Moog Voyager which is actually my wife's but she lets me play it sometimes) and I almost feel that John's sound was limited by the architecture of the Prophet-5 and what I'm hearing in the Solaris is definitely beyond that. The old Analog vs. Digital argument isn't going to work here, unless you just want to quibble. Does that make any sense? The Prophet-5's presets are so widely known by synth folks, that I think if you've ever owned one you'd sink right into the Solaris sound.

The controls are quality .. I love the wheel, the solid feeling encoders, the joystick (good choice on that!), the high end fatar keyboard and the ribbon controller (I still prefer the weave type, but I can appreciate this one, especially since it spans the freakin' keyboard!). It shows that a lot of thought and uncompromising effort went into the choice and design. I did notice some noise when adjusting the arpeggiator clock while playing a sound, but all other encoders seem to not introduce any artifacts.

And yeah, check out patch 52 .. that is the right way to do it and the DSI Prophet '08's attempt is sickly awful in comparison.

I'll be staying up late and hopefully making some tunes. I'm already feeling inspired by the new arsenal of sounds.
Hey John,

I am learning new things everyday about the Solaris. I'm having the most fun creating new programs.
All the presets are inspiring and a great springboard for coming up with new things as well. My band Haiku Chi
did some recording at Electro Kitty last Sunday and a bandmate used my Solaris to do a synth solo!
I'll send you a video of it and her reaction after I do some editing.

Mat
Hi John,

Just a note with some feedback. Been using Ana Bass 1 & Ana Bass 2 in two different tracks where I replaced the original sounds. Didn't have to tweak the sound at all. They sit in the pocket much better than the native basses I had in there before. Will have a go at more sounds when I can.

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