Sonic LAB: Behringer DeepMind 12 Review

The new Behringer Poly - we take a look      20/10/16

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Rarely has a new synth caused so much commotion and hullabaloo as the announcement of the new DeepMind 12 from Behringer, indeed in the preview video I put up last week, asking for comments and questions - we got over 400 responses.

So here it is - the Analogue 12 voice poly synth from Behringer - that's right, they really went for it. With discrete analogue components, it's got 2 DCOs per voice, Lowpass VCF, VCA, 2x LFOs, 3x Envelopes, arpeggiator, control sequencer, 8 MOD slots and four DSP effects with algorithms from TC Electronic, Midas and Klark Teknik - oh and Wifi, and 1024 patches in 8 banks.

First up, let's tackle the build quality issues, it's pretty solid, with a reasonable quality 49 key keybed (with mono aftertouch), front panel controls and an LCD display for the deeper functions.

Keybed is okay, not the best, but certainly not the worst I've felt, faders are a little wobbly, but I checked this against my Juno 106 - where the inspiration for this synth started, and they are just the same. I'm told that the unit I have is a Tool Made Sample and still has some modifications to the hardware before production, (PCB mounting is to be strengthened)  and the faders may be more solid on final production. As will the Wifi be working - not so on this model I'm afraid.

I don't have any concerns about this, assuming they do what they say. Plus it has the now standard Behringer 3 year warranty.

Raw Sounds

So in this review I tried to concentrate on the basics - starting with the DCOs, yes they have limited waves, just Saw and Square on DCO 1 and a Tone Mod Square Wave on DCO2 - it would have been nice to see more, but it's not a crippling limitation, you can still get to a lot of places with them. They sound okay too, not perhaps the deepest or brightest I've heard, but given the enormous number of modulation possibilities it's not necessarily  a problem. You can't cross modulate between them nor use them as modulation sources.

There's multiple voice modes - Unison 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 you can stack them up big with the detune fader, there are also MONO 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 too and Poly-6 and Poly-8 - for emulating note stealing of other synths.

VCF

It's a resonant Low Pass Filter switchable between 2 and 4 pole and has some really pleasing harmonics, you can't drive it and it's not multi-mode, so it's not the most flexible, but it does sound quite nice, the variable HPF and Bass Boost circuit helps scuplt the sound, with the boost circuit adding extra oomph to the low end - this is apparently something the Juno 106 had built in.

LFOs

Twin LFOs with Sine/Tri/Sq/Saw Up/Saw Down/S&H and S&Glide , syncable to tempo with plenty of beat divisions. Up to about 1k rate, but you can add to this via the mod busses to increase into more FM territory. LFOs can be routed to PW,Filter, Tone Mod and DCO pitch without the use of any mod slots - there are a lot of parameters here I can't think of anything missing - with the exception of one shot mode.

Envelopes

3 Envelopes, VCA,VCF and a Mod Env, all can be routed pretty much anywhere, with Key, LFO1, LFO2, Loop and Seq trigger sources - the unique thing is that they have adjustable curves per stage, so you can have a linear attack, Log decay, exponential release, or anything in between, they do snappy too. Almost every single parameter of each envelope can be a mod destination too.

Arp/Seq

Arepggiator has a whopping 6 octave range, with all the usual modes, including chord mode and a set of user editable patterns - which are applied to the mode you select - you can edit the Gate length and velocity for up to 16 steps all clockable and beat dividable.

Sequencer is a control sequencer, not designed for recording notes and playing back, but more for creating a step of control data - this can of course be routed to the pitch of DCOs in the mod matrix, slew is available too for less steppy steps -  it's an extremely powerful mod source.

Mod Slots

8 total, with 30 something sources, including note number, voice number, foot controller and over 130 destinations, including FX parameters and the ability to modulate the depth of another slot, you are unlikely to run out of possibilities.

Effects

For a small word, this has a very big impact on what you can do with the synth, with four FX slots and 33 algorithms it's covers most bases - reverbs, delays, chorus, flanger, phaser, EQ, filter, distortion, compression and a noise gate - this is hand as some of the distortion will add noise. You also get 10 routing algorithms, simple four in a row to more complex feedback routings, this allows that classic Shimmer FX routing. FX can be send or Insert type, but the real clincher is the ability to modulate FX parameters via the Mod slots, not all parameters, (delay time for instance is not available) but plenty. This opens up a world of sonic mayhem.

Connections

Stereo balanced out on TRS jacks, USB for MIDI - class compliant, plus access to the MIDI I/O ports (there's also a thru), Pedal/CV in lets you send CV signals into the synth - though you can't get too excited - only low frequency signals work, go too high and it loses the ability to read the rate. Sustain pedal input also can be used as a trig/gate in for driving the sequencer. Sadly no audio input for accessing those juicy effects. Wouldn't it be great if Audio over USB was possible, sending DAW signals to the FX engine and having a wet/dry return ? Oh well.

Couple of other things, most controls are 0-255 value, and can be set to transmit CC or NRPN for higher resolution. Faders can also be set to pass through or jump mode.

Yes, there is a fan, this may bother some people - I must admit, I'd have preferred it if there wasn't, but you can dial back the speed in global settings to make it almost inaudible, (or off) or if you are working the outdoor stage in Vegas, you might want it up full.

Wifi - not a new thing  - the X-Air Mixers have this, but an interesting development, not only does this mean you can run an editor (iOS, Android, Mac/PC) remotely, but you can send/receive  MIDI to the unit too, there's plenty of configurability. I could not test this as it was not functioning in this pre-production model.

What's it good at?

Well I would say this synth excels at large FX pads, bonkers modulations and yes, decent bases and unison sounds are also possible. It's not got that raw Moog or Erebus x-factor, but eminently usable nonetheless.

There has also been some concern over the menu diving issue, but with each section having it's own edit button, I didn't find this an issue, and most people who've been presented with the DM12 while it's been here have commented at it's ease of use.

It's an impressive machine, there's no doubting it, the designers have stuffed it full of features that should keep most inquisitive synthesists busy. I am impressed. However, there is one thing - there is no program bank or memory buttons, for fast changes -  to change programs it's the +/- buttons around the data wheel. For the live performer,  this might be an issue, you could always use a MIDI controller, and considering the price this would still leave you with change. Additionally, you might well wish this was multitimbral or at least split keyboard but I guess as it's priced at $999 (UK Price TBC) you might be asking too much.

But even so, it's hard to think of any reasons why you wouldn't seriously consider this machine if you are looking to get an analog poly.

 

 

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