Jump to content

M-Audio Venom Synthesizer


Recommended Posts

  • Members

Let's start by talking about guitars. Yes, guitars.

Guitars have evolved to the point where there are guitars for different styles of music: There are flashy heavy metal guitars with exaggerated curves, semi-acoustics for jazz fans, traditional Teles for country pickers, and so on. In the world of synthesizers, there hasn't been the same degree of differentiation; most synths are trying to provide a palette of sounds that works for the greatest number of people. Even a soft synth like Cakewalk's Rapture, which is heavy on step-sequenced modulation and other dance-oriented extras, does a pretty convincing Minimoog and can load samples for acoustic sounds.

I received Venom just before going to NAMM and was able to play with it for a little bit. It was definitely not like any other synth I'd played; preset #1 was neither a grand piano, nor a Minimoog bass smile.gif As I dialed through the presets, tons of them had rhythmic things going on in a multi-timbral context - and nary a string patch among them.

I was intrigued, but the pieces didn't really fall into place until I went to the 2011 Winter NAMM, and shot a video for Harmony Central's coverage featuring the product manager himself (Taiho Yamada - hope I got the spelling right!) showing off his baby. I got it - and I understood why this synth is called "Venom." It makes big, bold sounds; some verge on ultra-lo-fi, while others are surprisingly evocative. But one thing's for sure: This is not your ordinary "we can sound like a Minimoog" synthesizer, as it seems very much dedicated to dance, industrial, rap, techno, hip-hop, and other forms of cutting-edge music.

Normally I start off a pro review with a "photo tour," and we'll get to that soon enough. But first, I wanted to insert the video of Taiho at NAMM, because I think it sets the stage well for what you're about to see and hear.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 228
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • Members

Time for pix! But first, here's a link to the Venom landing page on M-Audio's site. It gives a useful overview, presents specs, and so on so we don't need to duplicate that information here - we can get right into the user experience.

The first attached image shows an overall shot of the unit. It's 49 keys, clothed in "iPod White," and has a fair amount of performance controls.

The second attached image focuses on the controls for the audio interface section. Yes, Venom is also an interface for not just the keyboard itself, but for instruments like guitar and mics. It's relatively basic - you won't find +48V phantom power or XLR mic connections - but for many synth players, it has all that's needed (including direct monitoring). Of course, we'll be covering this in more detail later.

The third attached image shows the various Mode select buttons and the display. But here we also see my first wish list item for Venom: I'd like to see more contrast between the control labels and the panel, as I find it difficult to read these under stage lighting conditions. Fortunately there aren't that many controls, so after a while, using them becomes second-nature. Nonetheless, I've always felt a live performance keyboard should have obvious labeling, even if it doesn't look as cool from a design standpoint.

The fourth attached image highlights the Multi controls. This is an important part of the synth, and the basis of some killer presets that ship with the unit. Granted, there are only 12 voices; we'll see if this impacts the usefulness of the Multi section. However, based on the presets, this doesn't seem to be an issue - remember, Venom isn't all about string pads smile.gif

Finally (for the front panel, at least), the fifth attached image shows the performance controls. The up/down buttons to the left choose a row of parameters, which are adjusted by the knobs. As you can see, the selection of parameters for various rows is logical.

Labeling contrast aside, Venom's front panel has an open, inviting kind of feel. As I've mentioned many times before, there are certain products that just "feel" right - Venom is one of them, at least for my way of thinking and playing. Usually, it takes several posts in a pro review before I start feeling comfortable with a piece of gear, but for whatever reason, I'm bonding with this one pretty early on in the process.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Venom has a significant amount of connectivity, so let's turn the unit around and look at the rear panel.

The first attached image shows the jack field of 1/4" jacks for instrument input, mic input, expression pedal input, and sustain switch input (given Venom's low price, I'm not surprised that neither a pedal nor sustain switch are included as part of the package).

The second attached image proves that some manufacturers still care about 5-pin DIN MIDI smile.gif - there's physical MIDI I/O, not just MIDI over USB. However, you do have USB for computer connections. Also note the jack for the AC adapter. Yes, an AC adapter, not an IEC line cord...but again, we're talking price point here, so I won't object.

