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DSI Evolver Desktop - current opinions? newer alternatives?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> General Gear Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next [all]
Author DSI Evolver Desktop - current opinions? newer alternatives?
jshell
I've wanted a DSI Evolver off and on pretty much since it came out. Initially it was because it was one of the first new synths with analog parts; but lately I've been drawn back to it for its 4 oscillators, its sequencers, and its pretty unique sound. And I'm especially drawn by some deals right now where new in-box ones can be had for around $400.

I've seen some older discussions about it on here, but most are from the 2009-2012 range.

I'm wondering what current opinions of it are in comparison to what has come out in the past few years. Around the $400-$450 US price point, does anything compare with the evolvers sequence and modulation points? With its distortion effects and crisp bell-like sounds? With its stereo outputs?

About the only real detractor for me right now is lack of headphone output, and maybe USB Midi support (but on a plus side, it's one of the rare small synths these days that has a Midi Through port).
cs1729
I go back and forth on mine. Sometimes I like it sometimes I hate it.

It's good for making weird stuff, probably not so good at making 'regular' synth sounds.

Capability wise probably the only close thing is a modular, but for all the same features it would cost a lot.

In the price range, maybe a blofeld is comparable, but I think the sound will be very different.
pre55ure
cs1729 wrote:
I go back and forth on mine. Sometimes I like it sometimes I hate it.


I had the same feelings about mine.
I actually really loved the sound, its very unique sounding. Probably one of those sounds that you either really like or really hate. I liked it.

But I found the user interface to be terrible. So terrible that I ended up selling it. I'm not opposed to matrix style interfaces, I have an A4, an esq-1 and have had a few other things that do the matrix style editing. But the desktop evolver was just horrible. It felt like none of the matrix was grouped together in any kind of logical manner so it was never like "Oh envelope 2 controls are this 3rd row down" more like "oh where is the envelope 2 amount control? Who knows... just hunt and peck for 45 seconds trying to find it in tiny text somewhere on the matrix". Oh and theres A and B pages on the matrix as well, so sometimes you turn an encoder and it doesn't do what you'd expect, so spend another minute trying to figure out whats going wrong before you realize that it's actually on the B page and you were adjusting the wrong thing. It was terribly unenjoyable to program.

That being said, I do plan on picking up a keyboard version eventually and seeing if I can get along with the interface better, because the sound really is special to my ears.

Oh forgot to add other options-
As suggested Blofeld might be an option. (I actually sold my blofeld because I found the editing to be painful as well. Heh, maybe I'm the problem.)

If you can build stuff or find one for sale, the Ambika has a lot of digital sounding waves, analog filters (better sounding than DSI's), and a built in step sequencer as well, but it lacks the delay lines and a lot of the stuff that the evolver has for making things dirty. (But it's probably double the price... but its also 6 voice poly...)

Esq-1 is maybe a little far from what your looking for, but I think it's one of the most underrated (or at least underpriced) synths ever. It can do a great job at creating those grungy digital sparkles through analog filters type sounds. Lots of modulation options, but no modulation sequencers. It kind of feels like it's the evolvers grandfather or something.
(It's cheap, but it's big)
SB-SIX
Had one too, loved the sound but also had the same experience like pre55ure. The 3 dgit led, shift functions, and loosing work all the time because the change patch is also one of the matrix encoders. No init patch means endless headscratching why your sound acts so weird because of a hidden param still in your patch somewhere.

As an alternative, try a shruti XT. Duophonic is great, lovely hybrid with tasty filters and wavetables, distortion, sequencer and most importantly: knobs
pre55ure
Good call, SB-Six

I thought of the Ambika but not the shuruthi, which is much more comparable as far as price etc...

I will admit though, i preferred the sound of the evolver to that of the ambika/shuruthi.

Just finished the Ambika recently though so maybe I just haven't spent enough time with it.
CF3
Bought one of the first desktop units when they were released (2002 hmmm..... ). Also had a Poly Evolver for awhile. My only problem with the Evolver is the filter. The "sweet spot" is tiny and resonance is harsh as harsh can be. Takes some serious effort to get the right balance going on. I wouldn't say it sounds bad, but compared to other filters, it's just not "tuned" right.

