€ 26,00 (Euro) to
this paypal address: [wcologarb at gmail.com] writing "hydrasynth
+ your email in the title / note.
I will send the
soundset after I get notified about your payment
(max 24 hours).
Via Debit / Credit Card:
Send me an e-mail letting me
know you'd like to have your card charged - I will send you a payment request
and it will be processed by my Paypal and your bank (you don't have to own a Paypal account,
your card is enough, it's 100% safe -
here's full explanation).
How many patches?:
You will receive all the sounds from my Youtube & Soundcloud demos plus extra sounds (230 original presets + their variations
= 256 presets in total).
Need to hear more?:
Different styles / sounds in my audio demo:
What format / import method?:
My patches come under the name "WCOG" in a soundbank
saved in Hydrasynth Manager
format (software downloadable from the synth's website).
Any external processing?:
I did not use
any external FX in the demo; all the delays, reverbs, flangers, panning, loops and
other effects are part of the Hydrasynth engine / mod matrix.
Some sounds have some slight EQ-ing though.
Notes on grades lower than 3/3:
but not "from the start" / not as good as the champions (like OB-6)
but not as deep as the heavy-weight champions (like Rev-2)
||read about the "dry / harsh" debate
no sequencer / animation takes away the half-point
Bought it, unpacked, browsed the factory sounds, then tried to
create some new ones and wanted to kill myself. Whatever knob I
tweaked, it still sounded like a 2007 VST. Flat, dull, cardboard-like sound. But you
don't walk away just like that from a synth of that caliber. The amount of
features plus the amount of ways to find workarounds kept me glued to the OLED displays,
and a couple of days later all my worries disappeared. I became surprisingly satisfied with this
"digital" sound. Once you start
routing all the abundant LFOs to all the various destinations in the mod matrix, it's no
longer flat. Then you can use the onboard effects, filter mixing and "voice" adjustments (things
like oscillator drift, stereo spread), and the Hydra sound is no longer dull.
Only the cardboard taste is a little bit hard to kill, especially in the
wavetable area, but that's just the character of some
synths. Virus TI has the same thing going on. On the other end of the spectrum
Waldorfs and Modals - their waves sound like glassy metal, which is not the best
thing in the world either. Only the
Novation Peak / Summit
sits somewhere in the middle, but of course it's all a matter of taste and / or
patience. I'm constantly running into people saying something along the lines of
"I love the concept of the Hydrasynth, but I'm struggling to like its sound". While other synths sound "pro" out of the box, I
think the Hydrasynth needs some time to gel with it and some amount of tampering
with its various settings, fiters, EQs, and then the reward will come and the synth will
come to life and yield many original timbres. The "pro out of the box" sound may be something that blows your hat
off in the very first minutes, but it is
often hard to get rid of - all the Waldorfs and Nord Leads and OB-6 have a
certain sameness of their timbre that might get boring after a while, so it's
always a trade-off. I prefer the Hydra sound that is "thinner / dryer" during
the initial impression but more agreeable & malleable in the long run. I'll
say a bit more about the sound and the character of the instrument later on.
I see several
synths at once when I look at the HS. The side panels - Roland Jupiter 8. The
Module buttons - Ensoniq ESQ-1. The encoders -
Clavia Nord Lead 3. The ribbon /
Yamaha CS-80. Eclectic! When I look on the inside, the HS most
strongly reminds me of Alesis Ion / Roland V-Synth in terms of the directions it can go.
But while Ion had a lot more knobs on the panel which made creation / experimentation easy,
with the HS you have to imagine the sound
first and then tweak it into existence. Some amount of brainpower is needed, and 1-hour-long sessions to sculpt one (deep) sound to push the synth to its seemingly
limitless limits were not a rarity at the beginning.
The UI is fantastic for a deep digital synth of this sort; basically the synth is
one big shortcut. There's the Module Select section with its buttons, the Master Control
with its knobs, and practically speaking that's just it - there's no deeper
level to go into, you just have to change pages:) Easy. The buttons have nice
resistance, the encoders have LEDs around them. As I've said above, the
designers have done their research in the history of synth design and picked
what was best. They should get a medal for this, because even though some things
seem logical and easy to implement, it's not always the case, even in 2020.
Roland JD-XA does not
have a data entry slider;
Korg Minilogue XD has no labels under the buttons;
Summit has its screen located in a totally awkward position - I could go on and
on. The Hydrasynth has only one such awkwardness: the labels of the Arpeggiator knobs cannot be seen from the perspective / angle of the player.