The third attached image shows the stereo outs (use only the left jack for mono) as well as an aux input, which I presume is something that relates to the audio aspect or for playing along...we'll find out. Note that these RCA jacks are about audio, not coaxial S/PDIF.

The fourth attached image is a gratuitous picture of all the jacks, which I included because hey, we don't have to worry about a limited number of graphics or column-inches! But it gives a perspective on how the close-up shots relate to each other.

Anyway, the bottom line is there's a lot of connectivity - which is expected if you're going to have a built-in interface, but isn't something I would necessarily expect at Venom's price point.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Venom is billed as (among other things!) a live performance synthesizer, so before getting into the architecture and the sounds, let’s consider whether it lives up to its billing or not.

The keybed is 49 keys and produces velocity messages, but not aftertouch. It’s a synth action keyboard (not weighted), and the keys have a comfortable, solid feel; Venom is also relatively light, and easy to carry around. The modulation control doesn’t spring back to zero when released, which to me is an advantage as I design many patches where the mod wheel “morphs” between settings, so I’ll often want to leave it set in one place.

The pitch bend wheel has a somewhat strange feel: When you release it, it sort of “decelerates” back to zero. I thought at first it might not go back to zero exactly, but it does. I don’t consider this a disadvantage; in fact, you can “flick” the pitch bend wheel and the way it returns to zero can be pretty cool. I don’t know if M-Audio planned this or whether it’s just “the way it is,” but I thought it was worth mentioning.

One aspect of playing Venom that I really like is the spacing and height of the Performance Controls. The spacing between controls is generous and completely uncramped; you can reach, grab, and turn without having to think about bumping another control by accident. A lot of keyboards claim to have live performance controls, but Venom really does. The knurled knobs and somewhat rubberized, non-stick surface add another overlay of security – if you sweat a lot on stage, no worries. Furthermore, despite not being held to a panel with nuts and lockwashers, the “wobble factor” is very low.

The interface controls are spaced more closely together, which makes sense as they’re more “set-and-forget.” Still, they’re easy to adjust and again, you won’t bump into other controls.

The button placement gets high marks, too: It’s virtually impossible to hit the wrong one by accident, or hit two simultaneously (well, unless you’re King Kong). Finally, the display angle isn’t adjustable as it’s built in to the front panel, but you can see it from a pretty wide angle - it’s not the kind of display where you need to be sitting on top of it in order to see what’s going on.

The one negative about the knobs and buttons is that it would be nice to have more of them. With any live performance device, the less button-pushing and display-looking you need to do, the better. In terms of a control set, Venom is definitely not a Nord Lead 2X – but it doesn’t cost $1,500 street, either. Given that hardware is the most expensive component in a synthesizer, there are bound to be compromises in a keyboard that costs around $500 street. Then again, there are limits as to how many tweaks you want to be making as you play, and four primary performance knobs keeps things relatively simple – which is another factor that’s important in a live performance synthesizer.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
Venom is billed as (among other things!) a live performance synthesizer, so before getting into the architecture and the sounds, let’s consider whether it lives up to its billing or not.

The keybed is 49 keys and produces velocity messages, but not aftertouch. It’s a synth action keyboard (not weighted), and the keys have a comfortable, solid feel; Venom is also relatively light, and easy to carry around. The modulation control doesn’t spring back to zero when released, which to me is an advantage as I design many patches where the mod wheel “morphs” between settings, so I’ll often want to leave it set in one place.

The pitch bend wheel has a somewhat strange feel: When you release it, it sort of “decelerates” back to zero. I thought at first it might not go back to zero exactly, but it does. I don’t consider this a disadvantage; in fact, you can “flick” the pitch bend wheel and the way it returns to zero can be pretty cool. I don’t know if M-Audio planned this or whether it’s just “the way it is,” but I thought it was worth mentioning.