I love all the modulation options and sequencers. You can get some serious racket going on. I think the oscillators are great (especially the digital side). I've always thought of it as a modern, poor mans Prophet VS of sorts. It's great as a drum synth. I wish Dave would do another one with the new filter he's putting in stuff like the Pro 2, a bigger screen, and more user RAM spots for lots of wavetables. Maybe even dump the analog osc's for 4 digital wavetable ones. (but maybe I'm describing the Prophet 12 hihi )

For what they go for used, it's a good value for the more programming-minded synthesist. It's really good at interesting movement.
jshell
SB-SIX wrote:
Had one too, loved the sound but also had the same experience like pre55ure. The 3 dgit led, shift functions, and loosing work all the time because the change patch is also one of the matrix encoders. No init patch means endless headscratching why your sound acts so weird because of a hidden param still in your patch somewhere.

As an alternative, try a shruti XT. Duophonic is great, lovely hybrid with tasty filters and wavetables, distortion, sequencer and most importantly: knobs


Good points about the matrix editing that I hadn't considered. I didn't know there was no init-patch. I hate fighting against presets.

I've been looking at the Shruti's a little bit, but I'm just so turned off by four-knob, two-line-LCD style editing right now. But this makes me want to watch a few more videos with/about them.

Fighting against presets and two-line-LCD editing are what drove me to get rid of my MiniAK (Micron). I liked the sound OK, but hated-hated-hated the editing. I also realized it was still too 'normal' for someone like me with more of a noise/electro-acoustic background (who is now getting back into new-agey/ambient things).
jshell
CF3 wrote:
I love all the modulation options and sequencers. You can get some serious racket going on. I think the oscillators are great (especially the digital side). I've always thought of it as a modern, poor mans Prophet VS of sorts. It's great as a drum synth. I wish Dave would do another one with the new filter he's putting in stuff like the Pro 2, a bigger screen, and more user RAM spots for lots of wavetables. Maybe even dump the analog osc's for 4 digital wavetable ones. (but maybe I'm describing the Prophet 12 hihi )

For what they go for used, it's a good value for the more programming-minded synthesist. It's really good at interesting movement.


Serious racket, interesting movement (I think it's that ability I've seen in Youtube videos to let the sequence go and tweak the sound as it plays that is appealing to this knob-twister), good digital oscillators.. Yeah, this is the side that's been most attractive. I never understood the "evolver" part of the name until recently, and now that's the biggest draw.

If I hadn't just leapt on some good black-friday deals on the Waldorf Streichfett and MakeNoise Telharmonic, I think it would be a no-brainer to pick up an Evolver now. I bought those two things because they'd be 'pretty'. But I still feel incomplete... Damn GAS.
stikygum
I bought the Evolver desktop (MED) when it was initially released and I had one of those MY ASS IS BLEEDING 'this is what I've been looking for moments' nanners I liked it so much I thought I should upgrade and I did. I bought the MEK and then realized that I enjoy polys more, so I bought the PEK. Using the PEK is like being the commander of a spaceship, intense and fun. Some much tweakability and poly goodness. I now have none, but am eyeing to pick another up, either a MED, PEK or PER. Wasn't a fan of the MEK with the knob layout.

Pads out of the PEK can be so cool, going from almost PPG esque to utter cool madness.

The MED is great and absolutely engulfs the name 'Evolver'. I found myself programming sequences and tweaking and twisting the sh!t out it. This is where the Evolver evolves into other worldly sounds.

I too would love to see Dave make a 2nd generation Evolver synth. It would be utter crazy madness if he included drum sounds or sample import too.
GuyaGuy
cs1729 wrote:
I go back and forth on mine. Sometimes I like it sometimes
It's good for making weird stuff, probably not so good at making 'regular' synth sounds.

It's actually really good for making regular synth sounds assuming you mean classic 70s/80s patches; you just need to limit which features you use.


stikygum wrote:
I found myself programming sequences and tweaking and twisting the sh!t out it. This is where the Evolver evolves into other worldly sounds.

I too would love to see Dave make a 2nd generation Evolver synth. It would be utter crazy madness if he included drum sounds or sample import too.