Compared to the above quirks, this is an insignificant trifle. By the way: who needs all these effing ARP knobs there? Do you really
tweak the ARP SWING or ARP DIVISION values live? Or do you need instant access to it during sound
design? I think it would be
better to hide the arpeggiator options under the macro encoders and use that space for other
features... like the non-existent sequencer, for example;)
This synth is defined by its
polyphonic aftertouch & ribbon controller as much as its amazingly deep engine,
so let me say two words about those. I had contact
with the invention called "ribbon controller" during my time with
Yamaha AN1x and
OB-12, and the length of the ribbon was around / no more than 15 cm. In Hydrasynth, the
ribbon spans 4 octaves. On the one hand, it's fantastic. On the other, it can be
problematic. I find it tricky to apply the necessary force
continuously and slide
across the entire length of the ribbon to tweak the effect from 0% to 100%, or
the other way round. Many times, if I lose my awareness and loosen my grip, the
modulation effect goes awry. It's ok with "wild" modulations, but it's quite an issue when I want to control the
pitch. The necessity of applying force endangers / kills the subtlety that is
needed for accuracy. Also, it's sad that the ribbon controllers need to
be made of this specific material - whatever it is. When I slide my finger too fast
or too much, my skin
kind of burns as if I was rubbing it
against sand paper ;P OK, not that much. But it's a little bit unpleasant (maybe
I should spread butter or some other lubricant on my finger to ease the friction?;P) So if
you want to buy this synth mainly for the ribbon, and you want to paint the
sound with your finger the same way you travel the world effortlessly by sliding
it across the world map, think it over. It's not so effortless.
Alesis A6 Andromeda
is the only synth whose ribbon controller is nice to touch. I don't know what
material it's made of, but it feels like silk.
A TIP / HAPPY ACCIDENTS
If I were
asked to give one most valuable tip before anybody buys this synth, it would be this: you have to
realize it's a "floating / seamless modular" engine. If you
want to make even the simplest (classic) sounds with the Hydrasynth, you have to
adjust your approach accordingly. There's no button for "Oscillator
Sync". It only exists as a function of the Mutators. You have to choose who you
want to sync to whom. You have to make the connection in the Mod Matrix (Envelope
to Pitch, for example). You
have to set the force of this effect ("depth"), and the balance of this effect
("wet / dry"). Other example: there's no knob for "Pulse Width Modulation". You
have to tell the Mutator to work in this mode, then make the associations in the
Mod Matrix to modulate the width, etc. All these necessary connections is what I call
the "modularity" of
the HS, while the "wet / dry" setting is what I call the "floating / seamless" nature of the
sounds. It's not the traditional way of turning it ON or OFF. It can float from
0 to 100%. You can program the macro buttons to keep the 100% value to give you the instant
"on/off" effect, but that only comes second in the process. Of course
this dry / wet design is great, for the obvious reason that it's better to have
choices instead of just two. It's also better to have an open architecture than
a pre-defined circuit of modulation (like in the
Novation Peak / Summit). But
this "goodness" comes at a price. As I said, YOU and you alone are responsible
for coming up with an idea and then performing all the steps needed for this
idea to be heard by your ears and the outside world. I have friends who get
discouraged with this kind of workflow. In their words, "I get too distracted by
all the features and all the steps and I am losing my original idea". Also,
with this kind of UI there's little potential for "happy accidents", and it needs to be
truthfully admitted that it
is not a negligible part of coming up with something good during our sound design
sessions. A synth with a pre-defined circuits of modulation and some "ready-made"
solutions that enable those "happy accidents" to happen may prove to be a more inspiring
/ efficient instrument.
the beginning, being used to the flood of cheap crap all around us I thought the price of the HS was quite high. But after
discovering that it is able to deliver 90% of imaginable sounds (the remaining
10% reserved for granular synthesis and other wonders), and after appreciating
the genius UI with its displays and encoders plus the engine giving you total freedom
of executing your ideas, but most importantly the poly aftertouch
and the ribbor controller, plus the ongoing company OS support & upgrades, I think it's totally justifiable. It's a great deal.