One aspect of playing Venom that I really like is the spacing and height of the Performance Controls. The spacing between controls is generous and completely uncramped; you can reach, grab, and turn without having to think about bumping another control by accident. A lot of keyboards claim to have live performance controls, but Venom really does. The knurled knobs and somewhat rubberized, non-stick surface add another overlay of security – if you sweat a lot on stage, no worries. Furthermore, despite not being held to a panel with nuts and lockwashers, the “wobble factor” is very low.

The interface controls are spaced more closely together, which makes sense as they’re more “set-and-forget.” Still, they’re easy to adjust and again, you won’t bump into other controls.

The button placement gets high marks, too: It’s virtually impossible to hit the wrong one by accident, or hit two simultaneously (well, unless you’re King Kong). Finally, the display angle isn’t adjustable as it’s built in to the front panel, but you can see it from a pretty wide angle - it’s not the kind of display where you need to be sitting on top of it in order to see what’s going on.

The one negative about the knobs and buttons is that it would be nice to have more of them. With any live performance device, the less button-pushing and display-looking you need to do, the better. In terms of a control set, Venom is definitely not a Nord Lead 2X – but it doesn’t cost $1,500 street, either. Given that hardware is the most expensive component in a synthesizer, there are bound to be compromises in a keyboard that costs around $500 street. Then again, there are limits as to how many tweaks you want to be making as you play, and four primary performance knobs keeps things relatively simple – which is another factor that’s important in a live performance synthesizer.

Does the manual come with a full CC list at all ?
I was just wondering if you could use something like a BCR2000 too control more parameters in a "hands on" performance situation.
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

I'm going to be following this closely as well. smile.gif I'll let Mr. A supply the details, but from my look over of the manual they list a number of CC#'s, etc for additional external control. The one thing I noticed is their use of NRPN numbers to change things like oscillator type, etc.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Hi Craig! I just wanted to let you know that once again, you are spot on with your initial observation of the product. Venom is special because it is unique and it just wouldn't be right for Avid to jump into this category unless we we're going to bring something new to the party.

I got involved with Venom very late in the game but feel extremely lucky to now have Taiho as a part of my team. I'm going to let him respond to most of the questions that appear in this review but I think folks are going to find his comments really insightful and reflective of his genius with this type of product design. Taiho has got quite a history as a sound designer and member of the design team at Alesis prior to joining Avid. He's responsible for a lot of the brilliance behind some of the best synths they made including the Quadrasynth, QS series, Ion/Micron and the legendary Andromeda just to name a few.

I will say this, not since Eleven Rack have I seen buzz build for this product within the walls of Avid. Venom is really is the darling of the company right now and I think the response we got at NAMM reflects how quickly it can win you over.

cheers,

Hiro

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Hiro and Taiho - Thanks for stopping by. Taiho, I'm very familiar with the work you did for Alesis with the Ion. What I didn't realize is that I created some samples and programs for other synths with which you were involved, like the Quadrasynth. This IS a small industry, isn't it?!?

The Ion was a great synth. I can see a certain "style" you have with design...interesting.

Anyway, I have a bit of a problem with the review for the next few days...I'm away from my studio, hence don't have "Venom access." I prepared a few comments before I left, but got sandbagged by the recent weather issues...I spent way too many hours shoveling snow, keeping horses from freezing, re-lighting pilot lights because the natural gas lines in New Mexico keep losing pressure, and making sure my amazing 2000 VW could start in -14 degree (F, not C!) cold. It's been interesting. Having gone through two high category 3 hurricanes in Florida and a 6.2 earthquake in California, I'd have to say that I'm not a fan of natural disasters smile.gif

So...please feel free to answer any questions people have until I return, and come up with some of my own. It would be very helpful if you could discuss what you feel is the best way to control Venom from an external controller!

Also I'd like to mention that each Pro Review tends to take its own path. I'm hoping that this one gets heavily into insider tips and techniques, so please, don't hesitate to contribute cool tips. Sometimes people who represent manufacturers are shy about getting too involved, because they don't want to be seen as "hyping" their products. But, the cool thing about a pro review is that if you get out of hand, people will call you on it ("Taiho is wrong, the anti-gravity module is buggy at best. I couldn't get Venom more than a couple inches off the floor.") Some of the most popular pro reviews have had strong manufacturer involvement. I'll never forget when Dave Hill from Ableton gave a dissertation on how to make Windows machines work optimally for audio...great stuff.

