Monday, December 26, 2011

Solaris First Impressions

Smooth as butter. 

I feel like I could end post this right there, but I suppose I ought to explain myself just a little bit more. Today I really sat down with my Solaris for the first time, for maybe an hour or so. I made just one patch, and not having read the manual at all didn’t go all that deep into it. But man, that one patch was it. Nothing fancy, just a Minimoog/Memorymoog hollow, echoey, phasing, two-pulse-wave sort of sound. And yeah, it wasn’t fancy, but it was completely awesome. And there were things I wanted to do with it that I just don’t yet know how to accomplish, things like deep modulation routings, but it doesn’t matter. Just an hour with the Solaris was enough to show me that this is one monster synthesizer.

This is not a review that will cover every feature. You can get a feature list on the Solaris web site. No, this is about how it feels. And how it feels is smooth as butter.

The knobs feel like they’re oil-filled, in a sense. They resist turning in an oh-so-gentle way. Easy to turn, easy to control. Just right. 

Six displays. All your basic information is right there in front of you, easy to take in at a glance. But if you need to go deeper it’s easy to get there. It’s like the synth offers no resistance. It’s easy, effortless. Every place I looked there was a control I’ve always wished my other synths had. 

Piles of oscillators, each one with many different kinds of waves. I could have Oscillator 1 be a Minimoog pulse wave and dial in Oscillator 2 to be a wavetable. Phenomenal power for just one knob. And it’s not just that the Solaris is powerful, it’s that it’s easy too. I could fiddle with the oscillator display all I liked, but the filter display was still on and telling me what it was doing. 

My Waldorf Q has many different oscillator and filter models, but it feels totally different because it has just the one display. It’s a great synth, but it’s always reminding you that it’s a virtual analog, mostly because at one moment the display is an oscillator and the next it’s a filter. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But the Solaris feels like a “luxury synth” in comparison. It doesn’t feel virtual at all. There’s no switching functions in and out all the time because it has just one shared display. I have an Oberheim Xpander too, and while the Xpander also has the multiple screens the Solaris goes and takes it to the extreme. I can honestly see selling the Xpander now. It’s real analog, but it just doesn’t compare. It doesn’t have the horsepower, the flexibility. 

I must have said “it’s easy” about six times. But that’s my first impression of the Solaris. There’s no resistance, it’s not in my way, I don’t have to scratch my head while I’m trying to find something. It’s like a software synthesizer brought to life, except it’s way better than dealing with a mouse and a computer screen. You’ve got knobs and screens and joysticks and ribbons and wheels, all things you just don’t have with a computer synth. But you’ve also got the power of the computer right there under your hands as well. It’s the best of both worlds. 

When I first read about the Solaris it sounded like exactly what I’d always been looking for in a synthesizer. And after an hour or two, I can say that’s totally true. 

This is the real deal.