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In-depth Feature:  Dave Smith Instruments Evolver
Nick B writes: .

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The Sequencer
Right, now we’ve got that lot out of the way we’ll take a quick look at the sequencer. For Evolver has one, based on the good old-fashioned analog variety such as the Korg SQ-10. The Evolver gives you four parameters per step, like having four sequencers really. The each of the four sequencers is treated like a modulation source and as such can be routed to any of the listed destinations. Pitch values can either be set via the value of the relevant knob, or by programming in step mode with a MIDI keyboard – a lot easier in most cases. Suffice to say that it is possible to create some incredibly complex sequence patterns, particularly when combined with the Delay Unit, as is ably demonstrated within the presets. The only parameter I could see missing was a Glide function – in some analogue sequencers this is like portamento but can be applied to control signals too. Traditionally this can enable long evolving step changes, but to be honest, it’s not something that the Evolver is crying out for!

In Action
Evolver is a complex piece of kit and not one that the novice synthesist is going to find immediately simple to use. The interface does require some concentration to work with – but don’t get me wrong, considering what you have access to, Dave Smith has done quite a great job in making it easy to navigate. It’s one of those synths that you can start off with the intention of making or editing a sound to suit your needs and end up on a major sonic journey, especially when running the sequencer. Frankly, it’s kind of hard to know when to stop and reminds me of working with modular synths, but this one is almost pocket size! Once you know your way around though, you can get to the parameter you need without too much squinting at the matrix.

Something that takes a little getting used to is not having a dedicated volume knob, while it’s simple to hit the main button and reach for knob 3, sometimes you might want to ride the level while tweaking one or two of the other parameters.

One thing I did find a little disconcerting was the regular flashing of the clip LED. Given the sheer number of parameters, it can be hard to track down exactly where the overload is occurring – it could be any one of the levels of four Oscillators for instance, but this is something that will become more intuitive as you get a feel for the instrument. A quick response from Dave assured me that occasional clip flashing is a healthy thing and with hotter signals, the overdrive is part of the desired sound.

More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • Dave Smith Instruments WWW
  • Evolver Yahoo Group
  • Evolver V2.0 OS update
  • A collection of Evolver Sounds
  • Watch Dave Smith + Evolver Video @NAMM

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