So...welcome aboard. So far I'm very impressed with Venom, but I have a lot more to learn!

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

mine will be delivered tomorrow. my use is unique. my 7 year old daughter is into garage band. I wanted a sound module as well. I don't think the piano teacher approves. I will post some comments/questions after I have had it a few days. this will very much be a practice instrument. I hope for it to be a gateway instrument to digital recording.

(from my iPhone)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Xoq View Post
mine will be delivered tomorrow. my use is unique. my 7 year old daughter is into garage band. I wanted a sound module as well. I don't think the piano teacher approves. I will post some comments/questions after I have had it a few days. this will very much be a practice instrument. I hope for it to be a gateway instrument to digital recording.

(from my iPhone)
Well I'm back home after being on the road since last week, so it's back to the Venom.

As to the "gateway instrument to digital recording," remember Venom has an audio interface. In fact, I'll cover that next so we can get the "utilitarian" stuff nailed before moving on to the very cool sounds. BTW - after a preliminary look, the editing software that comes with it is very highly developed and useful - thumb.gif on its implementation.
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Before going further, let’s install the driver software and Vyzex editing software. Of course there’s a CD-ROM that comes with Venom and includes these files, but also of course, it’s obsolete because newer files are available from the M-Audio web site.

M-Audio is quite good about making it easy to do updates. They ask you to fill out a quick survey before you download the software, but you don’t have to—it will still let you do the download. As of this post, the Vyzex editor is at version 1.11, and the driver at version 1.0.10.

I elected to install the Venom software on a Windows XP SP3 operating system (yeah, yeah, I know...I’ll be upgrading to Windows 7 soon, but this works for now). Installation follows the usual procedure where you install the driver software first, then connect the keyboard. Installation of the driver (which also updates the firmware if needed) appeared to be uneventful, and said a firmware update wasn’t necessary. But after installing and opening the editor, it said it couldn’t find the Venom via its “Autosense” option, which would supposedly find Venom and load the data from it.

I noticed an M-Audio logo in the system tray, and clicked on it; it confirmed that Venom was connected, and that the firmware and drivers were up to date. Hmm...

Next step was to avoid USB and try standard MIDI 5-pin DIN I/O. I hooked this up to my E-Mu 1820 interface, specified the I/O to the editor, and everything worked as advertised. Obviously the problem related to USB, although the control panel said Venom was connected. So doing my best Sherlock Holmes imitation, I deduced that the USB connection was functioning, but the problem was that the editor couldn’t communicate via USB.

I went back to the manuals, and noticed that if a firmware update happened, that it was necessary to do a full reset on the synth. So even though the installation process indicated a firmware update wasn't necessary, as I firmly believe that reboots and resets solve many ills, I did a full reset on Venom and voila – the editor communicated with it. Mission accomplished, and I was good to go.

The first attached image shows the screen for a single patch; the second attached image shows the screen for a multi. You can also load screens for the single patches that make up a multi. Unfortunately, the maximum image width for the forums is 900 pixels so I had to reduce the screen size by about 10%; the “real” version is a bit larger, and looks a little less “squished” (of course, this data-compressed image is also somewhat fuzzy-looking).

Incidentally, this program is an editor/librarian only, and unlike some recent keyboards from Korg, Yamaha, and Roland, the software won’t let Venom serve as a VST/AU plug-in. However, in the Vyzex documentation, Psicraft (the company behind the software) says that a plug-in friendly version will be available in early 2011 for $19.95. We’ll check it out when it lands.