Yeah, the sequencer and modulation routing are definitely where it's at for me.

The Evo does support waveform import via 3rd party sw.

The Pro 2 and 12 are basically the 2nd gen Evolvers.

pre55ure wrote:


But I found the user interface to be terrible. )

But yeah, this, unfortunately. If you use the Soundtower sw it actually makes it easier. Otherwise it's a lot of hard to read labels and shifting. The engine just needed knobs, and I think that was implemented just about perfectly on the keyboard MEK and PEK.
kisielk
The Definitive Guide to the Evolver is a great supplement for programming the thing:

http://www.carbon111.com/evolverguide.pdf

It also has a good init patch which I saved and I make every other patch as a copy of that, so it has sane default settings.

The programming is a bit of a chore but not as bad as a rackmount synth smile

I wouldn't really say it has much overlap with a Pro 12 or Prophet 12, totally different kind of sound.
pre55ure
stikygum wrote:
Using the PEK is like being the commander of a spaceship, intense and fun. Wasn't a fan of the MEK with the knob layout.


I would love to hear more of your opinion on this as I would like to pick up either a MEK or PEK at some point in the future.
I assumed the interfaces would be basically the same?
stikygum
GuyaGuy wrote:
cs1729 wrote:
I go back and forth on mine. Sometimes I like it sometimes
It's good for making weird stuff, probably not so good at making 'regular' synth sounds.

It's actually really good for making regular synth sounds assuming you mean classic 70s/80s patches; you just need to limit which features you use.


stikygum wrote:
I found myself programming sequences and tweaking and twisting the sh!t out it. This is where the Evolver evolves into other worldly sounds.

I too would love to see Dave make a 2nd generation Evolver synth. It would be utter crazy madness if he included drum sounds or sample import too.

Yeah, the sequencer and modulation routing are definitely where it's at for me.

The Evo does support waveform import via 3rd party sw.

The Pro 2 and 12 are basically the 2nd gen Evolvers.

pre55ure wrote:


But I found the user interface to be terrible. )

But yeah, this, unfortunately. If you use the Soundtower sw it actually makes it easier. Otherwise it's a lot of hard to read labels and shifting. The engine just needed knobs, and I think that was implemented just about perfectly on the keyboard MEK and PEK.


The Pro 2 could be considered a second gen Evolver, but it's missing the analog side, which is what I found as part of the overall charm of the Evolver. The Prophet 12 is far from an Evolver imo. No sequencers and only an Arp equals a different experience. But the P12 is cool on it's own though.

And the Soundtower software is great for the Evolvers. Great for the PEK and it has a bunch of cool functions like random sound and sequence generators. There were other really cool features like 'Morph and 'Mutate' that would allow you to morph from one sound to the other and you can choose exactly which parameters you wanted to do that with. All of the parameters all it once even. Really great software imo. They even make a plugin version so you can easily automate everything from your DAW!

I didn't like the little buttons on the Evolver desktop, especially in combo using the shift button all the time, but I much prefer it's compact interface to the MEK because having everything in one place to tweak allowed me to achieve more mutated sounds. That's just a personal preference.
SB-SIX
jshell wrote:


I've been looking at the Shruti's a little bit, but I'm just so turned off by four-knob, two-line-LCD style editing right now. But this makes me want to watch a few more videos with/about them.



The normal shruti has four knobs indeed, but i was talking about the shruti XT, which has many knobs. Much more fun!
stikygum
pre55ure wrote:
stikygum wrote:
Using the PEK is like being the commander of a spaceship, intense and fun. Wasn't a fan of the MEK with the knob layout.


I would love to hear more of your opinion on this as I would like to pick up either a MEK or PEK at some point in the future.
I assumed the interfaces would be basically the same?


So the MEK has some of the knobs as dual functionality, whereas the PEK is a true one knob per parameter. I like using sequencers and the filter and amp sections are the main knobs that have 'shift' functionality to also be used as the sequencer knobs. It might not be a big deal to some as all you have to do is have the button for Seq. 1, 2, 3, or 4 lit and then press the 'Seq Edit' button to engage in the 'shift knob' functionality (as I refer to it) to edit the sequencers. Not a big deal to some I think, but it wasn't to my liking. I much more preferred the PEK one knob per function and being able to see my sequencers running at all times. The sequencers are a big attraction for me in the Evolver.

