The Hartmann Neuron Synthesizer is an interesting, rare, gloriously sexy synth keyboard.
Based on adaptive sound analysis technology, the Hartmann Neuron offers a new approach to creative sound synthesis. Neuron combines intelligent analysis and synthesis based on neural networks. The result is a new type of synthesizer offering unique sounds.
Unfortunately, the Hartmann Neuron was more ambitious than resources allowed. According to a contemporary Sound On Sound review:
Hartmann Music’s literature suggests that a “trailblazing technology” appears every 15 to 20 years, and that the Neuron is one such product, containing “technology that in the near future will reshape the perceptions of the entire computer industry”.
Wow! I think that that is the boldest claim I have encountered in over 30 years of gear lust and nearly two decades of product reviewing. But quite apart from Hartmann’s own contribution to the art of hyperbole, there has also been a fair amount of eulogy heaped upon the Neuron by the press, to the extent that it has been nominated for — and even received — various awards, one of which was presented fully nine months before the first units were shipped from the factory.
Given its current condition, I feel this was unwise, and suspect that people have been carried away by the undeniable fact that it is different, without waiting to investigate its weaknesses as well as its promised strengths.
When it works as it should (which, in my view, means waiting for OS v2.0 or beyond) it may look rather different, but for now, I can’t wholeheartedly praise it; the best I can offer is, “watch this space”.
The Neuron’s software allows the user to first analyze and then manipulate any sound source. With its neural network controlled adaptive sound analysis, Neuron automatically identifies a sound’s qualities and translates them into individual parameter sets, matching the original source sound. Instead of applying the same parameters to every type of sound, Neuron learns from the sounds fed into it and automatically assigns suitable parameters to each type of sound.
Sounds originate in two so-called resynators, each of which generates a sound based on the models stored on Neuron’s internal hard drive. Using the Blender function, these two models can be mixed and merged in a variety of different ways, creating totally new sounds based on the individual models.
For example, a three-dimensional imprint of one model can be used to manipulate the spectrum of another model. In addition, complex sounds can be filtered and processed in many different ways. Neuron not only offers powerful realtime effects: it is also provides full 5.1 surround panning and processing capabilities.
Under the hood, the Hartmann Neuron features a powerful DSP engine with 64-bit floating point precision and a 32-bit signal path, as well as 256 megabytes of RAM.
A 10 GB internal hard drive holds factory- programmed and user-defined neural synthesis models. Internal memory consists of 200 sound and 200 setup memory locations, including a convenient snapshot function.
External backup storage devices (such as CD-writers, hard drives and memory sticks) can be added using the integrated USB interface. Depending on the structure of the chosen neural synthesis model, NEURON offers 16-48 voice polyphony. Its 6 audio outputs can be flexibly configured, from 6x mono to 5.1 surround. The 5-octave semi-weighted keyboard offers velocity control and channel aftertouch.
The NEURON Neuronal Synthesizer was released at a suggested retail price of USD 4,990.00 (€ 4.890,00).