SOMA Labs Pulsar-23

Hello Pulsar gang. Pretty fun show on Sunday, with the Pulsar 23 as the focus. Come hang out! My performance features a Pulsar “beat” triggering a teletype script. I’m excited to share! There’s an interview and performance by Vlad Kreimer as well!

Edit: here’s my performance


trying to cover all my bases here.

i’m looking for a rhythm and texture machine. something organic, powerful, and original, something that can be my friend. i am looking for something stand-alone-ish (i don’t have much money for this).
so far i know about the pulsar-23 and the plumbutter. i’m wondering if there are other devices like these two.

i love the idea of the pulsar because of the possibilities of patching with your body. i love how industrial and big it can sound. i like the loop tracks that can be set by touching them (would help me write down rhythms quite easily). for both the plumbutter and the pulsar i love their drone aspects.
the line between rhythm, texture, and drone should be paper thin. this is why i like the idea of the pulsar. the pulsar has a good amount of dirt, and i love it. but maybe too much dirt? its sounds too metalic and harsh at times. and the bass drum and hihat without modulation can sometimes sound duffusy. perhaps these are just the demos i listen too.

i love the idea of the plumbutter because of its subtle and earthy sound. its not as sharp as the pulsar. it sounds like a tree or a rock. it has a good phycology. i find the strange rhythms of the rollz fascinating and hypnotic. they are much more organic feeling than the pulsar. the noise, gong, and deerhorn modules make me happy. its a beautiful, whole piece of art. however, i would like some more traditional aspects like the pulsar has. listening to demos of what it can do, i wish it could carry a stronger, faster, and solid rythm. faster as in, fast texture with explosive presucive hits (more separate rhythms in each sound generator). as Peter B might say, i’m lookin for more of the city than the forest. i wonder what it would sound like with distortion or something? i also wish it had the body patching that the pulsar has.

one idea i have for this dichotomy is to make a rollz-5 for myself and connect it to the pulsar. i think this could be cool :slight_smile:

between the two i would probably be getting a pulsar. it’s just a little closer to the sound i want to get. but there’s always time to wait. i’m looking for ideas and suggestions. you know of a device like these two? ideas on how to make one sound like the other or somthin’? i don’t know. don’t have people in my life who know about these kinds of things.


I love both the Pulsar 23 and the Plumbutter for similar reasons. I’m not aware of anything else in their league and actually surprised 2 devices like this even exist. If you’re looking for an experimental all-in-one box, I would probably stop searching for a third device to compare to besides maybe a Syntrx or Serge panels (the filters ping in a very woody way).

Here is some food for thought:

Ornament 8 + Pulsar would give you some of the rollzy behavior you’re describing (in the SOMA way of course), although it’s likely you could patch up a rollz as well. My understanding is that you probably can’t fry the Pulsar as it uses -10 to +10 volts, but I’d still play it safe and stay away from brown rollz with negative spikes.

As far as playability goes, Pulsar is maybe more hands on (if you want it to be) with the loop recorders, midi control, and I think it’s a more versatile instrument that appeals to many different types of musicians. The upcoming Pulsar utilities should add another layer and help with getting external sounds into it. To me, Plumbutter feels more like playing some weird chess game in the Ciat Lonbarde universe. You could probably patch it with your body though using bare banana jacks (I’d probably run it off the 9 volt battery in that case) and the deerhorn adds another aspect of control too.

Regarding the sound, Pulsar is definitely ‘all city’ and very industrial vs the more gentle Plumbutter sounds, but the filters can be pinged and there are ways to get away from the default sounds.

Pulsar comes with the patch cables + case and you get to choose from a lot of different colors whereas banana cables are expensive and those + a case are extra from Patch Point. You’ll end up paying around the same for both though I guess.

Finally, here are some performances I came across that are a little more creative and different than the standard things you usually see, especially the first from Richard Scott who is a very talented synthesist (highly recommend his talks and discussions). That said, Vlad’s demos are still some of the best examples.


I’ve used them both (but not together) and it was a fun experience. Especially with the Pulsar I could get the result that I want to achieve much faster than with Plumbutter which has a bit steep learning curve. Plumbutter is a bit wilder than Pulsar. I mean that not in a noisy way, instead I mean, it’s more difficult to control. You have the feeling that it already has its own core character that you should get start with and develop your sound from there but then the possibilities are quite endless with some clever patching. The journey with the Plumbutter was like learning a new instrument as it can be easily very wild and sound easily very ugly as well, just like a violin or something. But I must say, I like that process. Just because of that I sold everything to get some Serge panels… to get the feeling of learning a new instrument…

Surely Pulsar has also a strong character and with the all inputs, outputs, patch points, it is also very versatile. I could even get some Plumbuttery sounds with it (+ Ornament and Lyra):

I could make new music much faster with Pulsar. It sounds quite amazing. To be honest it’s not easy to make it sound bad. That’s why I can’t say the same thing as I said for Plumbutter that it’s like learning a new instrument. It’s a great standalone instrument but it’s more familiar than Plumbutter. It’s a great semi-modular synthesizer with a strong character. I think you should try both of them to figure out if one of them is for you or not. It’s quite a personal thing.

For me, patching with Plumbutter was much more fun but I was more productive with the Pulsar.


thanks for your insight! good to hear from someone who has both. honestly, both of these devices are so close to my emotions that it looks like it’s becoming less a question of, “which to get”, and more a question of, “which to get first”.

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Yeah, I think that they’re pretty different but embody a similar spirit. I never thought I’d be into weird drum machines.

I have found maybe one other contender that I forgot about, but it’s relatively new (started shipping last month?) and completely bonkers:

What’s appealing about Pulsar is that it can live in many different worlds, not just off the rails experimentation.


Really enjoying the Czochralski Cells. I don’t feel like it has a lot of overlap with the Pulsar. It’s definitely fun to use, and complements the Pulsar very well with more synth voice focus and a really cool phaser.


I have used them both as well. I don’t disagree with pretty much anything anybody here has said. I’ve also used them with external rolls, and without doing a good amount of offsetting, the rollz and the pulsar don’t really play well together, be forewarned.

My other two cents: both are pretty fantastic, I think that the pulsar is more playable, and that the plumbutter is more of a question of getting it tuned to a character that you like, and then kind of sitting with that, and letting it extrapolate.

PS. Both of them have given me an experience that I often strive for which is that of hearing ambient/real world sounds differently shortly after playing… In other words, they can both be extremely organic.


groovy track, very plumbuttery. those funky rhythms from the ornament are cool.

your right, it is a very personal thing. human connection to a physical instrument is very important. i just got a striso board and holly frick that thing is so much fun to learn and explore.

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I mostly use my Pulsar together with my Eurorack system and I had troubles with a DC offset coming from the individual out pins of the BD and BASS channel. I tried to solve this with a Shakmat HiPass but it’s very prone to clipping, what actually did the trick was the passive AC CPL from