The MED with it's small interface and 8 knobs made me feel like I barely needed to move a muscle to tweak anything as all the knobs and buttons are so close together. It's a fun experimental box.
_seph
I love the little Evolver. I've had mine for nearly 10 years and have never considered parting with it. I find the matrix programming fairly straightforward and love it's sound, such a great meeting of the classic and new. It's somewhat sad seeing that the line is now discontinued but it's had its run and still today there is little that has its depth. Definitely worth $400 and if you are hesitant because of the matrix, check out its editor- http://www.soundtower.com/evolver/
ronaldroy
I have had an Evolver for many years - many others have come and gone but the Evolver has stayed. I agree with most of what has been said here except to say the matrix style editing was never too much of an issue for me. The synth is not without its problems but it certainly has a personality.

I also have a Shruthi and would recommend checking that out too. I can't bring myself to get rid of the Evolver but would probably opt for the Shruthi if I could only keep one. It's a ripper little synth IMO.

Go for it.
cs1729
I don't mind the matrix editing either. At one point I had an MEK, but I didn't like that I could only turn one knob at once. The desktop is pretty tough. Just a small piece of metal.

You definitely have to get an Init patch and keep it saved to 128 on all the banks. Or just save it to all patches.

Someday I really want to try a poly evolver keyboard. I got an ambika thinking I would replace the evolver with it, but I think they are complementary.
pixelmechanic
I've bought and sold three over the past 10 years. I don't currently have one.

I love the sound of it, but I just can't be bothered programming it (or any other synth that actually saves patches), and it was more of a 'hobby' synth for me, something for lunchtime noodling.

Yes, matrix is a bit busy compared to my Pulse (for example), but workable.

My only real gripe with it was the HPF which audibly steps to being 'on', otherwise as a package it's hard to beat!
tIB
The evolver is a great synth, I'll get another desktop after recently trying out the mek- I prefer the desktop interface to the mek.

It's an amazing thing if you are happy to put the work in- at this point I'd rather wiggle my modular but when a synth in a box appeals once again I'll grab another. Nothing else quite like it imho- the mix of distortions, lo fi delays along with sequencing and other modulation sources is full of win, even if individual components aren't the best sounding when used alone.

I'd still like to try the pek though doubt I'll ever get around to it.
booger
I loved the desktop Evolver. It's built like a tank and is perfect for gigging or bringing to jam sessions. It has the ability to toggle between patches/sequences without losing the beat (which I could not do on the PEK). I definitely look forward to buying another one. The interface isn't the greatest but you'll figure it out fairly quick.
Zon
I'll probably never get rid of mine. They go for around 300-350 euro second hand and for that price it's an absolute steal. I'd also take the matrix style editing over menu diving any day, after a while you'll know your way around.

Tuned feedback, vca that can open fully, the modulation capabilities thumbs up

I use mine as a drone/noisebox thingy, but you can get some nice bass sounds as well. Just keep an eye on the osc levels, it clips/gets nasty quite easily. i also recommend the editor.
pre55ure
I'm surprised by how many of you are OK with the editing on the desktop version.
I must be a real wimp. Miley Cyrus
kisielk
pre55ure wrote:
I'm surprised by how many of you are OK with the editing on the desktop version.
I must be a real wimp. Miley Cyrus


It's not great for tweaking while playing, but I usually just set aside a time or session to tweak patches and really get in to it, then it's not too bad...
GrantB
Needs preset names. With the matrix and all those wide ranging parameters and modulations, it doesn't lend itself to quickly dialing up a sound. It's also easy to make it sound bad, so it needs preprogramming. Well, good luck finding your sound again in 400 numbers. Where's my notes?

These days there's a lot of better choices for regular analog mono sounds, but the Evo is still relevant for how much it squeezes into a small box, particularly if you're going to use the digital oscs/distortion, independently timed sequencers, and sequenceable delays/waves.

Evo would still be my number one choice for doing modular-esque or "Berlin School" sequences all in one little box:
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