February 1, 2007


by Chris Randall

I know I'm a Johnny-Come-Lately to this whole Dave Smith thing, but I finally nutted up and bought an Evolver this week. It just showed up, and boy, howdy is this little guy the bomb. I'd have a hard time coming up with a better value-for-money in the music industry than the tabletop Evolver, and that's a fact.

First nice thing I'll note, since I haven't really seen it mentioned in the reviews I read, is the construction quality. It is incredibly rare to be able to buy an electronic music instrument that was actually made in the USA any more, but quite frankly, I've seen other boxes in this price range that were far less capable that were made out of extruded plastic and sheet aluminum, so I fail to see where the cost-cutting comes in to play. This thing is heavy and is made out of thick steel. High quality pots and a nice big display. I have no complaints whatsoever about the build quality. The panel is dense, and maybe a bit tricky to read in a live situation, but that's the only thing I could fault about the package itself.

Sound-wise, it is fantastic. The addition of the DCOs and the delay really make it sound contemporary, as opposed to other modern analogs, most of which I am not impressed with. There are some very crafty presets that make use of the feedback path of the on-board delays, and I thought of about 20 songs while I was sifting through the included sounds. In short, that's what a new synth is supposed to do. They don't all do it, that's for sure.

So, I'll have to spend a little time with it to be able to offer actual opinions about signal flow and programmability and such, but for now, it'll set me up just right. I'm fairly happy I bought this. Go buy one now. Seriously. You'll thank me later.



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Feb.02.2007 @ 2:12 PM
I have a PEK and wouldn't be the same without an evolver. However the MEK/desktop is still an awesome choice if you just use it for tracking.... I personally love sitting down and banging out some chords with the poly though and having the flexiblity to have 4 sounds running. Folks hem and haw over the "digital signal flow" and all but at the end of the day the evolvers give you the flexability to make of them what you will.

A true instrument.


Feb.02.2007 @ 3:46 PM
I've owned one for a while. This is probably totally unnecessary for all you hard-core folks, but I got tired of reading posts from confused new users about how to use it and bemoaning the spartan manual that came with it, so I wrote the "Complete Guide To The Evolver":

link [www.carbon111.co...]">link [www.carbon111.co...]

(Not my site, Carbon is hosting the file)


Feb.02.2007 @ 4:09 PM
the HP filter is really just fot tirying things up. it can be pre/post distortion which is helpful. either way its useful as you can get some truly huge subs once you start messing w/the envelopes.

using the sequencer as a modulation source is great fun too. the matrix doesn't bother me at all. i got used to it really quickly and like having everything right under my fingertips. i dont have to reach for anything. just press a button adn turn a knob. it's pretty fast. i guess i'm a weirdo though.. my first synth was a yamaha CS1-X.


Feb.02.2007 @ 4:52 PM
Love my desktop evolver. Unlike many users, I don't mind the matrix at all. I pretty much program it with closed eyes!

Speaking of construction quality, the knob caps are kinda loose and come off too easy and I don't think that I'm the only one who has this problem as I've seen way too many evolvers with missing knobs...

Feature-wise, I wish it had some sort of a sequencer play mode (backward, random, forward-backward, etc.) am I alone on this?


Feb.02.2007 @ 6:14 PM
I'm a huge Evolver fan too. The best thing I ever did was to upgrade my desktop version to a MEK. I'm not bemoaning the desktop at all. It's incredible bang for the buck, but the keyboard version is SO much nicer to program. Very few menus and all the important stuff has its own knob or button. I create WAY more patches with this than I ever did with the desktop.

Only trouble is, the minute you get a MEK you start lusting after a poly ;)


Feb.03.2007 @ 2:32 AM
re: the highpass,
The sound is fine but the major problem with it in my opinion is that it's on a different row from the lowpass frequency knob. So not only can't you tweak both parameters at once (which of course you can't do with any evolver params) but you have to hit the shift button to edit it. To me, adjusting the highpass and lowpass frequencies together is most of what makes a hp-lp combo fun and interesting.

Feb.03.2007 @ 9:12 AM
Chris Randall
Well, I'll say this much: after a couple days, and to back up what nousrnm just said: this is a programmer's box, not a tweaker's box. The tabletop model is simply not set up very well for live tweaking. I believe I alluded to the Split8 in an earlier post. Programming it is like programming that. Or a DW8000. Not too easy to do live. If one was concerned about live knob twiddling, one should seriously cowboy up and get the MEK.

Obviously, you can just automate the stuff you need in the studio, which is my context, so it doesn't bother me in the slightest.



Feb.03.2007 @ 10:06 AM
tobybear makes a great little midi vst plug-in called "N2CC" that i use all. the. time. with my evo.

link [www.tobybear.de]">link [www.tobybear.de]

it converts incoming midi note values to a corresponding CC value. i use it in places where i would have previously had to use the evo's onboard sequencers (which can be a pain to program, even with the pc editors)..

you can use it to, say, control the pitch of each individual oscillator.. or the waveshape.. whatever.

i use it in energyXT in conjunction with XT's arpeggiators. fun stuff. it's a midi plug, tho, so you need a host that'll support it.


Feb.03.2007 @ 7:09 PM
I guess I need to finally get off my ass and buy the upgrade chip. CC support would be great since I'm still stuck with the original sys-ex only Evo and I've never actually automated the thing or tweaked it with an external controller.

Feb.04.2007 @ 11:10 AM
I've had my desktop evo for 2 years now and have said since I bought it, I've said that is was the best $350 I've ever spent.

re: CCs and tweakability-- The chip upgrade is definitely helpful, as you can, with a midi fader box, tweak more than one parameter at a time. This includes tweaking HP and LP at once.

re: Highpass filter-- I recently discovered in a session of using my evo as a stand-alone drum machine (not the easiest thing to do, but fun nonetheless) that once the HPF is engaged (i.e. a value of at least 1) there is already significant roll-off of the lowend. I'm talkin' around 90Hz at a 12dB slope. The problem with this is that to have the HPF modulated by any source, it has to have a value of at least 1. So, if you want a patch that has modulated HPF, you better not want any deep bass to come through at all. This fact somewhat dimmed my pseudo-drum machine tweaking fun as I could not get both deep kicks and thin highhats.


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