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
mark furst
March 4, 2014 @ 12:54 pm
What's the deal with the Potentiometer/non Potentiometer versions of this synth? I see one on eBay for a reasonable price but it's a non Pot. Are there issues? Can it be upgraded for a reasonable cost?
Roodillon
March 2, 2014 @ 5:12 pm
I realize that I am talking to myself here but I forgot to say that audio inputs were also a major factor in my decision to go with the PE instead of the Prophet 12. The Prophet 12 does not have audio inputs. The audio inputs open up a whole new world of possibilities for the experimenter like me. It's like the PE is the world's best effects pedal when using it that way! My head is spinning around thinking of ways to use the audio ins. First I will run my Monotribe through it, then a guitar, and find out what happens! I do have the main out on my PE routed through a Korg KP3+ and it's crazy!
Roodillon
March 2, 2014 @ 4:50 pm
@Alan mason - the init patch is 128, not 127 as you stated. It is called "Basic Program. I am looking at it right now on my PE. No harm done, I just wanted people who find this thread, just as I did, to get the right information. Cheers Alan!
Roodillon
March 2, 2014 @ 4:39 pm
@john holmes - I purchased my PE to experiment with and design new sounds. That is what the PE is best at. It is NOT a workstation, nor does it try to sound like any other instrument. So it's not the synth if you just want to play keyboard lines, although it could do that. This is an experimenter's synth and if you don't go all in that way then I could see why you might not like it. And although I just started on synths a few years ago (I'm a guitarist first, 35 years) I did my homework and I think I know a decent amount about synthesis. Different horses for different courses my friend!
Roodillon
March 2, 2014 @ 4:29 pm
There most certainly is an init patch on the PE, actually there are four of them. Patch 128 in every bank is called "Basic Program." So why do I, a semi-synth educated amateur, know this and so many others do not? Because I READ THE MANUAL. It plainly states it in the manual. As for the guy who just posted and said that it sounds thin and bad, well no offense but you must not know how to get the best sounds out of it. This thing sounds fantastic. I could have bought a Prophet 12 but I chose the PE because it has an analog side and also because of the sequencer. I'll buy a Prophet 12 later.
 
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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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