Next stop: the audio interface.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Hi Craig,

The issue you ran into (when first running Vyzex) was that your Venom's Global MIDI OUT was not set to 'USB'. This parameter is not included in the editor's GLOBAL mode because (when set to KEY) it locks the editor out from further editing by switching all of Venom's communications to the physical MIDI In and MIDI Out sockets on the back of the unit. You could have made this setting inadvertently from the front panel by pressing the 'Edit' button and the second G# on Venom's keyboard when you were first exploring the instrument. The hardware reset you wisely deployed set Venom back to its default global settings (MIDI OUT = USB).

To ensure nobody else requires a trip to Baker Street (Conan Doyle's that is, not Gerry Rafferty's) to solve the mystery like you did, we are including a single page troubleshooting PDF that will open whenever the editor 'AutoSense' function fails to detect Venom on startup - Aside from reminding to use the latest drivers and firmware, it will explictly show how to manually set the MIDI OUT from Venom's front panel. This extra will be added to the next official release of the Venom Editor (v1.12).

All the best,

Tony

Tony Antoniou,
Managing Director
Psicraft Designs, Inc.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Tony - this is great input, thanks for participating. BTW in case you're not aware of how pro reviews work, manufacturers are not only invited to participate, but encouraged to chime in - especially if I miss something, get something wrong (not that that ever happens, of course...ahem), or you have interesting tips that aren't obvious.

So far I'm very impressed with the job you've done on the editor, and I think it adds significant value to the package. Do you have a projected date for release of the "plug-in" version?

Once again, welcome aboard.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Hi Craig,

Thanks Craig - I am a long time reader and fan of your articles and books, all the way back to the days when I played the road circuit with a D-50 / eMax / Juno 106 rig and sported a mane of nuclear blond hair that would have made David Coverdale proud. All that safely in the past, it's great to make your virtual acquaintance here in the 21st Century.

As for the Vyzex Venom editor: I really appreciate the positive words. It is without a doubt the pinnacle of our editor line right now and has more features packed into it than any retail stand-alone editor I have yet to see on sale by any provider. After all, a synth like Venom deserves no less!

We have Vyzor Venom (the VST/AU version of Vyzex Venom) underway but first we are adding a few final goodies to Vyzex such as enhanced Patch Collider to Collection features, a Sync Manager panel to permit intuitive Direct/Virtual Bank mode transitions, and most importantly an automatic Link Tracker feature that allows users to reorganize Singles and Patterns in any user bank without these changes breaking the user Multis that reference them as parts. We felt these bonus features were too important to make 'Vyzor Only' upgrade features so they are going to be available to everyone free of charge in the next posted update to Vyzex Venom.

Anyone wishing to get access to these new features ahead of their official release is welcome to join our intrepid gang of advanced users (that's marketing speak for beta testers wink.gif) at http://support.vyzor.com where they can private message me for access.

I am also up to discuss tips,tricks and any issues with anyone who has a question as part of this review thread - Also I would like to put in a plug for http://www.venomsynth.com which is the unofficial 'by fans for fans' website run by the Venom Users Group: This site also hosts the VyZone where users can upload, showcase and share patch data created with the Vyzex and Vyzor Venom editors. In time I am sure this site will become a great resource for all things Venom - I just noticed in fact that your Venom ProReview (this thread) is linked in the venomsynth.com 'Reviews' page: I hope it doesn't cause an internet feedback loop!

Also, if anyone has missed the AIR User's Blog video coverage of Venom and the Vyzex editor I recommend they check out Russ Hughes and his excellent Venom articles which can be directly linked from venomsynth.com.

Once again, Craig: Thanks for the invitation to participate in your review - I am on deck for any questions you or your readers have regarding the included editor software.

Cheers,

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
Hiro and Taiho - Thanks for stopping by. Taiho, I'm very familiar with the work you did for Alesis with the Ion. What I didn't realize is that I created some samples and programs for other synths with which you were involved, like the Quadrasynth. This IS a small industry, isn't it?!?

The Ion was a great synth. I can see a certain "style" you have with design...interesting.
Wow, that's definitely a trip in the time machine! The Quadrasynth was in development when I joined Alesis in 1993 as a sound designer, and I do remember the programs and the waves that you did, Craig. Those waves especially got a lot of mileage, ending up in just about every QS synth. Nice work!

When we were deep into developing Ion, I consulted with the team frequently on aspects of the engine and user interface, but there was a Project Manager named Ben who was the actual captain of that ship. I was in charge of filling the ship with sounds, however. Definitely fun stuff... And of course, the Ion begat the Micron, which eventually spawned the Miniak, so that engine still lives on today.

I have to say though, that of all the synths I've been privileged to work on, Venom is absolutely one of my favorites - right up there with Andromeda. And I think they actually complement each other nicely. Andromeda is creamy analog through and through, while Venom does virtual analog, but isn't afraid to embrace its nasty digital side...
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members
Quote Originally Posted by Anderton View Post
So...please feel free to answer any questions people have until I return, and come up with some of my own. It would be very helpful if you could discuss what you feel is the best way to control Venom from an external controller!
Venom's synthesis parameters are controlled via CC, RPN and NRPN messages, so any of them can be targeted by mapping MIDI controller hardware to them. A chart of all the parameters and their corresponding messages appears in the Venom User Guide. Check out what this guy did with his Venom and an M-Audio Ozonic controller:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXy2DWUmKP4

Cheers,
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Before we get into all the sexy synth features, let’s take a look at using Venom with your computer. There are two main considerations here – MIDI and audio.

For starters, don’t expect a $500 interface inside a $500 keyboard. The main limitation is that the sample rate is fixed at 44.1kHz, presumably because that’s the sample rate at which the keyboard runs. Resolution is 24 bits, though (not just the A/D and D/A, but the signal being carried over USB – I measured it with Cakewalk’s Bitmeter plug-in), and I’ve always felt more bits was more important than higher sample rates. However, those who use 48, 88.2, or 96kHz as their default sampling rate will need to adopt 44.kHz if they want to use Venom as their main interface.

As I’m testing Venom with Windows, we’ll cover it from that perspective. It of course works with the Mac as well. Venom is a class-compliant USB device, so it can install without drivers. However, I’m a great believer in using custom drivers if they’re available, and as they are, I’ve installed the latest and greatest.

I first tried using Venom as an interface for Ableton Live 8. I was initially puzzled that I couldn’t adjust the latency in Venom’s control panel, because I could with other programs. The answer was simple: Set the latency using the control panel before opening Live (you can open the panel from the Windows system tray). Live would then adopt the selected sample rate. I figured I might as well live dangerously, and called up the fastest latency option (128 samples). This worked fine with all the programs I tried, but then again, I'm using a wicked-fast 8-core (dual Xeon) computer from PC Audio Labs.

After calling up a project in Live, I plugged into Venom’s headphone outs and yes, there was sound - plenty of it. These are not weak headphone outs, so watch your hearing! The attached image shows Live playing a project with the sample rate set to 128 samples, as well as the Preferences menu where Venom is selected as the interface.

Next up: Recording MIDI and/or audio from Venom. Both worked fine, in fact you can record both simultaneously. This is very useful if you want to record an audio part using Venom, but also have the part preserved as MIDI in case you want to layer it with a different synth, or for that matter, send it back into Venom and change the sound.

Also note that Venom, in addition to being an audio interface, is a MIDI interface as well. You can send a DAW’s MIDI output to Venom’s 5-pin DIN MIDI connector for driving other hardware modules. Similarly, if you have a MIDI control surface, you can plug it into Venom’s MIDI in, then send that data to your DAW. This can be enabled separately from Venom’s MIDI, so you could have one track monitoring Venom’s MIDI in, and simultaneously, another track recording what you play on Venom. The outputs are also individually addressable, so one MIDI track could drive Venom, and another MIDI track could drive a tone module connected to Venom’s MIDI out. This is a very nice touch that makes Venom more useful than it might seem initially as a MIDI interface.

