Formanta Polivoks

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Formanta Polivoks

Postby Solderman » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:35 pm

Love the filter on the Polivoks, and Jexus' audio demos on his website had me GASsing for one. Problem is, I'm in the U.S. and would prefer to not have to pay the outrageous shipping prices from that ebay seller in Saratov, and more importantly, I would need a technician local to these shores who has parts and can repair them.

Any U.S. residents on this board who own one and can give some advice? Any advice in general on this bit of kit?

"Lots of people are nostalgic for analogue. I suspect they're people who never had to work with it." - Brian Eno
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Postby OriginalJambo » Sat Nov 17, 2007 6:47 pm

My Polivoks is currently in the repair shop for a problem that developed (hum on the audio outputs) fairly recently after I got a hold of it. This may have been my doing when fiddling around with the keyboard assembly in order to fix a loose key and failed contact.

Anyway the Polivoks does have a very nasty, sharp razor-like sound and, unlike most analogue synths, comes equipped with a mean band pass filter setting. I'm gathering it's similar in tone to an MS-20 from what I hear.

It's pretty basic offering two oscillators with 5 waves each (tri, saw, square, pulse 1 and pulse 2) with octaves and detune setting (2nd osc only), cross modulation, a mixer offering external input to the filter as well as the oscillator levels, two ADSR generators (both with loopable AD stages), duophony, and portamento that only affects oscillator 1. The LFO has sample and hold and other common shapes as well.

The sound however is kick ass. Here's a clip of me fooling around with mine when it was fully operational.

Apparently mine is a very early version (1982) that sounds a bit dirtier than the later models. I have to check the serial number to confirm this when I get it back though.

They are a bit niche so I wouldn't recommend one as your only/first synth. Oh and check out memo's video on YouTube - that's definitely worth a look.
Last edited by OriginalJambo on Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby otto » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:35 pm

You can buy a modular filter now fron Analogue Heaven but remember thinking the filter was fairly expensive. There is also info to build your own if your opposed to getting the actual synth.
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Postby Solderman » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:36 pm

OJ, may I ask which repair shop you took your Polivoks to?

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Postby premieklovn » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:39 pm

A friend of mine has a polivoks and I've fallen in love with it. It sounds so dirty. Especially in duophonic mode.
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Postby OriginalJambo » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:45 pm

Solderman wrote:OJ, may I ask which repair shop you took your Polivoks to?


James Walker at Synth Repair Services in the UK. Heartily recommended by a fellow synth lover, he is certainly one of the best known specialised synthesiser techs in the UK. Right now he hasn't started on it yet though.

Regarding a tech based in America, I don't have a clue sorry. Why don't you PM memo? He owned a Polivoks and probably has a tech in mind if his should ever fail.
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Postby Solderman » Sat Nov 17, 2007 7:57 pm

Will do, Cheers!

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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby Solderman » Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:42 pm

Thread Resurrection

Just wanted to bring some closure here. I finally bought a 'voks, with a custom CV/Gate mod, in very good condition from a member here. Serial says 1982/64 so I guess this means it's a very early model! It only took me 18 months from the original GAS attack from hearing Jexus' demos!

------======Begin boring subjective banter======------
I would describe the sound as somewhere between the 70's Moogs(with less bass) and an exaggeration of the distortedness of the Korg35 filter in the MS10 and early MS20's. Contrary to its reputation, it's quite capable of sounding "pretty", at least until you turn up the resonance. :twisted: If it really is true the sound from model to model can be quite different, I feel fortunate to have one that sounds exactly like I had hoped.

