Dave Smith Instruments Evolver

Dave Smith Instruments Evolver Image

Released in 2002, Evolver is the first instrument to come from Dave Smith Instruments. Dave Smith is considered a legendary figure in the synthesizer world, he founded Sequential Circuits and designed such classics as the Prophet 5 and Prophet VS, and he was a pioneer in bringing MIDI to synthesizers. After a stint working in Software Synthesis for Seer Systems, Dave collaborated with Roger Linn on the Adrenalinn, and then officially came back to the world of hardware synthesizers. And the world was happy to find him back designing synths for a new generation of players - starting with Evolver!

So, there's no keyboard on this thing! Well, it's a hands-on desktop sound module and audio processor. The Evolver is a true analog synthesizer that incorporates many of Dave and Sequential's old secrets, circuits and technologies. It's monophonic with four oscillators - two analog DCOs and two digital - it's a true analog/digital hybrid synth. The analog oscillators feature multiple classic waveforms plus pulse-width modulation and hard sync, and they sound really nice and big. The digital oscillators feature FM synthesis, Ring Modulation and 96 wavetables straight out of the Prophet VS (plus 32 user wavetables, loaded via MIDI software editors such as Motu Unisyn).

Evolver also features two Curtis voltage-controlled analog low-pass filters which are fully resonant and switchable for two- or four-pole operation, two digital highpass filters and real analog VCAs. Modulation capabilities are handled by four LFOs and three ADSR envelope generators (for the filter, the amp, and one is user assignable). There are dedicated onboard effects (feedback, delay, distortion, glide, etc.). Stereo audio inputs let you process external audio through the Evolver's filters, envelopes, LFOs and effects.

One of its coolest features is the MIDI-syncable 16-step, 4-parameter, analog-style sequencer (with each patch able to store its own sequence) which really brings the Evolver to life with animated evolving sounds. The LFOs, step sequencer, and three separate delays can all be synced for massive, rhythmic, time-based effects in stereo. As for programming and tweaking all these functions, Evolver's easy-to-navigate matrix-style interface allows for quick editing and real-time control of 8 parameters simultaneously.

A major unique feature of the Evolver is that although it is monophonic, it has a true stereo signal path. The reason many things come in multiples of two here is because each channel gets its own independent analog oscillator, lowpass filter, highpass filter, VCA and effects. It's sort of like two independent synths - one on the left and another on the right. This allows for pretty nice stereo imaging effects not possible with most other mono-monophonic synths. Some of the factory patches will make your jaw drop - sometimes it's really hard to believe it has only a single voice!

It's no surprise the Evolver was a hit when it came out. There just are no other modern analog-digital synthesizers in its price range, it sounds wonderful, and is one of those synths that has no real need for external effects or sweetening. Evolver literally is a rebirth of the best of Sequential Circuits, updated to meet the needs of today's musicians. The internal computer and DSP chips can be reprogrammed via MIDI, for easy bug fixes, OS updates and feature additions. Other forms of the Evolver that have evolved: Mono Evolver (a keyboard version), Poly Evolver (a polyphonic keyboard version), and Poly Evolver Rack (a polyphonic rack module).

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48 Visitor comments
August 12, 2010 @ 4:50 pm
The Evolver pulls music out of you. It's interface, while well laid out, is hard to read (if only it was a little brighter in the dark). It doesn't really matter because after you start twisting knobs and pushing buttons, you're going to forget about the interface. Never has such a $300 (used) device felt more like an "instrument" than a "toy". Don't forget, you can plug stuff into it too!
Hunter V. S.
August 4, 2010 @ 7:02 pm
This is one of my favorite synths! It is extremely versatile and has a great sound. As far as it compares to a Pro One, of which I am also an owner, it can replicate it's sounds almost perfectly. Generally I end up running my Pro One into the Evolver to double the oscillators and filters for one FAT sound! If it came down to it, I would sell my Pro One (I never want to) before the Evolver because of the advantages of built in MIDI, more flexibility, more stability, portability, and the increasing costs for maintenance of vintage gear.
This is defiantly a great alternative to the Pro One and should be considered by any one looking to acquire a Pro One because, lets face it, the Pro One is 30 years old, and they will require maintenance which can be very pricey.
April 18, 2010 @ 4:19 pm
Until recently, I had both this and a Moog Voyager. This little unit sat on the shelf for over a year as it didn't play with a keyboard, just these sequences... until I decided to read the manual ;p
I sold the Moog because I prefer the sound and the possibilities for new sounds inherent in this. To my mind, it's the neatest wee synth ever made and I'm never selling it! It's everything a synth ought to be.
March 9, 2010 @ 12:08 am
what JJ141 said. one of the most fun, versatile and unique-sounding synths i've ever played, and one of the coolest instruments period.
March 6, 2010 @ 9:16 pm
I love mine. I also have a Juno 60, a Mono/Poly, an OB-Xa, and an ARP Odyssey. It's MUCH fatter sounding than the Juno, and on par with the Mono/Poly. The OB-Xa and Arp, well... not quite that good. Still, it's closer than you'd think as it's pretty warm, and frankly, just does so many things there's no way I could do with anything else. Nice punchy basses, warm pads, and thick leads from just the analog oscillators, and nice gritty weirdness from the digital side. Makes me wish all my synths had feedback! The mod options outclass anything I own. The presets are so-so, though the bank from the Mono Evolver is cool. It's a programmer's synth, though, so expect to have to dig in to get what you want. The matrix editing is not hard to learn at all. I have no trouble getting anything from standard (but great) analog sounds out of it, to completely new sounds.
VSE Rating


User Rating

Rated 4.19 (522 Votes)

  • Check Price
  • The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace or post a wanted classified.
  • Specifications
  • Polyphony - Monophonic
  • Oscillators - 2 digitally controlled analog oscillators (DCOs) with selectable sawtooth, triangle, saw/triangle mix, and pulse waves (with pulse-width modulation), and hard sync;

    2 digital wavetable oscillators with Prophet VS waves and wave sequencing capability, FM and ring modulation.

    White noise generator.
  • LFO - 4 LFOs each with sawtooth, triangle, ramp, pulse, and random waves. Each LFO can be routed to any destination in the matrix. Can sync to MIDI clock.
  • Filter - 2 Low-pass filters: 1 analog Curtis filter per channel, selectable 2- and 4-pole operation (self-resonating in 4-pole mode) and ADSR envelope generator.

    2 digital 4-pole Highpass filters.
  • VCA - 1 analog VCA per channel with ADSR envelope generator
  • Arpeg/Seq - 16 x 4 analog-style step sequencer that syncs to MIDI clock.
  • Keyboard - None
  • Effects - Digital delays: 3 separate, syncable, stereo delay lines.

    Dual (left and right channel) tunable feedback loops with "Grunge": use feedback as a pitched sound source.

    Distortion! Digital, one for each channel, can be placed before or after analog electronics; and "Output Hack."

    Separate Glide per oscillator.
  • Memory - 512 fully editable programs (four banks of 128).
  • Control - MIDI In, Out, and Thru
  • Date Produced - 2002 - present
  • Resources & Credits
  • Images from Dave Smith Instruments

    Additional info provided by Miles Bader and David Bryce.

    Reviewed December 2007

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