One other point worth bringing up is that a disturbing number of audio interfaces have crossed my desk lately that don’t have MIDI jacks. If you have one of these, then Venom can provide the MIDI interfacing for you.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

There’s a 1/4" balanced mic input (no +48V phantom power, though – not surprising - so it’s dynamic mics only), and has its own front panel Gain control with signal activity and clip LEDs. You’ll also find a high-impedance instrument input (e.g., for electric guitar with standard passive pickups), again with a front-panel Gain control and signal/clip LEDs. When recording, typically the mic would go into a DAW track set to record the left channel of a stereo pair, while the guitar would go into another DAW track set to the record the right channel of the stereo pair.

There are stereo RCA phono jack inputs as well. These are not for a turntable (which you probably figured out if you noticed there’s no ground post!) but accepts mixer outs, CD player outs, and other line level outs. These are mixed with the mic and guitar channels, however for these ins there’s no associated front panel level control.

There’s one more recording option…if you push in the front panel Mono Monitor button, and enable the Mono Record option in the Vyzex Editor (see the attached image), then all inputs are recorded and monitored in mono. So if you had, for example, a band with keyboards, guitar, singer, and electronic drums, you could actually accommodate all these sounds with Venom and record your rehearsals in mono. Also, note there’s another button in the editor called USB Record. This lets you choose whether to record the keyboard’s audio stream over USB, or not. So for example, in the band scenario given above, you could choose not to record Venom’s audio but only its MIDI data, thus letting you edit the keyboard part later and making it easier to get a blend of the other musicians.

Finally, there’s a Direct Monitor knob that sets the balance between audio playback from your DAW and the real-time inputs going into Venom.

However, the coolest part (well at least in my opinion) about the external audio inputs is that they can be routed into Venom’s filter, amp, and effects. Yes, gate an incoming guitar sound…process it…you get the idea. We’ll get into this in detail later, but it seemed like a teaser might be appropriate smile.gif

Sure, Venom isn’t being sold as an audio interface. But it provides a surprising amount of interface bang-for-the-buck, and in some situations, may be all you need.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

All right...I'm going to let the interface info sit here for a day or two, and if there are no comments/questions about this particular functionality, then we'll move on to the synth architecture itself. We'll start with single patches, then proceed to multis.

I have to say that so far, I'm really enjoying this synthesizer but I think there's a lot more to come...like the processing of external signals. This is quite a package for the bucks.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

Okay - I found the editor’s most important function: How to create an initialized bank! smile.gif After all, I need a point of departure.

Let’s ignore the Multi and Pattern features for now, and consider the Single preset aspect. In other words, we’ll start off looking at Venom from a conventional synth standpoint, starting with the oscillators.

Venom has three digital oscillators, each with a mix of waveforms (41), drum kits (4), and individual drum/percussion sounds (49). The following picture shows your waveform choices.

wf2tw.png

The drum sounds are pretty much about the Multis (or about using Venom as a bitchin’ vintage drum sound module!), but I was glad to see the individual sounds as being available for patches. With Peavey’s DPM-3 (still one of my fave synths) I often layer percussion sounds, with keytracking on so they change pitch, with melodic patches to add an interesting component. For example, I found that mixing a clave sound, transposed down an octave an mixed in the background, could add an interesting transient to sounds like clavs.

Let’s look at Osc 1 in depth.

DWUtD.png

  • The keytrack buttons allows pitch to change as you play the keyboard. If you want straight drum sounds, you’d turn to off so they don’t change pitch.
  • Coarse transposes in semitones from -64 semitones to +63 semitones
  • Fine transposes in cents over +/-50 cents.
  • Osc 3 > FM creates basic FM synthesis by using Osc 3 as the modulation and Osc 1 as the carrier.
  • Waveshape changes the waveform duty cycle, although the graphic doesn’t really show the resulting waveform – it seems to just show a pulse wave to indicate you’re in waveshaping-land.

Osc 1 is the “main” waveform; Oscillators 2 and 3 can run in parallel, or provide special functions, like Osc 2 ring-modulating Osc 1, or Isc 3 providing FM. Osc 2 and 3 can also do hard sync (individukally or together) with Osc 1. For those not familiar with hard sync, if you sync, for example, Osc 2 to Osc 1, then Osc 1 sets the basic pitch. But, because it’s resetting Osc 2’s period, if you vary the Osc 2 control at frequencies higher than Osc 1, you get some serious harmonic madness.

