Maybe this will be a helpful thread for anyone who has been considering the SYNTRX from Erica Synths. I’ve done a very deep dive with mine over the past couple days.
So far it impresses me sonically - much more so in person than in the demo videos I’ve seen. I don’t have a Synthi to compare it to, but I do have the Portabellabz VCS3 card for my Easel and the behavior and sound of OSC2 is very similar to my ears - even the wave shaping has a similar contour in the various knob positions. Beyond that, I don’t think there is much point in comparing its sound to an EMS, as the circuitry is different. But on its own merits, the sound is very rich and capable of a lot of lovely harmonic depth. And it’s the kind of instrument that invites exploration because its sonic possibilities extend way beyond what you might hear in a function-by-function video demo (although Loopop’s review was very thorough and informative.)
The digital matrix took a little getting used to, but after a couple days I find that I move around on it quickly. The ability to save presets is VERY nice in my opinion, especially when first getting to know it. And if you are familiar with the EMS ecosystem then you will know that it is unique in its ability to do recursive patching for all kinds of interesting feedback sounds. Very well suited for classical, old school electronic music in that way. But the tuning is stable and the oscillators and filter sound wonderful when controlled by a sequencer or keyboard - very Moog-ish to my ears, like a very rich sounding monosynth with interesting wave shaping options. The Trapezoid is a very cool envelope/VCA capable of passing signal and sending CV. I’m not a big spring reverb fan, but the way it is implemented here is much more useful and flexible than on the Easel because it’s a module than can be patched like any other.
I’m a huge fan of self-contained instruments with interfaces that invite exploration, and the SYNTRX checks those boxes for me in a big way! Having been a modular user for over 20 years, I have to say I enjoy working with a panel of knobs and a matrix, without a patch cable in sight!
On that note it IS fairly limited in its ability to interface with other instruments. MIDI note/gate and CV ins are internally assigned to the oscillators. MIDI CCs are available on the matrix on the joystick patch points but I haven’t experimented with that yet.
I wrote Erica Synths to ask if midi could be added to the matrix because a Monome is obviously well suited to being an external interface for it, and quickly recalling Matrix states during performance would be incredibly flexible, and they said they could do it if people ask enough, so… please ask?
Agreed! I imagine sequencing through presets could be sweet since the recall is instant. It would also be nice to be able to dump the presets via sysex or something like that. Not sure if that can b implemented without a MIDI out though (SYNTRX has MIDI in/through.)
There was a (short) period of time when I considered selling a big chunk of my gear to fund a SYNTRX. For now, I’m happy with my current setup. I still have a lot of ideas to explore. Thanks for the mini-review. You touched on just the points that I’m most curious about, which leaves me with that splinter in my brain, to be sure. Hehe.
In lieu of dumping presets, I do like the fact that it’s dead simple to photograph a preset and recreate it later - and even capture the sound of it in video. Trying to photograph my modular patches was an exercise in futility - not so with Syntrx.
My Syntrx arrived earlier this week. It’s always an interesting experience taking delivery of gear at a time that is far removed from when it’s been ordered. When I pre-ordered I had no strong mono-synth in my setup. Since then, however, I also got an Easel Command, which while obviously quite its own beast, has been filling that void. I expected to feel like the Syntrx was a bit redundant and unnecessary.
As is the case with many synths & modules, I found most of the early videos to be a bit too extreme. I’m very happy to see that it can be tempered. The reverb feedback sounds great as a low hum under whatever it’s playing. Using the ring mod on external signals with the oscillators is gnarly in the best way. The modulation can get crazy fast, but it’s just as easy to apply lightly. And I haven’t even tried to play with the joystick yet
Another one with the Syntrx & easel command. Sequencing Syntrx with CV from Serge for the first time.
Trying to experiment with routing a bit more. Very easy for me to get in the habit of just routing it as a two oscillator mono synth. Even something simple here like only routing one of the oscillators to the filter made it feel a bit more flexible.
This is also the first thing I’ve recorded with it that doesn’t feature the reverb at all
19.01: I’ve just bought a Syntrx and for now my only problem is the brightness of the LEDs. But overall I’m quite happy with it, even though patching with a matrix is a different way of thinking for me. Here are some sketches made with syntrx and I’ll edit this post from time to time.
with oto bam:
05.02: This one is a bit different. Made with Syntrx and Octatrack which is used like a looper.
Cheers and yes they’re just Syntrx recorded into Reaper.
It’s fun, I like matrix patching and using it standalone, recording the result. It definitely feels like an instrument. Generally I should work fast, the workflow should be intuitive and fast. With the Syntrx I can create something listenable quite fast and I like it. For example with my semi-modular setup (pulsar-ornament-double knot2) the workflow is not that fast but it’s another experience to build a patch slowly, leave it, tweak it for weeks or even longer and record the whole process. That’s why it’s actually pretty good that I have something standalone like the Syntrx as well.
It has some quirks and limitations compared to Portabella which is double the price. I even thought about returning the Syntrx and getting a Portabella but I’ve never been a fan of clones and I had to sell my main setup as well. That’s why I’m not gonna do this.
I still have 4-5 days to decide if I keep it or not but it’s not easy to answer your question because I really don’t know if I need it. On the other hand, it’s a deep, standalone instrument that you can always explore further. As a standalone gear I’ve been eyeing the Waldorf Iridium as well, which is actually very versatile on paper but without any character and it seems that it has some weird bugs. However it would be pretty good for my setup with its 6 cv inputs and audio in… Decisions decisions…
The workflow and character are important to me. For example, Phenol… Quite good on paper but I was disappointed by the lack of character. Or Gotharman Anamono X… full of character, it was such a sick machine but the workflow didn’t click with me enough.
I actually like the Super 6. Versatile but without lack of character. It’s not easy to achieve.
some new noises:
Warning: High frequency noises!
Trying to build some feedback patches with it:
Thank you, glad you like them. To be honest, I’ve been trying to sell it… not because it is not a great instrument but rather it really is a luxurious piece of gear for me. I couldn’t say that I need it and it’s not really an instrument which can play good with other gear. At least for me… However patching is very fun! Live patching is not that fun though as it makes that annoying digital noise if you have a reverb in your patch and the LEDs on. I’d try a synth with physical pins but they’re all too expensive. The Syntrx is still a very good instrument, don’t get me wrong.
What I actually want to do is getting the Pulsar again and using it with my new Plumbutter and Ornament. I still don’t know if the CL instruments are suitable for me but want to try them for a while.
That’s actually very interesting. Just one question … I you could have the extra money to purchase a, let’s say, a Portabella, would you pick one? I’m looking for a more experimental “closed” synth (compared to a modular one) with live performances in mind. The Syntrx is a fine option but I haven’t used one. The Portabella is pretty nice but also expensive. I don’t know iif the price difference is proportional to the built and sound quality.
What you say about the digital leds only happens with the installed reverb tank, or also with other connected devices or pedals when the leds are on?
And then I’ve decided not to buy the Portabella even though it seems really powerful. It’s really expensive. You could still make a lot of interesting stuff with the Syntrx and the workflow is very intuitive, fast.
Hmm… I don’t think so. It happens only if you use the spring reverb in your patch and also only in very complex patches where the LEDs are on. Maybe it’s not even a big deal, I forget about it most of the time but using a physical pin would be much better for sure. Saving a patch is great though. It makes you want to experiment even more, as you can save versions of your routing and recall them any time. And the CV/Audio signal level meter is very useful!
In summary, I still like it and would definitely try it.