Red Sound Systems DarkStar

Red Sound DarkStar Image

British company Red Sound System's first synth, the DarkStar is a table-top 8-voice polyphonic synthesizer suitable for anybody who wants affordable analog sounds for use in most any style of electronic music. Analog sounds are created by DSP-based analog modeling which means you'll get reliable and clean analog-type synth sounds in an economical and professional instrument. The DarkStar features 2 oscillators per voice, 5-part multitimbral set-up, joystick mixing for oscillators, ring modulation, filter resonance and pink/white/blue noise generators.

Its unique look is modeled after RSS's other DJ tools. There are 14 knobs, all of which transmit MIDI data and provide instant hands-on access to the filters and envelopes. The two LFOs and two envelope generators provide plenty of modulation abilities for the oscillators, pulse-width and filter. The filter offers high-, low- and band-Pass filtering with a 12dB/oct slope. It's not spectacular, but it is fairly flexible since both the cutoff and resonance can be modulated by either LFO and EG for a wide range of filter-sweeping effects.

Red Sound DarkStar Image

The DarkStar has a simple yet powerful upgrade system as well. By simply plugging-in an EPROM chip into a compartment on its underside you can get an entirely new synth such as a vocoder or mega-mono synth. The DarkStar certainly has some interesting concepts and good sounds at a very affordable price, though this low price may be noticed in the construction and design of the machine. Still it may just be too good to pass up if you're on a budget!

Red Sound DarkStar Vocoda Image

An optional upgrade kit converts the DARKSTAR into the VOCODA - a fully featured vocoder with five operating modes. Featuring 11-band filtering / noise generation, this simple EPROM chip D.I.Y. upgrade will allow you to combine external sounds (voice or loops) with an external sound source for classic vocoder sounds, that's the Standard Vocoder mode (1). Use the DARKSTAR's internal osc. and 'S' detector for true 'robotic' style vocoding (2). The Filter Mode (3) can be used to process any stereo signal through the 11-band stereo filter for cool filter sweeps. The Sequence-coder Mode (4) and Synthesizer Mode (5) use the 8-step formant sequencer to control the vocoder filters on external sounds or the internal oscillators. Additional MIDI envelope control, vocoder phrase step-recording, 15 preset vowels via sound palette, and more! Upgrade kit includes VOCODA decal for DARKSTAR.

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The link above will take you to an eBay search for this synth to see active listings with more images, specs and information. If you don't find it there, try looking in our forum marketplace. Our marketplace gets thousands of visits every week so make sure to check back often if you want to buy or sell a synth.

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Are you looking to buy or sell a Red Sound Systems DarkStar? Post an ad in Gear For Sale or a request in Gear Wanted. For spare parts and repair services check out Gear Services & Other Goods. Our forums also has a Buyer’s Guide section where you can ask for advice on buying synthesizers.

34 Visitor comments
February 11, 2009 @ 1:27 pm
This is a FUN unit to have around for those of us who kind of got into synths in the interim-like when the sound engines were true-analog but the programming interfaces were all buttons and (gag) hex or decimal! For $200 new it gives you all the knobs and LEDs you could hope for (and as mentioned even a JOYSTICK!) and they all send SYSEX so you can record the changes. Conceiveably the darned thing could be a control surface for your DAW or a software synth if you wanted to do the work. This is maybe the perfect unit for hands-on learning of additive synthesis basics, especially for the aural-tactile cognitive aspects. The factory presets remind me of my beloved Poly 800. Be warned, at least on the original versions, all the inputs/outputs are RCA, not 1/4" phono.
February 4, 2009 @ 8:22 pm
This was the first synth I ever bought. I bought it with an MS2000R and the DS sadly sat unused for a year as the MS2000 was so much easier to use. Once I plugged it in again and started figuring out how to use it, this quickly surpassed the Korg for my main synth. Fat sounds, a ring mod stick that (once learned) can make beautiful sweeps and ripples. The only real downside is that it can be buzzy sounding sometimes and it can be surprisingly difficult to hunt it down (Hint: 99% of all frustration with this synth can be chalked up to being in the wrong timbre). There is also no volume control (I think it is because Red Sound was intending for this to be sequencer controlled). Bought the Vocoda chip, but it's one or the other and when you swap chips, you lose all your customized sounds.
david holton
January 22, 2009 @ 8:56 pm
i found an original darkstar at a pawn shop 2 months ago, talked them down to 40 bucks for it. this one had no overlay, the wrong power supply, and actually had the Vocoda chip in it. I tracked down the manufacturer and for 80 bucks,which included shipping, I got the overlays, manuals, and the original synth chip.

I absolutely love it. within less than an hour of dropping in the chip, I had it synched up to my Alesis SR-16 drum machine and whipped through the synth track for Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back". This thing sounds like a DX-7 and an oberheim in one box :).

If there is ever a way to bump the polyphony up to, say, 16 voices, I'd say thqt's all it's really missing.

wait till you hear the filter effects. I give this one four and a half stars.
November 17, 2008 @ 10:22 pm
I own the Darkstar XP2 synth. It is really a good analogue sounding piece of hardware. Nice organic pads and crazy bouncy sounds when well tweaked. It's totally hands on witch I think is one of the main ideas for owning hardware. You get really nice sweeps with it and the most interesting part to me, is the joystick handling the FX. Once you've tweaked it right, just let your track run and fly threw your FX gently or wildy with the Joystick. That's where it gets it's full personality. Hope you enjoy trying one of these cool little beasts.
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  • 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 - 8 voices
  • Oscillators - 2 per voice (Osc 1: continuously variable between Sawtooth and square/pulse; OSC 2: Formant or pink / white / blue noise); hard sync-able
  • LFO - 2 with separate speed and delay controls (Ramp, Triangle, Square, Sine, Pulse, Sample & hold, Random waveforms); MIDI sync-able
  • Effects - Auto-Panning, Tremolo, Fixed frequency Ring Modulation, Portamento
  • Filter - 12dB/oct resonant with low-, high- and band-pass
  • Keyboard - None
  • Memory - 64 patches
  • Control - MIDI (5-parts)
  • Date Produced - 1999

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