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
March 8, 2010 @ 9:31 pm
The Darkstar has a unique sound and happens to be quite cheap. You can get some massive sounds with the five parts all bubbling and popping together. Throw in the joystick controlled filter and you've got the fun-factor you need to get those creative juices flowing.
January 8, 2010 @ 4:50 pm
This is a very versatile little unit. KNOBS control everything, so it's a breeze to edit; LFOs can sync to MIDI clock; Stereo AUDIO INPUT can be routed through the Ring Mod; Up to FIVE parts can be easily copied/layered/modified and triggered on 1 MIDI channel. (If my math is correct, that's 10 syncable LFOs all running at different values on ONE patch) LFO can be assigned to panning/filter/pitch etc. for crazy layered sounds.

Memory is non too generous. Same goes for polyphony. RCA out. Well-built tho' and all knobs transmit MIDI data.

Layering sounds naturally reduces polyphony....but it's almost worth it to create that monster lead/bass/LFO-crazy/ultra pad patch.

As has been said, this was designed for electronica, so look elsewhere for yer pianos and oboes. But for creating original sounds, this is a fun, rewarding box.
October 21, 2009 @ 3:19 am
I have the Darkstar XP 2 and have to admit, that this machine is some sort of a two-edged blade.

On the one hand, it offers intuitive and quick sound editing, very great fx and sweeps (also because of the joystick) and some unique sound.

On the other hand, it tends to need a lot of fondling around with the sound when mixing and in addition - compared to my other synths, it has quite a weak output level.

But for that price you really get a neat synth, which offers a lot of possibilities, if you know how to handle it's disadvantages.
Gregor Samsa
June 14, 2009 @ 1:26 pm
Not entirely useful on an everyday basis, but I can't gt rid of it. Sounds pretty unique, ad I am able to get some very nice basses and pads out of it. Has a sort of 'hollow' quality to the sound, and you'll need some effects as this has none. But overall, for the $200.00 (or so) range of synths, it's a steal. It's not going to be your main synth however- if you're looking for that, look elsewhere. Nice complimentary unit. Multi-timbral mode is a bit of a pain (but does work), so I use it as a mono.
Jim Wicked
March 5, 2009 @ 4:33 pm
I've bought and sold four of these, and I still miss it. It's a great synth for learning on. Lots of knobs and minimal menu diving involved. I wouldn't dare use it for bass or leads as it has a very thin quality to its sound which can easily get lost in a mix. If you stack voices, you can gets some psychotic pads, though. The filter is very weak and feeble, but it's the weakness of it that makes the band pass filter actually a lot of fun and why I keep buying them over and over again. Nothing else sounds like this synth but honestly, you don't really want anything else to sound like it because it's so bad for the most part.
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Rated 3.65 (315 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 - 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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