Note that Sync On/Off is brought out to a performance control switch, as are the Osc 2 and Osc 3 pitch controls. This means you can enable and tweak sync while playing – nice. Hard sync is a fabulous sound, and it’s great that Venom treats this option with the respect it deserves smile.gif

To the left of Osc 2 and 3, you’ll find two “global” controls for the oscillators. StartMod randomly chooses different start points along the waveform sample when you re-trigger a note, thus emulating the effect of an analog synth’s free-running oscillators. Drift causes a slight pitch change when you trigger a note. The amount of pitch change remains constant while a note is held down; it changes only on re-triggering. This is also intended to emulate the characteristics of analog oscillators, which tended to drift over time.

The Mix section sets the levels of the three oscillators, but also includes a control for setting the ring modulation depth (Osc 2 modulates Osc 1), a control for mixing in an external audio source, and a drop-down menu for choosing the external source from among the various input connections.

The Pitch section is mostly about Glide (portamento) but also allows setting pitch bend range. Glide works with monophonic or polyphonic patches (yeah, baby!) and pitch bend range goes up to a staggering 64 semitones, and you can reverse the sense so that moving the pitch bend wheel up changes pitch down.

Our final stop on the Oscillator tour is the Voice section, which chooses between monophonic (e.g., classic Minimoog) and polyphonic voicing, and enables a Unison mode for stacking multiple oscillators on one key. You can have up to 12 unison voices and adjust the detuning among voices, as well as transpose the unison sound over semitones or cents. This is pretty heady stuff, but remember...this is a 12-voice synthesizer. If you layer 12 voice on a key, you'll only be able to play one note at a time. If you layer 3 voices on a key, you're limited to 4 notes.

Now a few comments about the editor:
  • You can reset any control to its nominal value with a Ctrl-click.
  • Double-clicking on a control opens a pop-up box where you can type in a specific value.
  • Right-clicking on a parameter opens a pop-up box where you can choose any available value.

Frankly, this is all very impressive...as an inveterate synth tweaker, I’m very pleased that all these options are available. But, we’re just getting started. The oscillator section is only one of many pages.

[Note: The attached images are the same as the ones inline. They are provided as backup, given that the others are linked to another site.]
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Members

The filter and envelope sections are pretty much "back to basics"-type synth modules. I've highlighted them, as well as the filter performance controls, in the following picture.

2xIhI.png

The filter has a Prefilter boost so you can overload it, and it can also self-oscillate (I love this kind of thing...I was always the type of guy who cranked up the gain on rotating speaker preamps). The six filter types are:

  • Lowpass 12dB/octave
  • Bandpass 12dB/octave
  • Highpass 12dB/octave
  • Lowpass 24dB/octave
  • Bandpass 24dB/octave
  • Highpass 24dB/octave

This isn't particularly adventurous; there's no notch response, comb filtering, etc. It looks to me like the design philosophy behind timbre changes was to rely more on sync, ring modulation, distortion, effects, etc. than filtering per se.

The main filter parameters are brought as as performance controls, where you can tweak Cutoff, Resonance, Envelope Amount, Keytracking, and Filter Type in real time. Nice.

The envelopes are standard AHDSR types. I'm somewhat surprised there's no envelope looping; that would seem like a really good fit for a product like this. I've always enjoyed envelope looping on those instruments that have it (not a majority by any means), but unless I'm missing something envelope looping isn't part of Venom.

The Filter Envelope and Amplitude Envelope have associated performance controls, too. The four knobs control attack, decay, sustain, and release for whichever envelope is selected. The switch controls Unison on/off with the filter controls, and Poly/Mono for the amplitude controls. While the switch settings don't really have anything to do with envelopes, there are no switched functions with the envelopes, so it made sense to put some less-commonly used, but nonetheless useful, switched functions there.

Well that was pretty easy...but it's only a brief breather before we hit the LFO, Mod, and Aux pages.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.




×
×
  • Create New...