Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver

Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver Image

In 2005 Dave Smith Instruments released their third Evolver - The Poly Evolver. Their flagship instrument, it's a four-voice synthesizer (essentially four complete Evolvers) with a 5-octave keyboard, pitch and mod wheels, and a ton of knobs and switches in a clean, clear, easy-to-navigate layout. It can be a four-voice poly synth, four mono synths (each with its own sequencer), or any combination in between. The Evolver series resurrects some of the oscillator, filter and other component technologies from the classic Sequential Circuits Prophet-VS and Pro-One synths. The Evolver was a huge hit the moment it appeared and this is the super-hands-on-real-time-programmable-polyphonic version of the little beast.

Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver Image

Each voice is a complete Evolver with four oscillators per voice: two analog 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 Prophet VS wavetables plus 32 user wavetables (loaded via MIDI only). Each voice 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.). One of its best features is the MIDI-syncable 16-step 4-parameter analog-style sequencer (with each patch having its own sequence) which really brings things to life with evolving sounds. The LFOs, step sequencer, and three separate delays can all be synced for massive, rhythmic, time-based effects in stereo. A major unique feature of the Evolver is its true stereo signal path. For each Evolver voice, the left and right channels get their own independent analog oscillator, lowpass filter, highpass filter, VCA and effects. This allows for pretty nice stereo imaging effects.

The Poly Evolver essentially quadruples all those Evolver specs! In Program mode, all four voices play the same sound. In Combo mode, voices can be allocated however desired: stack all 4 for a huge unison sound, split or layer the keyboard in any configuration, and/or play one or all sequences at the same time. Each voice can also respond to a different MIDI channel. Each voice has its own stereo output jacks in addition to the mix output. Stereo audio input can be routed to any or all of the voices, enabling parallel audio processing of external stereo or mono signals. The output of one voice can be routed to the input of another for interesting double-processing effects. And multiple Poly Evolvers can be daisy-chained for increased polyphony!

Dave Smith Instruments Poly Evolver Image

Full of hundreds of jaw-dropping preset patches, the Poly Evolver offers four times the punch of the original Evolver. The Poly Evolver finally answered prayers for a truly hands-on, programmable synthesizer version of the Evolver, and Dave Smith went all out on this one. The keyboard is semi-weighted with velocity and aftertouch, the wood end caps and overall design make for a great, classic look. The Pitch/Mod wheels are back-lit. With 77 endless-turn knobs and 59 switches, pretty much all parameters are within easy reach. There is a Poly Evolver Rack version of this keyboard, but where is the fun in that? Unless, of course, you "Poly Chain" one or more Poly Evolver Rack models to a master Poly Evolver keyboard for tons more polyphony and Evolver madness! The Poly Evolver would soon be followed up by the much less expensive Mono Evolver, a monophonic keyboard version of the original Evolver.

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51 Visitor comments
Roodillon
March 14, 2014 @ 6:03 pm
Get the Poly Evolver Editor software from SoundTower for $49. Then you can easily back up the presets that you want to keep and much more. I would call it essential. As for presets to start from scratch, preset number 128 in each bank is a "basic" preset that you can use to make your own patches from scratch. And you can always just overwrite an existing preset too, make it what you want, call it what you want, whatever. You can do this without the editor software but it's so much easier with the editor. I'd say that using the editor cut my learning curve on my PEK PE by about 90%.
Maxwell S
March 12, 2014 @ 10:13 pm
If i want to reset the keyboard but keep some of the sounds i've made already, how do i do this? Also is there a preset where I can just start from scratch as some of the presets aren't great! Literally love this keyboard though, its amazing.
Roodillon
March 8, 2014 @ 2:05 am
@fredrik I agree that it is not a valid comparison to compare a PEK to "normal" synths. The PE is in a class by itself. There will never be another synth quite like it. I get the impression that he is trying to use it as more of a workstation for live use but, although technically it could do that, it shines most a synth for sound designers and experimenters of which I am one. I pull the craziest sounds from my PEK!
Roodillon
March 8, 2014 @ 2:01 am
No problem Mark! I'm glad I could help. I love my PEK. I could have bought a Prophet 12 instead but I chose the PEK because of its analog oscillators, audio in jack, and sequencer. I also bought the editing software from SoundTower. It cut my learning curve by about 90%. It's easier to see what each knob does and givesyou much easier access to deep parameters. I run my PEK through a Korg KP3+ and that can get crazy! Now I am saving for a Prophet 12, I had trouble deciding which one to buy so I decided to get both! I'm selling off a bunch of gear that I don't really need to raise the money.
fredrik
March 6, 2014 @ 2:53 pm
@john holmes
I respect that you don't like it but i think you're making the big mistake comparing the PEK to vintage analogs.
 
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  • 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 - 4 voices
  • Oscillators - 16 (4 per voice):
    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 - 16 total:
    4 LFOs per voice, 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 per voice: 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 per voice.
  • VCA - 1 analog VCA per voice with ADSR envelope generator
  • Arpeg/Seq - Four 16 x 4 analog-style step sequencers that syncs to MIDI clock.
  • Keyboard - 5-octave, semi-weighted action keyboard with velocity and aftertouch.
  • 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 (4 banks of 128) and 384 Combos (3 banks of 128).
  • Control - MIDI In, Out, and Thru; Poly Chain; Pedal/CV1 and Pedal/CV2 inputs: responds to expression pedals or control voltages ranging from 0 to 5 VDC
  • Date Produced - 2005

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