ASM’s Hydrasynth is one of the most capable sound design instruments available now, packed with modulation features for its polyphonic architecture. Version 2.0 packs expanded memory and new modulation and envelope tools, including quantization and the ability to advance one at a time through their unique LFO Steps.
Now, 2.0 is maybe a little bold as a name for this release – though mainly that’s because 1.0 did so much already. They do build nicely on the design, though, and adding quantization will be a big deal for folks, as will per-voice modulation. That attention to detail certainly what we’d expect from Glen Darcey and the experienced team over at Ashun Sound Machines, having followed their past work.
The free firmware update for all their machines (including their stupidly affordable entry-level model) packs a ton of tweaks for performance and sound design. New features:
- Expanded memory to 8 banks (49, Desktop, Explorer)
- Voice modulator – basically, per-voice modulation
- OSC Bit reducer
- LFO quantizer
- ENV quantizer
- LFO Step Advance – so this takes the existing step-sequenced LFO and lets you advance one step at a time through it, as with a trigger. That opens up other nice performance possibilities; it’s a clever idea.
- Global FX bypass
- Increased vibrato resolution
- New sustain pedal options including Sostenuto
- More LED options
- Glissando in glide options
- Arp range to 8 octaves
- Arp Step Offset parameter
- More rand/init shortcuts
It’s a powerful instrument, and it must be said as well that you shouldn’t overlook modulation possibilities on integrated instruments, even if they’re semi-modular rather than fully modular.
Remember when this price range was all about some vanilla-ish PCM-based keyboards or stripped-down “workstations” and you were lucky to get a few cheap-feeling knobs? Now you’ve got great options on a budget.
The top rival to me would likely be the Sequential Take 5, for a different take on what this class of synth should be – or you could try to find a KORG prologue, with its multi-engine support. (Slightly cheaper, but worth considering – the Waldorf-based Studiologic Sledge is an option minus all these sound exras, or if you can sacrifice some polyphony, I like the KORG minilogue xd for its multi-engine support, letting you load custom sound tools.)
Check it out in action – I especially like the quantize and step advance features, plus per-voice modulation is a big deal:
There’s an updated manager utility, too: