RED SOUND DARKSTAR
Category: Products / synth / modelling poly
Added: 06-Jul-01 | Author: admin
New price: 400 ish | S/H price: 100 quid or so
RED SOUND DARKSTARI gotta get this DarkStar review out the way, i've had the unit for a while, and although i didn't get as much into it as i'd like, it's time to do a basic preview, and i gotta say this is the hardest item review i ever had to write, that is kinda how this unit is, hard to describe, hard to place.
The Dark-Star is an 8 note poly 5 part multi desktop synth module that can also be rackmounted with the optional rack-kit. It's built real well, and the knobs feel well smooth & solid... metal plate box, etc. Interestingly the OS is housed in a removable rom chip, so they can upgrade or offer optional plugin roms to make dark-Star do different things.
First up, this is like owning a REAL 'old synth'... alot of oldies dont sound superhot, people buy 'em who expect them to bust out classic dance sound cos they are 'analog' and 'old', and they don't often... esp' without some skillful fx and mixing etc... you gotta be pretty creative with old synths, & like an old synth, DarkStar is raw... not lush/modern sounding at all, but when tweaked right, and mixed right, it's pretty versatile... i wouldnt recommend to get this synth to do commercial trance; but darker drum & bass, techno, harder clubsounds & house styles etc, it can even do garage-y organs & bass to go with ok too i guess... mainly i'd say this is a 'synth patterns'/sounds & noises and basslines item more than a chords and chord-riffs item... and it's RAW analog-style sounds all the way.
The hardest thing to grasp about the Dark-star is the way it arranges it's multi_parts. The DarkStar can have 5 sounds on 5 channels at the same time says the literature.. and so it can, but not perhaps how you think !... Most synths that CAN play different sounds on different midi-channels at the same time, work by having 'PARTS' that are assigned to channels, and then they assign 'programmes'/sounds to those 'PARTS'. So with the Dark-Star you assume that you can do the same mebbe?... nope!... that's NOT how this baby works.
How it works is, each 'programme', (8 'programmes' X 8 banks = total 64), contains 5 'PARTS' (or layers)... and each 'PART'/layer can have a seperate or the same midi channel. So, you can have 5 sounds on 5 channels, two sounds on two channels; 2, 3, 4 or 5 sounds on the same channel, etc PER 'programme'... You HAVE to select a programme_position FIRST, and THEN select a 'PART' (or layer) inside that 'programme', edit the patch/sound on that PART/layer from scratch and then assign it to the midi-channel you want. (This goes on up to a max of 5 'PARTS'/Layers).. so, in a way these 5 PARTS are more like layers of a programme that CAN be assigned to different midi channels if needed... a 'PART' is a complete synth 'patch' with osc's, filters, envelopes, lfo's etc... all the controls on the front panel are included in each layer, so as you flip between PARTS/layers with the 5 'PART' buttons, the controls take over abd control/adjust each PART/layer selected.
Unfortunately, you CAN'T select any of the 5 'PARTS' on different midi channels and assign a previously created sound to it. bit of a drag eh?.. cos if you created a killer sound before, you can START a new track with that sound by grabbing the 'programme' that the 'killer-sound' resides on, but once you start, you can't grab ANOTHER previously made sound from another programme to add to that arrangement !... Doh !!!
So for newbies etc who want to easily assign sounds to multi-channels as they work, this is a no-no, and i think newbies would be dissapointed with the dark-Star as it is not as immeadiatly gratifying as stuff like the Electribes etc and is hard to get to grips with, but if they are persistent and want something deeper then they might like it.. what I mean is, synths like say the Nova or Korg ER, or MS2000 etc .. you press a button, presets play with FX etc, it's so easy for newbies until they can learn to create sounds themselves... Dark Star need more work and skills to get the best from it.
Anyways, each 'programme' has two oscillators per 'PART', with selectable osc' 'Types' inc' noise, each tunable by octaves and divisions and fine-tune, and you got sync, pitch-mod & pulsewidth (and ring-mod) and each osc is continuabley variable from saw to square wave... 2 lfo's both midi clockable with about 8 shapes, two envelopes, filter with: band, lo & hi pass etc... All controls on the interface send and receive midi controllers meaning you can manipulate and record those manipulations into a sequencer as you tweak. Also the dark-Star has an audio-in source option available for oscillator_2, so you can synthesis other sound sources. So, using Parts/layers you can take a whole Dark-Star synth 'programme' (with it's 5 'parts').. assign PART_1 to a twin osc sound, then copy that PART_1 over to PART_2 to get a 4 osc stacked sound, or you can stack 5 parts on the same channel to get a bass sound with 10 oscillators on 5 layers. However, don't think this is like some fixed 'unison' mode, you wont get osc' sync over the 5 PARTS. Despite that minor setback, this layering allows you to make some pretty fat stuff !!
I wasn't over the moon about the filter in lo-pass mode initialy, it didn't sound too 'sweet' to my ears... but everytime i went to use Dark-Star, strangely i always came up with something really interesting cos it forced me to work different and make all my sounds from scratch... after more time with it tho I realise now that I fell into a classic mistake, and one which again illustrates how much like an authentic 'Old analog' synth this is...
You get so used to modern synths output level & optimum filter sonic range, and if you try to use Dark Star based on the same mixer gain & eq settings etc it doesnt compliment it... Like some of the old synths, I found that with Dark Star's filter in Lopass, you need to wack up the gains and roll down the filter, and, once that's done, just as with an old analog, be VERY careful about your speakers!!! heh heh... once you get that optimum filter range complimented by your outboard settings then you tune in to the Lopass mode's smoothness & sweetness.... One thing... this unit does have earth-shattering bass-end... very looooooow..!!
No arpeggiators, but clockable lfo's and full parameter remote control too of all knobs... AND that audio input feed which can yeild very wierd results.. try stuffing a vocal thru that and sweeping a filter on it etc.!!... only 2 outs tho, so if you do more than two sounds on seperate PARTS/Midi-Channels, they can't each have an output... but using two sounds/PARTS max, get's you sperate mono outs by panning each PART hard Left and Right. Live you can easily fliup manually between 'programmes, and each 'prog' can have two or more sounds ready to go for your next track, also you can flip manually between PARTS, and then tweak the controls live. Also to this end, the buttons are LED lit for easy finding live as you change and the units is generally well laid out.
I guess anyone who can understand the finer details of it's mod routing and filter options etc will get the spec's from the web, brochures or mags, there's no point me reeling them of to pad things... what is more important is how it sounds and how it fits in with ability level and styles & expectations, (and the routings for that joystick!!)
It's really hard to say what I think about this synth. You could get some massive bass sounds outa this tho, but it needs outboard or s/w fx to bring it alive like most synths without fx. anyhow... an unusual unit, worth a look if your a into stuff a bit harder, alternative or techno and know how to make a few sounds. Actually, it could be quite good for making wierd psychadelic layered and sweeping moving trance/tribal stuff, it does thin top end classic-trance sorta stuff well with that hi-pass... 5 layers all moving around ?, it wouldnt matter if they were all on the same outs, if you fed 'em into the same reverb feild it wouldnt hurt the mix that bad, or you could sample one or more parts part etc etc. All-in-all, If you forget names, this is quite a techno dream box really for the creative.. just add some pedals, a fuzzbox, an MPC and a sweaty room !!....- out
- CONTROLS / FEATURES
- POLYPHONY 8 Voices
- MULTITIBRAL 5 Parts
- Each part features: Level, Transpose and Note range setting.
- Tremolo effect modulated from one LFO. Pan effect modulated from one LFO or Envelope.
- 2 Oscillators Each continuously variable between Sawtooth and square/pulse output.
- Each can be de-tuned and can be modulated by one of the envelopes/LFOs.
- For each the pulse width can be varied and modulated by one of the envelopes/LFOs.
- Oscillator 2 can be transposed 5, 7, 12, 16, 17, 19 or 24 semitones.
- Oscillator 2 can be switched between: Normal, Formant wave, Pink noise, White noise, Blue noise, Input 1,Input 2.
- MIXER X/Y Joystick (X axis = oscillator mix, Y axis = Ring Modulation)
- 12dB per octave resonant
- The cut-off frequency can be modulated by the LFO or envelope and set to track the keyboard.
- The resonance can be varied and modulated by one of the envelopes or LFOs.
- The output can be switched between off, low pass, band pass and high pass.
- 2 x ADSR envelopes, each of which can be set to respond to key velocity
- 2 x LFOs, each with a separate speed and delay control.
- Each LFO can be set to output one of the following waveforms: Ramp, Triangle, Square, Sine, Pulse, Sample & hold, Random
- Each can be set to key sync.
- Each can be synced to incoming MIDI clock.
- Note triggering can be normal or autoglide
- Polyphonic portamento for polyphonic parts.
- Portamento has variable time, two polyphonic modes and six pre-glide modes.
- MIDI Note ON/OFF, Velocity, Pitch bend, Mod wheel and aftertouch (assignable), Program change, Sustain pedal, most parameter controls, System exclusive. Power Supply External (9vDC 800mA minimum) output plug wired centre pin +.
- DIMENSIONS 340 x 230 x 50mm (13.4 x 9 x 2 inches)
- WEIGHT 2.35kg
- OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES Rack-02 (19” rack kit with extension lead to External inputs)
Well, there it is the Red-Sound Dark-Star... I was pretty impressed really, it kinda grows on you!... check it out whydoncha ? !!
(update) - just wanted to add that i've been getting more into the old DS again over the last few days, and yet again, it's surprised me, this time by spending some times setting up levels more carefuly, i was able to coax some superb classic trancey stuff, lovely rounded filter once the thing was tuned up a bit and tweaked, and crossfading with that joystick between the more fatter primary osc then accross to the thinner (also more pitch mod) osc_2 but the filter overally acting on both , loverleeee... i had a few othose gresat moments when your just messing arund with a synth and you happen to do a real nice move on it... it was great... trust me.. this unit is a magic find for the cash.. as far as seperation goes, you can have say two sounds panned one way and the other two panned hard opposite, then effect the sets of sound saccordingly & match 'em to take advantage of any such effects... or you could pout some sub-pattern/s on a pan and the main mover on it's own pan, whatever, there are options....
(update_2) - Again after more sessions I've found the DarkStar is actualy pretty good at doing drum style sounds !... you can get some real nice kiks from twacky/blippy style analog kiks & tom/drum sounds to 808-ish rounded boom kiks - the Filter envelope responds welll for this purpose, also I've got some real nice Kraftwerk/Italian techno style snare synth drum sounds too.... overall the old Dark-Star has got a VERY wide arsenal of abilities it seems...
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Total stars: 99 | Total votes: 26