There are some disappointing things about it:
1) The so-called Filter FM isn't enough to do much more than detune VCO1 a bit, and there's no LF mode for VCO2
2) You get 2 envelopes but no Envelope Pitch mod or hard sync - imagine how brutal this could sound with a hard-sync sweep!
3) No pitch or mod wheels, so no simultaneous VCO vibrato from the panel - CV/Gate allows for it though
4) Volume, cutoff and resonance pots need cleaning - no suprise if it's nearly 27 years old
5) Keys action is soft and mushy, although seems to be responsive enough
6) No pulsewidth mod, but not too worried about it
7) Tuning trimpots on this model are flaky - if it gets moved, you may have to retune it :cry:

That's it though. It basically kicks ass. :D
My only real concern at this point is finding a tech in the States that could work on it, should it need it. Cross-referencing soviet to U.S. part numbers alone is bound to be a pain in the ass, let alone failure of any irreplaceable parts. It's definately worth the risk.
------======End boring subjective banter======------

Here's a photo of it, now in my rig above my Jupe:
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I don't have any recordings yet, but if anyone is interested, I'll make some sounds. Thought I might start with OJambo's advice from a while back and try out some drum sounds with just the noise and filter.

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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby Murderhausen » Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:07 pm

Put the amp envelope in repeat mode with sustain at zero and play with the attack and decay at values very close to zero for some amazing AM sounds.
Voyager XL*LittlePhatty*ElektronTrinity*ProOne*Mono/Poly*NordLead2X/3*Juno106*JX3P*JX10*JP8000*VirusKB*Blofeld*Ion*OctaveKitten*Polivoks*MS2000*AN1X*AlphaJuno1/2*ESQ1*SVC350*MG1*CS15*DX7II*etc...
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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby otto » Fri Apr 24, 2009 1:18 pm

This was mine and I have to agrre about it being able to do really nice "mellow" analog sounds in addition to the aggro sounds it is usually associated with. It's a great sounding synth. One of the biggest reasosn I sold it in the first place was that I had no idea who would fix it if it developed problems. If I hadn't had that constant nagging concern I might have kept it. While being limited, it was one of the best sounding monosynths I've owned.
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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby Solderman » Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:25 pm

Otto, I found your old studio photo(awesome stand, btw):
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I agree, the LP is a much less risky choice, and is also a great sounding monosynth.
My thanks to you and to dogpupkus for taking good care of it. I intend to do the same. I'm thinking if it breaks, I'll just have to mail it to OJambo's tech in the UK.

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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby OriginalJambo » Sat Apr 25, 2009 1:03 am

Solderman wrote:I'm thinking if it breaks, I'll just have to mail it to OJambo's tech in the UK.


Ha! I'm sure James will be looking forward to it. :D

Good to hear it arrived in one piece and that hasn't managed to disappoint.
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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby Black Tomorrow » Sat Apr 25, 2009 7:30 am

Solderman -

Try putting your 'voks through some massive reverb. It's amazing how much just this one effect transforms the sound of this beast.
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Re: Formanta Polivoks

Postby Solderman » Sun Apr 26, 2009 12:56 am

Thanks for the tips, peeps. I have to admit, it's already pissing me off. :evil: After many hours of fiddling with the pitch trimpots, the second oscillator still can't pitch track worth a goddamn, LFO depth to oscillator 2 randomly offsets the detune when it is turned back to zero, it makes mild popping noises for key on and key off, and this cutoff pot is in such piss-poor shape, it's probably going to have to be replaced in a month or two. Why I put up with this bullshit and pay good money for it, is a mystery.

Here's some noises from yesterday.

edit: So a few days later, I've come to the conclusion that the pitch scaling on oscillator 2 has a somewhat exponential slope referenced from the lowest to highest octave, instead of a purely linear one. Best I can get Oscillator 2 to track with Oscillator 1 is about 2 1/2 octaves, then it suddenly goes sharp. Might be ok, depending on what it's being used for. Other two weird things about this are: the amount of exponential tracking changes with the range dial--Higher pitch(4',2') is worse than the lower; and the pitch tracking changes entirely in duophonic mode, usually for the worse.
Modulation knob causing offset for pitch turned out to only be an issue in duophonic mode, so I'll accept that and move on. I shouldn't be miffed about a scratchy filter cutoff pot on a 25+ year old device, but it's still frustrating.

Now I ask you, with all of the flaws mentioned in this post, none of which were specified by the seller, in contrast with the rarity of this synth in the United States, especially with a CV/Gate mod, would you pay more than $800 for it?

"Lots of people are nostalgic for analogue. I suspect they're people who never had to work with it." - Brian Eno
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