Is it a great synth? Absolutely, but "great" is not the right word. I'm thinking
I think epic would be fine if only the sound was a bit more juicy, but I'm not
really sure if I'd like to change it, because more juice would mean a more
Roland-esque sound, while more "density" would mean a more fatiguing sound
which does not sit well in the mix. Also, if I forget about the Hydra and then once
again listen to the sounds after a couple of days, I am surprised as if I was
hearing them for the first time, I like them and I am no longer
offended by the cardboard tone. Maybe I've managed to dial it away? Once you pass a certain threshold, there's just something hard to nail down or
define about the nature of this creature. It's a chameleon. It sounds original, like no other synth, so
that's good. I would even put the HS next to Yamaha DX-7 in my museum of
the best synths in history. I said in my
DX-7 deserves such place. Hydra deserves its place, because it's one of the most
"synthy" (cooperative & modulatable) synths while at the same time it retains the ability to
sound organic and natural, thanks to its rich engine and interface solutions.
It's a true & innovative instrument, not another fart machine or a reissue
of a classic. We needed somebody with this kind of vision among the synth
So let's come back to the issue of the "innate
timbre" of this synth and the question of whether there exists an "innate timbre"
anyway. Any Hydrasynth user
might have the impression that despite its awe-inspiring versatility, it does have its innate cardboardy / dry sound that
is present from the start, and that being accustomed to the traditional sounds
of our analog Oberheims and Prophets and what not, we need to spend time trying to maneuver around
this unexpected "thinny digital harshness". This issue is similar to
Korg Opsix, and it is especially evident in some
patches like bass or plucks. It may render some people impatient / un-inspired,
and I think this is what they mean when they complain that HS "sounds
harsh" (and probably that's the reason ASM introduced the "warm mode" in
one of its OS updates, which is a nice add-on when you look at it in isolation,
but seems silly if it was meant to do away with the "harshness / dry-ness".)
But let's not forget Hydra is a very special kind of
synth: a "digital-modular". You should not compare it to anything analog.
Actually you should not compare it to anything else. When you start looking at the Hydrasynth the way I started to look at it
after a couple of months of using it, then this "harshness /
dry-ness" of the sound becomes a positive force. For me the Hydrasynth is an acoustic
instrument born as a synthesizer. Have you ever heard a violin? I could
perfectly well describe the violin sound as "thin" and "harsh" - but the art and the
joy comes from mastering it and being able to play it expressively - then nobody
complains about it sounding thin. And have you ever seen or heard the "weirdo"
instruments like the Apprehension Engine or the waterphone? I've always been
fascinated by the other-worldly sounds, the dynamics and the unpredictability of
the acoustic timbres those devices can create. Hydrasynth, with its engine and
interface, is the closest you can get to those instruments. If you love both the
acoustic and the synthetic and you want to pick what's best of those two worlds,
this is the synth for you - in fact the only synth. It's a melting pot!
This would not be possible if Hydra sounded like a Waldorf or any other synth of
the "traditional" bunch. Besides, after almost two decades spent with synths I
have to frankly say that those "traditional" synth tones are starting to become
boring to me. From this perspective, the Hydrasynth sounds great and it's
either a happy accident or a stroke of genius on the part of the company that
this synth ended up with this kind of timbre. To my ears Hydra is like a ghost
or a spirit - being in various places all at once.
So let me wrap
it up somehow. The HS is the furthest thing from instant
gratification, but at the same time it's the most gratifying synth out of all
the deep synths I've come across
in my hobby / career as a synth tweaker. It does not have any idiotic quirks that you have to "learn"
from forum nerds with oscilloscopes in
order to make the synth into something proper (like "turn this option off, don't
use that feature, and use this output instead of that output" = see
Andromeda). But you do need a
different approach and some time to build the sound, because it's not right
there on the panel. It's one inch underneath it, and several inches deep down in
your brain. I think it's rational to say the synth is a no-go zone for total beginners;
however, if you understand the path of building a sound from scratch and have some experience
with tweaking synths, or you really want to start learning it, you'll probably agree with me that after the first
three or four days spent with the HS and its UI,
the tweaking sessions are a joy, not a chore. Finally an electronic instrument
has arrived to this world that is incredibly deep, yet playable. I think a synth
of this sort comes once in a decade, and if it hasn't set a new standard already, in the future its appeal
will only grow.
If you have no luck with the HS, I
suggest you try Novation Peak / Summit instead. Their engine is
much more limited, but they'll give you all sorts of bread & butter sounds in an
instant, and their timbre is more "classic synth" or more "full" / "deep" without being
too full or too deep like the one of
Modal Argon8. Also, remember about the "ready-made"
/ "happy accidents" interface that the Peak / Summit will give you.
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